Meandering Musings

Everything not fit to publish

Killing Loneliness

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You might be better off not reading this. It was written in a bout of depression and psychosis, I have been debating publishing it but it says more about my condition than I could by simply explaining it and I had started this topic but apparently it was important that I finish this while psychotic. I also resisted editing it, it is a reminder to me to be stronger and not let negative thoughts take control. It is fairly dark and fatalist, as well as poorly written and incoherent and devoid of much insight as one might expect. Consider yourself warned.

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me. - Anne Hathaway

Recent and not so recent events have brought me to a place I never thought I would be at again. In 2002, after my last girlfriend accepted $50 to dump me I thought seriously of never dating again but the thought was extremely depressing. A few months later a “friend” wanted to introduce me to her friend because she said we would get along great. So I meet her and she looks at me, laughs and walks away. My “friend” never spoke to me after that, yeah I know. It is what I deserve, but that is what made me give up.

It was rough but I thought I could just deal with it and that did not work at all. Loneliness, along with feelings from so many embarrassing rejections is not fun and very difficult to accept, even for someone like me. Rejection hurts even me, after a lifetime of it. It must be managed else loneliness would destroy me, which is actually a happy thought, then and now. I am stubborn and I do have people I care about so it is not really a viable option as tempting as it is. And it is so tempting, then and now. I am not even sure the people I love would really care.

So I hatched a simple master plan: beat myself up emotionally, hurt myself physically and get as little sleep as possible. Mostly emotionally as too many fresh scars lead to getting committed. I did that every day for many months until one day the loneliness was gone because I felt empty. Not completely empty, I still felt love for my children and didn’t lose my empathy, my desire to want to date or marry was gone and no anger towards anyone over it. That last part was especially important to me, I really don’t want to end up as one of those sad incels. I am pathetic enough.

I am not advocating that people follow my path, in fact, it should be considered to be a minefield but it works for me. Now I am facing the real possibility of needing to do it again, despite the fact that I still have the most beautiful and wonderful woman in the world in my life. Distance and so many complications make it necessary.

Sure, there are lots of articles out there about beating loneliness but they assume that being lonely is a temporary state and give pointers that are useless to me. Like “be kind to yourself” or “hang out with friends” and very laughable “be open to intimacy” and “go to public events”. Being kind to myself, especially when I don’t deserve it, is what always leads to feeling lonely. I have no friends to hang out with and intimacy? Too funny! Being alone in a crowd of people is the absolute worse feeling, it is why I stay in my house as much as possible. Even in a small group, hearing people make plans with each other is terrible. When I was an instructor in college it was hard to be in my office hearing the other grad students making plans for the weekend, hoping to get invited and afraid if they did. No one ever did. Like I said these articles are geared for normal people in a downswing not a loser with no hope for any sort of life.

I don’t fear death so much as I fear its prologues: loneliness, decrepitude, pain, debilitation, depression, senility. After a few years of those, I imagine death presents like a holiday at the beach. - Mary Roach

The advice may be useful for someone. For people like me, there is little to do but pummel myself. I am actually not looking forward to it. My arms have just healed up after a nasty bout of depression and psychosis a few months ago and to be perfectly honest I verbally assault myself on a daily basis anyway and my sleep is already so poor I might as well not even have a bed. So, I may be stuck with it.

At least my wonderful friend has helped me get more sleep, most of it is bad sleep but after an exceptionally nice evening chatting, I do have peaceful sleep. It is wonderful reprieve, it makes me wonder if normal people sleep so well all the time.

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. - Carl Jung

We all get what we deserve and it is clear to me that this is exactly what I deserve. My only options are to embrace it or beat the crap out of myself for the next few years until I am either committed or empty again. Either way, it is what I deserve.

It is so strange, nothing has really changed other then my hope for the most amazing vacation plans for the summer are all but dashed. My day to day life, if it could be called that, has not changed. The people I love are still in my life so why am I feeling this way?

