Being Home Alone With Mental Illness Gave Me Time To Ponder Life In General (Or Philosophy From The Sofa)

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Haven’t been writing much lately  but that is mainly because I haven’t had much to report.  I have been quite stable for weeks.  Haven’t had any real bouts of delusion or paranoia.  The excessive anger doesn’t come up very often.  The hallucinations have subsided for the most part.  The ones I do have are more annoying than fear or anger inducing.

I don’t leave my apartment as much as I would like, mainly from the holiday crowds all over the place.  It doesn’t help any that many people I know seem to be in perpetual foul moods all the time.  It seems the older I get, the less tolerance I have for irritable people.  At this point, there is no way I could go back into working in customer service.  I can no longer stomach rude and angry people, even if I get paid for it.  Money is poor compensation for having to deal with uncivilized behavior all the time.

Even though I spend most of my time alone and at home, I still keep occupied.  Been reading a lot of science journals online and watching science programs on youtube and curiosity stream.  It’s too bad that more people aren’t interested in science and tech.  Both fields are fascinating, especially the last few years with as fast as these fields have been advancing.  The sad thing is I wouldn’t know about any of these advances if I didn’t specifically make a point of seeking this information out.  The media, at least easily accessible media, really does a poor job informing people to the current state of science and technology.  As much as people use these things, I would think people would be interested in hearing about these things.  I get that people are naturally drawn to bad news, it’s how we are wired.  I must be weird in that I just got tired of hearing about bad news and tragedy all the time and started seeking out what was going right and well.  I get enough bad news and negativity just from being mentally ill, I just don’t need outside sources adding to this.

In other news, Christmas is only two weeks away.  I readily admit to being tough to shop for as I am a practicing minimalist.  I really don’t require that much to keep me occupied and entertained.  I’m sure my family doesn’t find it very thrilling that I ask for things like clothes and home decorations.  I like electronics, but there are only so many I need as my computers do most of what I need.  I don’t need music CDs as I get most of my music through youtube and spotify anymore.  I don’t need movie DVDs as I can get everything through amazon and netflix.  I have got to say, having a high speed wireless internet connection has really decluttered much of my life.  Besides spending money on food, I just don’t spend as much money on miscellaneous things anymore.  Maybe the Star Trek economy where money doesn’t really matter that much isn’t three hundred years away.  We could be witnessing the early stages of it already.

I may not make much money but I still live what I consider a fulfilled life.  I know that many people of my generation and younger lament that many of us don’t have as much money or material possessions as our parents’ generations, but with much of living being digitalized, do we really need the whole four bedroom house with the picket fence and two automobiles in the garage?  What my computer and smart phone can do would have been worth millions back in the 1970s.  I probably wouldn’t even own a car except for occasional road trips.  As it is, I may not have a lot (not by American standards anyway), but I don’t feel lacking or poor.  It was just a matter of realizing what’s really important and adjusting accordingly.  It’s a pity that it took for myself becoming mentally ill and losing a career to realize all of this.

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Recovering From A Rough Road

It’s been almost a week since my psych breakdown.  I’ve pretty much put the pieces back together.  I’m going to bed earlier and have given up all caffeine for the last few days.  I do sleep a lot again and I do occasionally get minor headaches.  I hope the headaches are more from stress than caffeine withdrawal.

I do get out of my apartment a little everyday.  I bought groceries and gas over the weekend.  Had been putting that off for too long.  Since the weather has turned cool I have been eating a lot of higher carb things like spaghetti and rice.  I always did better in colder weather than the heat of the summer.  I always did enjoy hunkering under a blanket and reading for hours on end.

I’m still reading many science and tech sites.  Some days I have to remind myself that things like this are being attempted in the here and now all over the world and that it’s not a sci fi tv series.  I saw things like driverless cars, urban farming, and portable computers only in comic books as a kid in the 1980s.  Even our natural disasters, we are able to predict major storms days in advanced and organize rescue and humanitarian aid within hours.  As bad as these recent hurricanes, forest fires, and earthquakes have been, in past eras they could have been much worse.  I don’t know if I’m being overly optimistic, but I have spent much of my early years being a pessimist.  I gave pessimism up once I figured out that most of what I worried about was more manageable then I previously thought.  Anxiety is often worse than the actual problem itself.

Overall I’m feeling pretty decent considering how rough last week turned out.  Even though I leave my apartment everyday, I don’t socialize much in person.  I try to avoid social media as I have found some of my friends and family I enjoy talking to are now avoiding it too.  I have enough going on in my schizophrenia stressed mind to deal with anyone else’s problems.  I have to take care of myself before I can help out anyone.

