Spring is pretty much here in my part of the country. The days are getting longer and warmer. Been spending more time outside, mainly at night as I’m still a little paranoid around large groups of people. Still staying up late but I don’t sleep most of the day like I had been for the previous couple weeks. Most days I’m awake at noon after going to bed around 4 or 5 am. I just prefer the quiet solitude of the overnight hours anymore. Hopefully this will change as the weather warms and spring advances. Spring has always been one of my happiest times of year. April, May, and June are usually my most stable months. I’ve often had my biggest problems in August and September. There is a seasonal aspect to my schizophrenia. I don’t know how many others with this diagnosis have similar problems. I’m also usually stable in the winter months. Winter and Spring seem to be my best times of year. From what I’ve heard, usually winters are toughest for those with seasonal aspects of mental illness. But for me it’s always been the opposite times of year that were the most stressful. Never could figure out why. But like many people I do have better times of year than others.
Not much has happened in the last few days. We’re bracing for a snow storm to come in over the next couple days. I’m still sleeping in my recliner as I’m still nursing my bad back. Mentally I guess I have been okay even with fighting off the occasional bouts of boredom and anxiety. I still feel kind of paranoid about people in general. Since I have pretty good hearing, I can hear everything that goes on in the hallway outside of my apartment. I don’t like unanticipated visitors as I have always been paranoid about that. I enjoy visiting people, but I can’t stand someone coming over unannounced when I am already self conscious about myself and my place. My entire life I have had a fear that I don’t measure up in anything and that nothing I do will be good enough. And since I’ve been fired from a few jobs in the past for things I didn’t know I was doing wrong and have lost friendships over people being annoyed with me being eccentric, many of my paranoias have been confirmed. At least they are confirmed in my diseased mind but probably not in anyone else’s. And since I don’t have the ability to read people very well, socializing has become a nightmare I would rather avoid.
I haven’t posted regularly on my facebook or twitter accounts since September. I just got tired of all the fighting and negativity. But the thing that bothers me the most about social media is how much of what I try to communicate gets lost in just text. Most times I don’t wish to come across as snarky or combative, but that’s how so many people interpret what I write. Maybe facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. wouldn’t be so negative if people had to post video and audio rather than just text. Put a voice and face to the comments and let the world know they aren’t talking to a machine or subhuman entity.
I gave up on using social media for anything than shamelessly promoting my blog three months ago when I came to the painful conclusion that most people were never going to share my optimism or joyful outlook. And the weird thing is I am more optimistic than ever even though I almost never convince anyone of reasons to be optimistic. I am definitely not an optimist by nature or upbringing. I almost never heard anything positive about the world or the future from my parents, teachers, bosses, or elders while growing up in the 1980s and 1990s. For quite sometime I was wondering why if most people were so pessimist about the future, then why were they having kids. I could never figure those kinds of contradictions out. I know very few people even in December 2017 who don’t have kids because they are worried about the kind of future these kids would have. Most people that don’t have kids that I know can’t biologically have kids.
Like I said, I am not an optimist by nature. I had to make myself into one. And I did it with little help from mass media, popular culture, or my elders. Most of what I learned about what was going right in modern civilization I had to actively seek out through secondary sources and rigorous research. I learned more science, technology, psychology, history, philosophy, literature, and economics on my own with an internet connection and five years of daily youtube viewing than I ever thought possible after spending eighteen years in traditional education. Then again, it should be noted that is simply impossible for any kind of formal education system to teach everything a person needs to know for living just within the system itself. With life expectancies going into the eighties in some countries (and even the sixties in some of the poorer developing nations), it is simply impossible to be able to say “You know what you need to know for the next fifty to sixty years once you’re turned out into the world at age eighteen.” No, the best thing an education system can do in this day and age of long life span and ever changing tech and social norms is to foster the never stop learning attitudes and mentalities.
In the mid to late 2000s when I was struggling to adapt to my mental illness and working low wage remedial jobs I could have done as a high school dropout, I was quite angry about my time in formal education. For several years I was convinced that doing well in high school and college was wasted effort if all I was going to do with my life was push a mop in a courthouse or sell carpet for a billion dollar company. After a few more years of maturity and seasoning, I found out to my pleasant surprise that my years of working hard in school and loving learning weren’t misspent. The biggest thing my years in formal education did was awaken in me a love for learning and a desire to continue doing so.
Sadly, many people don’t have a love for learning. Tragically most of those people are going to get left behind in the waves of science, technology, geopolitical, and social changes that have only recently begun to gain momentum. The old ideas of graduating high school at age eighteen, getting a union membership, getting a job in a factory, getting married at age twenty two to someone from your hometown or college, etc. aren’t feasible anymore. And sadly, many people can’t or won’t adapt. But we’ve had changes in the past eras. I imagine many people didn’t adapt during the Renaissance or Industrial revolutions and got painfully displaced. Same things are happening now as we move to a more connected, digitalized, fast paced, and informed world. National borders don’t mean as much now as they did even when I was a child back in the 1980s.
