Thoughts on Normal People and Bad News


Just been in the mood to avoid people as much as possible the last several days.  I leave my apartment only a couple times a day and check Facebook only once or twice a day.  It’s not that I think I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown, it’s that I want to avoid planting the seeds for one.  Listening to most people lately is like listening to a skipping MP3 (or broken record for my readers over fifty).  I don’t want to hear about the weather, or how much you hate your job, or how much of a thoughtless jerk your significant other is, or how everyone who doesn’t agree with you on politics or religion or economics is the devil’s minion.  I just really no longer want to hear it.  I’ve had my fill of negativity and snark.  Talk is cheap and snark is free but wisdom is ignored it seems.

One of the reasons I got back into science in a big way was that I got tired of hearing how bad people sucked and that civilization was going to collapse any day now.  I also watched all these doomsday scenario shows like The Day After, Red Dawn, Armageddon, Independence Day, 2012, The Terminator series, etc. that said we were all going to die any day now.  At this point  in my life, after seeing “88 reasons for the return of Jesus in 1988”, Y2K fizzle out, 9/11 and the resulting never ending wars, the Great Recession, the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, Occupy Wall Street come to nothing, and the election of our current crop of politicians, I just yawn and laugh at every other predicted end times or end of civilization b.s. I see every other week.  You normals really have an amazing ability to believe any type of nonsense that gets repeated enough.  I find it tragic because many normals are worrying themselves sick over things that never come to pass or are easily solveable.

After years of hearing nothing but doom and gloom, I wanted to hear what was going well for a change.  Growing up, I rarely heard anything positive about the world from my elders or teachers.  I had heard from about second grade on that American students were the dumbest in the industrialized world.  If that was so, I reasoned, then why don’t we improve the school system and stop blaming the kids.  The looks of anger I got from my elders were like I just said the Ten Commandments were bogus.  I never did get an answer from my elders.  I also never got answers from my elders when I asked if things suck so bad, why doesn’t anyone do anything to change them.  I swear, the mark of a chronically sane individual is to gripe and moan about a problem but not do any thing to solve said problem.  I’ve seen it my entire life.

Even today when I try to tell people about what is going right in the world (often through science, technology, humanitarian efforts, etc.), I’m usually met with deafening silence or people telling me I’m a liar.  I’ve been called a liar my entire life, especially when I was right.  So it’s nothing new.  Not even my close friends really respond to the good things I tell them.  I’d get more responses if I took pictures of what I had for dinner it seems or posted some snarky stuff about how people that don’t think like I do are the devil’s servants.  I know things are going better in this world than most people think.  Even after Hurricane Harvey knocked out most of the Houston area, there were people from all over on the way to clean up the damage and help those in need within hours of the storm hitting.  It’s a pity that it takes a calamity for many people to see through their petty illusions of what is wrong and actually do something right.

I have decided I’m essentially unplugging from the illusions that the press and social media present.  I’m keeping my interactions on Facebook and other outlets to a bare minimum from now on.  I don’t want to hear political sermons or diatribes about how bad young people suck worse than ever anymore.  I signed up for Facebook because I wanted to keep in contact with my college and high school friends, not to listen to people gripe and moan about whatever grievance is popular this week.  For my younger readers, try not to take the garbage the press and your elders say about you personally.  They were saying the same thing about my cohorts and myself twenty years ago and we turned out just fine.  Their elders said the same things about them back in the 1960s during the Vietnam War protests and race riots.  And sadly, come 2030 or so, many of you will say the same idiotic things about your kids.  I swear our species is the only species that actively despises it’s own offspring.  Yet despite our hangups, we are advancing.  That is why I think, in spite our petty squabbles and complaints, I think humans in general are pretty cool.  I just think the illusions our squabbles create are tiresome and I’m content to watch our species advance from a distance for the time being.

I just don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.  I don’t want to hear that civilization is heading to hell in a hand basket when all the data (for those who will actually do a few minutes of google searches) says other wise.