Work, Education, Future Tech, Minimalism, and Mental Illness

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Even though mental illness has cost me any potential career, wealth, or family, I am still quite happy overall most of the time.  I would say that age 37 I’m far happier and content now than I was 10 years ago.  I have come to the acceptance that I don’t need a career to validate my life and existence.  That is something most people in modern civilization never come to realize.  I still get the questions of ‘what do I do for a living’ all the time when I’m out in public.  Anymore I just tell people I do online computer stuff from home, which isn’t a lie.  I just don’t get paid for it.  For years I lied to people about what kind of job I had.  And I felt guilty about it because the very question seemed to imply that I had to validate my existence by what I did for several hours a day.  What does it matter what I do all day as long as I’m not breaking the law or hurting other people?  I know some exceptionally brilliant people who more or less dropped out of modern society because they saw the whole idea of a 40 hour work week and family and house in the suburbs as self defeating and pointless.  I mean I don’t need to have a job paying me six figures when, as a minimalist, I can live comfortably off less than 20 grand a year.  Besides, with soon to be eight billion plus people living on our small planet, we’re going to have to learn how to do more with less anyway.

What does it matter what a person does for a living in many cases anyway?  There are studies out there and can be viewed online that state that as many as 50 percent of current jobs could be assigned to machines and done better within the next 20 years.  When this happens, and it will happen despite political interventions and social upheavals, we as humans will have to find new ways to define ourselves outside of paid employment.

And I can’t figure out why people are so scared senseless of having their jobs assigned to machines.  Practically everyone I know hates their jobs.  I have heard that old “Oh God It’s Monday” and “Thank God It’s Friday” nonsense since I was five years old.  Seems to me that griping and moaning about how much your job sucks is as American as baseball.  If I were a business owner, I think I’d install machines just so I have to deal with as few bad attitudes as possible.  Most jobs are in the service sector anymore that don’t pay as well as the old unionized factory jobs.  And most people that work in these sectors are treated poorly by bosses, customers, and even fellow employees.  I will never voluntarily work in customer service ever again.  I have enough problems of my own to be working maximum hours for little to no benefits while taking abuse from customers and bosses.  The way normal people treat customer service employees is really heartless and uncivilized.  I don’t understand why anyone would put themselves through that except for the need for money.  And I don’t need the money, so I won’t put myself through it.

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Seems to me that we are running out of low skill jobs while many high skill jobs like doctors, engineers, teachers, trades jobs, technicians, etc. are going unfilled.  Our schools, for whatever reasons, simply aren’t producing the quantities of people that are needed to keep our high tech civilizations functioning and advancing.  That concerns me.  We know my country doesn’t do a good job teaching science or math in our grade and secondary schools.  We have known this for over 40 years now.  And nobody seems interested in updating the American school systems for the high tech realities of modern times.  Our civilization cannot afford another 40 years of poor science and math education.  Why aren’t we making the changes?

Yes, our schools served us well in the industrial revolution.  But they are a poor design for the information revolutions we have been in for at least the last 30 years. Then again, with as fast as things are advancing, much of what an 18 year college freshman learns will be pointless and obsolete by the time he/she graduates from college four to five years later.  So we may have to teach kids to learn how to learn rather than give them certain facts and expect them to spit them out on a test only to be forgotten a week later.   I would love to see some kid write on her high school tests, “Why should I clutter my mind with facts I can look up on Google?” That kind of testing seemed pointless to me as a teenager and it seems even more pointless now in 2017.  Fortunately for older people like me there are mediums like youtube, khan academy, free online course through places like MIT, etc. that are keeping us more informed than we would have been in previous generations.  Used to be that a person could rote learn facts and then spend the next 30 years working on a farm or in a factory simply because the science and tech didn’t advance very fast.  Of course many people didn’t live past age 50 either, so retirement and the diseases of old age like heart disease and cancer weren’t very big problems.  Those days are as dead and gone as the draft horse and wagon.

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Unfortunately many people of my generation and the previous generations made the mistake of ending their education once their school years were over.  This we could afford when science and tech weren’t advancing really fast and people weren’t regularly living into their 80s and 90s.  But as fast as things are advancing now, it’s hurting us that our citizens and elected leaders aren’t able to keep up with the advances.  I doubt most people in my government even understand that robotics, computer programs, and AI are getting good enough that many jobs will be disappearing within the next decade or two.  My politicians are talking about bringing back old style manufacturing jobs.  As good as automation is, that’s not happening.  The U.S. is already the number two manufacturer in the world, behind only China.  Even China is automating much of it’s manufacturing now.  And when 3D printers get really good and easy to use, that’s going to end even more manufacturing jobs and retail jobs.  When I get a good 3D printer someday, I will never set foot in a Wal Mart or mall ever again.  As it already is, I do most of my shopping online.  I even get delivery pizza and deli online anymore.

