Taking Care of Health and Easing Back into Social Life

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.

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August 2nd, 2017

July has faded into August.  In a few weeks school will be starting again in many places.  Seems that school starts earlier every year.  But now that we are into August it does seem like autumn isn’t too far away.  Another four to six weeks of hot weather and we should be done for the year.

Since it has been hotter than usual and for longer stretches this summer, I have spent more time inside.  Haven’t been getting as much exercise as I would like.  So I have been eating less.  I’m back to having usually only two meals a day.  But I think I have lost a few pounds despite my lowered activity because I am eating less.  Mentally I have been quite stable, especially for my summer standards.  I think I’m doing well just by avoiding stressful situations and people.  These certainly make my life more pleasant and quiet.  I’m even getting fewer aches and pains too.  Even though I don’t exercise as much as I would like, I still get out and walk around for a few minutes every day.

I really haven’t talked to anyone lately outside of family.  But I can do alright alone for long periods of time.  Loneliness doesn’t really bother me that much.  Loneliness is easier than dealing with rude and stupid people all the time.  I just enjoy my quiet and alone times.

I have so far made it through half of summer with no issues.  Hopefully the second half can also go well.  Once things cool off for good I am usually alright.  I have usually done better in winters and springs than summers and early autumns.

Drama Free Living

It’s been quite quiet for me this summer.  I haven’t had any flare ups or episodes.  I haven’t even heard my neighbors arguing for weeks.  Somedays I wonder if I even have neighbors it’s been so quiet in my complex.  About the only time I see any of my neighbors is when I leave my apartment to run errands.  I don’t sit outside too much anymore just because it’s been so hot.  Fortunately we have only another six to eight weeks of hot weather left.  But I have been enjoying the peace and quiet.  I also enjoy not having flare ups or dealing with stupid and rude people all the time.

I used to have to deal with a lot of drama at work and in some friendships.  I haven’t dated for several years  simply because the drama and ups and downs just got old.  Having schizophrenia while trying to date adds a whole another level of difficulty.  And I came to the conclusion that I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I have enough problems as is.  I also had to cut negative people out of my life.  Sure it meant ending a few friendships and being real careful about who I let into my life.  And it also means much alone time.  But it’s alright because the peace and quiet is worth it.

Another thing that helps me is that I am debt free.  That is why I can live as a minimalist and not work.  I just live on my disability pension.  Right now I can budget it out that I don’t have to resort to credit cards to make it through the month.  I don’t have to take a thankless and stressful job because I don’t need the money.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest reason to work for someone else is the money.  Being an employee, especially in today’s ever shifting and toxic work environments, doesn’t seem to be much more than glorified serfdom.  Why should any employee give loyalty to a company when the job can be taken over by machines, outsourced overseas, or just given to a younger person for lower wages?  If you’re going to be an employee, it’s best to go to the highest bidder.  An employer won’t look out for you.  An employer doesn’t care about you either.  Neither do most of your coworkers, at least that is my experience.  A boss isn’t going to help you develop your career.  You are on your own on that one.  I can do this blog without getting paid for it because I don’t have to worry about income or paying off debts.  And I absolutely love doing this blog.  It doesn’t really seem like a job because it isn’t drudgery like I was used to in my working days.  It feels more like a hobby that evolved into a life mission.

Since I don’t have debts and am content to live a minimalist life, I am quite free to write about what needs to be written.  Life with a mental illness isn’t pretty much of the time.  It is lonely, it can be frightening, it can be long bouts of depression and sadness, and sometimes I have found myself mourning over the career and lifestyle that never was because of this illness.  But, having this illness made me resourceful and creative.  It also made me smarter.  It made me think about many things that most people never have to.  It made me ask questions that most people would never think to ask.

