Trying to Maintain Hope Around Negative People

 

I just don’t talk to anyone much anymore.  But then it seems like people have been avoiding me too lately.  I hope this is just my paranoia creeping in.  But it does seem like almost no one has time or energy to just chat lately.  I fear that I’m becoming this way too.  I try to stay optimistic overall but it is tough.  First, I’m not an optimist by nature as I wasn’t raised to be one.  I was almost never told anything positive about the world or life in general from my elders as a kid.  Made me wonder why anyone had kids if the world was falling apart as much as my parents, teachers, and church elders told me it was.  But that was before I got out on my own and came to the realization that most people are more ruled by short term emotion than by long term logic.  As someone who is part artist and part science enthusiast, I find my emotion and logical sides at conflict quite often.  I have spent the better part of the last five years training up the logical part of my mind.  It isn’t easy and it’s often frustrating.  Bill Gates once stated that people tend to overestimate change in the short term but underestimate it in the long term.  Getting to see what cool stuff happens next is one of the things that keeps me going.  It’s the scientist, the engineer, the doctor, the humanitarian that gives me as much hope as most of my friends get out of their political parties.  I try to explain to my friends that politicians can pass budgets, pass favorable laws, and then get out of the way.  That’s about all they can do.  I have never seen a politician build a power plant or figure out how to grow more crops with fewer chemicals.  Many problems of modern civilization are science and engineering issues, not political or even social ones.

I just as well be speaking ancient Sanskrit to my friends in that they’re not coming around and probably never will.  I would love to live in a world where the scientists and doctors were as well known and respected as pro athletes and big shot Hollywood stars.  But I suppose that’s a pipe dream that won’t come true in my lifetime, if ever.  As it is I am a mentally ill unemployed man trying to make sense of the madness in the people around me.  At this point I’m glad I don’t have a regular job in that it would probably drive me to complete break down.  I’m glad for the safety nets I have.  It saddens and sickens me that there are people who want to remove even these.  We live in a post industrial civilization where we can feed everyone, not some Stone Age Darwinian survival of the fittest setup our ancestors already overcame.  Yet, it seems like some people are bent on bringing back the Stone Age.  I hope it’s just my paranoia creeping in but it does seem like there’s too many people losing hope and giving up right before things get real interesting.  As far as any politicians of any country go, they are merely “momentary masters of a fraction of a dot” to quote Carl Sagan.  We would be wise to regain such perspective in our own lives.

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Reinventing Myself While Living With Schizophrenia

 

I admit I don’t have good social skills.  Never have and probably never will.  Part of it may have come from growing up in a rural town of less than 500 residents without much in the way of diversity or culture.  That and I didn’t know many people who shared my interests in science, science fiction, and fantasy type stories until I went to college.  To this day I have never bought a comic book.  I was 31 before I played my first D&D game.  I didn’t read any Issac Asimov or Arthur C. Clark until a couple years ago.  I didn’t sit down and watch an episode of Star Trek start to finish until I was in my thirties.  And besides the D&D, I enjoy all of these things.  I would have loved to discovered this stuff twenty five years ago.  Most people in my childhood hometown were interested in mostly farming, hunting, football, church, and politics.  I can discuss such things but they do get old after even a few minutes and then you’re just rehashing reruns of reruns.  While I didn’t hate my hometown as a child, I was quite bored and always felt like I didn’t fit in.  As a result I didn’t socialize except when I was forced to.  It’s not that I don’t like people.  I love people.  I just have a wide range of interests that growing up where I did just wasn’t able to satisfy.

I suppose in some ways now that I’m on disability insurance and don’t have to work a regular job (not that I could with my depression, paranoia, and anxiety), I feel like I’m getting a second chance at my adolescence.  Sure I’m in my late 30s, don’t have the physical strength I did at age 18, and I’m not interested in trying to get laid, but in some ways I still feel youthful.  I am enjoying my thirties far more than I ever did my teenage years.  In some ways, I feel like my thirties are kind of like my adolescence in that I have different possibilities every day as to how I want to spend my days.  And I don’t have to deal with bullies or irritable elders yammering on about how the ‘cold cruel world’ is going to kick my idealistic butt.  I had my butt kicked many times in my teens and twenties by my mental illness and trying in vain to find a job so I could be considered a ‘productive member of society’ or considered a ‘real man’ by fools and jerks whom I really couldn’t care less about.

