Dealing With Self Doubt

There are times when I am in the grip of a mental illness flareup that I fear that I make no difference.  I sometimes fear I make no difference in anything I do.  I fear I make no difference to my friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc.  I certainly fear that I make no difference with this blog even though I’ve poured my heart, soul, and life into it for years.

One of the things that makes me doubt myself and fear I don’t make a difference is that I constantly repeat myself.  As much as I repeat myself, especially when trying to share some positive news of what is going right, I get convinced my words and actions fall on only deaf ears and blind eyes.  I get burned out on telling people what is actually going right and that most of the doom and gloom that is the accepted spirit of our times are really temporary setbacks and not the end of the cosmos.  But no one outside of a handful of people are listening and what I say means nothing.  At least that is the impression my disease infested mind keeps giving.

Most times I can’t read a person or what they are thinking at any given moment.  I can’t easily gage the moment the moment thoughts even if I can easily trace long term trends and possibilities.  I suppose it’s similar to a military general who isn’t good at winning individual battles yet ends up winning an entire war simply because they are excellent long term planners.  Even as a child I was a much better long term thinker than I was on a short term.  And it used to irritate my friends, teachers, bosses, and parents real bad.  Anytime I tired to explain that they were sweating the small things while losing sight of the entire picture, well I was condemned for having problems with authority and being a hopeless dreamer.  Very few appreciated the fact that I was a long term thinker outside of a few cool teachers, my two best friends in high school, and my grandparents.

Of course this learned apprehension about not making any difference, at least not short term, has been made even worse by the mental illness.  I try my best to remind myself that I am making a difference and I am making people think and question why the status quo is the way it is.  And when I am not in the grips of the illness I know I am.  Sadly, when the illness wins out, I seriously doubt my own abilities and if I am making a difference.  I suppose it’s like a rapid version of the change of seasons or even high tide and low tide.  The human mind is that powerful in that it can make false or distorted perceptions into an individual’s reality.  We think, therefore we are I suppose.

I try telling people about the struggles involved in mental illness.  But during moments of weakness I fear I make no difference.  I know it’s not considered manly to express or feel fear or express and feel anything for that matter.  But I no longer care about the expectations of others.  Haven’t since I figured out at age seventeen that nothing I did would be considered good enough for some people.  Some people will never be satisfied with what I do simply because that is the way they are.  Such people are lost causes not worth even talking to or thinking about as far as I am concerned.  I deal with such people only when absolutely unavoidable.

I try telling people about the advances in science, tech, humanitarian efforts, etc.  But it makes no difference to most people.  I remember a line in The Matrix were an AI named Agent Smith stated to the effect that humans find definition and meaning in misery and suffering and are incapable of accepting happiness and peace.  I find this to be true in many of my day to day interactions with others, even with close friends and family.  I hope it’s the blinders cast by the illness that makes me think this way.  I really do.  Maybe we vastly overestimate how much can be done on the short term but vastly underestimate the changes that can be done medium to long term.

Perhaps that is why the days at a dead end job or raising small children drag on forever but the years and decades pass rapidly.  One day you’re 27 years old and get a bad annual review and a demotion from your boss or your two year old is screaming like he’s demon possessed because you won’t buy him a candy bar in the Wal Mart check out.  Those days feel like a torment right out of Dante’s Inferno.  But, wake up and you’re in your fifties and you’re the boss giving out bad annual reviews or you’re an elderly man on your death bed looking out at four generations of offspring from your marriage and feeling kind of bittersweet for not taking more time to appreciate your kids when they were asking endless questions or for foregoing summer vacations and weekends to work a thankless job that, not only didn’t miss you when you retired or got laid off, but can probably be done by a machine or algorithm better and cheaper.

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who never could imagine a world where their labor or delusional self importance wasn’t needed.  We are living in that said world.  Billions of dead people who couldn’t imagine a world as it is now and getting along just fine without them.  Our descendants will live in such a world that won’t remember us for what work we did or what stupid arguments we were part of or anything for that matter.  Because of genealogy, some people might get their names remembered for centuries.  But no one will remember or care what they believed, how they worked, how they treated their kids and spouse, how they voted, etc.

