September 23, 2017

After several rougher than usual days, I’m starting back on the mend.  Feeling depressed, anxious, and paranoid really drains me.  I still don’t socialize much other than phone calls and blogging.  I have recently gone entire days without leaving my apartment.  And it saddens me.  I am afraid to travel, so I don’t get to see many friends or family.  I don’t even like driving across town to buy groceries and house supplies anymore.  I’m just so afraid and paranoid much of the time anymore.

Maybe the problems I traditionally have in late summer finally caught up to me.  I just usually want to just curl up under a heavy blanket and try to sleep much of the time.  It’s usually hunger that causes me to get out of bed.

In spite my recent issues I attempt to stay optimistic.  Granted I haven’t been real successful at this lately.  I attempt to avoid angry and irritable people as much as possible.  It would be better for me and everyone involved if I just wasn’t as sensitive to these kinds of things as I am.  Yet, for better and worse, it is how I am wired mentally.  Losing my sensitivity, compassion, and empathy would involve destroying who I am mentally.  It would mean being someone I have never been.  I just can’t do it.  I now understand why I never succeeded in a workplace environment.  I just have too much compassion and empathy.

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Settling Into Mental Stability and Winter Routines

Now that the holidays have come and passed, I am settling into my winter routines.  I find that I am spending much of my day reading online articles and reading books.  I don’t play as many computer games as I used to.  I’m finding myself dining out less as I’ve had fast food only once in the last week.  I’ve been eating less than normal the last week.  I can tell I feel less sluggish because I’m not eating so much unhealthy fast food.  I do sleep more than I did during the summer.  But it does help pass the time when so much of the day is dark and cold.  I don’t just go out and drive my car much anymore.  While I have conquered my fear of driving I just see no need to do much of it anymore.  I fuel my car probably only once a month now.  I just see no need to really go anywhere unless it’s necessary.  I can do most of my socializing online and via cell phone now.

I’ve been reading on some of the books I bought over the last couple months.  I’m reading a lot of online articles too.  Just because I don’t have many guests in my apartment doesn’t mean that I don’t socialize.  I’m slowly starting to socialize more over Facebook and even in the hallways of my apartment complex. It has been a slow process getting over my paranoia and fear of socializing.  And it’s one that’s not completed by any means.

I haven’t seen any regular tv in the last several weeks besides live sports.  For a couple weeks around Christmas there were college football bowl games on every night it seemed.  I would have a game on in the background most days while I was working online but I wasn’t really paying attention to the games.  I guess I just feel guilty about watching young men maim themselves for my enjoyment the older I get.  I probably should watch more soccer or basketball until baseball starts again. I just don’t watch a lot of tv.  I avoid the news channels as they are mostly negative news that doesn’t effect me.  Bad things have been happening all over the world throughout history, it’s just now that we know about it instantly with our communication tech.  The world isn’t more violent than in the past, it’s just better informed.

I’m starting to settle into winter routines.  Been reading a lot of online articles, been reading my amazon books, been listening to free podcasts through youtube, and I’m generally feeling stable and content since the weather started turning colder.  I’m ready to face the winter.

 

Getting Back To Stability

It’s been almost three weeks since I threw out my back.  I can get around pretty decent for the most part.  The mornings are the only difficulty, especially the first time I stand up after waking.  In spite of my back issues I’ve been socializing more.  I went to a writers’ support group on Monday night for the first time in over a year.  Told people about my blog.  My blog is the primary writing activity I have right now.  I do occasionally write poetry but there is such a limited market for poetry.  I haven’t written any kind of fiction for almost three years.  But then I’ve always preferred reading nonfiction to fiction.

Mentally I’ve been very stable for quite awhile.  I call at least one person over the phone every day now.  Usually family or close friends.  Things have gotten a little less contentious  at my apartment complex in recent months.  We’ve had a couple problem residents I haven’t seen in weeks so I’m guessing they moved out.  After ten years in the same complex I really don’t pay much attention to who moves in and who moves out.  I just pretty much keep to myself and the handful of friends I have here.  The friend I made back in the winter moved out a month ago.  But I’m kind of used to that by now.

I rejoined my old writers support group.  I’m probably going to rejoin my mental illness support group as soon as my back clears up.  There is a second writers’ support group that meets twice monthly at the local library that I’m joining starting next week.  In short I’m beginning to put myself out there socially.

