Random Thoughts On A Saturday Night

Been snowing on and off the last few days.  So I have just stayed home and admired the snow while watching football or listening to music.  Haven’t read much the last few days, not even articles.  I have found that I actually remember what I hear in audiobooks more than what I read in regular books.  I don’t read very fast anymore.  And when I do, I find myself stopping every half hour or so just to think over what I’ve read.  It’s a terrible way to try to read novels, but it’s perfect for heavy reading like philosophy and science books.

I guess winter is here.  Not that it bothers me any.  Spring is usually my favorite time of year, followed by winter.  I love the chilly weather, long nights, and not feeling pressured to go out all the time.  I enjoy the holidays more as I don’t venture out into the stores and fight the crowds anymore.  What Christmas shopping I do is all online now.  I got too much sensory overload from going to stores.  Too many bright lights, too many people, and too much noise.

I haven’t had much for flare ups for a few weeks now.  I think it helps that I am spending more time with my neighbors.  I usually see them once a day, sometimes twice.  Last weekend they spent an entire afternoon at my place.  I think it’s helping ease some of my stress and anxiety about people.  I have become quite fearful of crowds the last several months.  And the fact that most of the time when people wanted to talk to me, they were angry or I was in trouble.  For awhile, this made me very paranoid.  Sometimes I would have panic attacks when I heard people talking in the hallway.  Sometimes I wouldn’t answer my phone even if it was a friend or family member.  I have gotten over that recently.  I still answer even if it’s an obvious telemarketer.  But rather than get upset, I just hang up after a few seconds.  It’s not the most polite thing to do, but it’s not as bad as yelling at the person or machine on the other end.  About the only time I don’t answer my phone is when I’m taking a bath or a nap.

I’m also having fewer aches and pains.  The worst are always when I first wake up in the morning.  And when I sit down for more than a couple hours, I can be kind of sore for the first minute I’m standing up.  Anymore I almost always make a point to stand up at least once every hour, even while I’m on serious projects.  I still lift weights three times a week.  I think I’ve lost weight.  I don’t know if I really have, but my clothes fit better, I recover from being out of breath faster, I recover from anxiety and irritability quicker, I sleep better, and my back doesn’t hurt as often.  I still stay seated most of time when I have guests or my cleaning lady is doing her work, but it’s just so I don’t get in the way now.  Even the shirts I bought a few months ago are now kind of baggy.  I still wear a lot of sweat pants and cargo shorts, but it’s mainly because they are so comfortable and I do most of my work and shopping from home.

I sold my car a few weeks ago.  I sold it to a friend of my parents who was needing more reliable transport.  And I wasn’t driving much as I have found I can do almost everything from home now.  I was also getting kind of unnerved about driving too.  It’s just too much going on all at once.  I admit to getting distracted and sensory overload easily.  It’s just best that I don’t be out on the road anymore.  And if I desperately really need to go anywhere, my town does have a few taxi cabs and a few Uber drivers now.  My brother and his wife live in Oklahoma City and they usually hire Uber drivers when they need to go to and from the airport to avoid paying for a parking space.  I have an account, but haven’t actually used it yet.  I don’t miss driving that much.  It was just becoming more of a hassle than it was worth.  I enjoyed going on road trips all the time when I was in my twenties and early thirties.  But as I have gotten a few years older, I pretty much enjoy spending most of my time at home in the company of family or friends.  I’m glad I travelled when I was young and in more stable health.