I don’t even have to go back to school to learn new things, thanks to online learning.  For all I know, our grandkids’ generation may be able to have all their education online without having to set foot in a classroom.  I’ve already learned as much online through five years of rigorous study on youtube and khan academy as I ever did in my years of formal education.  And I absolutely love it.  Maybe one of the reasons I’m not scared of the avalanche of changes our civilization is and will be facing in the next couple generations is because I have had to reinvent myself several times because of mental illness.  We as a civilization will have to reinvent ourselves to avoid destroying ourselves.  Maybe my schizophrenia inadvertently sling shot me ahead of most of the crowd.  We are heading towards some really cool things in the future, but whether or not we as a species make a successful transition is not certain mainly because we are stumbling around without much of a plan to manage the transition.

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Relax

 

Been kind of rough for me the last several days.  It’s been rough for a lot of people these days.  But that is not what this post is going to be about.  We all need a little cheering up.  For all my friends and family who keep posting good news about what else is going on around us, I thank you.  For my eccentric friends who post on science and technology, you have my thanks.  I saw in my newsfeed this afternoon a scientist in California is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate in 2018.  To which I say good.  We need more leaders who understand the positives and potential drawbacks to our rapidly advancing technology and science.  I see that just in the first month of 2017 alone, scientists have figured out how to use cultured stem cells to treat leukemia in babies.  I have seen that real life Iron Man Elon Musk is attempting to build his Hyperloop transport systems.  I have seen that scientists at Kansas State University have figured out how to mass produce graphene, which is much stronger, lighter, and more flexible than steel.  If this does pan out, graphene will prove to be to steel what steel was to iron or bronze was to stone tools.

I once wrote that regardless of who gets elected to public offices, science and tech advances won’t stop.  Science and tech keeps advancing, even if not as much in your home country as other places.  I should learn to relax.  We all should learn to relax.  We have violence and protesters now, we had violence and protesters back in the 1960s and even 1860s.  We got out of those messes.  We will get out our current mess.  It was said by a man much wiser than I am, “men go mad in mass but only come to their senses individually.”  People will come to their senses, maybe not as fast I would prefer.  But they will.  Relax.  The lights are still on, the water is still available, the internet is still up, and scientists and engineers are always solving problems.

Settling Into Changes and New Routines

Been making some changes in my routines since Christmas.  I am getting more physical activity, been eating less meat and more vegetables and rice.  I have eaten in restaurants only twice since New Year’s Day.  I have changed up my diet quite a bit.  I no longer cook a lot of grilled and baked chicken and beef.  Instead I pretty much eat mostly rice, vegetables, potatoes, and soup.  I still don’t eat much bread.  I get most of my carbs anymore through rice and potatoes.  Neither potatoes nor rice make me feel as lethargic or bloated as large amounts of bread.  Now I absolutely love sub sandwiches, but if I have more than one every couple days I’ll be feeling slow and sluggish.

I have been cleaning my apartment more often.  I had been kind of lazy about this for a few months.  But since I’m feeling much better and more stable I have found it easier to keep my place cleaner.  My place may not make Good Housekeeping, but it’s still better than most college dorm rooms.

I am getting more social activity via Facebook.  I had been kind of a ghost on social media besides promoting the blog for months because I didn’t want to be part of political discussions.  While it feels good to be back in contact with extending family and college friends, it is unnerving that friendships can be strained by things as petty as political opinions. But I am glad I don’t have to hear about it for another few years.

Haven’t dealt with hallucinations for weeks.  Haven’t had problems with delusions for awhile.  Haven’t had issues with depression for almost two months.  I am getting consistent sleep even though I tend to sleep in until late morning most days.  My medications don’t make me sleepy and I think I am more effected by caffeine than I was a few years ago.  Finding out the hard way that I just can’t drink as much caffeine as much as I used to.  That is another new reality I have to learn to adapt to.

I’m still not venturing out of the complex as much.  But it has been quite cold the last few weeks.  But I am definitely saving money on gas by not driving as much.  I drive only half of what I used to, so I buy gas only once a month anymore.  I don’t mind as gas prices are going back up and I can do so much online anymore.  I admit I spend a lot of time online anymore, far more than I did even five years ago.

