In The Eye Of The Hurricane There Is Quiet

There is a lot going on in my life at the moment. I’m struggling at work, having problems with my landlord and roommates, and am struggling to maintain my mental health. But in the midst of it all I am maintaing my inner peace.

I’ve been through so much the past couple of years that I know I will be ok. I know none of these things will destroy me, I know I’m stronger than anyone realizes. Stronger than any obstacles anyone tries to throw in my way.

I’m not unflappable but I’m very close to it. My adult life has not been easy but this has just been my path. So in the hurricane that is raging around me I am in the eye. I am at peace. I have an inner quiet and calm that no man or event can disturb. It’s taken me years to cultivate this within myself and after years of faking it, of having a stiff upper lip when I wanted to fall a part, I am now unshakeable. I no longer have to fake it. I no longer have to put on a farce. I can just be.

This week two bird feathers have found their way to my feet. I take this as a sign that I am on the right path. Could be delusion but that’s what I feel intuitively.

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Neurodivergent

I’m neurodivergent, some people pick up on it and sometimes I pass. When people do pick up on it they make up stories to explain my behavior. I’ve been accused of being on drugs, I’ve been called crazy, I’ve been called retarded, the labels change but intent is the same. To single me out as someone who is different and make sure I know it and feel uncomfortable because of it. It’s emotionally taxing at times because I just want to exist in the world without being bothered. I just want to work, live, and walk down the street in peace.

Peoplel used to try to gaslight me by telling me its not happening. Are you on your meds? You’re probably being paranoid. Fact check your thoughts they would say. Fill out a cbt thought checking worksheets and find ways to delude yourself into thinking you’re wrong. But none of these people live my life. Nobody is there when I’m called these names. When I receive the smirks.

Sometimes I want to cry. Sometimes I want to punch someone or yell at them. But mostly I just take it. I keep my head down and power through the days, weeks, and months. I pretend not to hear. I pretend nothing is going on. Ignore the smirks. Ignore the derisive remarks. But I can’t always control my reactions. I shy away from anger and my anxiety takes over. People see they can trigger me and keep trying to do it. When they can’t trigger me they try to.

So I live for the quiet moments when I’m alone, when all is quiet, and I can escape the world. I isolate myself. I escape into nature, sit in parks and chain smoke while drinking a coffee. I walk until my body is calm and I forget everything that happened that day. Usually I walk about seven miles, mostly to get my 10,000 steps a day in, I have a desk job and sometimes I’m too lazy for a real cardio workout.

I’m not sure what I should do about it. Should I be more assertive? Should I become a recluse? Should I fight. I don’t feel like I have any fight left. Although I do fight in my own way. I keep living, I keep pushing, i don’t give up, I don’t feel sorry for myself, and I think that is a different kind of fight, I think that takes courage and strength of character.

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That’s Life

I’m in one of my moods right now. That mood is listening to Michael Buble. Something about him just soothes and inspires me. In addition to his amazing voice, there is a passion to him that few modern singers can match at least in my opinion. One of the songs that really demonstrates this is his rendition of That’s Life.

Listening to that song a couple of minutes ago really spoke to me as I’ve had a trying time this passed year. There were periods of achievement and progress followed by periods of stagnation and hardship. But in retrospect, that’s life.

See, I used to think that because I have a mental illness, my periods of struggle were more than just life stuff. It was a horrible curse that was not part of how life works because I’m in the extreme minority of 2% of people that suffer from schizoaffective disorder. But the truth is some people have to deal with serious illnesses and that’s part of life.

It hasn’t stopped me from experiencing everything else that people experience.

Just like everybody, I have periods where everything goes as planned and when the universe feels determined to shit on them. I’ve loved and lost. I’ve succeed at jobs and been fired. I’ve had everything I wanted and lost everything I’ve worked for. I’ve had people who have come into my life for reasons, seasons, and possibly a lifetime. I’ve had trouble pursing my goals and passions seriously.

I’ve rode high in April and been shot down in May. I’ve been up and down and over and out. And each time I found myself flat on my face, I’ve picked myself up and got back in the race.

That’s Life

Life is hardship, success, pain, love, pleasure, loss, gain, misery, darkness, light, it can be every adjective in the dictionary. And no matter what, the important thing is to keep trying, keep going, against all odds, when all you want to do is stop. Rest, but get back in the race. This doesnt mean the capitalist rat race, but living life however you define it.

Mental illness doesn’t make me special, it’s just part of life, just the hand I’ve been dealt and it’s my job to play my hand the best way I can, that’s life.

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Passions or Distractions

Over a year ago I went through a really bad depression. Bad to the point of letting my life fall apart. My mother, who really misunderstands mental illness, made a comment about something that occurred during my depression. She said “You care about all these things but you don’t take care of yourself.” She told me the things I was passionate about were distractions from my real life.

The things my mom thinks I care too much about, are politics and social issues. I care about and debate about issues such as: transphobia, stigma, homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and ableism. This is partly due to my minority identities but also in part due to my beliefs as a humanist. I believe everyone deserves respect and freedom to live without having their human rights violated. Politically I tend to be liberal, in case you couldn’t guess.

Anyway, when I was in my deep depression and was plotting to kill myself, one thing never went away, my caring about social issues. I quit my job and felt horrible but I still kept up with these issues talked about them with people online. But what would have happened if I didn’t have this passion. This passion about caring about how others are treated? What would have filled my days and kept me alive in between the pain and the misery? The truth is, without these passions, I probably would have went through with my plans.