I was told my position in life is an enviable thing although I am not sure it is. What is there to be envious in being able to do what I want, when I want, when I have to do them alone? I am making plans to go fishing this spring and summer, landscaping and home interior plans, maybe go camping. The thing is that all of this will be done alone which will not help remove these horrible feelings.

Oh yes, things could be much worse and I am grateful that they are not. I am lucky to have someone to talk to, she is everything I have dreamt about and so much more, it is mind-boggling that I know such a person and she feels the same about me as I do about her. It makes me think I should never feel lonely again knowing she exists. For the first time in years, I go to bed not hoping I do not wake up. I still get to spend a little time with my granddaughter, less then it used to be, but I am eternally grateful. I am fortunate to be unable to work but at least live comfortably. It is not a position many find themselves in. I know most people in my position are in abject poverty and I am grateful that I am not.

I have so much going for me, I have to wonder what is wrong with me that I feel even an ounce of sadness and loneliness. Are simple bad feeling really that powerful?

Loneliness is living in darkness. - me

I always try to make these types of writings at least somewhat positive and give some positive advice or outlook but all I see right now is darkness and I can’t see any way out.


My apologies if you read through this dreck.

Insights From Personality Types

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“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Quite a few years ago I took one of those many dreaded tests that psychiatrists love to a disturbing degree. Like usual, I didn’t know what it was for or what the point of it was. I live to make shrinks happy so I gritted my teeth and did it. I am such a good boy!

I get the results and with much pride, he says: “You are an INFJ, it is quite rare but I am not surprised”. Me: “Um okay, if you knew, why did I waste my time taking your precious test?” *loudest sigh in history* He rattled off things that I knew about. “Hey, You are an introvert!”, “Gee thanks doc, I am glad I am not paying for this”. I need a lot of downtime also. *Where would I be without being told that*? Despite being an introvert I can come off as an extrovert in certain circumstances. *Yup, that is me, my sisters enjoy pointing that out to me*.

I was also told that I can be very passionate about people and things I care about and when I make a goal I am very determined to reach it. Okay, yeah that is more or less me. I was also told that mental issues are prevalent in my personality type and can overly affect me. Sure, that is fairly accurate but I am sure that an extrovert with similar issues will struggle as much as I do. I also learned that people that hurt me end up getting ignored by me sooner or later. Okay, doesn’t everyone ignore toxic people?

I really didn’t see the point of taking a test to confirm what I have observed in me so I ignored and forgot about it until recently. In fact, I forgot about it so quickly I am not sure the above conversation is entirely accurate, it could have just happened in my head. I am unfailingly polite after all. It is possible I was just given all the information on a sheet of paper but it makes for a better story that I gave my shrink a minor amount of grief. I seriously did not see any value in it. Lately, I have been reading much on it since I am working hard to get myself in shape to be seen in polite society.

INFJ is part of the Meyers-Briggs Personality Indicator. There are 4 attribute pairs where you can be all or mostly one of them making 16 allegedly distinct personalities. I am very skeptical that all of humanity can fit in one of 16 boxes. I believe we are much more diverse in our personalities than that. There is much written about Meyers-Briggs and I could write for the next 2 years and not cover it all so if you are interested in learning more I will be kind and Google it for you or you can use your preferred search engine. I like Start Page for search results and privacy.

INFJ stands for Introversion iNtuition, Feeling, and Judging. Right off the bat, I have issues with this. The opposite of intuition is sensing and feeling’s opposite is thinking. The computer scientist in me says that sensing and thinking match better with how my mind works intellectually. Those imply among other things that I would pay attention to details and be more liable to use logic. This is my main objection, I fit bits and pieces of all 8 personality categories. Of course, it does cover it by having secondary and tertiary attributes but that makes it messy. As a programmer, I like clean designs so this makes me nerd-rage just a little. Why can’t people be simple? I am very simple.