Optimism and Mental Illness

Optimism and mental illness are two things that probably don’t normally go together.  Yet after fighting through a mental illness for almost twenty years and still being in one piece and still functional, I think I’ve more than earned the right to be an optimist.  And I think being an optimist is a right that too few people take advantage of.

Why shouldn’t I be an optimist?  I have access to a world wide audience through the technological achievement that is the internet.  Fifteen years ago when I started writing poetry in my spare time, I had never even heard of a blog.  Youtube didn’t exist and neither did Facebook.  Even though I don’t make much money from my writings, I have a much bigger audience now than I could have imagined ten years ago.  From the numerous messages I get from readers, I know I’m making a difference.  That’s more than I thought would happen in 2006 after I lost my job at the university and applied for disability.  Back then I thought I was going to be condemned to a life of poverty and quiet desperation.  I also thought I lost most purpose for my life as it became painfully obvious I could never hold a regular job and support myself.  Yet here I am in 2017 with a decent blog, relatively stable mental state, and I’m still here.  Sure I may die earlier than most people without mental illness, but thanks to the internet, modern medicine, advanced counseling techniques, and social safety nets, I have been able to tell my story about living with a mental illness.  Hopefully I’ve been able to dispel some myths about mental illness and break down some barriers.  I just hope that the conversation about mental illness will continue.  As far as I can tell, the mentally ill are among the last people that it’s socially acceptable to discriminate against.  I hope to be part of changing that nonsense.

After surviving with mental illness for twenty years and still being functional and able to live on my own, I have become more optimistic now at age 36 than I was at age 16.  I have gotten optimistic enough that I have found myself less and less tolerant of pessimist, naysayers, and those who spew doom and gloom.  I have left friendships with people who were incurable pessimists.  Though you wouldn’t know it from the news sites, but we are actually living in some of the most prosperous and peaceful times in history.  Of course you aren’t going to hear this from politicians and news casts because news casts and politicians depend on attention and we humans are naturally more likely to notice bad news and threats.  It served us well when we were ice age hunter gatherers but it’s causing us in the more settled and civilized world undue stress and anxiety.  I can tell you from personal experience that most of what people worry about either never happens or turns out to be more manageable than previously thought.  One of the reasons I refuse to watch the news is that it’s nothing but bad news all the time.  You hear nothing about science advances, humanitarian efforts, or any kind of good news.  But good news isn’t fit to print, now is it?  And I for one am tired of always hearing bad news and doom.  If one were to listen to the “experts”, the world has always been heading for tragedy.  The sky is not falling.  We’ve had problems in the past but we solved them.  We’ll continue to solve our current and future problems.  Mark my words.

After surviving the worst of what schizophrenia has to offer, I have no patience for pessimists and doom sayers.  Sell that snake oil to someone else.  While you worry about problems and do nothing to solve said problems, there are far more people than you will ever know working on solving the world’s problems.  Quit worrying already.

I Enjoy Being An Adult, I Must Be Mentally Ill

I’m taking a bit of a detour with this post and try to be a little more humorous than usual.  Since I’ve been house bound because of a winter storm for a couple days I got to do some thinking.  One of the random thoughts that popped in my head is ‘being an adult beats being a kid.’  Sure I may have had more energy at sixteen than I do at thirty six, but I really didn’t know anything as a teenager.  And ignorance coupled with boundless energy can lead to dangerous and stupid things happening.  After five years of college, a few years of working, almost thirteen years of living on my own, writing a blog for almost four years, and spending five years now with educational videos on youtube university and binge reading wikipedia, I have come to the conclusion that even now I am not as smart as I thought I was at age eighteen.

I enjoy being an adult.  I really do.  I love the fact that if a boss is riding my case at work or my coworkers are being dolts, I always have the option of changing jobs or starting my own business.  I couldn’t transfer to another school in high school so easily to avoid bullies and immature classmates.  I love the fact that I don’t have to go to boring social events because my parents want me to.

