Trying to Maintain Hope Around Negative People

 

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

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

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Mental Stability With Schizophrenia Is Tough and Other Thoughts

I have been mentally stable for weeks now.  It is a welcomed relief to not have to fear having mini breakdowns everyday or risk having major setbacks because of relatively minor problems.  I may have given my readers the idea that taking medications and going to regular counseling sessions are enough to stabilize the mentally ill.  If only it were so.

Many, if not most, mentally ill people are worse off than I am.  A significant percentage of homeless people are untreated mentally ill people.  Just today I read an article about a homeless lady from Oregon who recently died from hypothermia.  She was homeless because she fell two months behind on her rent at a low income housing complex.  No one informed her family members she was being evicted or having mental health problems.  This lady, like me, had schizophrenia.  Like me, she had been a model resident in her complex for several years before the mental health problems came back.  I sometimes find myself afraid that something similar could happen to me.  I have some setbacks, I get in trouble in my complex, I get evicted, and no one bothers to inform anyone who could help me out.  I have also seen statistics that one fourth of people killed by police officers are mentally ill people having psychotic breakdowns.

This is one of the reasons I am paranoid about cops.  I appreciate that they have a brutal and often thankless job but I am still afraid of them.  Some may say “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”  If only that were true.  I have had plenty of experience of authority figures, coworkers, peers, and even my own parents just telling me off over things I wasn’t guilty of.  I used to get yelled out for being too sad and even too happy.  It was like I was supposed to have the emotions of a pile of garden tools.  I’m not unemotional.  I have strong feelings and opinions, especially when I don’t share them.  I have enough white noise and hallucinations going on in my mind even on good days that getting in my face and yelling at me doesn’t calm me down or motivate me.  If anything I want to severely hurt anyone who raises their voice to me.  The Marine drill instructor, alpha male jock, kick ass and take names approach does not work on me.  It never has and it never will.  It only makes me more angry.

I am scared of people who yell and scream a lot.  I am scared of people who love violence.  I am scared of people who think violence and war will solve all problems.  I am terrified of stupid people in large groups.  One of the reasons I hate socializing is that I don’t like being vulnerable or dealing with the unknown.  I have to admit that somedays I don’t want to leave my apartment simply because I am afraid of people in general.

I am not really a misanthrope.  I genuinely love intelligent conversations that are calm and non argumentative.  I have yet to have an intelligent conversation with a dog or a house plant.  And I imagine it will be a long time before a computer can be a worthy substitute for human conversation.  I don’t hate people, I just can’t stand it when they do stupid and cruel things.  Now I know that people are no more cruel and stupid then they were in past generations.  If anything they were probably dumber and less compassionate before mass media and universal education.  I just hear about stupid and cruel actions more just because I am more connected than past generations.   Years ago, for me to hear about a homeless mentally ill person dying of hypothermia, it would have had to happen in my hometown.  But as it is we are more connected now than ever.  That isn’t going to change.  If anything we are going to get even more connected and involved in the lives of complete strangers living all over the world in the coming years.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am convinced that one of the reasons people will fight with others is because we can’t see where the other person is coming from.  I think it was a lack of open communication and intermingling that lead to peoples and nations in past ages to fight wars against each other.  Personally I would rather do business with a foreigner or have dinner with him than fight him in a war.  In all honesty, people have far more in common then they know.  It’s this fear of the unknown that keeps peoples apart.  It is my hope that in coming generations these barriers will continue to be broken down through mass communications and trade.  It’s kind of tough to go to war against a country when you are doing a lot of business with a potential foe.  Perhaps in future generations they can say that it was the internet and international trade that led to the end of massive wars.  I may be a dreamer but I am definitely not the only one who can see a better future than what we have even now in January 2017.

How I Gave Up Watching The News And Became A Blogger

My parents are 24 hour news junkies.  Have been ever since we got our first cable tv subscription back in the late 1980s.  Memories of my pre teen years involve seeing the Berlin Wall come down, the First Gulf War updates every evening, and the fall of the Soviet Union.  It didn’t become apparent how ridiculous the idea of paying attention to every little thing that came across CNN (or Constantly Negative News as I think of it now) until the O.J. Simpson trial and the President Clinton impeachment hearings during my teen years.  I saw grown adults give up their lunch hours and heard teachers spend entire class periods rehashing everything that was covered in these news programs.  I paid more attention to the Columbine shootings in April 1999 because the killers were my age and I had friends who were as much outcasts as those guys.  But even that was depressing as it wasn’t like my elders already thought kids and young adults were worthless and bad news.