My teens and twenties, besides the mainly truly happy times I felt in college because I got to work with smart and interesting people every day, by and large were lousy.  In fact, they sucked.  I pretty much spent my twenties going from one dead end job to another, one ill fitting relationship to another, finding out that the real world doesn’t make sense and isn’t supposed to all the while having psychotic breakdowns every few months along the way.  By the time I qualified for disability insurance at the age of 28 I realized that there is no set script to life.  I didn’t have to follow anyone’s script for me.  I could feel free to change my script anytime I want.  And I have.

Every one is free to change their life as long as they are willing to make sacrifices here and there.  Anyone who hates their thankless job could stride up their boss tomorrow, quit in a blaze of glory, and live the life of a nomad who answers to no one but their own limitations and nature itself.  But almost no one does because they aren’t willing to sacrifice their incomes, their prestige, their families, their McMansions, etc.

You can do what you like and are good at, it’s just what are you willing to give up to get there?  I have my freedom and I live quite happy in spite being on disability.  But I had to be inflicted with schizophrenia through no misdeeds of my own, give up ever having a traditional career, give up the shot at getting rich (it isn’t just monks and priests that take the vow of poverty), give up any shot of ever having a family or any kind of romance life (again, clergy aren’t the only ones who take vows of celibacy), and it can be quite lonely at times.  But I value my freedom.  I value my intelligence and wisdom.  I strive every day to make myself smarter, better read, better cultured, and wiser.

But it all came at a price.  It was a price that, at age 16 before I started having my problems with schizophrenia, I would have said ‘no way am I paying that price.’  I paid the price for my freedom and wisdom.  And, as it is, I am thankful I took the paths I did.  Statistically speaking, people with my diagnosis usually wound up lifetime institutionalized, homeless, in prison, or dead at a very young age for most of history.  I’m happy I beat the odds.  I’m happy I didn’t become just another statistic.

Everything else from this point in my life is just chicken gravy as far as I’m concerned.  So yes, I am going to be happy.  I am going to share my joy with other people while they gripe and moan about their jobs, their spouses, and humanity in general.  And if people think I’m overly optimistic or a hopeless Pollyanna, well it was one rugged process surviving from age eighteen until my early thirties when I finally learned to say, “screw others expectations, I am doing what I want.”  And I didn’t come to this conclusion all at once.  It was a gradual evolution.  My physical health may be not what it once was, but I am far happier now than I was ten years ago.  And that is mainly because I learned to let go of others’ expectations and a type of regular life that was never going to materialize.  In short, dance like no one’s watching; no one is.  Everyone else is too busy with the petty concerns of their own lives.

Reading, Beginning of School Year, Music, and Arguing With Myself

Still reading quite a bit.  I started a couple audiobooks in addition to the hardback I’m currently working on.  For some odd reason I prefer to be reading on at least three books at a time.  I sometimes lose interest in one after awhile and concentrate on the other two for a few days.  Then I’ll go back to the one I put on the back burner.  I spend a good deal of my time anymore either reading or working on my computer.  Haven’t watched much for tv or sports for a couple weeks.  As football will be starting again in a couple weeks, I imagine I’ll be spending some of my Saturday afternoons watching college football again.

It’s starting to feel close to fall again.  School started in my town and the college kids will be moving back in this weekend.  Even though I’m in my late 30s and haven’t been in a college classroom since 2005, I always enjoy when the college students come back.  College was some of the happiest times for me during the course of my “formal” education.  The weather has been cooler than typical August the last few days and it gets cool enough at nights that I have to pull up the blankets while I sleep.  I even wore long sleeves for the first time since early April two nights ago.

Been having occasional flare ups of irritability the last several days.  I’ve been going to bed earlier than usual to try to counteract this.  I’m also avoiding negative and rude people as much as possible too.  So I haven’t been socializing as much as I would like.  Such is the price of preventative maintenance.

