The Way A Different Mind Works

mental-health

I confess I have different ways of learning and processing information than most people.  And that has gotten me in much trouble over the years, especially while at a work place. I never could read people’s body language well enough to be good at socializing.  I can’t tell what they think just by watching them.  I can, however, read through the lines of what they write.  I have always been a much better reading learner than a hands on or auditorial learner.  I think one of the reasons I never became as good with my hands as I am with my mind or communications is that I couldn’t see diagrams or in some cases, even what I was doing.  And I never got enough repetition in to get good.  It always frustrated my teachers, bosses, and even family that it took more repetition for me to learn something than most people.  But once I learned the skill, I remember it for life.  I think I was given up on by teachers and employers too early in some cases because it takes me longer to learn through doing than most people.  But once I learned something through doing, I have never forgotten it.

Even though I am pretty intelligent in some ways (though some would argue this), I never did get the top grades in school or most of the accolades at work.  I did well enough that I gave my teachers and bosses that false hope I could be a superstar student or employee.  Yet, because of my mental make up being so much different than the norm, I couldn’t develop my skills fast enough for my employers and teachers to really see my potential.  I never could read a teacher well enough to know what was on a test.  So I had to study the entire subject.  It will make you well grounded in a subject, like biology or history, but it is not conducive to getting good scores on tests.  Likewise at work, I couldn’t read my bosses, coworkers, or customers very well.  I certainly couldn’t the first time I met them or even the first few.  Like I said, it takes me more repetition to learn things than many people.  Yet, once that knowledge is learned, it is learned for life.  Even though I haven’t played football since 1999, I still remember many of the plays we used in games and practice simply because our coaches believed heavily in repetition and details.  I loved that kind of take on sport.  I didn’t want to be fancy or eye catching, I just wanted to win and be good at what I knew and was doing.

Yet because I couldn’t learn in the way my bosses and clients preferred, I didn’t make a very good employee.  For years I was convinced I was defective and was damaged goods. I believed it so much it’s why I went on disability insurance in spite having a college degree and good intelligence test scores.  Sure I may have the natural brain power many employers are looking for.  Yet, the way my mid works and learns is not what gets a person ahead at a job, most of which are service sector jobs.  Attention to details and throughly learning your field was the way to go for a renaissance era craftsman or a high end scholar.

Yet, good luck finding those jobs today.  I have ability.  I have talent.  I have intelligence.  I have the ability to learn new things and remember those new things my entire life.  In many ways I am far smarter now than I was when I graduated college in 2004.  But that is because I found out through trial and much error how I effectively learned.  I learn by reading and by doing many times, not by listening to a lecture or two and doing a few trial runs.  It does take me longer to learn the basics than most people.  But I remember the basics far longer.  And I can build upon those basics to even incorporating some of my own takes on work tasks and ideas.

Sure it is an odd way to learn.  It is also one most teachers and employers especially don’t like.  I lost more jobs than most people have had in a fifty year career simply because my learning style didn’t fit modern corporate or service sector styles.  I may have done extremely well in an old style apprenticeship that took several years.  But, as it stands now, I’m halfway through my life and don’t have the energy or the courage to start over in something that I know will not accept my skill set or way of learning.  And it is a classic Greek tragedy as far as I’m concerned.

I have to wonder how many millions of people just in our day and age that live lives of quiet desperation and poverty yet would be model employees, crafts people, or business managers but never get the chance mainly because they learn things in different ways.  I have met only a handful of people in my life that I know was on the Autism spectrum.  Some of them were extremely intelligent, much more than even I am.  Yet most of them struggled socially and especially at work because the learning styles and ways of communication didn’t match up with the culture around them.