I finally started to free myself of the drug of 24 hour news in the months after 9/11.  I just got tired of seeing the death and devastation replayed all the time.  I was only starting my mental illness treatment at the time, so I was still mentally fragile in the first place.  To replace my usual news watching, I started reading.  I read many of the classics of literature, some philosophy, much history, quite a bit of economics, and many of the greats of poetry.  I didn’t believe in reading summaries or commentaries because I figured I could understand the masters just fine by myself.  I came to believe that some of the ‘experts’ of academia and culture were often way off when I saw a speaker on C-Span and I could have refuted many of his arguments.  I thought to myself ‘I know as much as this guy speaking and he has an audience.’  Shortly afterward I started putting my thoughts into writing.  This was in 2003 to 2004, so right before blogging and youtube really took off.

After a couple years of writing poems and journals, I sat out to write a novel.  It was loosely based on my experiences at a Christian college and some of the people I knew during those years.  I wrote a novel (and thus crossed off one of the items on my ‘bucket list’).  It was during this time I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about how many of the myths of mental illness are not true.  I was published as a guest columnist and got some positive response to that essay.  After that I wrote a series of essays concerning my life with a mental illness.  I decided to self publish these and actually sold a few dozen copies.  I self published my novel and some poetry too.  My novel wasn’t very good and neither was the second novel I wrote.  Now I know I can’t do good fiction.  Which is reasonable as I really don’t like reading fiction.  That’s why I concentrate on blogging now.

With the fact I spend much of my time online researching for this blog (and to satisfy my mental curiosity), I do pick up on a lot of what goes on in the world.  Needless to say I pick up on lots of negative news as a byproduct of researching.  But, unlike my parents and most of my friends, I do not agonize over the news.  Case in point, the upcoming elections here in the United States.  There isn’t anything I can’t learn about any of the candidates or major issues I couldn’t learn in a few hours of intense internet research.  I do not need to hear everything said at every speech and rally for a year and a half.  All of that is window dressing and background noise.  I do not need to know every detail about every mass shooting and terrorist attack.  If all I did was listen to bad news, I would have given up hope a long time ago.  Your odds of dying from the flu, or a workplace accident, or heart disease are much higher than dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash.

I know humans are naturally drawn to bad news because it was a good survival strategy when we were still living in caves during the Ice Ages.  If you missed bad news then, you wound up eaten by a saber tooth cat and you were out of the gene pool. Those old habits are tough to break.  Our species grew up when most of what effecting us was within a day’s walk.  If there was an earthquake or volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, you never knew it.  Now we know every calamity that happens anywhere within moments.  And we respond to it like our caveman ancestors responding to an immediate threat.  That is probably the major source of our present day anxiety.

I try to explain to people the good things going on and I don’t get much of a response.  I also tell them that agonizing and worrying about murder and mayhem not in their hometowns are making them miserable and they can’t do anything about it.  Most people look at me like I’m an idiot for telling them to stop agonizing over the news. I used to love 24 hour news and doom as much as anyone.  But when I stopped to see why most of these dire predictions never came true or were more manageable than previously thought, that’s when I came to realize that most of what we hear in our media is heavily distorted.  It may all be true, but it isn’t the entire truth.  Yes there are mass shootings.  But there are also space probes exploring strange worlds in our solar system.  Yes there is political corruption.  But there is also lots of good works being done by common people everyday.  To quote the classic movie ‘Network’ , “Television is the illusion.  You people are the real thing.”  Once I began to see the illusion for only part of the story, I changed my focus on what was going on bad news wise and started focusing on what was going right.  The best changes in history have always started with small groups of committed individuals who had visions and acted on those visions.  I am trying to debunk many of the myths of mental illness and stir in people more empathy and compassion for the problems of the mentally ill with this blog.  It probably won’t change the world or even make me a dollar of revenue.  But I am just one of many.  I will speak to whomever I can get to listen.  And I will not wallow in sorrow because the news told me there was another mass shooting or my political leaders are corrupt lawbreakers.