While there is probably some truth to the idea that spending time online debating people can be a distraction from my life, it is not and has never been something that has stopped me from living my life. I mean before I quit my job, I would read about and debate these issues all day. When I woke up, during my commute, before bed. Its by no means the only thing I do online but it is a part of it.

These issues that are distracting me are my passions. I eventually want to go into some sort of advocacy work and this is laying the groundwork for that. Debating often reveals my blind spots or gaps in my knowledge. It allows me to reflect on what I believe and why. It allows me to see other perspectives and grow.

The internet gives me a space to indulge things I am passionate about. And when I am in the darkest places of my mind it gives me a reason to keep going, to prove those assholes wrong if it’s the last thing I do.

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I’m Now Older Than You

Awhile ago I wrote a blog entitled Father’s Day When Your Father Is Deceased. In that blog I explored my feelings of grief for my father as I never really had as an adult. I observed how my grief transformed as I reached adulthood, well recently, these feelings transformed again.

I recently came out of months of depression and i’ve been baseline, maybe even a little overly happy the past few weeks. The other night while taking a shower, it occured to me how silly it was that I ever considered suicide. In that moment, everything I want to achieve in the decades to come, all the years I have left(god willing), hit me like a train. I had never felt this way before and it was totally new to me. After I had that moment of clarity I remembered its almost the anniversary, the 22nd anniversary, of my father’s death. Not only that, but I am now older than he was when he died, just before 30.

After realizing how much life I have to live, I started to realize how much life my father lost. My grief is transforming from what I lost to grieving for what he lost. My father was smart and ambitious, he could have achieved so much more than he was allowed to in the short period of time he was alive. I don’t know what his hopes and dreams were, but if he didn’t achieve them, it hurts me that he never got a chance to realize them.

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I Guess I’m A Danger To Society

Earlier this week President Trump rolled back some Obama era protections intended to bar mentally ill people from obtaining guns. This caused a lot of people concern because the mentally ill are, I am, seen as violent, unstable, and untrustworthy.

A few years ago I took an active shooter preparedness course created by FEMA as part of a workplace safety training. In this training we were given warning signs that someone may be a danger to the workplace and I exhibited pretty much every behavior.

These behaviors were:

  1. Paranoia
  2. Mood Swings
  3. Unexplained Absences
  4. Depression
  5. Social Withdrawal

I experience all these things as do a lot of people with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. These warning signs seemed to me to be describing symptoms of mental illness rather than actual characteristics of past shooters.

Let’s take a popular example, the Columbine high school shooter. He didn’t experience any of the listed symptoms. He was being bullied and, in my opinion, his flight or fight mechanism expressed in an extreme way and he went on a shooting spree.

Or how about the more recent church shooting at a black church by a white supremacist. He hated black people and he expressed that hate by killing. None of the symptoms listed by the FEMA training exhibited.

But based on the common perceptions of the mentally ill not really based on anything but stigma people view me as a danger to society. The truth is I am far more likely to hurt myself or be the victim of violent crime than I am to perpetrate one. I thought about killing myself for months at a time but never once even had a fleeting thought about killing another human being.

This fear of the mentally ill is irrational, unfounded, and part of the reason so many of us find ourselves isolated with no support system.

So, this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t care what Trump did because it wasn’t going to solve the problem of gun violence anyway. The mentally ill are not the problem. Given that this is largely a male behavior, it likely has more to do with issues such as toxic masculinity. Men feeling like they are fighting for some cause, having their perception warped and feeling like warriors.

Lets focus on fixing men, not punishing and stigmatizing the mentally ill.

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Dear Socially Anxious: Put Down That Cup Of Joe

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I am a big coffee drinker. The moment I wake up my mouth is already watering thinking about a sweet, creamy, strong cup of joe. I’ve been told and read, many times that coffee is bad for people with anxiety but I never understood why, so I just took it as a suggestion. Also, my anxiety can be variable and most days if I don’t have a trigger, for me that might be something as simple as interacting with someone I don’t know well, I dont feel particulary anxious and am mostly baseline. My baseline is slightly anxious but I’m used to it.

Anyway, I started doing some reading and it completely changed my perspective. I’m reading a book about happiness that likens our subconscious to a wild elephant with our conscious minds on top as the rider trying to control it. The elephant, he says, is a product of evolution and reacts to situations without our conscious mind registering it. When we see something that upsets the elephant, it can color our reality.

He boils this down to like or dislike reaction. When we perceive something that in the past threatened us, we react before we are conscious we are even having a reaction. This is because a part of the brain called the Amygdala monitors incoming information and before the more intelligent part of the brain can process there is no threat, excites our fight or flight mechanism. One example would be seeing a rubber snake on the ground. Initially, if you dislike snakes, your heart rate would shoot up and you would be ready to run before the rational part of your mind realized it wasnt a real snake.

The author says the dislike mechanism is so powerful and overwhelming because early in our history being aware of and able to react quickly to threats meant survival.

My curiosity was piqued when I learned about the Amygdala and it’s function and I started to wonder if coffee affected it and surprise, there is a possibility it does. In a study done, it was found that caffeine increased activity in the Amygdala especially when shown angry faces and assessed them as threats more than those who did not have caffeine. What this means is the Amygdala processed these faces as threats and caused more anxiety than they would without the caffeine consumption. As someone who is already socially anxious and sees threats in social situations where there may be none present, it would probably not be beneficial to increase that threat assessment and anxiety by drinking coffee.

So if you are socially anxious, put down that cup of coffee, it is most likely making things worse for you.

The study I referenced can be read here.

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