Been listening to more music lately.  I don’t have any physical CDs or tapes anymore as I look all my music up online via youtube and pandora.  Why pay for tunes when you don’t need to?  My favorite genres of music are hard rock and jazz.  Strange combination I know.  I listened to a lot of country when I was in college but also mixed in heavy metal when I was reading or studying.  There really isn’t much I won’t listen to.  I do prefer the hip hop of the nineties to much of what is popular in that genre now.  I developed a taste for some of the newer techno and dance music in the last few years.  So I guess I haven’t completely shut myself off the newer music.  When I was a kid I used to get annoyed with adults who complained about the music and clothing styles of the “damn kids.”  I promised myself even before I went to high school that I would never become one of those types when I grew up.  Even today I lose my patience with people my own age complaining about younger people.  Makes me wonder why some people even have kids if they’re just going to complain and moan about them all the time.

Other than the occasional flare ups that are gone after a few minutes of inner dialog with the ‘voices’, I feel quite well overall. I’m glad I have gotten this far into summer without any true problems.  Hope things continue to go well.

Furniture, Futbol, and Feeling Fine For the Future

Picked up some new furniture this weekend.  My mother and father let me have one of their couches and office chairs and I have a heavy duty recliner being delivered to my apartment this afternoon from a local furniture store.  I feel like I have an actual home again.  For the last few weeks I didn’t have much in the way of furniture besides a couple dining room chairs and my bed.  It was extremely odd eating my lunches and dinners sitting on my bed.  I had moved my computer desk to my bedroom so I could do my work from my bed.  I’m glad I got a couch and office chair as it makes my apartment feel more like a permanent residence.  And now that I can write from an office chair or couch, I feel like I’m doing more professional work on my blog and even my computer gaming.

Watched the World Cup finals over the weekend.  I kind of wanted Croatia to win as they were big underdogs.  But I wasn’t going to say much as I have readers from both Croatia and France.  But I think that Killian Mbassa (spelling?) from France is going to be as big a star as David Beckham and Cristian Ronaldo by the time he’s through. And he’s only nineteen.  When I was that age I was a geeky farm kid starting college.  But, living in USA,   I am probably a “Johnny Come Lately” when it comes to understanding soccer and appreciating how tough a game it really is.  When I was in college, my attitude was that I respected the soccer players for being in great physical shape.  But I thought it was “a lot of running for so little scoring.”  USA didn’t even have a professional soccer league until I think the 1990s.  So yes, we are behind most of the world in that regard.  I started following mainly because I have a niece and a nephew who love playing soccer.  When my parents were medical missionaries in Panama, most of the kids down there were kicking around soccer balls in the same way kids in USA play basketball all day.  But I did enjoy this year’s World Cup almost as much as I do the Olympics.  And I’m happy to see that USA will be one of the host countries, along with Mexico and Canada, in 2026.  But World Cup served as my sports fix at least until college football and baseball’s push for the playoffs start in September.  Hard to believe that September is only six weeks away.  Where has the time gone?

I have new furniture and we’re now almost halfway through summer.  And overall I’m feeling alright.  I don’t even feel depressed or paranoid very much anymore.  I feel quite hopeful about my life and society as a whole for the first time in months.  I enjoy this feeling.  I wish I could bottle some of it and save it for the “rainy days” that will eventually come back.  But for now, I’ll ride the happy streak I’m on for all it’s worth.  They don’t come along every day.

Lack of Activity in Winter with A Mental Illness

With the really cold weather I have had for the last several days, I rarely left my apartment between Christmas and New Year’s.  I started my car a few times and shoveled out the snow so I can now get out if necessary.  I’m going to have to get out within the next few days as I am running low on supplies and groceries.  Being shut up inside has made me a little restless and bored.  But it’s supposed to start warming up within a day or two.  Maybe I can get out more often now.  But it has been a lonely and tedious several days just staying home, watching football, and playing computer games.  I hope to have a new routine started soon.

Haven’t gotten to talk to anyone besides my parents and a couple close friends since Christmas.  I haven’t been on facebook much the last few months.  Seems to me even my friends are starting to avoid social media.  So much for reconnecting people.  It has been kind of a lonely go the last several days.  I did host Christmas but haven’t had guests since.