I don’t regret any of the travels I did.  Actually, there really isn’t much I regret about my life so far.  Sure I regret getting schizophrenia, but it’s not like I had any say in that.  But I’ve made my peace and adapted accordingly.  I know it’s popular right now to be nostalgic about the past and be convinced that the world is going to hell.  Yet, for me, there isn’t any time in history I would want to be at other than the here and now.  If I had been born in my grandparents’ generation, I wouldn’t have had decent medications and would have been lifelong institutionalized if I was lucky.  As it is, I can live more or less independent and on poverty level wages because of medications, social safety nets like disability insurance and Medicaid.  Thanks to computers and internet, I have easy access to almost any kind of information I want within reason.  That alone would make the scholars of any previous era jealous.  And I get access to this treasure trove of information for the cost of one dollar per day.  I find myself looking up things all the time, even useless information like when I’m talking football statistics with my friends or family.  I couldn’t have done this twenty five years ago.  And now that slightly over 50 percent of the world’s population now has internet access, it is starting to no longer be considered a luxury.  For me, it’s an absolute necessity for my current lifestyle.  I’ll take easy internet access over flying cars and meals in pill form any time.

August 4 2019

Been a decent last few days overall.  Spent this afternoon cleaning some in my apartment.  I may have a cleaner come in once a week, but I do feel guilty if I don’t bare minimums on my own even with my limited mobility.  Haven’t needed as much sleep lately either.  Been usually going to bed around midnight, sleep three hours or four hours, stay awake until sunrise and then sleep again until ten a.m.  Haven’t been reading or writing as much as I would like this summer.  At least I have reestablished more regular contact with friends and family.  I felt guilty for not going to my family reunion last month.  But I wasn’t feeling the greatest and I didn’t want to have problems around people and scare them.  Sure my family would be more understanding than most families, but I don’t feel right taking out my issues on others.

Haven’t had any real bad meltdowns in months.  I have had a few close calls.  Fortunately, I have managed to not take them out on others.  I have had to avoid contact with people some days just so not to cause problems.  Even after twenty years with a mental illness, I am still afraid to have a meltdown in public.  I fear most people who don’t know me would not understand.  And many people are already more stressed than normal these days.

Found that listening to music helps sooth me.  So I’ve been listening to more music this summer.  I used to listen to music almost every day.  Even though heavy metal and blues were my favorite styles, I really didn’t have a style I didn’t like.  Youtube and Spotify are gold mines of good music, and my Spotify costs like 12 dollars a month for the service without advertisements.  It is not uncommon for me to have music on while I play Civilization or the Total War series.

Haven’t watched as much baseball this summer.  The Rockies are slightly below .500, so they won’t likely make the playoffs.  Haven’t watched much for sports since the U.S. women took the World Cup.  I got to see most of those games.  I have been watching old football highlights on youtube, mostly Nebraska from the 80s and 90s, to get ready for football season.  First college games are in only a few weeks.  Summer is definitely drawing down.

I guess I have been taking it easier than normal this summer.  I still lift weights three times a week and do the exercise bike a few times a week too.  I try to socialize some every day, even if it is just online or over the phone.  Social media isn’t as stressful for me as it was a few years ago now that I have figured out how to better use it.  I have lots of friends on my lists, but only a handful I actively follow on a day to day basis.  I spend a lot of time with small tech enthusiast groups.  I try to avoid the larger groups as they can sometimes become kind of irritable with each other on controversial topics.  I don’t post as much as I previously did, sometimes I’m more content to read linked articles and discussion threads.  I try not to get involved in heated or pointless discussions.  I make efforts not to feed trolls and troublemakers.

I believe that, overall, social media is a good thing. I also believe in free speech.  And when free speech and social media gets combined, it allows me to find out what people are really like quickly.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is not.  But if privacy and deception aren’t dead, they are certainly on life support. Social media makes it easy for someone like myself who wants to have friends and be involved but doesn’t have great social skills.  I am a bit socially awkward in person, so that is probably why I didn’t make a lot of friends until I went to college and met people even more awkward and quirky than myself.  I don’t hide the fact I am eccentric and odd.  As a grown man, I don’t feel the need to try to please people I’m probably not going to please to begin with.  It’s too bad I couldn’t tell this to my teenage self.  But it comes only with experience.