Rather than being saddened by this fact of life, I am actually encouraged by it.  I don’t have to save the world by myself.  I am not the center of the cosmos (thank God).  I am not responsible for the short sightedness and ignorance of others, only my own.  And I needlessly worry about how others live their lives, especially if it doesn’t directly harm me or those I care about.  I am not a superhero who has to save the world.  I’m essentially an independent scholar with numerous interests trying to encourage those I encounter in this adventure we call life.  Yet, because of my illness, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that I am just one man among billions of humans and that I don’t have to win all battles or save the cosmos on my own.

Things You Can Do On Your Own For Your Mental Health

This post is going to be about things you can do on your own to help alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety that goes along with mental health problems. There are times that, in spite of all the counseling, therapy,and medications involved, we still have problems. This is when we with mental health issues have to resort to our own resourcefulness. This post is going to be what you can do when you are primarily alone or in a private setting. The issue of avoiding problems in public will be the subject of another post later on.

For myself, there are at least three activities that I have found that help ward off stress, anxiety, and depression. One of these is writing out my frustrations. I have entire notebooks full of the writings I have done in efforts to alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. I write in these even when I’m feeling well as a sort of preventative maintenance. I look back over these on occasion just to see if I notice patterns developing, especially over a period of weeks and months. From these writings alone I’ve noticed that my individual illness has a seasonal pattern to it, were I tend to do worse in late summer and around Christmas/end of year holidays than I normally do. My times I do best are in spring, early summer, most of autumn, and surprisingly late winter. I probably wouldn’t have figured out these patterns as soon as I did without my writing about what I was going through. An important factor in my journaling is that I do not censor what I write. I am honest with myself, even sometimes brutally. Of course I’m the only one who sees these writings. I also usually shred my writings after about two to three years as kind of a way to let the past go.

The second activity I do to alleviate stress is listen to music. I absolutely love almost all genres of music and the type I listen to varies even within a given day. Even though I have no musical talent myself, I appreciate those who can play instruments or sing and are not afraid to. To the end of listening to music I have an iPod, a subscription to Pandora internet radio service, and even look up music and music videos on youtube. A good session of listening to music can relax me even when I feel like telling someone off.

Finally, the third activity I do that helps to relax me is just silent time/meditation/prayer. While I’m not going to delve into any religious theology discussions as there are plenty of other blogs that do that, I do know that meditation, prayer, and just taking a few steps back have all worked well for me. As far as these go, I found they become even more effective once I stopped worrying if I was doing these ‘right.’ Even though I grew up in a devout Christian family, we were never required to memorize prayers when I was growing up. We just spoke what was on our hearts and minds at the time. In short, the only advice I give on this type of relaxation is don’t worry about doing it a right or wrong way.

There are plenty of things/activities you can do on your own to help alleviate your mental illness issues. While I have yet to find an activity that will cure all my problems at all times, I have at least found a few that work well for me. I’m interested in hearing from others as to what helps them to relax, calm down, etc.

Arguing and My Schizophrenic Mind

Image

 

I personally hate arguing with others, listening to arguments, and even reading an online forum argument. I hate these as much as I have ever hated anything in my entire life.  I never could understand people who feel a need to yell, curse, and scream at others.  It is one of those things that simply overwhelms my already massively overstimulated and sometimes way too anxious and paranoid mind.  There are times it is so bad, for me anyway, that it literally triggers the ages old ‘fight or flight’ instincts.  There were times early in the course of my illness, I would just either walk out on someone trying to argue with me or tell them off so bad and so personally it ruined any chance I ever had with being friends with those people.  And it wasn’t because I was trying to prove a point or win the argument, it was because I was so mentally overwhelmed (not only with the argument itself but also with my paranoias and the auditory hallucinations that were arguing with me as well) that walking out and telling off this person was what stopped me from physically assaulting these individuals.  