Been reading much more lately.  I still like reading about science and technology advances.  I am finding that as fast as the advances are coming anymore, the science books I have are starting to become out of date even if they are only a few years old.  I am finding out that Bill Gates was right when he said that people overestimate tech advances short term but underestimate them long term.  Books I bought that were written even four years ago underestimated some of the advances we are seeing now.  So to meet my desire for science and tech news I have to read more online periodicals and science blogs.  I always liked science and wanted to make it my career since grade school.  I have gotten to where I like reading science sites more than I do watching sports.  I know I’m weird.

These are just a few of my new routines now that it’s winter and I’m feeling stability for the first time in months.  I’m just enjoying it right now and I’m going to ride this hot streak for all it’s worth.

Science and Technology Advances of 2016, Part 2

This is the second part of my science and tech of 2016 entry.  Remember that these are advances and findings that were announced just this year.  This is only one year. Remains to be seen what 2017 will hold.

35. Scientists formally announce HGP-Write, a plan to synthesize the human genome.

36. A Stanford clinical trial finds that stem cells injected directly into the brain of chronic stroke sufferers revived dead brain circuits and restored patients’ ability to walk.

37. A way of pumping CO2 underground and turning it from a gas into solid carbonate minerals is demonstrated in Iceland, offering a potentially better method of carbon capture and storage.

38. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital announce a new method for long-term culturing of adult stem cells.

39. China introduces the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer, capable of 93 petaflops and a peak performance of 125 petaflops.

40. Dutch scientists announce that crops of four vegetables and cereals grown in soil similar to that on Mars are safe to eat.

41. NASA scientists announce the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at the planet Jupiter.

42. China completes construction on the world’s largest radio telescope.

43. Scientists at Rice University announce a new titanium-gold alloy that is four times harder than most steels.

44.  Solar Impulse 2 becomes the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the Earth.

45. Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticide, are found to reduce bee sperm counts by almost 40%, as well as cutting the lifespan of bee drones by a third.

Okay, so it’s not all good news.

46. A new “vortex” laser that travels in a corkscrew pattern is shown to carry 10 times or more the information of conventional lasers, potentially offering a way to extend Moore’s Law.

47. Using the DNA from over 450,000 customers of gene-testing company 23andMe, researchers identify for the first time 15 regions of the genome associated with depression.

48. Researchers pinpoint which of the more than 4,000 exoplanet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to Earth. Their research outlines 216 Kepler planets located within the ‘habitable zone’, of which 20 are the best candidates to be habitable rocky planets like Earth.

49. A team at the University of Oxford achieves a quantum logic gate with record-breaking 99.9% precision, reaching the benchmark required to build a quantum computer.

50. MIT announces a breakthrough which can double lithium-ion battery capacity.

51. HI-SEAS IV, the latest Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, an experiment to simulate a human colony on Mars, concludes after exactly one year.

52. Carbon nanotube transistors are shown to outperform silicon for the first time.

53. The development of 1 terabit-per-second transmission rates over optical fiber is announced by Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and the Technical University of Munich.

54. A Japanese team accurately sequences a tardigrade genome, finds minimal foreign DNA, and discovers a protein that confers resistance to radiation when transferred into human cells.

55. SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk reveals his plan to send humans to Mars on a new spacecraft, with unmanned flights beginning as early as 2022.

56. A study led by the University of Cambridge finds that body-worn cameras led to a 93% drop in complaints made against police by the UK and US public.

57. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that playing golf can increase life expectancy by five years.

58. President Obama renews a vision for US government involvement in a human mission to the planet Mars by the mid-2030s.

59. Using 3D imaging techniques on 20 years of photographs by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers estimate there are 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, about 10 times more than previously thought.

60. A new automated system that can achieve parity with humans in conversational speech recognition is announced by researchers at Microsoft.

61. Researchers at James Cook University in Australia report that adding a type of dried seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) to the diet of cattle could reduce their emissions of methane by 50-70%.

62. Scanning people’s brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is found to be significantly more effective at spotting lies than a traditional polygraph test.

63. Researchers in the UK announce a genetically modified “superwheat” that increases the efficiency of photosynthesis to boost yields by 20 to 40 percent.

64. Lab-grown mini lungs, developed from stem cells, are successfully transplanted into mice by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

65. The University of East Anglia reports that global emissions of CO2 did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth.

66. Scientists at Rockefeller University identify which genes in a microbe’s genome ought to produce antibiotic compounds and then synthesize those compounds to discover two promising new antibiotics.