Right now I’m dealing with a stretch where I haven’t had any real drama for months.  It helps that I have been able to largely avoid toxic, negative, and stupid people.  That’s no small accomplishment living in tight quarters like I do.  I’m pretty content to just stay home much of the time anymore.  I have gotten to where I feel naked without a good internet connection.  I imagine that’s going to become more common in the next several years.  I’m just ahead of the curve.  And I don’t have to submit to a bad boss or bad coworkers or unreasonable customers to make money because I don’t need the money.  I can get by just on my disability pension because I don’t have debts or expensive tastes.  I won’t spend a hundred dollars on a pair of jeans or two hundred dollars on a pair of sneakers or buy a new iPhone every year or a different car every three years.  I am content with what I have.  I love being a minimalist.  And that has helped me create a life with little to no drama in spite my mental illness.

Shopping With Mental Illness

I got out and did some shopping this morning.  Bought some clothes and household supplies I was needing.  Now I don’t really enjoy shopping that much.  And I think it’s as much my mental illness making me hate crowds as anything.  I tend to get anxious when I have to deal with large crowds and if I feel rushed.  That’s why I typically do my shopping in the middle of the week when crowds are smaller.  I can quickly drop in and pick up whatever I need without fighting crowds or standing in lines.  And it’s easier to get help if there aren’t a lot of people competing for help.  Even my grocery shopping is done in the early mornings so I don’t have to deal with crowds.

I tend to shop in the same stores.  That way it’s easier to find what I need without wandering all over the store.  I am a creature of habit.  It is kind of stressful adapting to new stores, at least at first.  When I find some item I like I tend to stick with it for a long time.  I am especially this way with clothing. The thing I look for in clothing is how it feels on my skin rather than how it looks on me.  If I am not comfortable in my clothing it does effect my mental health.  I usually wear just t-shirts and pants and sneakers.  I’m not one who enjoys dressing up.  I am really not concerned with how my clothing makes me look as long as it’s functional and feels good wearing it.  I don’t spend a lot of money on clothing or just stuff in general.  I usually buy things when I need them without a lot of agonizing or shopping around.  I really don’t like shopping that much.  I am not a shopaholic.  Shopping is not one of my hobbies.

Being A Sports Fan With Mental Illness

I confess to spending a shameful portion of my free time watching sporting events on tv.  I had the Olympics on every night they were on.  I often have a baseball game going on in the background when I’m doing internet research.  I have been a member of a fantasy baseball league for the last several years as well as participating in college football bowl game picks.  Money doesn’t change hands as most of my friends and I just do it to make the games more interesting.

The college football season starts this weekend.  The state’s university football team, the Nebraska Huskers, is practically a state religion.  I like watching the games even though the older I get the more I feel guilty about watching young men injure themselves for my entertainment.  Plus many people in my home state take winning and losing too serious for my tastes.  That’s why I avoid fan forums and online discussions, especially during years the team doesn’t do well.  Last year was one of those years when the team had a losing record with a new coach.  When the whole state follows something like that it’s impossible to avoid discussing it in conversations.  Sometimes this causes me undo stress and anxiety, much like people discussing politics.  Politics and sports fanaticism are two things I really hate because people just aren’t rational about either one.  While I like watching football and baseball, I do think most fans have messed up priorities when it comes to supporting their teams.  I know this isn’t unique to America as I’ve heard stories about soccer riots in England and South America.  And just today I saw a news article stating a school district in Texas is going to spend over $60 million to build a high school football stadium.  Seriously, how many high school players go on to play even in college, let alone the pros?  I can’t imagine any school district spending that kind of money to improve their academics.

In short I do like watching sports as a diversion but I don’t take them so serious that it messes up my priorities.

 

A Sense of Calm with Mental Illness

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It’s been a quiet and calm week for me.  I can tell the weather is starting to cool and that autumn is only a few weeks away.  School has already started in my hometown.  I was at the Wal Mart on 10pm on a Friday night and the place was packed with high school and college students doing last minute back to school shopping.  Years ago when I was in school, it seemed like the place to be on the weekend before school started was parties that amounted to the last fling of summer.  Maybe the younger people today have better priorities than what previous generations had.  It was also the first time I used a self check out machine.  Just scanned my items, swiped my debit card, and bagged my purchases and left.  Sure this may put some cashiers out of work but who dreams about being a cashier working for minimum wage when they are kids?