I think that things we classify as mental illness like schizophrenia, bi polar, autism, etc. (even homosexuality and bisexuality were considered mental illnesses until quite recently in many places) have always been with our species.  It just wasn’t as much of a disadvantage in a less structured Stone Age civilization.  In fact, I imagine that many of the first medicine men, shamans, astronomers, and priests were men and women who would be considered mentally ill by modern standards.  But they had a different way of learning and looking at the world than most other people in their little tribes and bands.  And it helped to eventually launch civilizations.  It’s the eccentrics and the odd fellows and odd ladies who took our species from only a few thousand scattered wanderers many thousands of years ago to the teeming billions who are actively making plans of colonizing other planets and celestial bodies.  Providing we don’t seriously screw up this transition, who knows what the human species will be capable of given thousands of years scattered across a few star systems.  And it was mainly because of the oddballs and mad men who, while scorned and condemned among their contemporaries, led the way forward out of the Ice Age caves to now standing at the entry way to the cosmos.

It’s been a long and strange journey.  And it’s one I hope is only entering a new phase rather than reaching it’s climax and decline.  The choice is up to us who are currently alive and how much we chose to nurture and value those who don’t think like the norm.  I may never be one of these innovators who profoundly changes the world.  For now, I am content to be among those who appreciate the eccentrics and encourage them onward.  The road to the stars is fraught with great difficulties.  But, because of the odd ones, I believe we are up to this task.

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Paranoia Returning

I haven’t been doing as well the last few days as I have been in previous months.  I’m feeling excessively paranoid and just wanting to be alone all the time anymore.  I don’t even enjoy talking on the phone.  Other than a couple friends and a couple futurist groups, I have given up on socializing on facebook.  Just seems to me that everyone wants to be irritable and riled up all the time anymore.  And it makes me sick.  Makes me wonder why bother being an optimist or trying to stay in a good mood.  Everyone else it seems is in always in a lousy and angry mood, why should I be any different?  I just don’t see any happiness or genuine joy in the world anymore.  I’m just scared all the time anymore.  I’m scared of my neighbors, I’m scared of my landlords, I’m scared of my family, and I’m scared of even friends and acquiantances anymore.  It’s like empathy doesn’t exist anymore.  I just want to stay home and sleep all the time anymore.  And even in my dreams I am tormented.  But at least my dreams aren’t real.  My paranoias might not be reality either, but they just as well be as that is how powerful the human mind is.  I’m just too tired and burned out to stay angry all the time anymore.  That anger has given way to genuine fear and anxiety.  I am tired of being full of fear all the time.  I used to believe the future would be really cool if we could get past our short term issues.  I no longer believe that.  I think the dystopians were right and the future will be worse than even now.  I’ve observed people in my own life since I was a child and rarely do people change for the better over the years.  Most actually get more angry, greedy, irritable, and hateful as they age.  At least, that’s the impression that I have gotten over the years.  I’m tired of always being sad and depressed.  I’m tired of seeing nothing but hate and anger in everyone I meet anymore.  People like that just as well be back in the Stone Age.  And maybe that’s where we are heading.  I hope not.  I guess I’m writing just to get things I’ve kept bottled up for weeks now.  I’m scared if I had the traditional psych breakdown where I vent for a couple hours that I’ll get the cops called on me and I will definately then be evicted.  I’ve always had the fear of being evicted from my apartment too.  Had that for years.  I doubt it would be any better if I owned my own property.  I’m just paranoid to a disabling degree.  But such is the nature of schizophrenia.  And I still have no understanding of people who don’t believe that mental illness exists.  But some people are just ignorant and lack any kind of empathy.  If you have no empathy, than I won’t deal with you.  The world needs empathy, compassion, and a willingness to forgive and let a few things slide more than ever.  And I just don’t see this happening, at least not where I live.