The more I think about that I realize that my personal life does use more intuition and feeling to get by. Getting by might be a strong description of my life. I do pay attention to details, that was ground into me in the military but that is a habit not a personality trait of mine. It does not come naturally. I realized that I rarely use logic in my personal life and I am pretty good at figuring people and their motivations out. There are two attributes that sell me on the possibility that I am an INFJ. First, is that for as long as I can remember I have felt out of place like I do not belong here. Also, my mood can change very quickly depending on the mood of people around me or whom I am conversing with, even across 10 time zones. I can feel their mood and it imprints on me. I am not a fan of that, it can mess up important things like my sleep.

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

An annoying thing is that many articles say that INFJ’s display A, B, C, …, Z personality attributes and to get along with them you better do this and that and certainly never ever do these certain things or face their quiet wrath. Even more annoying are the comments. 1000 comments of various permutations of “Yes! That is me, are you spying on me?” *groan* I see people using their personality type as an excuse for poor behavior, much like I occasionally see people use things such as anxiety to do the same. Maybe it is the INFJ-style perfectionist in me to not accept that in myself or others. None of us are perfect and we all screw up but these kinds of excuses are too easy and shifts responsibility. Self-improvement is one of my things, even if it happens so slowly no one can notice it. As Popeye says “I yam what I yam” and a particularly smart and kind redheaded Russian told me that I can’t change who I am. That is probably true but I am stubborn and try to do things even when I am told I can’t. I probably need to change more than is possible but I am not so much of a perfectionist that I would try to do the impossible, maybe. Perhaps I can be an improved me? I think anyone who knows me or has just read all my drivel here would agree I need to improve myself.

If it can not be done, what is the point of cataloging personality types and the entire psychology and self-help industry? Well, other than generating as much money as possible.

“Understanding our personalities makes it significantly easier to change the things within our grasp. This is the whole point of studying various frameworks! Some people resist personality frameworks because they say such frameworks put them in a box. I’ve found that understanding my personality helps me step out of the box I’m trapped in. When I understand myself, I can get out of my own way.” ― Anne Bogel, Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything

The non-INFJ in me says why bother? I am kind to everyone I interact with and that hasn’t helped me much. I have been told that I am more than I give myself credit for and a few people have said they see me very differently than I see myself. They never enumerate those differences. They all meant it in positive ways but I can count in decades instead of years, months or days since I have had friends in real life of any type. Clearly, I am getting in my own way, maybe. I am not sure. Is self-doubt my friend or enemy? Minds have been known to be very protective of itself. If I have a wrong self-image is it possible to accurately evaluate myself? If my self-image is correct, even if it is negative, is it possible to correct both my image and the reasons I might think poorly yet accurately about myself? There is always a creature in my mind that is pulling me down and that might just be where I belong.

Still, there are some bits of wisdom to be gleaned from the articles but what is lacking are ways to mitigate personality quirks. Like mental illness symptoms, there is value in realizing what personality quirks can cause issues and how to minimize them as much as possible. I wish I knew exactly how my personality flaws trip me up daily. Those flaws also become magnified when mixed with my anxiety, depression, and paranoia. I am working on methods that I can use to do just that and will report back if I have something workable.

What I have learned so far is that there actually is some value in understanding my generic personality type. Knowing why I do something or act a certain way is the key in honestly evaluating me and trying to change what needs to be changed if it can be. There are various online tests and I would recommend that everyone takes several of them. I am not sure how valuable it is taking just one of them but if you can get a cluster of data you might have a good starting point.

If I could remember the name of the psychiatrist, I would write him a letter of apology for thinking all those sarcastic thoughts.

Inception

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Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. - Mother Teresa

Yes, what could go wrong? Actually nothing, it was certainly unexpected and the exact opposite of what I was trying to find. I discovered that what I was trying to find was not really what I wanted, I just thought it was impossible. I would like to say that the penpal site is great but I only actually talked to one person. For some reason, I was really picky with profiles and only sent out four or five messages.