From about early July to the first week of September has traditionally been rugged times for me.  Both times I checked myself into a mental health hospital were in early September.  Many of my major flare ups and breakdowns have come in July and August.  The first time my parents saw me break down was around Independence Day back in 2000.  I didn’t have the serious breakdown last summer besides yelling out a store clerk in early July (which I immediately apologized for).  Originally I thought I didn’t have the breakdown last summer because I had extra resiliency because of my grandmother’s death.  Besides yelling at one friend over the phone for a couple minutes and writing a nasty email to a second friend last month, I really haven’t had many problems this summer.

I still don’t go out as much as I had previously.  Anymore I’m somewhat content to just stay home, read books, write blogs, play computer games, and Facebook with friends. I call friends and family on the phone almost daily.  I am having more frequent and longer conversations with my best friend from college.  We usually call each other every Sunday night and chat.  For the first several months after he got married I kind of backed off and just gave him and his wife their space.  He’s a huge history and sports geek (just like I am) so it’s not uncommon for us to be discussing baseball statistics, the ancient Greeks, 19th century German philosophy, and American foreign policy within the same phone conversation.  I love people like that.  Tragically I don’t find many people with those kinds of interest.  My old friend Pastor Verne was one of those types.  He was fluent in both ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek from his days in seminary.  He was a brilliant man.  I’m glad I got to know him.  I hope to be that interesting and sharp if I ever make it to that age.

I got my insurance settlement this weekend.  I wasn’t planning on anything extra from the accident besides getting my car fixed and coverage of my medical bills.  But I am now sitting on top of a wind fall I wasn’t really expecting.  I imagine most of it is going into the emergency fund.  One of the positives of being debt free is I don’t have the pressure of having to make payments every month.  It feels good to not have debts, to have an emergency fund, and a few options.  Those are the best stress busters I have ever found.

As this is a lazy Saturday afternoon in late August I currently have a college football game on in the background as I’m writing this  Football is one of my guilty pleasures.  I’m not obsessed over it but I do like to have a game going on in the background on idle fall weekend afternoons.  I do kind of feel bad about watching young men maim themselves for my enjoyment.  But at least it’s not as violent as Roman gladiators fighting.  I can tell that summer is all but over now that I’m watching a football game.  From the Summer Olympics to fall football within a few days of each other.

 

Debt And Mental Illness

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Managing money is one of those vital survival skills that just isn’t taught in schools in many places.  It certainly wasn’t taught at my school.  My parents taught me how to balance a checkbook and told me to avoid credit cards when I was growing up.  But that was the extent of my money training until I took business classes in college.  I learned to keep track of money pretty well but the idea of avoiding credit card debt wasn’t a lesson that sunk in until I ran up some debts and was in danger of getting behind on payments.  But everyone has to learn on their own time I suppose.

Over the years I learned how to make a budget for things like rent, food, clothes, medications, household supplies, and fuel for my car.  I didn’t get it perfect at first and turned to a credit card to cover the difference.  Big mistake.  Before I knew it I had debts that weren’t getting any smaller even though I never got behind on my payments.  Looking at debts with my only income being my disability pension and a part time minimum wage job scared me.  I knew I couldn’t ask for more hours at work as that would put me in trouble with Social Security’s earning limits.  So I had to drastically cut back on my purchases.  I had to quit going out to eat.  I had to quit going to the mall.  I had to live on cheap groceries (think lots of Ramen noodles, potatoes, baloney, and rice).  I had to cancel my magazine subscriptions.  I had to stop buying books and computer games.  I couldn’t buy new clothes every few months.  I had to limit my driving.  It took a lot of work but I eventually learned to live without going into debt.  I’ve been debt free now for over two years.  And I have less stress because of it.  I am sure some of my mental illness problems were made worse because I was worried about my debts.

