Rants About Trying To Socialize With “Normal” People

Haven’t been out much this spring.  It seems like when I feel decent enough to go out it’s cold and raining.  When I feel too depressed or anxious, that’s when the weather is good. I pretty much just stay at home most of the time.  I fear that I’m developing a phobia of being out in public.  I want to stay home, read, use my computer, write, and sleep.  And that is about it anymore.  I don’t even want to socialize with anyone in person anymore.  My landlady came to my apartment a few days ago and chewed me out.  I won’t go into details except that it scared me real bad.  I don’t want to go into details, so please don’t ask.

I have just been having a rough go with people in general this spring.  One day when I left my apartment, I stepped into the hallway only to see and hear several of my neighbors arguing and screaming at each other.  It was bad enough I would have called the police except I was too scared to.  Several of the people involved live near me and I know they would have made my life miserable had I reported them.  I often hear my neighbors argue and fight.  I occasionally smell pot smoke so thick I get slightly buzzed off it.  And it isn’t the good type of buzz, it’s the kind I am noxious and want to vomit type buzz coupled with migraines.

When I do get past my hallway, I get into the main assembly hall where there are vending machines and occasionally coffee left over from the morning social hour.  I don’t go there much because it seems the only people that want to talk are in bad moods.  It wears on me.  I certainly don’t go outside much nor do I drive much anymore.  I do all my shopping from online now.  I’m scared to go out in public anymore.  I always get people looking at me like I’m going to assault them or try to steal from their stores.  You act like you never saw a fat single man before who can read and converse beyond a fifth grade level.  I fear that some of these people may read me wrong, confront me and that will start a nervous breakdown and I’ll either wind up in prison or dead.  Just because of some scaredy cats reading a stranger wrong.

The whole “stranger danger” movement created an entire civilization of fear mongers and dysfunctional neurotics who are afraid of anyone but themselves.  It’s a mountain made out of an ant hill as far as I’m concerned.  Statistically speaking, you and your children are far, far more likely to be murdered, assaulted, raped, robbed, swindled, or molested by people you know then don’t.  Far more children are hurt by religious leaders, teachers, and even parents than hard core street gangs or Hell’s Angels types.  But it doesn’t make for good headlines or made for TV movies.  I hate it that most people can’t even do basic math or even understand basic statistics.  It’s really messing up our civilization and causing people to make terrible decisions.  And it’s making us miserable and lonely.

I actually want to socialize. But I am no longer willing to tolerate being treated guilty until proven innocent every time I enter public life.  I am no longer willing to tolerate being surrounded by rude and angry people all the time.  Many people are also just flat out act dumb too.  I once read in article and saw a TED talk that said that people’s IQ and overall intelligence are higher than our grandparents’ generation.  I don’t believe it, at least not in my elders or my peers.  I don’t see it in person or online. Everybody is just mean to each other all the time from what I seen just in my small midwest hometown and online interactions.  I hear all this talk about how we got to physically discipline our kids or their turn out to be worthless.  Spare the rod and spoil the child they say.  Fine with me.  But most adults could stand to the exact same type of physical discipline as far as I can tell.  But if I do that, then that’s assault and I’ll go to prison.  The USA already has more people in prison than the old USSR ever did at any point.  Look this up.

It isn’t just the “lousy kids” causing trouble.  The elders just love to rant and rave about how bad the teenagers and twenty somethings suck.  Even people my age are starting in on the kids.  Never mind it’s the “lousy kids” who are fighting and getting killed in your endless wars, paying far more for college educations than their grandparents did yet facing far worse job markets, can’t afford most houses or even cars even with multiple incomes, etc.  And these kids are supposed to be grateful for cheap electronics and communications?  Why, providing the internet and raising these kids who will end up being heroes eventually are the best thing my generation and my parents’ generation will ever do.  Let these kids work their mojo and get out of their way.  I see many parallels between the millenial people and the kids in my nephews’ generations and the generations that produced the World War II and World War I veterans.

Granted it’s socially acceptable to hate these kids.  I swear they are getting it even worse than what I did back in the 1980s and 1990s.  Why do we as a civilization and a species hate those with youth, vigor, and in their prime breeding years?  That has to be something unique to our species.  At least animals that don’t want their offspring will kill them when they are infants.  Civilized humans will just emotionally and mentally cripple them for life.  People tried to crush my spirit and my friends’ spirits when we were teenagers and young adults.  Get what, you failed.  You only made us stronger and more capable.    I actually encounter far more verbal abuse online and in person from my elders than anyone in my age bracket or younger.  Wisdom comes age, no it doesn’t.