Sure it’s a chaotic time for many people, especially for people and institutions that aren’t adapting to the new realities. Politicians in my home nation are talking about building walls to keep out illegal immigrants and refugees and bringing back traditional manufacturing jobs to this country. To which I reply “planes can fly over walls” and “3D printing”. Sadly, many people want to deny such changes are already here and will resist to the point of being left so far behind they’ll never catch up. I see it every day just in my own community and circles of friends and family. I decided that I was going to adapt and welcome the changes regardless of what my friends, family, and neighbors were going to do. Some cool things are happening and I don’t want to get left behind or wallow in fear and anxiety for the rest of my life. I deal with fear and anxiety enough in my own mental illness. I won’t allow external forces to add to these.
Been getting out a little more the last few days in spite the cold. Saw my psych doctor on a cancelation appointment the other day. We made some adjustments in the psych medications. I added a third med. I also saw a general practice doctor yesterday. We decided to add a blood pressure medication. I’m not really surprised as high blood pressure runs in my family. So it looks like I’m getting out and about more and starting to get back on top of my health. I let a lot of that slide over the last several months when I was sleeping a lot and had no energy.
I haven’t been reading as much as I would like lately. I’ve also been kind of lazy about writing. Mentally I have felt quite stable. Haven’t had any real bouts of depression or anxiety for a long time. The delusions and hallucinations are at a minimum. I still don’t socialize much in person, but I just don’t isolate as much anymore either. I hope I can make more progress with the holidays coming up. It’s been too long since I last had real good socializing.
I still don’t socialize much. But that’s because I don’t feel like I need to. Some of my best friends I can chat with over Facebook or the phone. Besides, all some people want to chat about are mundane things like the weather or pointless gossip. Conversations without any real intelligent substance really weigh on me. They sap my energy and often aggravate me. And the longer I’ve been out of school, the worse it gets. Sure there were quite a few people who, when I went to school, thought education was for losers and being ignorant was cool. But, good grief, now that I’m an adult those people are in the vast majority. I was always told that more wisdom came with age. Not necessarily so. I know people in their sixties and seventies who are less mature and intelligent than some junior high kids. It’s tiring and sad to see stupidity and ignorance being championed in my culture. I see it in my daily life and I see it when I log onto the internet or watch my tv: ignorance is praised and wisdom is condemned.
Was it always this way that smart people were ostracized? Is it this way in other cultures and times? Since I’ve been out of the USA only once in my life, I really have no first hand experience with other cultures other than my own. And in my culture, intelligence simply isn’t valued. I have felt out of place among my own people and culture for as long as I can remember. People thought it odd that my friends and I liked to talk about history, science, and current events more than school yard gossip and popular culture. I was good at speech, drama, and knowledge bowl competitions, but I got far more recognition from being a mediocre football player. And my school was more academically inclined than most schools in my region.
I have always felt like an outsider. And developing a mental illness in my late teens only made it more pronounced. But I suppose that being an outsider as a kid made me resilient enough to navigate a serious mental illness. And it’s this sense of being an outsider that allows me to endure long stretches of time in solitude. It’s this sense of being an outsider that frees me to go against popular norms and look at problems in different ways. It’s the sense of being an outsider that took away a lot of old fears that held me back in my younger years. I don’t fear looking like a fool. I don’t fear being wrong because I can learn from being wrong more than I can always giving the teachers the “right” answers. Besides, all grades measure in school is how good a kid can conform to the existing system. Well, the existing system is becoming obsolete and is going to get changed before too many years. It is unavoidable. Why measure fact retention when I can look up any fact on google and wikipedia within a few seconds? In future generations, kids are going to have to be taught to be problem solvers and deep thinkers. It matters less that, for example, that Sacramento is the capital of California than say, why Sacramento and not Los Angeles or San Francisco. Or instead of knowing that Columbus sailed for the Americas in 1492, it would be better to explain how he was able to convince the Spanish throne to give him the funds, how he kept his crew motivated when setting off on a potential suicide mission, or what effects there were by the Europeans meeting with the Native Americans. In the automated future, fact retention and unthinking obedience is going to matter much less than creativity and problem solving or skills that computers can’t master yet. And it can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.
In many ways, the geeks and nerds won the culture wars. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have much more influence and money than even Michael Jordan or David Beckham. Geeks and nerds coming out in force is probably why there have been so many comic books made into movies the last several years. Heck, even video gaming is becoming a competitive sport. But I guess if bowling and poker are, why not video gaming? Science and tech are gaining in influence and prestige while aspects of our past like war and poverty are going in decline. We are very fortunate that there hasn’t been any major wars between developed nations since the end of World War II. I fear such wars would go nuclear. So it’s a great development that we as a species are starting to lose our stomachs for violence, war, and bloodshed. Practices like human sacrifices and near constant raiding and war used to be the norm not that many generations ago. Such practices are considered barbaric relics of when our civilizations were less mature. And it’s largely thanks to the geeky outcasts and their science and tech advances.