If you have a mental illness and your only means of support are disability insurance and or a job, I would highly recommend if you’re going to have a credit card to use it only for emergencies.  I don’t have a credit card anymore as I know myself well enough to not trust myself with one.  Instead I have a small emergency fund I can get to in case of emergencies but I don’t have immediate access to it.  I have it set up I have to have at least twenty four hours to access it as I don’t keep it at my apartment or in my bank.  I budget to where I buy extra non perishable food and fuel my car to full every time I get paid.  I also maintain my car and don’t run it hard so I don’t have to make expensive repairs.  I have learned how to have a good time with friends, family, and by myself without spending much money.  I probably will never have much for money but I really don’t spend a lot to begin with.  Having no debts and having an emergency fund are the best sleep aides and stress busters I have found.  I don’t make much but I don’t worry because I don’t have to make payments to anyone.  If you are on disability or have a limited income, I highly recommend getting out of debt and staying out.

Independence Day, Veterans, and Loud Fireworks

Today as I write this is Independence Day in the US (or the colonies’ celebration of treason and insurrection for my British readers).  Many people will be going to the beach, hosting barbecues, going to parades, watching fireworks shows, and attending programs honoring living and deceased veterans.  My celebration will probably involve staying home, grilling a couple bratwursts, watching Ken Burns’ documentary about Thomas Jefferson, and avoiding loud fireworks.  I don’t mind the bright colored ones after dark.  But it’s the ones that sound like cannons and gunfire I can do without.  And many war veterans feel the same way even if they may not publicly say so.

I have lived in my current apartment complex for ten years.  During that time most of the residents would watch Independence Day fireworks from lawn chairs in the back yard or from their windows.  I would usually go outside to watch.  I also noticed that few of the veterans would be out watching fireworks.  One veteran of Korea who has now died said that he didn’t really like fire crackers because they sounded too much like gun fire.  Two other friends of mine, both Vietnam vets in their late 60s, have said the same thing.  So they make it a point to avoid being outside during the celebrations.  My dad has felt the same way for years, which would explain why my mom was very upset with me when me and a few friends lit off a whole roll of firecrackers in a metal trash can in the alley behind our house when I was in junior high.  I probably would have gotten it worse if dad wasn’t at work at the time.  Even though my dad loved bright colored fireworks that didn’t make a lot of noise, he never bought fire crackers or cherry bombs.  It wasn’t until a few years ago I realized the extent of some of his experiences during Vietnam and why he doesn’t like fire crackers that sound like cannons or gunshots.  I had a few friends from my teenage years who are veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and they are avoiding fireworks too.

I’m not advocating against lighting off fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.  But I do advocate being more considerate of those who have bad memories of being at war.  And it’s not just war veterans who are spooked by loud fireworks.  Victims of gun crimes and most household pets can be too.  When I was a kid some of the neighborhood bullies threw some firecrackers at one of our dogs and that dog spent the rest of her life wound up and spooked every early July and even during our frequent summer lightning storms.  But I can’t really claim to be Holy Joe about my fireworks and me and my friends used to blow up apples and ant hills.  Once we even blew up a baseball.  But we are lucky we didn’t blow ourselves up. Even an immature little snot like I was at age thirteen will learn eventually.   And I think as more veterans talk about their experiences in war and how Independence Day can cause them unneeded anxiety, we will become more considerate of those who were in the military.

Independence Day, Loud Fireworks, Veterans, and Mental Health

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Indepence Day in USA is only a few days away.  For most of Americans it means being more mindful of veterans living and dead alike.  For my readers in the UK, it probably means the colonials’ celebration of high treason 🙂  Regardless, over the next few days there will be many fireworks displays, barbecues, programs remembering veterans, and so on.  For the large part, these are a few days of celebration and reflection.

Yet, for some it is also a stressful time.  For many veterans the loud booms of fireworks and the pop of firecrackers can bring out bad memories of being in a war.  I didn’t realize how bad this was for many veterans until the last few years when my dad, an Air Force pilot during Vietnam, would make it a point to avoid fireworks displays and sounds by spending the 4th at the family acreage.  And he quickly admits he had it easier than most military members.