As an adult I don’t have to feel guilty about not having legions of fair weather friends.  At the age of thirty six I have come to realize a few true hard core friends and some cool extended family is all a person really needs.  I don’t have to feel guilty about not being class president or not getting straight A’s.  It’s not like I made any money from my popularity or my academic achievements any way.  Even on youtube popular producers can make good money, not so in school.  I also didn’t like how joyless my high school settings were.  A bell rings and we move to change classes but don’t you dare be one second late.  I never did like being treated like one of Pavlov’s dogs as a kid.  Take abuse and scorn from bullies and classmates but don’t fight back because of zero tolerance laws?  At least in the adult world you can run away from an argument or try to plead self defense without losing your entire future.

And I am not intimidated by the fact that as an adult my successes or failures are on me and no one else.  I have a mental illness, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to make a decent life regardless.  I’m not married nor do I have kids but that doesn’t stop me from being a good influence and good uncle to my nephews and niece.  I don’t even have to feel shame for not being married or having kids as an adult.  I don’t have a job but that isn’t going to keep me from writing blogs and finding other ways to contribute to my fellow man even if I don’t get money or prestige from it.    I don’t have to associate with people who tell me that I’m not a “real man” for not having a job or a family if I don’t want to.  Shame and guilt have far less influence on me at thirty six than they did at twenty one. As an adult I am allowed to be more creative and I don’t have many of the restrictions I had as a child.  As an adult I don’t have to hit my older brother if he’s irritating me, I just don’t return his calls or avoid him until things calm down.  One of the best things that happened to my relationship with my immediate family was moving out of my parents’ house and setting out on my own.  We get on each other’s nerves less now than we did when I was a teenager now that I have my own place and I’m not expected to always be in a good mood.  If I’m not feeling well, I can just avoid friends and family for a couple days until things blow over.

One thing I enjoy as an adult is watching young people do stupid things.  I enjoy it more than when I was the young fool doing stupid things.  I know the consequences that are coming but the kids usually don’t have a clue.  And I get to chuckle when their schemes come undone.  But the young kids eventually become adults and grow out of their stupidity in spite the complaints of old people about the “damn kids.”  The boomer generation grew out of using drugs and free love, generation X grew out of binging on MTV and video games, and the millennials will grow out of their nonsense. People forget that before the World War II generation became forever known as the “greatest generation”, many of them were drinking bootlegged alcohol in speakeasies and chasing flapper girls throughout Prohibition before World War II carved them into marble men and women for all eternity.  But in spite of my enjoyment of watching young people do stupid things, I don’t hate them for their mistakes.  I refuse to complain about young people because my elders complained about how stupid and ungrateful me and my classmates were the entire time I was growing up.  I am never doing that to anyone.  I know what it is like to be thrown into a group and falsely accused of things I never considered doing.  It really sucks.  If I ever complain about young people as an old man, I hope someone knocks some sense into me.

I never understood the whole “how do I adult” mentality.  Who cares how you adult?  It’s not like there’s a teacher who’s going to hold you back if you don’t know how to get red wine stains out of a carpet or how to change a tire.  With seven and a half billion people in the world and the magic of the internet, I can ask around for any information I could possibly imagine.  Why in the heck should I clutter my mind with mundane information I can easily look up that I may need to know only once or twice in my life?  One of my house guests doesn’t like that I don’t decorate my house all nice, then don’t come visit me in my house.  We’ll meet at a restaurant or pub instead.  You don’t like that I don’t drive fast or sometimes keep fast food trash in my car, no one is holding a gun to your head to make you ride in my car.  There is public transit and taxis even in my small town.  How do you adult, you may ask.  Dude, adult however you dang well please for all I care.  I don’t grade on style points.  And ironically, most adults are too busy with their own lives to knit pick you over yours.

In short, I really do think most adults worry about a lot of junk that doesn’t matter one bit.  Your neighbor has a sports car and you don’t?  So what?  He’s probably having a mid life crisis and up to his eye brows in debt because he listening to everyone else telling him what he should want out of life and not listening to himself.  You got passed over at work for a promotion?  Big deal.  You know you’re not going to spend the extra money for your retirement fund.  You’re worried about being overweight?  No problem.  One third of the entire world’s population is overweight.  Obesity is no longer just an American problem.  Besides you probably weren’t that good looking at age twenty any way.