Even though mentally I have been stable for months, I don’t have much for enthusiasm in anything anymore.  I used to be able to spend hours on end reading online articles or wikipedia in addition to educational programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  I haven’t found much joy in these activities for a few weeks now.  Not sure what the issues are.  For all I know the reduction in doses of some of my psych meds could be the culprit.  I may not have the ups and downs, but I am also losing many of my interests.  I have also become quite lazy now, I’m embarrassed to admit.  I imagine it’s just a matter of readjusting and adapting in order to get my old interests back.  At least I haven’t lost my interests in writing.  I may not post as often as I used to but that is because I have less to report.  Most of this is from lack of flare ups and a lack of socializing.

Fortunately socializing doesn’t make me annoyed anymore.  Now I have the problem of being scared to socialize. I guess the hostility is being edged out by the old paranoia issues.  I am scared to socialize in most instances anymore besides with close friends and family members.  I am not as afraid to drive my car anymore.  I just don’t want to anymore.  Driving just seems kind of pointless anymore.  I haven’t really had much reason to laugh much lately.  I just don’t make a point to watch comedy shows as much as I should.  I just don’t make a point to watch much of anything anymore.  Been a few weeks since I watched anything on netflix and I haven’t done an audiobook for almost a month.  If it wasn’t for football for the last two weeks I wouldn’t have watched much of anything this winter.  And since I need less sleep than I used to, the days and nights seem to stretch out forever.  I hope the rest of winter isn’t this long or bleak.  I hope it warms up a little soon.  I’ve about hit my breaking point with having to stay inside all day because of the snow and cold.

Midnight Ramblings and Optimism

Have had my days and nights backwards for the last couple weeks.  Been getting most of my sleep in the mornings and staying up most of the night.  Yet, it doesn’t seem to be negatively effecting my mental stability.  If anything this has been the most stable summer I’ve had in years.  Granted this sleeping during the days while being up most of the night is putting a cramp on my social life.  But I didn’t have much of a social life to start with.  So I spend much of my nights listening to audiobooks on youtube.  I listen to mostly non fiction science books and some science fiction.  I still don’t watch much tv.  I’m not even really that excited about football season this year.  But I am looking forward to cooler weather.  I am glad I have made it through most of the summer with no real problems.

Perhaps I am having fewer problems because I socialize less than I have in previous months and years.  I leave my apartment only to run errands and even then I make it a point to run them in the early mornings or late nights to avoid crowds.  I have made a point of avoiding angry, irritable, and rude people in person and online.  Of course this does limit how many people I hear from or talk to.  I really don’t talk to many people anymore, mainly my family and a few friends.  Sure it gets kind of lonely but fortunately the loneliness doesn’t last long.  I’m glad I don’t have to rely on other people to keep me entertained.  Sometimes I am my own best company.

In spite not socializing much I am still optimistic overall.  I haven’t been outside of my hometown much this summer.  But anymore with the internet, I can still keep in contact with friends and family.  And I can keep myself occupied with free audiobooks, free online courses, and free music online.  I would have had to spent thousands of dollars for the things I have read or listened to online just fifteen years ago.  And I can get all this for a dollar a day in internet service fees.  And I love it.  I wouldn’t trade living here and now (unless I could be wisked a couple hundred years into the future and be exploring strange new worlds like Star Trek).  And I have some of my family members and a few of my friends to be the same way.  My best friend from high school (whom I’m still great friends with) loves speculating on future science and social trends when she’s not discussing Game of Thrones.  But I guess she gets tired of me talking about baseball and computer games, so that makes us even.  My thirteen year old nephew is going to be working with robotics and 3D printers this year in his junior high.  And to think I was impressed with the old Apple II GS when I was growing up.  I often joke with my niece and nephews that they might not need drivers’ licenses.  Now it’s looking like even I might not need a drivers’ license in ten years.  Wouldn’t hurt my feelings that much.  Sure we don’t have flying cars like Back To The Future said we would, but even that movie didn’t predict the Internet boom, smart phones, or renewable energy starting to become affordable.  I wouldn’t even have cable tv except it comes with my apartment.