Spring Cleaning and Mental Illness

Currently in the middle of my spring cleaning.  It’s not going as fast as I would like it to though.  My lower back flares up after being on my feet for awhile so I have to go slower than I used to.  I am beginning to fear that lower back pain is something I’ll be fighting for the rest of my life.  One of the reasons this is turning into a bigger than usual job is that I wasn’t keeping up on the cleaning and maintenance this winter like I had in years past.  I didn’t keep up on it because of the back pain and occasional bouts of depression to where I didn’t want to do anything but read and watch youtube videos.  I went through a lot of that last fall and this past winter.  I don’t know if it was the weather that had me depressed or if the illness was flaring up in different ways than previously.  I did go through bad bouts of paranoia when I would sometimes go two to three days in a row without leaving my apartment.  I don’t get the paranoia nearly as bad anymore.  I don’t know if the weather turning warmer or just the natural cycles of my schizophrenia is causing these changes.

It’s not that I was lazy about my upkeep just because I was lazy.  I have lived on my own more or less for fourteen years and I always made a point to keep my place picked up and better looking than most bachelor pads.  I think the mental illness was effecting me more this last fall and winter than I would have cared to admit.  Looking back on some of my winter writings I was really paranoid and too often had delusional feelings of persecution that, in reality, were alive only in my stressed and diseased mind.  I have to admit as my paranoia can flare up worse than in years past and with my physical health not as robust as it once was, I have to bring in outside help.  I am convinced I’ll need to reconfigure my budget and hire a regular cleaning service.  Sometimes I’d be depressed about the apartment looking shabby and the apartment looked shabby because I was too depressed and paranoid to do anything about it.  I know I can get back on top of my current issues.  Living on my own for fourteen years I have proven to myself and others that I can even if it takes me a little longer than many average people.  It’s just a matter of doing so.

I know that sometimes in my blog I probably appear over optimistic about having schizophrenia and being an adult in general.  Sometimes that is be encouraging to the readers, sometimes I write things I need myself to hear.  I imagine I have been overly optimistic when I wasn’t in the grips of paranoia and delusion this winter.

In other news, I think I’m starting to lose weight again.  I can tell my clothes are fitting looser and my back pain isn’t as intense.  As far as my diet goes, I have cut out pasta, rice, and bread.  I eat mostly grilled lean meats and vegetables anymore.  And I think I’m starting to see some results.  I want to get back on top of everything that slid during my fall and winter bouts of depression, paranoia, delusions, and anxiety.  At least I no longer feel anxious when I hear footsteps in the hallway.  So that’s a start.

Seasonal Aspects of Mental Illness and My Working History With Mental Illness

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I’m adjusting nicely to the summer.  Traditionally summers have been my roughest times of year.  I would usually be more paranoid and irritable than usual this time of year.  I could usually count on at least one psychotic breakdown every summer, usually in late August or early September.  Both times I went to the mental hospital were in early September.  So there is a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia.  Having dealt with this illness for close to twenty years I have figured out that there are times of year that are worse than others.  July and August are always tough.  The holidays season can be tough unless I avoid crowds and lots of stimulation.  Winters and springs are always pleasant and productive times for me.  I do a great deal of writing and reading in the winters and springs.  Spring has always been a favorite time of year for me.

But this summer so far I’m doing well.  I think it helps that I usually spend a lot of time out of the heat and avoid stressful situations and people.  Granted this means a pretty lonely stretch of the year where I don’t socialize much in person.  Yet, I still keep in contact with family and friends via phone calls and internet.  Facebook is a large means of promotion for this blog.

As it is, I don’t have a regular job.  Haven’t for five years.  Before I decided to devote myself to this blog and being an advocate for the mentally ill who couldn’t speak for themselves, I worked a variety of jobs.  Over the years I have worked as a salesman, a teachers’ aide at a small university, a factory worker, a janitor, a loading dock employee, a fast food cook, a waiter, and a tutor.  Even though this blog doesn’t even break even, I consider it the most rewarding job I ever had.  I have gotten many dozens of comments that have stated that I am helping them or helping them understand loved ones with mental illness problems.  I have been doing this blog for over four years, which is as long as I held my longest job.  Used to be I’d get serious anxiety attacks before I went to work and even while I was at work.  Many of these would be bad enough that I would vomit before I went into work.  After years of fighting these anxiety issues, I decided that working a traditional job wasn’t in my future.  I thought I needed to change course because I was making myself miserable over minimum wage jobs and dealing with rude and unreasonable people.  I have a few horror stories from my time working in retail and fast food.  I’m sure most working in these industries have far more.  As it was, I came to the conclusion that regular work wasn’t worth it anymore.  It it wasn’t for Disability Insurance, I would either be homeless, in prison, or dead.  So it bothers me anytime someone talks about wanting to eliminate these programs.  What kind of “advanced” civilization doesn’t care about the weakest and most vulnerable among their citizens?