It is a good site; it is free and you can easily move to email or whatever medium you like. The interface is a little slow and clunky but it does the job. The free account is limited to three messages a day but there is nothing stopping a person from putting an email address in their profile. The burner email I set up to create my account and only used for that site has never gotten spam. The paid account doesn’t cost much if you want to talk only on the site. I am not one for advertising things but the website was good to me so I should pay it back in some small way.

I sent messages to a person in Russia, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, possibly one to someone in Ukraine. I always tailor the introductory message to what I read in the profile and apparently I come across as very shy and awkward. Strangely, the one response I got was because of that. She told me she would not have responded if I came off like a normal guy. The first time in my life being different paid off!

I was very excited when she responded. Something about her grabbed me. It took me a few days to muster up the courage to initially message her. I would go back once or twice a day to read her profile and it was always the same feeling. I have only had it once before when I met one of my best friends ever over twenty years ago when Lauri sent me an introductory message it gave me a shock in my head just like Irina’s profile did. I learned not to ignore that feeling.

We moved from the website to email to FB messenger in just a few days and she felt so comfortable. Shockingly, I was the one that asked to move to email and messenger. It may seem like a normal thing but that is an extraordinarily aggressive thing for me to do. She brings that out in me in so many ways.

My original reason for going on the pen pal site still exists. I have learned a bit about her culture. I learned that office culture is similar to ours and makes me glad I do not have to deal with it anymore. Their company parties and even small birthday parties during office hours are certainly different. I am jealous of how much vacation and national holiday time they get. American businesses could certainly learn a thing or two about employees having plenty of time off.

I got a book by Victor Pelevin, a modern Russian author she likes. He writes about modern Russian culture in his stories so I get a good view of it. I think the English translation might miss subtleties but he is a nice writer. I can understand much of her cultural humor. I am learning about modern Russian music, and watch funny videos made there. I am also slowly learning the language and struggling with it. I have never learned a foreign language before and this one is challenging. I can sometimes pick out words in the videos and can recognize a lot of common names written in Russian. It would certainly help me if the English spellings of the word were pronounced like they were spelled and plural words and suffixes like English words ending in ‘ing’ were similarly spelled as the words without the suffix.

I have always been interested in Russia since I was a child. My mom had a record of the story of Peter and the Wolf with classical music from a Russian composer and I loved that. It is the first time I was fascinated by something outside the US.

I am not going to get specific because I could write all day about it, but it is frightening how close we got and how quickly. She has commented on that a few times. Shockingly, she is much younger than me and she doesn’t mind I am super old. She is within the ‘half your age plus seven rule’. My mental and physical issues do not scare her in the slightest and I was very specific about them so she would know what she is getting into. The intensity has not gone down one bit many months later even though we twice went multiple weeks without talking much. Those were difficult times for me, maybe too difficult. It might be good that she is so far away so I can get myself more mentally ready to handle relationships. It makes me glad I didn’t find anyone on the dating sites because I would not have met Irina and I would have completely blown it with whomever I met and fell apart. I am improving quickly and I will be ready for whatever comes if I am lucky enough to meet Irina.

We have been discussing the possibility of meeting. There are many complexities outside of the challenge of getting a Visa from a US consulate in Russia; the diplomat expulsions have left a long waiting list or a long trip to a consulate in Siberia. No, she is not married but it is a complicated situation. I hope it will happen. Either I visit her or more helpfully she visits here to see if where I live would suit her.

She lights up my brain in a way no one ever has. She even makes me ignore my INFJ tendencies to want lots of time alone. We have so much fun talking I lose track of time easily. She really is helping me be more assertive and confident. I actually took pictures of me; something I have not done in years because I can’t stand looking at myself. I posted a photo of me on my Facebook account; something I have never done in the 10 years or so that I have had it. It shocked my daughters and sisters and asked what had gotten into me.

It is still difficult, but I am improving. I sometimes wonder if I attached to her so quickly because of loneliness and I don’t think so. She lives 10 time zones away and I would rather talk to her than anyone nearby. Thanks to her, I think I have enough confidence to meet people now, I just don’t want to. I lost all desire to meet more people, it is a quality over quantity issue for me. Even when I had friends, it was a very small circle, quality is much more important to me.

