Minimalism, Optimism, and Freedom with Mental Illness

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In the classic movie ‘Forrest Gump’, there was a line that went like “there’s only so much you need and the rest is just for show.”  After a couple of years of practicing minimalism I know that is a fact.  There really is only so much a person needs to really be content in life. I don’t have any music CDs or DVDs because I have all of that held by my computer via my subscriptions to Netflix, Curiosity Stream, and Spotify.  I have my books but I am seriously considering buying a Kindle or another cheap e-reader and putting a bunch of free books on it.  I don’t have a lot of trinkets in my house.  Besides a few art pieces done by friends and my framed World Series ticket stub from when my Rockies made the World Series I don’t have much for decorations.  The only real extravagance  I have for decorations is the world map where I put in push pins in every country I had a visitor from.  I have food in my fridge and pantry.  I have some emergency supplies so I could ride out a blizzard or emergency for a few days without power if need be.  I have my car which I use mainly to buy groceries and run occasional errands.  I’ve gotten to where I usually buy gas only once a month unless I’m making road trips during the summer.  I banked some of my insurance settlement money as another emergency fund.  I already had an emergency fund that I keep outside of the bank.  My medicaid covers my medications and psych doctor visits.  I have learned how to live on what social security pays me.  I have zero for debts.  I have two computers and central heating.  Heck, I dare say that even though I’m on social security disability insurance and officially living under the poverty line for U.S. standards in 2016, I live better than the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts did back in the late 1800s.  Thank God for technology and knowledge.

I’m sorry if I sound like I’m bragging.  But I am happy that I have gotten out of debt, stayed out of debt, didn’t end up in a bad relationship or divorced paying child support for kids I’m hardly ever allowed to see, and avoided a lot of other problems that could have come with being mentally ill.  I’m glad I don’t have kids because I fear passing on genetic tendencies for mental illness and I know with schizophrenia I would have made a lousy father.  I am glad I got out of debt and learned how to have cheap tastes because I don’t have to take a job just for the money.  I don’t work right now because I really don’t need the money.  I also don’t need the headaches of office politics and putting up with whiny and lazy coworkers.  I left my last job because I didn’t need the money and the job was becoming more of a headache than it was worth.  Being in the position where I don’t have to accept a lousy job or put up with coworkers’ nonsense is a sense of power that not many people I know have.

Some of my critics will no doubt say that I can do this only because I am on the government dole.  Years ago with mental illness, I’d be locked up in an insane asylum and probably costing the taxpayers more than I am now with less effective results. With me living in the community on disability, my community was able to get several years of labor and taxes out of me that they wouldn’t have gotten fifty years ago.  The community also received my blog entries, which from messages I have gotten from readers, are making a difference.  Some may think I am spoiled by being able to live in the community and take psych medications at tax payer expense.  What’s wrong with that?  Everybody alive today benefits from inventions and innovations they had nothing to do with.  Everybody with electricity today had little to nothing to do with the research that people like Michael Farraday, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and George Westinghouse did back in the 1800s to make electric power possible.  A significant percentage of the people living today would be dead or never born if it wasn’t for anti biotic drugs.  Surely that doesn’t spoil anyone or make them less productive.

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Because of advances in science and technology along with advances in the social safety nets, I can live pretty well off very little.  I have access to much of history’s music through Spotify for only ten dollars a month.  I have access to the world’s cumulative knowledge and wisdom won through centuries of toil, tears, and blood through a wireless internet collection that costs only one dollar a day.  I don’t need in encyclopedia for research when I have wikipedia and search engines.  I don’t need to write letters to friends when I can just hit them up on Facebook.  I don’t need to buy a newspaper when I can go online to get my news or craigslist.com for classified ads.  I can reach an international audience with this blog for pennies a day in advertising and I have a much further reach than when I started writing a dozen years ago.  Back then I wasn’t known outside of the few people who bought some of my print on demand poetry and essays books.  Much of what I am doing right now would seem like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers type of science fiction magic to my grandparents generation back in the 1950s.  Even the Wal Mart special smart phone I have is more advanced than Captain Kirk’s mobile communicator from the original ‘Star Trek.’  And I have access to all of this and more even though I am a minimalist, on disability insurance, a single man, and living in a smaller town in a largely rural farming state.