What I’m getting at is that right now in 2017, despite the bad news we’re constantly hearing on the news channels and our online news feeds, we’re still living in some pretty cool times.  It is, in many ways, a good time to be an average person.  Sure I may not be able to ever afford a house like my parents or brother.  But I don’t need a large house in an affluent suburb with the picket fence and two car garage.  I can currently live quite well just in the apartment in the small college town I’m in.  I currently don’t need much to live a decent standard of living that even the kings and industrialists of 1900 couldn’t have imagined.  It is not, however, a good time to be a control freak or spiteful hate monger.  We’re always probably going to have problems like these but, unlike in past eras, the overwhelming general consensus is that being a dictator or hateful person are bad things.  For most of civilization’s history, the idea of the ‘divine right of royalty’ or having hatred of people different from your own little group was pretty much unquestioned by the vast majority of people.  We have made progress as a species.  And we will continue to make progress even if people take it for granted or don’t pay attention to it.  The only reason that we don’t hear about the good going on is simply because good news doesn’t sell.  Good news doesn’t sell only because we as a species are not wired to pay much attention to good news.

Late Summers, Changes in Diet, and Mental Stability

Late summers have traditionally been a tough time for me dealing with mental illness.  I usually have to be real careful from late July to early September.  So far this year has been different.  It could be due to reducing my stress levels and avoiding stressful people and places.  It could be due to the medication changes I made a few months ago.  And it could be due to changes in my diet.  I now don’t eat much wheat or anything that’ll upset my stomach.  I have found that I feel better on days I don’t eat bread than on days I do.  I have had stomach problems in the past.  Stomach issues aren’t uncommon in people with depression and mental health issues.  I pretty much limit myself to lots of protein and vegetables anymore.  About the only grains I eat on a regular basis anymore are rice based foods.  Rice seems to be easier on me than wheat and other grains.

When I do go to restaurants I don’t order things like french fries or most other fried foods.  I do occasionally treat myself to chicken strips at KFC.  I have pretty much also cut out sugar too.  When I do crave caffeine, I usually opt for green tea, coffee, or diet soda.  I notice I’m less irritable on days I limit sugar consumption.  Easing back on the caffeine was tough the first several days as I would occasionally sleep more than I would like and sometimes experience slight headaches once a day.  But I think I have gotten past the worst of the caffeine withdrawal.  I used to drink four to six cups of coffee a day, certainly not healthy when dealing with mental health problems.

I have found myself eating more vegetables than usual.  Even when I order delivery pizza, I make it a point to get the mostly vegetable pizzas.  I don’t feel as weighed down and bloated after a few slices of vegetable pizza as compared to the all meats or cheeses pizzas.  Since I’m on a limited budget I have to be careful about buying fresh vegetables that won’t spoil within a couple days.  So I usually eat a can of vegetables every days, usually green peas or green beans.  I have had some good sweet corn, a Midwest late summer tradition.  When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to have sweet corn with dinner three nights  a week during the month of August.  Most of our meals during late summer involved locally grown sweet corn, tomatoes from our garden, and bacon sandwiches.  My parents have introduced my nephews and niece to this August tradition too, even though it will be another few years before the kids develop a taste for tomatoes.

Overall I have felt really decent this summer.  I don’t have much drama to report.  I’m glad that the push for the playoffs in baseball is starting.  I’m also looking forward to the start of football season here in the US in a few weeks.  Fall practice has already begun and school will be starting again in a few days.  I saw that many countries started their soccer seasons this weekend.  I have made a habit of following the US national team since the last World Cup.  I hope we make it to the next one coming up in 2018.  Since the World Cup will be hosted by Russia next summer, I imagine I’ll be watching soccer at a lot of odd hours to adjust for the time differences.  I have kind of gotten into soccer as I have two nephews and a niece who play the game.  Even as a kid I was a slow runner but  didn’t mind getting hit or hitting others.  So that’s why I played football in high school. So that’s why I still watch football in the falls.  But we have made it through the long stretch of summer and fall will be here soon.  It helps that it has been cooler than usual the last several days in my part of the US.  Makes me hopeful for fall and the return of cooler weather.