I’m beginning to see people of my age bracket and younger who did tours in Afghanistan and Iraq avoid fireworks too.  At the lower income apartment I live in shooting off fireworks of any kind is specifically banned right in our lease agreement.  As I’ve lived in this complex for several years, I saw some World War 2 and Korea veterans just stay in their apartments on the 4th.  Now that those men have died it’s the Vietnam era men that are avoiding the fireworks and loud noises.  And I didn’t realize what an issue it was for these veterans until a few of them started talking about their personal experiences.

With my schizophrenia I am mildly irritated by the loud booms of firecrackers but I do love the flashes of colors that the night fireworks have.  And they aren’t that loud.  But I also don’t have the bad memories of being in war that loud booms and explosives can bring back that many of my veteran friends and family have.  I just make myself mindful of  the generations of veterans, those living and those deceased, who too often suffered in silence with bad memories of war brought back by some of the ways we in USA celebrate our country’s beginnings.  I don’t favor banning fireworks, but I would love to see more and more people and public fireworks displays refrain from using the really loud fireworks that sound like gunfire and cannons, if for no other reason out of consideration for the veterans.

Worry and Stress

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Worry and stress hinder the mentally ill and the neurotypical alike.  No one can escape it.  It served us as a species well for most of our history when hunter gatherers needed successful hunts and fight other bands.  Otherwise they would die.  Worry and stress are natural to us.  It allowed humans to go from barely surviving to modern civilization.

Yet our natural inclinations to worry are deteriorating our quality of life.  The old fight or flight mentality isn’t serving us as well.  We are seeing more people going through depression, panic attacks, anxiety problems, and physical health problems brought on by mental stress.  We haven’t yet developed the ability to mentally let go of worry.  This skill is not natural to us.  It has to be learned.

Learning how to let go of stress and worry, even with years of practice, won’t be perfect.  I have been taking steps to lessen my worry for several years and I occasionally slip into old habits.  Things I have found helpful include keeping journals, engaging with negative people as little as possible, venting slightly on occasion, and never watching news broadcasts.

When I keep journals, I don’t hold back. I write my frustrations, my anxieties, my annoyances, my fears, and the delusional thoughts that sometimes accompany my mental illness.  I get it out of my mind and onto paper.  But I don’t share these with anyone.  It does me much better to vent on paper rather than hold these worries in and drop them on someone else all at once.  Many of our problems with stress, I am convinced, come from the idea that we aren’t allowed to vent or have to put up a good front at all times.  I can’t change how anyone expects to act in public.  What I can do is vent in the form of pen and paper, get it out of my mind, and then move on.  Once the notebook is full, I throw it away.  Been doing this for at least two years.  It helps.  Sure I occasionally have problems and just dump my frustrations on family members.  But that’s the nature of the beast of mental illness and I do my best to minimize those blow ups.

I vent to my friends and family as needed to.  I used to be one of these people pleasers who listened to and try to solve everyone’s problems.  But I wouldn’t tell my problems to anyone.  It made me resentful and feel like I was being used.  I can’t remember when it was but during a conversation with someone I finally said, “I’ve heard enough of your problems.  Now you’re going to hear about mine.”  Fortunately for this relationship I wasn’t malicious about it.  But being resentful of listening to others problems while I didn’t stand up enough to have others listen to mine cost me at least a couple friendships.  My friends have problems.  I have problems.  We are now more balanced in talking about our issues.  I don’t just do all the giving while not taking some of my own anymore.

I don’t watch any of the 24 hour news broadcasts.  Haven’t for a few years.  Why should I?  I already know there is a lot of trouble and mess out there.  Always has been.  Always will be.  I have no need or desire to know every little bit of trouble going on, whether it’s halfway around the world or halfway across my country.  Seriously, why give myself more stress and anxiety then I already have?  I can’t solve all the world’s problems.  I’m not that good.  Anyone who has any kind of awareness knows that there are serious messes in the world around them.  Just because the world is messed up doesn’t mean I have to be.  Since I learned to let go of things I didn’t personally cause and can’t prevent, my life has had fewer worries and fewer stresses.