I should wrap this up.  In summary I love being an adult.  As long as I’m not infringing on the rights of other people, I can pretty much think, say, and write whatever I want. I no longer have a parent or a nanny teacher hanging over my shoulder watching me for every little mistake I make.  In short, make mistakes.  Learn from mistakes.  Go crazy and enjoy the freedoms and responsibility of being a grown up.  I for one enjoy being in my thirties far more than I did my teens and twenties.  At least now I don’t feel like I have to please a lot of people.

A Wedding For A College Buddy and Ramblings on Getting Older

Starting on Thursday, I’m going on an out of state road trip for my best friend from college Matt’s wedding.  I’m happy for him as he’s in his late 30s and one of these guys I figured would be fine about not marrying.  He didn’t date at all in college for the three years we were in school together.  I was the one who was trying to get dates.  We pretty much spent our time in college playing strategy games, having all night marathons of discussing history, politics, philosophy, sports statistics, economics, spending our Saturday afternoons watching college football games from practically noon to midnight, and going to the all night diner near Interstate 80 for the 99 cent bottomless cup of coffee and greasy chicken fried steaks.  These were the kind of steaks you could hear your arteries clogging after a few bites.  Matt also got me started on my coffee addiction.  We weren’t drinking Starbucks or anything trendy.  He started me on his ‘cowboy coffee’ that if it were any stronger we’d be spitting out the grinds between swallows.  His was the kind of coffee that after a couple cups, you wouldn’t need to sleep for a couple days.   Since neither of us were much for drinking, we didn’t have times good enough that we can’t remember anything.

He’s now in his late 30s and I just turned 35.  It actually isn’t bad being older.  As I’ve gotten older I realize I don’t have to put up with other people’s garbage if they are disrespectful and their disrespect isn’t a reflection on me.  Surprisingly I do not find myself complaining about the “lazy kids” at all.  I often complained about the ignorance and foolish actions of my peers while in high school and college, wondering when my peers would actually grow up and “act like adults.”  But as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen that maturity and age do not always accompany each other.  I’ve seen teenagers who are wise enough they could be in their thirties and I’ve seen people in their seventies gossip and argue like they were still in grade school.

After awhile I came to see we humans really do concern ourselves over trivial nonsense that doesn’t matter at all.  Case in point is the old men who complain about how disrespectful and lazy kids are in 2015 while forgetting that when they were kids in 1955 the old men in 1955 had the same complaints about them.  And I also heard about good the ‘old days’ were and how the world is now heading to hell in a hand basket.  But the old days were never trouble free any more than modern times.  Mayberry may have been peaceful looking on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, but they never aired the scene with Opie doing ‘Duck and Cover’ drills in school.  And in real life Floyd the Barber may have had a ‘whites only’ sign in his barber shop, especially in the South.  Or go back to the late 1800s with the ‘Irish Catholics Need Not Apply’ signs in businesses.  I could go on but you get the picture.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen patterns from history play out more than once just in my lifetime. People complained about kids playing the old Nintendo systems while ignoring how we spent time outdoors too in the 1980s.  Today, people complain about kids playing Xbox while ignoring how they spend time outdoors too.  The Cold War was keeping people busy with fear as movies like Red Dawn (the Patrick Swayze version) and The Day After were big in the 1980s.  Now ISIS and other terrorist groups are keeping people busy with fear as movies like American Sniper are big in the 2010s.  Gotta keep the pot stirred up I suppose.   LGBT freedoms is a social issue now but who knows what it could be 30 to 40 years from now, freedoms and civil rights for AI machines or genetically modified humans?  Could it be in the far future when we colonize the Moon and Mars, could those two places argue for independence from Earth?  I can picture a futuristic version of a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag being flown in a Martian dust storm.  Humanity has been heading to hell in a hand basket long before we had idea of hell or hand baskets.  Yet we still haven’t gotten there.  And some will  continue to nostalgically believe things were better in bygone eras.  Nope, things are in flux enough that the only real constant in our lives is change.  To quote the great philosopher Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise.”

Worry and Stress


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.