67. The United States Geological Survey estimates there are 20 billion barrels of oil in Texas’ Wolfcamp Shale Formation, the largest estimate of continuous oil that USGS has ever assessed in the United States.

68. Researchers at the Salk Institute use a new gene-editing technology known as HITI, which is based on CRISPR, to partially restore vision in blind animals. Their technique is the first time a new gene has been inserted into a precise DNA location in adult cells that no longer divide, such as those of the eye, brain, pancreas or heart.

69. Researchers from Caltech and UCLA develop a technique to remove mutated DNA from mitochondria, which could help slow or reverse an important cause of aging.

70. Large-scale testing of a potential HIV vaccine known as HVTN 702 begins in South Africa.

71. Researchers at UC Berkeley design a wall-jumping robot known as Salto, which is described as the most vertically agile robot ever built.

72. Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan demonstrate a super flexible liquid crystal (LC) device, which could make electronic displays and devices more flexible, increasing their portability and versatility.

73. Scientists use a new form of gene therapy to partially reverse aging in mice. After six weeks of treatment, the animals looked younger, had straighter spines and better cardiovascular health, healed quicker when injured, and lived 30% longer.

74. Ebola virus disease found to be 70–100% prevented by RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, making it the first proven vaccine against the disease.

 

Blasting Mental Illness Stigma and Giving Hope For the Future

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I suppose this could be filed under rant and frustration with normal people. There are times when I feel like I’m making some difference with this blog and that I’m making a positive impact on people.  Then there are times I feel like I just as well be talking to myself because I don’t seem to be getting through to people.  Right now I feel like I’m not making any kind of positive difference.  Most neurotypical people still think it’s alright to shun and discriminate against the mentally ill.  Many still think we are dangerous and to be locked up permanently out of sight and out of mind.  Mental illness is still stigmatized by popular culture and misunderstood by the public at large.  I’m sure I have people in my Facebook friends list who think I’m just dreaming up my problems because they think I’m weak, lazy, and don’t want to do any real work.  I am definitely not making these problems up.  I would gladly give ten years off the end of my life if it meant I never had to suffer from schizophrenia again.  I’ve been fighting this mental illness since age seventeen, so for over half of my life now.  I can’t remember what it’s like not to suffer from delusions, paranoia, depression, easy anger, and excessive fear.  I can’t remember the last time I talked with even close friends about things like politics and religion without fear of having a psychotic breakdown and ruining the friendship.  I can’t remember what it’s like not living in fear and paranoia of authority  figures, whether they were bosses, landlords, or police officers.

I never understood the mentality that nothing can go wrong with the human brain.  We don’t stigmatize people with heart problems, diabetes, blindness, deafness, or cancer.  We as a society accept that things can go wrong with every other organ in the human body.  But as a society we don’t seem to be as accepting that things can go wrong with the human brain, arguably the most complex instrument in the currently known universe.  I am somewhat hopeful with the programs began by the U.S. government and the E.U. that attempt to reverse engineer the human brain.  Maybe we can find out why some brains malfunction and develop mental illness.  I’m not delusional enough to believe I will ever be cured of schizophrenia, but perhaps better treatments can be developed and maybe future generations can find a way to cure mental illness.  As it seems to me, the brain is probably the final true unknown of medical science.

I imagine that my friends and readers get sick of me always writing about science and tech advances being the true benefactors of humanity.  But I get far more encouragement out of seeing science and engineering advances made on what seems a weekly basis now than listening to political debate or religious dogma.  There are cool things happening in science practically every day in this day and age.  I am thrilled to hear that private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin as well as NASA are seriously talking about sending people to colonize Mars within the next twenty years.  I am thrilled that we could soon have a vaccine for HIV, which I believe will be looked upon by future generations with the same horror we now look upon smallpox and bubonic plague.  I am happy that we are finding possible ways to treat anti biotic resistant bugs.  I know some of my farmer friends will want to crucify me for this, but the possibilities of vertical farming in big cities and lab grown meat intrigue me.  Supposedly there are medications in trials that could reverse obesity that have already been tested on lab rats.  Something like that, providing it doesn’t interfere with my psych medications. would be a life saver for me as I’ve been overweight since puberty.  That alone would reduce burdens on the health care system in many developed countries.  I am anxious to see lab grown replacement organs make the organ and tissue donor system obsolete.  I would love to see driverless cars take off and make owning your own car as much of a relic as the horse drawn carriage.