I did not end up on disability by my own doing or choice.  I originally went to college with the idea of going to medical school and becoming a medical research scientist.  But my problems with mental illness got so severe in college that I had to change paths and even take a semester long break.  I finally graduated with a business degree.  The reason I chose business was that I wanted to be employable as soon as I left college.  Even though I love writing and reading, I had heard horror stories about liberal arts majors working minimum wage jobs because they couldn’t find work in their fields.

It turned out that I’m grateful I didn’t succeed in sales or find a banking job like I thought I would after graduation.  I know now that I would be miserable wearing a suit and dealing with people day after day.  At least with a blog I don’t even have to leave my living room.  No shirt, no shoes, no problems I suppose in my chosen field.

In closing I’m doing well despite it being a traditionally rough time of year for me.  I think the medications changes I undertook a few weeks ago are working.  And after twenty years of mental illness, I have figured out that there are some things that can make even tough situations much more bearable.

Being Delusional About Not Being Delusional

I am now throughly convinced I have been delusional about how not delusional I have been for the last several months.  I admit to isolating most of the time and rarely leaving my apartment.  I admit to rarely socializing with other people and tenants in my complex.  I admit to occasionally going days without showering.  But I don’t think I realized how delusional I was being about my problems.

I talked to my landlord this afternoon.  She told me that there were several tenants worried about little I was socializing and how unkempt I have been for a long time.  I have pretty much isolated and kept to myself since last summer.  I just got to where I saw no point in socializing.  In my delusion diseased mind, I was thinking most people are violent idiots who would rather curse you out and physically harm you than say hello to you.  Fortunately most of these thoughts are symptoms of my mental illness flaring up and not being treated effectively.  My fellow tenants and landlord aren’t angry at me nor do they want to see me thrown out on the street.  They are actually very worried about me.  I just didn’t realize how far I had fallen in the last year because of the delusion blinders I had due to my illness.

I have gotten to where I was scared to leave my apartment.  I have gotten to where I was scared to go to the laundry room and wash clothes.  So I have been doing most of my laundry in my bathtub for the last few months.  Let’s face it, it just doesn’t do the job like a regular wash machine.  I have gotten to where I am scared to socialize in person with anyone.  I don’t go outside to talk with  people because in my delusion wracked mind, most people were just bitter and angry all the time.  I have gotten to where I’m just scared and depressed all the time.  And I hate it.  I see my psych doctor tomorrow afternoon and I am demanding he put me on something else.  My current routine isn’t working at all.

My Journey To Being An Advocate For The Mentally Ill

My birthday is coming up in a few days.  I’ll be 37 years old this year.  That would have made me a senior citizen in the Stone Age.  Of course if I would have developed schizophrenia at most points in human history, it probably would have been a death sentence.  As it is I have found what works and what doesn’t in my life with mental illness.

I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in the autumn of 2000.  I was in the second year of my pre med studies in college.  Even though I had been having problems with depression and anxiety for a few years before, I was still able to do well in school and keep up a strong front.  I still don’t know how I did it.  But in my second year of college, it all collapsed.  I couldn’t handle stress anymore.  I was having constant panic attacks.  I would have breakdowns where I called home and yelled at my parents at least once a week.  Looking back on it, I should have gone to the mental hospital right then and there and not tried to gut out college at the same time.  As it was I withdrew from college at midterm of the spring semester and took a few months to adjust the treatments and pull myself together.  After the disaster that my second year of college was, I knew I’d never get into any med school with my grades.  So I switched over to business because, let’s face it, everything involves money and commerce.  I still thought I could be employable in the right situation after college.