I want to end on a positive note. I am grateful to be a geeky outsider. I hated it as a teenager, but it was for the better. It made me better able to deal with mental illness, it made me more self reliant, and it made me study more. I’m much better read now than I was before I became mentally ill. I’m glad I’m not normal. I’m glad I’m not ignorant. Ignorance and normal are both overrated. In fact, both ignorance and normal suck.
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.
I must admit, I love being an adult. I love the freedom involved. I love having my own money and getting to decide how I get to spend it. I love that I don’t have to answer to authority figures I didn’t choose. If a boss was giving me static at a job, I could always look for a different job. If a landlord was giving me a hard time, I always had the option of moving to a different place. I love that I can do things like vote and go to casinos. I enjoy that I don’t have to feel guilty for expressing my opinions and having my likes and dislikes. I like that I can read whatever I want. I love having privacy. I enjoy not getting yelled at for trivial things like when I was in school or living with my parents. I like the fact that I can avoid people who give me too much static. When you are in school, you just can’t avoid bullies or sadistic teachers. Sure I’ve had bosses and coworkers who were jerks and whiners, but at least I had the option of finding another job if I didn’t connect with said bosses or coworkers. Changing schools is a lot tougher.
Even though I have been living with schizophrenia since at least age seventeen, I have found that it is getting easier to work around it the older I get. The bad periods don’t last nearly as long nor are as intense as they were in my early twenties. In my late 30s, I have come to the realization that I don’t have to be defined by what job I have or if I have a wife and kids or not. I am not my job. I am not less of a human being because I am not married. Sure I still deal with people that tell me “mental illness is fake” or that “you’re not a real man.” But as an adult it is much easier to blow those jerks and losers off and ignore them. You think I’m faking mental illness, then screw you. It’s not my job to meet your standards. It is so much easier to not be bothered by criticism as a 36 year old than when I was 21. I just hope that the older I get, the symptoms will become even less severe and I will care even less about naysayers and idiots.
I still isolate a lot and avoid socializing with my complex mates. But I think I’m more mentally stable because of said lack of socializing. When I was a kid people used to tell me I was being “anti-social” and had “attitude problems” because I didn’t like going to high school sporting events and county fairs. There really wasn’t much to do in my farming village besides school events, church activities, and county fairs. There was only one movie theatre in a fifty mile radius from my hometown. I didn’t enjoy watching people throw balls around much as a kid. As an adult I really don’t have to feel guilty for not watching such things. I do watch some college football and basketball tournaments just to give myself something to talk about with other people. Most people still don’t like discussing science and technology in casual conversations. But I haven’t been to any sporting events in person besides minor league baseball games in almost five years. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty or anti-social because of it. And as an adult I have these options. That’s more than I had as a kid.
I don’t really understand people who are nostalgic about their youths or the past. I might be a little nostalgic about growing up if I had more friends, was bullied less, and wasn’t so much of a social misfit in my school. I am kind of nostalgic about my college years because I knew lots of smart people, had lots of interesting conversations, could do things at the spur of the moment with no planning, could study what I felt like studying, and had the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood. College was much more stimulating and enjoyable than grade school or high school. Sure I never got to use my degree in a job, but I blame the schizophrenia for that completely. And I am grateful everyday I can keep in contact with old friends through Facebook.
I love living in the here and now of May 2017. Sure getting to this point was rough dealing with schizophrenia for almost twenty years. Sure my physical health took a beating because my mental illness and the side effects of the psych medications. But after twenty years of schizophrenia I have figured out how to deal with bad days and psychotic breaks. I have also learned how to enjoy the small things of life more than many of my mentally stable friends and family. Happiness for me is watching a sunset, or eating chicken wings at a sports bar with college friends, or seeing my niece and nephews for a few hours, or talking with my parents about history or technology, or reading internet sites like futurism.com or bloomberg.com about trends in science and current events. I had my ups and downs with schizophrenia. I had many breakdowns when I took a lot of grief out on my parents and friends. Fortunately those breakdowns are getting less severe and shorter as I age. I have had to go to the mental hospital twice. But both times I was self committed and my longest stay was one week. I may not be able to hold a forty hour a week job, but at least I tried several different lines of work before I came to the conclusion that traditional employment wasn’t in my future. And it’s not shameful to not hold a full time job, especially if you have a disability or find other outlets to give back to people. I can still drive a car, I can still buy my own groceries, pick up my medications, keep appointments, and more or less live on my own even with mental illness. Some people can’t claim that. In short I love being an adult. And I wouldn’t want to go back to my youth, even though I had more friends and better health in college. Being an adult rocks. It really does.