We are living in some of the most exciting times in human history, if not the most exciting times.  Yet these wonders seem to be lost on most people I interact with on a daily basis.  I don’t know why people lost their sense of wonder, creativity, and possibility.  To listen to most people we aren’t advancing at all, as if everything from hear on out is going to be down hill.  I don’t understand why most people are pessimistic and fearful.  I don’t see enough people saying ‘we have problems but we’ve solved problems in the past and we will continue to do so.’  Why is it considered normal and grown up to be worrisome and blind to the beauty and possibility of life?  That is yet another idea you normals seem to be born with that I wasn’t.  If I have to be constantly depressed, anxious, angry, and mopey to be considered an adult, then screw it.  I want no part of it.  I just see too much possibility and good things happening in the world to be consumed by worry.  Even your religious texts tell you to ‘not let your hearts be troubled’ and ‘don’t worry about the future.’  Seems to me these texts need to be spoken from the pulpits more than fear, hate, and wrath.

We are living in cool times with progress being made every hour of every day.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, health, and humanitarian efforts are being made all over the world.  It’s not just the U.S. who has advanced technology, advanced research, and freedom.  The world is not falling apart.  The world is not going to hell in a hand basket.  The past is not better than the present.  And I am saddened and tired of hearing  doom and gloom from people who don’t bother to look at the facts and numbers nor look out how far we’ve come just in the last few generations, let alone since we left the caves.  Make no mistake, we will continue to make progress in spite of your complaints and fears that the world is falling apart.  The doers and achievers of the world ain’t listening to the Chicken Littles of the world.  I may not be a great achiever but I’m not listening to the doomsayers either.  I have had enough.  I have heard doom and gloom my entire life.  I have no idea how many supposed end of the world type predictions I have weathered.  I laugh at such predictions now.  I find it annoying that many people are giving themselves needless grief and sadness simply because they can’t or won’t look up facts.  We have the quasi magic Google machine and Wikipedia that would put the Library of Congress to shame at our finger tips. We just have to use them.  Keep complaining and crying if you wish, but I will continue to look up the facts and the truth.  I will attempt to dispel the myths in this blog.  To paraphrase Jack Palance from the movie ‘City Slickers’, normal people “really do worry about a lot of crap that don’t matter.”

 

Social Media Hiatus and Recovery

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In an attempt to help speed up my recovery from my bouts of depression and hopelessness, I’ve decided to avoid all social media in addition to regular news casts.  I’m now two days into this and I notice a positive difference already.  I’m less stressed and less despondent even after a couple days of media blackout.  I just got so tired of hearing nothing but bad news that I decided to unplug and drop out for at least a few days.  I will still be posting blog entries to Facebook and twitter because my posts automatically post to these anyway.

One thing I have noticed is inspite my vacation from news and social media, my life still goes on.  All life still goes on in fact.  Some things I’m probably happier not knowing quite simply because there is nothing I can do about it.  While I may not be happy with any of my elected officials, it’s not like I get an extra vote for every time I post to Facebook concerning the elections.  The U.S. Constitution never said anything about uber informed people getting extra votes.  On election day, I’m just going in and casting my votes and that is going to be that.  I’ll live with whatever the results are.  And I’ll still pay more attention to science and technology endeavors than I do to politics or popular culture.  Unless the Kardashians figure out nuclear fusion or cure cancer, I couldn’t care less about them.

While I may be unplugging from social media, I’m still keeping informed on things like science.  I am finding out the lights are still on and there’s still food in my pantry regardless of what nonsense a political figure says or whatever some troll writes.  Some pundit says something about the election, so what?  Nations are rattling their sabres and talking about wars, will my worrying prevent war?  I can only control my own life, what I see online, and how I choose to react to it.  And that is all I need.  Sure I’ll miss my friends during my hiatus from social media, but it’s probably for the best for the next several days.

 

Revisiting the ‘Good Ol’ Days’ (They weren’t all that good)