I want to know how this turns out. Of course, the distance is a challenge but it is not an insurmountable one. It does make it difficult to have a relationship and “do it right”. It is a very risky thing for both of us, and riskier for her if we go past virtual friends. I would like it to be as normal as the distance allows. This means no rushing things but I feel my age tugging at me.

The way she understands my personality is amazing. In a lot of ways, she knows me better than I do and she picked up on a lot of things about me really quickly. That makes it difficult to surprise her, but I have once or twice. She is everything I have ever wanted and so much more. I think I am exactly what she needs. It is like we are each a bunch of puzzle pieces and we fit together exactly and the resulting picture is perfect and beautiful. I have not met her in person although it feels like video chats kind of counts, and already my brain is having difficulty processing how wonderful it is. She really is more than I thought possible. My brain might explode when I finally do meet her.

Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself - and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he really is. - Jim Morrison

I can talk to her about anything and do not have to hide anything. Sometimes I wake in a panic and am going crazy and I can interrupt her work day and she will make me feel better. When I get too whiny, she will call me on my crap. She is very inspirational. She does a very good job of keeping up on exercises and is very fit. It keeps me motivated to workout as I can. I got a recumbent bike and that is keeping me moving through the winter but I am really getting antsy about getting on the river trail with my bike. Watching her exercise is what motivated me to buy it.

We tell each other about our past, talk a lot about our present and discuss our potential future. My future has always just been my kids and grandkids and when I am not with them, I am just by myself. I don’t feel lonely anymore, even if we do not ever meet, I don’t think I will as long as she is a part of my life. I never considered a future with someone, especially not someone so beautiful and kind.

She is a contradiction, both modern and traditional at the same time. She might bristle at the traditional label. She wants to work and have her own money and independence but she also likes the traditional roles in relationships but has no issues with me being the cook. Maybe it was my preconceived notions of Russian women but she is not what I expected. I am certainly not what she expected from American men but I don’t think I am very representative of American men. Not better or worse, just very different in several ways.

It is so nice to have a connection with someone. Especially one so amazing who gets me. It is such a rare event in my life that sometimes it is difficult to accept it. All my opinions of myself are wrong to her and that causes confusion in me. She thinks I am special because I am very attentive, I remember what she says and I care how she feels. That is a normal thing for me. Things she does for me seem very special but she just responds “no, that is normal”. We are two peas in a pod, we are the same in many respects and our differences even match in ways where my weaknesses are her strengths and vice-versa.

It is strange and wonderful to know someone where I can talk about anything or nothing, both are equally wonderful. Something so simple seemed so out of reach but now everything is possible. I know this turned into something really sappy but she does strange things to me. It is a new beginning for me, and I hope for as much as is possible, but it also makes me wonder if I am trapped in a dream, that would be okay with me.

Even if we remain virtual friends, I consider myself to be the luckiest man in the world.

Catching Up

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What happens when you don’t notice the cliff until you are off the edge?

I mentioned in my first real article that I was grateful that I no longer experience loneliness. I wish that were still true and I desperately wish I could kill that feeling again. I just can’t seem to do so. It is not the reason for my long absence from writing but that reason certainly is the cause of my loneliness.

I blame my realtor! Well, not really but buying a home was a bad idea for so many reasons.

After I got my 100% disability rating I got myself out of debt very quickly and squirreled money away to by a house. I also shed my not insubstantial student loans due to the disability discharge program. I literally had $0 in debt when I started and the student loan forgiveness program was great for my credit rating. I was tired of renting and rent in my area is skyrocketing and the housing market had just started into an extreme seller’s market and interest rates were starting to climb. It seemed like it would be now or wait for the inevitable housing market crash in a few years.

I got really lucky in finding a great realtor that was very patient with a jittery first-time house buyer. House buying and anxiety is not a good match. Without her, I seriously doubt I would have made it through. I wasn’t quite so lucky with the lender, a local credit union. They had low rates and very low fees but added so much stress, but the loan officer personally worked with my realtor and she gave me a referral to her so it was worth the added stress to me just to have such an amazing realtor.