Asking ‘Why’ and Not Caring About Popular Opinions

I readily admit that I am anything but normal.  I wasn’t normal even before I became mentally ill.  One thing that definitely makes me abnormal is that I have to always ask questions.  I just have to know why things work or don’t work the way that they do.  I imagine in some aspects I’m the six year kid who asks ‘why’ to everything as a thirty eight year old adult.  I found people were annoyed at me as a six year old when I kept asking questions and they are even more annoyed that as a man entering my middle aged years I still ask ‘why’ to everything.

I never understood why people got angry when I asked questions.  When I don’t ask questions is when I don’t learn.  When I don’t learn I make mistakes in my school work, my job, my relationships, my dating life, etc.  And then people get angry because I didn’t ask questions.  I think this is strange at best and mind numbingly stupid at worst.  Do you want people to learn or not?  If yes, then how are they supposed to learn if they aren’t free to ask questions?  I guess that asking questions means you have ‘attitude problems’ or ‘don’t respect authority’ to some people.  I don’t understand this.

I don’t even understand people who don’t question much of anything.  Are they that compliant?  Do they not have any sense of wonder or curiosity?  And furthermore, why do such people feel a visceral need to condemn those of us who are asking questions and looking for ways to improve any and all things.  I have never taken authority as unquestionable truth.  And I never will at this point.  I was always told ‘get with the program’ or ‘wait until you’re an adult’ or ‘wait until you hit the cold cruel world’ when I was asking “too many” questions or trying to ignore things that made no sense.  Well, I am an adult who still isn’t with the program and I still ask questions and have a burning desire to learn.  The cold and cruel world has hit me more than it has some people, and the only time I am not an optimist is when I’m in the deep grips of the illness.  In short, I proved my critics and elders dead wrong.  I didn’t make their mistakes.  And I am a more interesting man and better conversation than they themselves could ever be.  It’s because I didn’t quit asking.  I didn’t quit seeking.  I didn’t quit experimenting.  I didn’t let my curiosity and sense of wonder be murdered by the short sighted demands and duties of adulthood.  My soul didn’t die in a job I hated that I did just to pay rent and buy food.  I didn’t become a bitter and angry old man because I had a few failed relationships and never got married.  I didn’t start condemning the “damn kids” when I became a man.  I remembered what it was like to be condemned as one of the “damn kids” as a teenager even though I was more ethical and had better morals than most of my elders and elected rulers.  It sucked.  I haven’t forgotten that even after all these years.  I never will forget.  I vowed when I was eighteen that I would never pull that on anyone.

I will continue to evolve and ask questions no matter how old I get.  I refuse, flat out refuse, to be one of these bitter old codgers screaming at the kids on his lawn and pining for good old days that were quite lousy in many ways for many people.  I don’t even see owning a lawn as an old man even if I do get rich.  Jack Kerouac once said if you need to own a welcome mat, then you own too much.  I don’t know if I’d go that extreme but I did like Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club’ saying “The things you own eventually own you” and “once you’ve lost everything, you’re free to do anything.”  I don’t know about that extreme either, but for my own personal experiences I have lost most of what modern society deems the hallmarks of decent living.  I lost my career because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance to ever become rich because of mental illness.  I lost most of my physical health because of schizophrenia.  I lost the chance for marriage, relationships, sexual intimacy, children because mental illness made me impossible to live with.  I even lost my ability to drive a car in high traffic areas because of mental illness.  Most of my countrymen would think I am a complete loser just because of these measures and stats on paper.  But, with mental illness and entering old age, I have learned that I don’t have to care what others think any more.  As a result, I don’t care what others think.  I don’t want to impress people.  I don’t really care if I am liked.  I don’t even care if people believe me anymore.  I have found that usually when people think I’m lying the most is exactly when I’m telling the most truth.  That, and I’m just ahead of the curve.  I don’t care to stop asking why.  Not now, not ever.  I also no longer feel a visceral need to impress anyone.  I will continue to ask why until I die.  And I don’t care who likes or dislikes me in the process.

The Way A Different Mind Works

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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.

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.