People worry that science fiction dystopia could become reality.  For some of us, dystopia has been our reality for years.  It’s just neurotypical people are only recently starting to deal with things that the mentally ill, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, sexual minorities, etc. have had to deal with for thousands of years.  It stinks being treated like a  potential criminal because what have you, doesn’t it?  Many neurotypicals are losing their minds and blowing their tops primarily, I think, simply because they aren’t used to being viewed with suspicion and fear.  I have been viewed with fear and suspicion my entire life, mainly because of my size, mental capacity, physical strength, mental illness, and I just don’t desire to socialize with large numbers of people.  I love socializing, but only with intelligent and empathic people.  I can’t stand social mixers, cocktail parties, bar scenes, or even church dinners.  I never have been able to adapt to these situations.

I was far more at home in my class discussion groups in college than I ever was anywhere else.  I think had I never gotten mentally ill I would have been content to work at a large university or think tank.  I would have fell in love with that kind of work.  Maybe spend my mornings teaching classes, go have my lunch while having conversations with other faculty members, maybe lift weights with the football coaches after work, and then spend my evenings working in the lab or libraries.  People say that those who can’t teach.  As if teaching is a dishonorable career field.  Whatever idiot came up with the stupid phrase “those who can’t teach” was probably an American. At least I would have loved working in academia before the whole speech codes, safe spaces, and no freedom for those we don’t agree with social justice thugs came along.  Maybe I am still alive at this point precisely because I became mentally ill and had a reasonably acceptable excuse to drop out of my society.  I was hated and despised at every job I ever held.  Not because I was bad at my job, but because I was good and could often think of better ways of doing things than even my bosses.

People are scared senseless of any kind of ability and intelligence it seems, at least that’s my experience.  But if hating achievement, progress, risk taking, and standing out in anyway not deemed socially acceptable is the spirit of this place and age, then being alone and on disability pension is the best I will be able to do for the time being.  The only way I, and people like me, could ever have even a remotely normal life is for a massive paradigm shift that values creativity and high achievers.  But I don’t see this happening anytime soon, at least not here in USA.  I wonder how free thinkers, odd fellows, weirdos, and eccentrics are condemned and marginalized in other parts of the world.  I’d love to hear this.  I keep telling myself and my friends “this isn’t normal.”  But even I am starting to lose hope that people will come to their senses ever again.

 

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Fifteen Years With A Mental Illness Diagnosis

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I have been having problems with depression, anxiety, delusional thoughts, and excessive anger since I was seventeen.  I was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and major depression in October 2000.  I’ve been treated for these mental health problems for fifteen years.  In fact, today as I write this is probably the anniversary of when I was diagnosed.  I’m not exactly sure as those hectic weeks leading up to my diagnosis are a blur.  I do remember that I was having mini psychotic breaks at least twice a week when I was call home and just yell at my family members for no real reason.  Now, I had a good family as a child.  While I had a good family I struggled socially.  I didn’t have many friends or confidants, likely because I was eccentric and one of these really smart kids who was too stubborn to hide the fact I was smart.  That didn’t win many favor points with my school mates.  But, the fact I did have a good family who held me accountable was probably one of the reasons I was able to do well in spite of my mental illness.

I grew up in a very small farming community of less than 500 people in rural Nebraska.  It was one of those places that life changed with the seasons more than anything.  Social activities centered around farming, school activities, and church groups.  It was one of those places where everyone knew at least one thing about everyone.  It was also one of those places that was remote enough that we thought nothing of getting in the car and driving an hour and a half to the nearest Wal-Mart.  Lack of access to proper mental health care is one of the reasons I left my hometown.  Yet I’m only an hour and a half drive from my family, so not terribly far in case of crisis.  But also far enough I’m able to have my own space and my own life.  I currently live in a small college town of less than 50,000 people.  So it’s still one of those places were the pace of life changes with the seasons.