Been seriously tracking my diet for a week.  I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost.  Probably not as much as I normally would as I’m not yet very active.  I won’t be very active until my back completely heals.  The best I can do right now is put strict limits on what I eat and keep a positive mind set.

Today is also my birthday.  I am now 36 years old.  I don’t have much planned today besides going out to lunch with my family.  Can’t really do a great deal for at least the short term.  But the back has cleared immensely since two weeks ago.  I just have to keep doing things to encourage the healing process until I’m back to full speed.

Socializing and Decreased Hallucinations

Now that I have my medication situation under control I’ve been easing back into more of a normal type of life.  At least it’s as normal as a life of mental illness is going to get.  One of the aspects of my life that is starting to resemble normal is my social life.  Just last week I spent two hours outdoors chatting with two of my neighbors. Three days ago I chatted with a third neighbor for over an hour. Today I chatted one on one with another neighbor for almost two hours.  Those are the three longest conversations I’ve had with someone who wasn’t family in months.  I still make a point of calling my parents at least twice a week.  It’s not just Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day I talk to my parents.  I still go to counseling twice a month with the same counselor I’ve had for the last year and a half.  We have a pretty good thing going.  I also have a good deal going with my psych doctor.  I do kind of worry because both of these men are getting close to retirement age.  So I’ll be in the market for new therapists and doctors within a few years.  I’m so glad the subject of DNA testing came up with my psych doctor.  The medication I changed to was one my DNA tests said would work really well for me.  So the DNA testing has already paid off.  We might make another change within a few weeks.  But things seem to be working well enough now we might not even need to make a second change.

I’m also noticing I can now go entire days without feeling irritable.  I don’t even really get irritable while driving.  Since I usually drive a little slower than speed limit, especially in town, I usually get passed and sometimes cut off.  But neither really bothers me that much anymore.  And I’m beginning to drive more again.  For several months I drove only when I had to run errands or to visit my family.  I rarely made spontaneous trips.  And being in an auto accident several months ago didn’t help any.  Even though I wasn’t at fault in that accident I lost some confidence in my driving ability.  It’s now coming back.  I haven’t set out on a long road trip yet but I probably will this summer.  I try to take at least one several hour road trip every summer.

I’m also having fewer auditory hallucinations.  For me, my hallucinations were almost always voices. Occasionally I hear foot steps and doors closing that no one else does, which can be quite creepy. Voices and foot steps are the two biggest hallucinations I have.  If one were to watch me closely when I’m alone, you could see my lips move and I would be speaking under my breath. That’s how the hallucinations make themselves manifest. It no doubt looks very odd but hopefully it’s not as painfully obvious as some schizophrenic hallucinations.  I can have entire conversations with the voices and not even speak loud enough to be heard.  But since most of the voices are quite nasty and critical it’s not like the conversations are enriching or enjoyable.  But I’m getting to where I now have much more conversation with real flesh and blood people than just isolating and arguing with my hallucinations.

Trying to Understand ‘Normal’ With Mental Illness

This is going to be an open letter from one schizophrenic man to chronically normal people at large.  Or, at least, to the handful of you who happen to read these passages.  It is not meant to be angry or ranting.  Instead, think of it as a few honest questions about why you do what you do.  As a mentally ill man, I want to try to understand you neurotypical people a little better.  Yes, much of this will be tongue and cheek.  But these are questions I have nonetheless.

Dear Mr. and Ms. Normal, If I may be honest with you, as a mentally ill man I do not understand you.  I do not understand how you think or why you act the ways you do.  I do not understand why you socialize the way you do.  I do not come even close to understanding your office politics.  I would love to have at least some insight into mysterious ways of the normal.