Because my hobbies and entertainments don’t cost much I don’t need that much money.  Splurging for me is going to a sports bar with a couple college friends when they come to visit.  Or buying $60 worth of used books on amazon or picking up a couple cheap computer games.  Extravagance for me is going camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota or the mountains of Colorado.  A good time for me is getting to see my nephews and niece. I may not have a large income, a big house, a fancy car, a designer wardrobe, or prestige.  But I have come to realize over the years with a mental illness I don’t need these things to be content and happy.  I need only a fraction of the things I was told I needed to have a decent life when I was growing up.  I really don’t have to make any more major purchases for the foreseeable future.  Other than the ups and downs of my mental illness I am living quite well.  Now that the insanity of the election has passed I may not have to worry about so many ups and downs anymore.  Life is going well for me.

 

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Cleaning My Apartment, Minimalism, and Tying Up Loose Ends

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Spent the last few days cleaning my apartment and rearranging for when the new carpet is getting installed.  My landlady talked about painting the walls of my apartment while they were at it.  So my apartment is going to be getting some much needed updating pretty soon.  I may have to be out of my apartment for a few days while the work is going on.  But I’m glad that this is going to get done finally.  I’ve been in the same apartment for ten years without any major updates.  This job is going much easier ever since I became a minimalist.

I cleaned up some files on my computer while I was cleaning my apartment.  I got rid of a bunch of my e-clutter and free e-books I was never going to read.  So many books but so little time.  I had to update some programs on my iPod.  So I now have some free space on it and am listening to more music now.  Music has traditionally been therapeutic for me.  But I had gotten out of the habit of listening during the last couple years.  I no longer have any music CDs as it is all on e-files now.  I haven’t bought even e-file music for almost a year.  For the most part anymore when I want to listen to music I use free services like Pandora or You Tube.  It still amazes me how much cool stuff can be found online as long as you are willing to look.  I don’t even have DVDs anymore.  I get all my movie viewing on Netflix and Amazon.  Anymore I have adopted the attitude of let the computer hold my “stuff.”  I have grown to hate clutter as much as I hate cleaning.  And I can reduce clutter by reducing how many things I actually own.  With the exception of my two couches, my dresser, my bookshelf, and my bed, everything I own I can get into my four door sedan within a couple hours.  I am definitely not a hoarder.  With a one bedroom apartment I can’t afford to be.

Not having visual clutter in my apartment does a great deal for reliving stress.  I usually don’t have to clean very often simply because I don’t have much to clutter my place.  It’s great feeling.

 

Adjusting My Habits After A Med Change

I am now three weeks into a medications change.  I have been completely cycled off one of my old medications and onto another.  And of course different medications have different side effects and issues.  One issue with my new meds set up is that I don’t fall asleep as quickly.  My old set up used to make me sleepy quite fast.  Not so with this new set up.  So it’s no longer like I can drink caffeine in the evenings and still fall asleep at a reasonable time.  So I am adjusting to no caffeine after about five p.m. or I’ll be awake all night.

Another change to my habits is that I now actually get frustrated by the lack of opportunities to socialize in my apartment complex.  I used to just exercise in the late mornings and then spend the rest of the day often not socializing at all.  I found a lot of socializing in the past boring because many people just aren’t that interesting.  How much can you seriously discuss the weather or the problems with your neighbors and job before you’ve said it all before?  I miss the older and interesting friends I had who were able to talk about things I was interested in.  Now many people in my complex are just old, irritable, and uninteresting.  I would love to socialize more but where am I going to get the social interaction humans need?  I can’t really work anymore because of the mental illness.  I really can’t volunteer because who really takes on single men in their thirties as volunteers?  Seems to me most volunteers are retirees in their seventies and housewives.  People already look at me like I’m a freak.  I simply won’t go back to church.  The churches I’ve been involved in don’t take kindly to singles over twenty five.  Besides I do not believe that God (if there is one) is interested in human affairs or at all concerned about human suffering.  I can’t take part in anything I don’t believe in just to make friends and look good.  Really, what are good options for single men to socialize outside of work?  Does anyone even care?

Not being able to fall asleep quickly and the frustrations I face because I want to socialize now are the two biggest drawbacks to my having switched medications.  I imagine others may crop up eventually.  But so far most things are looking alright.