After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I still wouldn’t withdraw from college until the next spring.  By then the mental health problems were bad enough I left my dorm room only to go to classes and twice a day to go to the dining hall.  Had no social life and I was in danger of flunking out of school entirely.  So I left college and took several weeks to regroup.  I went back to college in the fall of 2001 with a changed major and better treatment for my mental illness.  I originally started as a pre-med student before switching over to business management.  I graduated in May 2004.  Even though I never worked a job requiring my degree, I am glad I had those classes because they taught me budgeting and how economics works.  I probably would have found a job requiring a degree had I left the farm belt of Nebraska.  But with my inconvenient mental illness flare ups I would not have held such a job long enough to support myself.  I ultimately qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance in late 2008.  I have worked since, primarily as a part time evening janitor and maintenance man at the county courthouse.  Held that job for four years.

I haven’t held a “real job” besides doing temporary work here and there for three years.  But I have come to the realization that my self worth as a human is not in the job I work.  Many people forget this, especially men like myself who tend to be obsessive about our pursuits.  Even though I’m living on social security disability money I am also debt free.  Not making payments any more is a good feeling that takes away a good deal of my previous stress and anxiety.  I’ve also been blogging about mental illness issues for two and a half years.  Feel free to look over some of my previous posts.  It’s been a long, hard, and strange trip.  But one that I have survived and learned a great deal from.  Who knows what the next fifteen years will bring.  It’ll be 2030 by then and I’ll be fifty years old.

The Story of Two Brothers and What Is Still Good About American College

I’m going to be treading off the beaten path again.  This time this blog will be telling the story of two brothers I’ve known from my parents’ church their entire lives.  They’re quite a bit younger than me, but I’ve gotten to know these two pretty well as their parents are family friends of ours and that home community is one of those places that tight knit enough that everyone knows everyone.  I’m very reluctant to share their names as they really don’t like to brag about their accomplishments, but many people I grew up with are the exact same way.  It probably goes with the farming/ranching orientation of my entire home state.

After finishing their high school careers with about every athletic honor, social honor, and I think many of the academic honors their small high school could offer, these two enrolled at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.  From there they got on the track and field team, with both of them training for multiple events for the Husker track and field team.

These two put in full time classes, long hours of training, as well as the required studying for classes.  I don’t know the exact dollar amount of their scholarships (of if they even qualify for track scholarships as they have been in the program for only one year), but from what I understand, I was getting more on an academic scholarship to a small, private college than most T&F athletes do.  I received $5,000 a year and all I had to do was keep a 3.5 GPA after four semesters.  Well, I couldn’t keep that even though I wasn’t doing a time consuming sport or activity like band or student council or student journalism, etc.  Getting back to these two young men, both of them made the Dean’s List their freshmen year.  One of them even had a perfect 4.0, which I can never claim.  To help pay for college, these two are doing farm work this summer.

These two have been excellent athletes since they were toddlers running wild on the church front lawn every Sunday.  They won state championships in their individual sports as well as football.  Yet they are more than just athletes.  They are also dedicated students.  They have always been active in the church and lived Christian principles to the best of their abilities.  They are hard workers as they’ve grown up on a farm and doing farm work since they were children.  In short, these two brothers are what’s good about a lot of things.

In the last couple weeks alone, we college sports fans have seen a star quarterback get suspended for academic misjudgment from Notre Dame.  We’ve seen, from the same University of Nebraska these two brothers attend and compete for, a football player get arrested for assault.  We’ve seen the p.r. nightmare that has become Rutgers’ athletic department administration.  We’ve just seen the University President at Ohio State carelessly spouting off at a fundraiser.  Now we’re seeing the family of the late former Penn State coach suing the NCAA.  I could go on about conference realignments, tv revenues, money hungry college presidents, athletes cheating in school, the pro leagues using colleges as de facto minor leagues, massively paid coaches, etc. But those stories have been told time and time again to where we think that is all there is to tell about the story of athletics at American colleges.

For every major bad story involving the odd mixture of academia, athletics, money, media, government, and the law, there are other stories that easily get ignored.  Those are the stories of the young men and women who compete/participate/work/study in the athletics, student activities and organizations, jobs, and schools we too often sell out as being corrupt, wastes of time and money, demeaning and low paying, and failing in comparison to our foreign counterparts.  In short, we refuse to see what’s good anymore.

In closing in this story about these two brothers, I think I will mention them by name.  While there are many young men and women like these two at every university in America, their stories never get heard because names never get put to them.  These two are Jed and Guy Fenske; scholars, athletes, model workers, and morally upstanding citizens.