The way you think is somehting I don’t understand.  I consider myself relatively intelligent, at least above average.  But there are things about your thought process I don’t get.  I have a hard time understanding why you normals may know what is good for you yet don’t act on it.  It makes sense why I, as a schizophrenic, don’t always know what’s best as I have a few voices in my mind competing for my attention. These voices are often giving contradictory advice.  I have voices in my mind that don’t agree on anything that not only argue with me, but often with each other.  As far as I can tell, you neurotypicals don’t have this disadvantage.  So I can’t figure out why you don’t always act in ways that benefit you and those around you.  You don’t hold several different opinions at the same time, do you?  So what is your excuse for knowing what is good but not acting on it?  You have only one voice within your mind, right?  Or is cognitive dissonance a bigger problem with the chronic normal than with the mentally ill?  I’m hopelessly confused.  Somebody please help me 🙂

The word schizophrenia is derived from a word meaning ‘split mind.’  Not only does my mind have a hard time perceiving the difference between what others say and what they actually mean, but I also have an inability to accurately read and understand a person’s body language and voice inflection.  Body language I simply cannot read.  If someone tries to tell me something with their body language, they just as well be speaking ancient Egyptian.  I also have problems interpreting voice inflections in that my default mode of operation is to assume most people are not happy with me and are actually quite disgusted with me.  It is my experience that when my boss or any authority figure wants to talk with me one on one, they are doing it to tell me what I’m doing wrong and that I am in serious trouble.  I’ve had too many of these less than constructive criticism sessions to believe you have anything but malicious intent when you do call me onto your turf to chat.  It is never for small chit chat or for them to tell me how thrilled they are with my work.  As a result, I don’t trust authority figures of any kind.  I can only guess where they are coming from and what their motives are.

I am unable to get inside someone’s head and try to figure out what they are thinking.  Yet, I feel like my mind’s a completely open children’s picture book for all comers to pick apart and dissect.  So, please understand how paranoid this makes me feel.  I know this is just my mental illness distorted view of looking at things, but I really feel like I am at a severe disadvantage in any social situation because you chronic normals ‘know’ what I am thinking whereas I can only guess what you are thinking.  Imagine what it would be like for you to be interrogated by the police and the cops haven’t yet told you what they are accusing you of.  I feel exactly like this every time an authority figure or coworker wants to talk with me in private and they refuse to tell me what it’s about.  In short, I hate office politics.  My inability to understand the game of office politics  that you chronic normals know by heart is one of the reasons I don’t have a regular job anymore.  It may be just a game to you neurotypicals, but for most of us mentally ill it isn’t fun and games.  And it never will be because you normals are apparently born knowing these rules and we the mentally ill aren’t.

As little as I understand the games of office politics and social interaction, I don’t understand the games of dating at all.  I wasn’t born knowing these rules.  No one bothered to sit me down and explain the rules of dating.  Or maybe it was explained during one of the ten days or so I missed from school between the ages of six and eighteen.  I missed very few days during my school career, but I apparently missed some extremely important material during those days.  Why couldn’t I have missed the days of school when all we discussed was the difference between ameobas and diatoms or when we were discussing anti-trust laws in the gilded age?  I would much rather know how to tell if a woman wanted me to ask her out then who was president when the Standard Oil trust was busted up.  I really have had practically no success with dating.  And it wasn’t just getting a girl to go on a date and then she wouldn’t go on a second date.  If only it was that problem. My problem was getting a girl to say yes to even a first date.  I actually had a girl laugh at me my freshman year of college when I asked her out.  I was thinking ‘I was just asking you to hang out off campus some Friday night.  I didn’t realize it was amateur comedy night at the Apollo.’ That is just one of my stories.  I’ve been shot down by women more than the Luffwaffe got shot down by the Royal Air Force.  I knew my game stunk just from my results.  But I never got told by anyone what I was doing wrong.  Was it some knowledge that I simply wasn’t born with?  Is it my Shrek like physical appearance?  Are people intimidated by physically strong men who are quite intelligent?  I don’t know.  My disappointing failures in the dating game eventually led me to giving up entirely.  The last time I was on even a casual date, a Texan was taking up residence in the White House.  So I’m probably at a severe disadvantage in the dating game anymore I don’t even know where to start. I’m not even sure if I am meant to date, to tell you the truth.

In short, I am living the life of a mentally ill man who’s clueless in the ways of love, socializing, and office politics.  I often feel like I would be better off living as a medieval Catholic monk and I’m not even Catholic.  I already have the vows of poverty, service, and celibacy down pat.  I live those every day.  I don’t think I could do the vow of silence so well.  But I hope you now know a little better why I have problems socializing and dating with neurotypicals.  I hope this explains to you, Mr. and Ms. Normal, why we the mentally ill often seem a bit off socially.  Yours truly, your humble mentally ill correspondent.