 

Social Struggles and Being Single with Mental Health Issues

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I had only five people I felt I could tell anything to in my entire life until I went to college.  Two were school friends, two were grandparents, and one was a cousin.  I really didn’t have any true friends outside of my cousins until I was eleven years old.  But I guess that happens when you’re the odd smart kid who’s too proud and stubborn to hide your smarts and eccentricities.  Maybe I would have done better in an environment where I wasn’t the odd man out all the time.  But I’ll never know.  It was lonely.  But I eventually came to prefer to be alone most of the time because I didn’t fit in among my classmates. I didn’t learn much in the way of social skills until I was well into my twenties.  Even at the age of 35 I still feel like I’m behind the curve in the way of social skills.

Today none of my friends and confidants live in the same town I do.  I moved here because the job prospects and health care in this town were better than my home town.  I wanted to start over.  Yet the older I get I find the less opportunities I have for traditional socializing.  I have better socializing and more in common with anonymous posters on Facebook and youtube forums than I do with people in my hometown.  I really don’t like the idea of going back to work because 1) I’m tired of dealing with the same old office politics and low grade hostility I’ve faced at every job since age sixteen and 2) my confidence in my work performance is gone.

I really don’t like the idea of going to mental health support groups because the ones I’ve been to I’ve seen too many people who can’t or won’t learn from their mistakes.  I can’t claim to be perfect on this myself, but at least I don’t ask for advice and then just do the same old nonsense over and over.  I just don’t ask for advice anymore.  I won’t go to AA or NA because I don’t have drinking or hard drug problems.  I won’t go back to college because I can’t afford it and there really aren’t that many 30 somethings in college, at least not from what I’ve seen or will get to see.  I certainly refuse to do the bar scene.  Last time I was at a bar was three years ago at a New Year’s concert and some girl chatted me up and was all sweet to me just to make her boyfriend jealous.  I still don’t know how I talked my way out of receiving  a beat down on that one.

It seems there aren’t any options for singles in their 30s to socialize outside of work and the bar scene.  Don’t start with the religious organizations idea.  There aren’t any singles over 25 in those organizations, certainly not men (unless you want to be a Catholic priest or monk).  I might join a gym in a year or two after I lose another 70 pounds on my own and can actually keep up with some of those guys and gals.  When I was a gym member I felt embarrassed watching some of these people who looked like marathon runners and body builders and I was having a hard time doing thirty minutes on a treadmill.

I imagine there are lots of lonely and single people in there late 20s and older out there who would love to do some activity that doesn’t involve working, drinking, or church.  I read an article that stated that, according to the 2010 census here in USA, there are more unmarried adults than married adults.  First time in U.S. history that has ever happened.  Granted this includes divorcees, widowed, and probably live in long term relationships.  But I have no intention of ever marrying and I’m completely content with that.  Would have been cool to have married the proverbial college sweetheart, worked in medical research (I wanted to be a research scientist since I was five years old), had the 2.3 kids, cat and dog combo, and picket fence kind of life.  But that is an illusion from an era that no longer exists if it ever did.  But a lot of social organizations and businesses are flat out missing out in not trying to attract singles in their late 20s, 30s, and older.

I wouldn’t be surprised if within 10 to 15 years you’ll see a lot of single men and women in their late 40s and early 50s who were smart and tight with their money in their younger years who find themselves financially independent and able to retire if they want.  I imagine for every person who has $50,000 plus in student loan debts, there is at least one other who learned a trade at a two year program or someone who got out of a four year program with little to no debt.  I also know guys who didn’t even go to college who worked on oil wells, in mining, and farming and made close to six figures by their late 20s.  And these guys are saving most of their money.  I also know guys who started in the military in their early twenties and are staying in for the twenty years required for a pension and they’ll transition to civilian work in their early forties while the military paid for all their education. Many of these young professionals (currently in their 20s and 30s and thus invisible to most people) are living minimalist while being smart with their money.  In short, there’s a lot of potential business and money that is being completely ignored because singles in their 30s are not a traditional demographic with any real numbers.

I don’t socialize much but not because I don’t have the money to.  With zero debt and some emergency money now stored away, I could afford to go to the sports bars most evenings or to concerts on weekends.  But having nerdy dork interests in a small town setting doesn’t lend itself to good socializing.  I’m also interested in exercising but I don’t have the build to run marathons.  I’m the only person I know who lifts arm weights while watching Star Trek: Enterprise reruns.  Just because a dude is smart and interesting he doesn’t always fit in to all social situations.