Some, especially among the chronically normal, may think this is a terrible way to live, having to avoid arguments or overly strong emotions for your own mental health’s sake.  For me it isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It has kept me out of a lot of trouble even though some accuse me of being weak, stupid, and refusing to stand up for what I believe in.  Yet I believe, I’ve always believed, that there are far more types of strength than the getting in someone’s face or looking for fights routine.  The quiet strength and confidence that refuses to boast, the kind that people like Ghandi, Jesus, Buddha, Einstein,Newton, along with many of history’s greatest heroes doesn’t seem to be valued in the modern world. And I guess I don’t understand people well enough to know why.

To listen to any kind of debate, whether it’s politics or religion or science or anything else is far from my idea of having a good time.  It is actually torture for me to listen to most news programs where there are two people trying to be heard as well as fight it out with each other.  And I certainly cannot stand to read any kind of online arguments, especially if it’s a hot button topic like politics, religion, economics, or even college football fan forums.  I definitely have my beliefs about all these things and think I can contribute to a rational discussion, but I flat out refuse to be in any kind of arguments about them.  With my schizophrenic mind, which desperately craves reason, order, and mutual respect, being part of any of this will quickly upset the stability of mind I’ve worked a long time to attain. 

As far as interpersonal conflict goes with friends and family, I attempt to avoid this as much as possible too.  I have had friends that I have known for over thirteen years that I have literally never had a shouting match with.  I know that sounds like a crock to most people but it’s true.  We have our disagreements, to be sure, but we also know when not to press the issues.  I’d much rather thought to be wrong then to kill a friendship.  Because I get so overwhelmed during an argument, I haven’t dated in almost eight years. I will never date again or even consider the possibility of marriage.  It’s not that I’m not interested in love or romance, it’s just that it’s not worth all the arguments, up and down emotions, and questioning where I stand with a significant other (due to my natural paranoia).  At least for myself it isn’t worth it.

I simply cannot stand to be in an argument, especially a heated or emotionally charged one.  This is due to the sensory overload, anxiousness, paranoia, and even auditory hallucinations that come with schizophrenia.  It isn’t that I’m devoid of beliefs, convictions, and emotions. Far from it.  I feel strongly about my convictions.  I have my beliefs.  I definitely have my emotions, especially when I don’t show them or I keep silent.

 

Coping During Difficult Times With Mental Illness

          We all have difficult times when it seems the breaks are beating us and absolutely nothing is going our way.  Sometimes things seem bad enough that no matter what we do, things just get worse.  This is true for even the most sane of people.  Yet this is even tougher for those of us who are mentally ill.  We can become agitated and disoriented even on average days.  On days when things are going especially bad, the situations that arise can become almost too heavy of a burden to bear.

            This is where finding the strength to continue on comes in.  Strength to fight the good fight can come from several different sources.  A source of strength for a mentally ill person can come from a support person.  A support person, whether it is a family member, a friend, a doctor, a counselor, or anyone to hold us accountable can help anyone cope with difficulties.

            Everyone needs friends and family to lean on during tough times.  Human beings are not meant to be alone and isolated.  This is true especially of the mentally ill.  We who are mentally ill need to have support systems in place for when things go wrong.  Believe me, they will go wrong.

            The support system can comfort you, calm your fears, and let you know that these difficult times will not last.  Those of us who have weathered the storms of mental illness and come out stronger because of them are in turn better able to help those who are just starting out.  It is easy to bemoan that we are different or can’t do what we used to.  But that won’t make it any easier for us.  And it certainly won’t make us more able to weather the next round of storms or help someone else in need.  It sometimes takes an honest and loving support person to remind us of this during our times of distress.

            Do not give up.  Giving up is not an option.  Strength can come from many sources, even from within.  Strength to continue on will sometimes be the only thing that carries you through one moment to the next.