During the last few years of college I became interested in economics and finance.  I applied for several jobs like financial planner, insurance sales, insurance underwriter, loan officer at a few banks, etc.  I took the obsession I previously had with science and was able to transfer it to business and economics.  It paid off to be curious for me.  I graduated in spring 2004 but, like many college seniors, I had several job interviews but no offers when I left school.  I didn’t realize just how common that was until I started talking to people over the internet a few years later.

After a few failed attempts at careers in various fields, (retail sales, academia, manufacturing), I applied for disability insurance.  This was in 2006.  I had just lost my job at the university and been forced to leave the masters’ program.  Here I was on a waiting list for disability, on a waiting list for low income housing, with no job, no confidence, and no money.  If it wasn’t for my parents help for the first half of 2006, I would have never made rent on my apartment.  But that wasn’t all for 2006.  My longtime college girlfriend and I broke up and I failed at a couple minimum wage jobs, one of which was at Goodwill.  If you can’t succeed at Goodwill, then you are really screwed up (or so I thought).  In the late summer I checked myself into the mental health hospital.  Stayed there for a week.  By this time I was at my lowest ebb.  I had no job.  My illness wasn’t allowing me to hold a job.  I had no real income.  I was living off food stamps though no mess ups of my own.  I had no idea when social security was coming through. I was on high risk insurance that was costing my parents a lot of money so I could stay on my meds.  I never could have afforded them on my own.  I came to the conclusion I would never hold a career because of my mental illness.  I came to the second conclusion that I would never marry and have a family because of my mental illness.  I was really sad and depressed during this entire time.  I really thought I’d never be happy or amount to anything ever again.  I’m glad I didn’t cross the line into becoming suicidal at this time.

Those rough years of my mid to late twenties when I came to the conclusions I would never hold meaningful employment or have a family really sucked.  But they were also when I was writing a lot, granted not as focused as I am now.  Before I got serious about my blog I wrote hundreds of poems, largely in the style of Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, and I also did complete rough drafts for two novels.  The novels were nothing really special, just kind of like Jack Kerouac for Millennials.  I was working on notes for a science fiction novel at this time too.  I also read every day to try to help me find a literary voice.  I read dozens of authors, ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Ayn Rand, Chuck Philhanuak to John Grisham, Alexandre Dumas to Mark Twain, Adam Smith to Nietcheze, etc.  I tried to teach myself Spanish at the time as well, but the only Spanish I know is how to ask for directions and order simple meals.  But as my ‘traditional’ side was falling apart, I was finding other ways to find meaning in my life besides work and dating.

I started writing down my thoughts and experiences with mental illness in my late twenties.  I was submitting some of my poems to be published in literary magazines.  I got a few of them published but never made any money.  I eventually wrote a few dozen short essays about life with a mental illness.  I was reading The Federalist Papers at the time and kind of modeled the book of mental health essays on that.  I put the files on a print on demand service.  I sold a few dozen of those books, mostly to friends, family, and interested mental health facilities.  After tasting a little success with those essays, I thought they might make good blog entries.  And my first few blog entries were from that original book.  Since it’s been several years since I updated that book, I probably ought to rewrite it and repost it.  And since I now have a dozens of blog entries on the subject of living with mental illness, I definitely have new material for another edition.

I started blogging through wordpress in 2012 shortly after I left my last ‘traditional’ job.  I didn’t get much for visitors early on because I had no focus for the blog and I wasn’t posting regularly.  In early 2013 I decided to focus the blog specifically on mental illness.  My audiences have grown slowly but steadily over the last few years.  I started a Facebook page to promote the blog.  I also have a patreon account a few months ago and I already have a sponsor through there.  And I’ve also made a little money since I monetized this blog.  I’m not breaking even yet with what I spent on advertising this blog, but it’s getting closer all the time.  I recently broke 14,000 all time visitors from 100 different countries.  And this is with only four years of work, a microscopic advertising budget, a niche topic, and 50 percent of the world’s population still not online.