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For years, even before I became mentally ill, I’ve been listening to people complain about how bad the state of the world is and how everything was better in the ‘good ol’ days.’  I’ve done blog posts on it in the past with Why I Am Grateful of Tech And Science Advances, Technology Advances and U.S. Presidents, and Reflections On Being a Recovering Doom Junkie. I don’t believe the nonsense that the past was some golden age were everyone was respectful, no one was stupid, the world was at peace, and wealth gaps between rich and poor didn’t exist.  Folks, the past wasn’t that great for the common man on the street. It was even worse for the common woman in most cases.  In many past civilizations,as many as half the children born didn’t live to see adulthood. ‘Utopia’ was a work of 16th century fiction by Thomas More, not a real place in some to be recaptured past. It’s as if everyone thinks that the entire world was like Mayberry in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ until about the last forty, thirty, twenty years.  But seriously, is our collective amnesia so bad that we think that the times we grew up in were nothing but peaceful and prosperous?  Are we so forgetful that we think that it was only the current younger generation that invented promiscuous sex?  No town in America (or anywhere else) was ever like Mayberry.I have never seen African Americans on Andy Griffith.  Being a town in the southern U.S. in the late 1950s, surely there would have been some.  No towns, besides maybe a few small farming villages in Nebraska and Kansas, were ever that white bread.  The 1950s were an age of purity and good values?  Please.  Does the Korean War, duck and cover drills, The Great Chinese Famine, McCarthyism, the quiz show scandals, western movies and tv shows that were (by today’s standards) blatantly bigoted towards Native Americans, and the Beat Generation culture of excessive drugs and sex as written about by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, etc. ring a bell?  Times weren’t more moral and more peaceful in the old days, they were merely less televised and exposed.

As far as having more moral and competent leaders in the old days, think again.  People today think it was shameful that President Clinton was getting sex from one of his interns or President Bush exaggerating to get a war in Iraq, etc.  But politicians and rulers have always fornicated and lied to their subjects.  Thomas Jefferson probably had an affair with at least one of his slaves.  Charlemagne had at least four wives and was almost constantly at war during the 8th and 9th centuries.  Even the Bible said King Solomon of Israel had seven hundred wives and yet praised him for being a man of great wisdom.  And this was before Viagra and Barry White albums. Abraham Lincoln, as a young man, accepted a challenge to a duel and set the rules of the contest to the death so that he would have won had not his friends talked him out of it. Pope Urban II exaggerated the abuse Christians received at the hands of the Turks to garner support for the First Crusade.  William Randolph Hearst was spinning news stories and outright lying long before anyone even thought of inventing cable news or alternative media.  As far as businesses like Microsoft, Facebook, Monsanto, BP, Google (who made most of the research for my blogs possible), Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, the defense contractors, etc. being favorite whipping boys for anyone against the abuses that can be perpetrated by big companies, then heaven help you if you ever knew about Standard Oil, U.S. Steel, the East India Company, the Potosi Silver Mines, etc.  So not even was our business practices always ‘an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.’  These are but a few examples to show that, in many ways, things were actually worse and less civil in the past then they are today.

Be careful about wishing for life to be like it was in the past.  Because it often wasn’t that good at all, unless you were a lord, noble, sultan, robber baron, or chieftain.  Yet in many ways I live better today, have better access to health care, better access to information, better entertainment, better fitting clothing, and better sanitation than the richest men of one hundred years ago and better than most middle class people in the 1960s.  It’s getting late as I write this so I should think about going to bed.  Yep, tonight I’m sleeping on a spring mattress (something no king or sultan of Medieval times had) wearing comfortable sleep clothes made of manufactured fabrics and processes that didn’t exist two hundred years ago, and with the warmth of central heating (something not even the richest man in the world had in 1900).  Yes life is good.  And should you try to think that things can’t possibly get any better or that we are on ‘the eve of destruction’, well every generation has thought it was the last one or that these were for sure ‘the end times.’

 

 

Weight Loss, Exercise, and Mental Health. Winter Edition

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It’s been awhile since I last reported on my ongoing project of losing weight, maintaining mental equilibrium, and working on improving myself overall.  For awhile, from late October through most of November, I wasn’t losing nor gaining weight.  In early December, I had a flare up of the symptoms of schizophrenia and I had a second day of flare ups in mid January.  I met with my psych nurse, readjusted some of my meds, and found out that I had lost 10 pounds since late November.  I’m now down 65 pounds overall.  We had a fairly cold, but dry, December and first half of January.  I wasn’t exercising outdoors much, having moved my routines indoors.  I added small arm weights to my routine an average of twice a week.  I have found if I stretch before and after lifting, I don’t really feel sore the morning after lifting.  I had heard that some football coaches were doing this stretching after practices and games and they were seeing less pulled muscle problems in their players.  I gave it a try and it seems to work.  I still won’t work the same muscles two days in a row no matter how good they feel.

Another indoor exercise I do is just putting on dance music on my iPod, throw on the headphones, and dance to the tunes for about thirty minutes at a time.  I do this usually three days a week on average.  Since I live in a top floor apartment with squeaky floors, I do have to be care where and when I do this.  If I do this at night, I usually have to dance in my living room or kitchen.  No reason to wake up my downstairs neighbors if I do this at 9pm or later.

Even when I walked outdoors during the summer and fall, I did usually thirty minutes per day probably four to five days per week.  I made it a point to have at least one day a week off from exercise entirely, just for recuperating and breaking up the routine mentally.  I didn’t start out walking thirty minutes per day.  When I started this ‘life style overhaul’ I could walk only 1/4 of a mile in one shot without sitting down.  Pretty sad I had let myself slide so bad.  And yes, it was my fault.  I used the idea that my psych meds were promoting my weight gain and I couldn’t do anything about it.  Yes I could do something about it.  I had to reexamine everything I was doing.  I needed to know exactly what I was eating, what I was doing for exercise, how much water I was drinking, and how much I was sleeping.  After looking everything over, I saw what I was doing poorly (almost everything), and had to adjust accordingly.

On March 17, 2014, I began my exercise routine and keeping my day to day health journal. When most people in my hometown were doing the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (I live in a college town after all), I was doing a different type of crawl because I was sore from my first day of exercise.  I had been sedentary all winter, slept probably 11 to 12 hours most days, so I was out of practice and I was feeling it.  But within a couple of weeks, I stretched that 1/4 mile to 1/3 of a mile.  Within six weeks of beginning, I was doing at least 2/3 of a mile.  By the middle of June I was easily doing one mile without stopping. When Labor Day rolled around I could walk for one hour at a time but I was slightly sore for the next day, but it wasn’t the kind of pain crawl I was doing in March.  By the first of October I found out I was down 50 pounds overall.  The day after Halloween, I was down 55 pounds overall and, unknown to me at the time, I came to my first ‘plateau’.  I went through at least a six week period when I didn’t lose or gain.  I had heard about the possibility of having one of these periods.  I wasn’t terribly surprised that after 55 pounds lost, my body would go through a while of resetting itself.

The human body is quite amazing in that it regulates itself and is very adaptable.  I imagine my body might have thought it was experiencing a period of calorie shortages and was hording as much energy as it could.  Remember, that for most of human history, a person didn’t always have a consistent food supply.  There were the proverbial times of feasts and famines.  So the body adapted to become stingy with it’s on hand calories and to crave sources of easy calories like carbs, sugars, and proteins.  It is only within the last few generations we’ve had such strong food security with so little effort.  And, in western countries like USA, we’re doing this with probably only one percent of the work force actually working in farming and food production.

I’m dead convinced that one of the reasons for such tragic rates of obesity (and I needed to and still need to listen to this as much as anyone) in western nations was that we kept the eating habits our great grandparents had but did only a fraction of the physical labor.  In my own family, as far as I can tell, our entire family worked in farming, sharecropping, etc. as far back as we can trace.  My parents were the first generation of their families to either not grow up on a farm or not work on one.  I tell this aside simply to state many people have lost contact with how much time and work it really takes to grow crops, raise farm animals, hunt, fish, and gather wild food.  So we often eat food, and waste it, with little appreciation of how much work it took to get it from farm to dining room table.  And, as we’ve gone from a farming and manufacturing based economy to a knowledge based and service economy, we are seeing the foolishness of keeping the same eating habits without the corresponding physical activity.  Either the physical activity has to increase, the food consumption has to decline, or ideally both happens.  We saw the bad effects of smoking and excessing alcohol consumption and adjusted accordingly, starting about forty years ago.  I believe we’re now starting to make adjustments as a society to the problems of obesity and associated sicknesses.  Had I not taken steps to address my problems with obesity and physical health problems, then no amount of mental health successes were going to matter.

Sure I still have flare ups of mental illness problems even with as much weight I’ve lost.  I’ll probably be fighting mental illness issues for a long time, barring some major medical breakthroughs in the treatment of brain issues.  I do have hope that major breakthroughs will be happening, especially when I think that there are teams of scientists, researchers, engineers, etc. all over the world just thinking about how to improve what we have and just dreaming up entirely new ways to do things.  Theses are quite exciting times we live in, especially for those of us who pay attention to technology breakthroughs.  A good site I stumbled on that details breakthroughs we as a species have done since 2000 and projected new breakthroughs for many decades to come is futuretimeline.net.  There have to be literally dozens of sites such as this detailing tech breakthroughs.  I often lose sight of the big picture during days of struggle.  We do live in exciting times though challenging times.  But with challenges come opportunities.  Who knows what advances in the treatment of all illness, let alone mental illness, the next few decades and years will bring?