I’ll be 37 in a few days.  And I already had a larger reach with my writing works than I ever thought possible when I first seriously started writing in 2004.  That’s been only thirteen years.  I think I’m going to keep at this and see what I can develop with this blog and my writings over the next thirteen years.  I say all of this to point out that young people in their late teens and early twenties shouldn’t sell themselves short at all.  At age 23 I would have been content to be a loan officer at a bank or an insurance salesman.  But I know I wouldn’t have been content doing such work.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m really good at.  And let’s face it, in this day and age a person can make money doing almost anything thanks to the exposure of the internet if they put in the time and lots of effort to get noticed.  I’ve already accomplished more than I thought I could as a writer thanks to the internet, especially when I started out I was just writing poetry out in notebooks.  And now after running this blog for four years and getting some audience and dozens of positive emails, I know I’m only scratching the surface of what can be done.  I never would have thought this possible when I first applied for disability insurance.  Mental illness is one of the few things that is still discriminated against with little to no protest.  I intend to be part of changing that.  I’m not going away.  The mentally ill bloggers and you tubers aren’t going away either.  We will not be silent and suffer needlessly anymore.  Consider this a declaration of war against mental illness stigma.

 

Needing To Vent

Been raining for almost a week straight in my town.  Not that I mind because it gives me an excuse to sleep in and stay home.  I’ve always been a natural night person and I don’t see that changing soon.  Unfortunately my landlord’s office hours are always in the morning so I never get to see her.  I’ve given up on ever getting my walls painted and carpet replaced.  I’ve been hearing that it was coming for over a year.  They can build skyscrapers in less than a year in China it seems.  Yet I can’t get approval for my walls to be painted and carpet replaced.  Go figure.  And people wonder why I don’t trust authority figures.

Somedays I really wonder if I am making any difference with being mentally ill or even making progress with this illness.  I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I’ll never get cured of schizophrenia, which would be a dream come true for me.  I’ve fought this illness for over twenty years and I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of always feeling paranoid.  I’m tired of being depressed all the time.  I’m tired of not being able to work.  I’m tired of people thinking I’m just making my problems up.  I’m angry that I’m never going to live up to my potential through no fault of my own.  It would be one thing if I fried my brains through drug abuse.  I would probably get more empathy if this illness was self inflicted. The public’s lack of understanding about mental illness and anything having to do with science is sickening.  I mean this is 2017 people, we’re supposed to be an advanced civilization.  Not advanced enough for me that’s for sure.

I can’t even really socialize anymore.  Most people seem to be in foul moods all the time or just want to talk about stupid things that have been rehashed a thousand times before.  Do people really get dumber the older they get?  I was always under the impression that older people were supposed to be wise and full of good advice.  Not so from what I’ve seen.  Most days I just don’t want to leave my apartment anymore.  I’m just tired of dealing with stupid and rude people all day.  I’m so glad I no longer work in retail customer service.  Those people take an incredible amount of abuse for no more then they are paid.

I don’t know if there is a point to this post.  I’m sure some are thinking I should “man up” and “quit whining.”  But, even I have moments of weakness at times.  I can’t be everyone’s Mr. Sunshine all the time.  And I shouldn’t have to be.  Years ago, someone with my diagnosis would be long term hospitalized and never heard from again.  Out of sight out of mind.  One of the reasons we’re seeing more and more mentally ill people in public is because of deinstitutionalization.  It’s not that the younger generations are weaker and morally inferior to previous generations.  It’s not that at all.  Modern times are not crazier than the past, they are just better documented.  I’m just tired that’s all.  I just need to vent.  And if a mentally ill person isn’t allowed to vent, then no one should.