My initial pre-approval was 3.6% but there were so many buyers and so few sellers it took a while to find a house that would accept my offer. I even lost a home down the street from where I eventually moved and I was the highest bidder. Old myths about VA loans persist. Spoiler: My house closed 5 weeks before the other one, despite the offer on the house I lost was accepted 3 weeks earlier. I got really lucky in the house I did get. I was the only one bidding and it is in a modest 10-year-old neighborhood. The reason I was the only bidder is that the owners thought they would save a little money on a realtor so it was barely advertised. They could have sold it for $15-$20k more had they hired a realtor. That is why I lost so many bids, my preapproval limit was $250k and so many that were listed $10k-$15k under that went way over my limit. Sadly, interest rates crept up during this time and I locked at 4%, which is more of a psychological difference than a significant money difference, at least monthly payment-wise. After everything was completed, I was out of pocket a little under $1000 to get the keys, and that is before I got 20% of my realtors commission(she really rocks) so I actually made a small profit on the closing costs.

Sounds great? Not really. The house was not really one I was fond of but I would probably still be looking and with the interest rate and listing increases since then, I would be looking at old, poorly maintained homes instead of living in a newer, nice and very quiet neighborhood. The house needed some upgrades and a few more things because I really want to make it a real home and am still improving it which is a problem since I have only ever rented or lived in military housing so I am clueless. It is a problem, but I struggle through it and get things done as I can afford it. It is causing a lot of anxiety. The house buying process took me to my limits and I thought the anxiety would subside but it has not gone down very much. The real problem goes back to my realtor.

She is a very fun and lovely woman. I really enjoyed going out looking at houses. After a few times out, I noticed that going home I felt really sad and empty inside. I became used to being around someone and the cruel beast loneliness crept back. It actually took me a long time to realize what that feeling was. I was terrified when I did figure it out. A few months after closing, when things were stabilizing and I had a new routine I decided to try to meet people because after all that time of trying to burn it out of me I just couldn’t.

The pain of anxiety, depression, and loneliness is too much, even for someone used to decades of constant mental and physical pain. On the plus side, I have read some reports saying that these can significantly reduce my lifespan. I don’t know if I can handle a few more decades like this. What would be the point? Sadly, newer research says it barely affects lifespan.

Do you really need money to make money?

How does an adult with no friends actually make friends? If you have friends, you can meet their friends. It also seems that people in normal friendships and relationships attract more people. It is a cycle that is very difficult to break into.

I asked on my favorite self-help forum and got a lot of good advice for a normal person. Things like: take night classes, volunteer, stop being a slacker and get a job. Lots of warnings about looking online. All good advice but problematic, however not impossible. Night classes are pointless, I have over six years of higher education and have nothing social to show for it. I am very interested in volunteering, it would get me out of the house, get me back to helping people which I enjoy and maybe help me be more social. I watch my granddaughter quite a bit and would have to work around that but it is not impossible. I put in initial applications in a few places, did not hear back but didn’t follow up because of a serious family emergency that has kept me out of town for long stretches but things are more back to normal so it is something that I could look into now.

I am not sure how feasible a job in my field is given my long absence. I do try to keep up on things and am looking at starting a new programming project. Other jobs seem even more out of reach since I have to explain the long absence and try to avoid being labeled overqualified. Which is a problem, a few years ago I tried getting some simple part-time jobs and was rejected on the basis of too much education so I omitted that and ran into the problem of explaining the long unemployment gap. sigh Technically, I am not supposed to work at all given my disability rating so I do risk losing at least part of my rating so I would need a job that pays at least as much as SMC-S does plus offers other benefits like a solid dental plan since I would lose dental benefits at the VA. In reality, I would need more to make up for my loss of various tax exemptions which is not insignificant.

Sounds like lots of excuses and maybe it is. But there is also a lot of reality involved. I am not sure that risking my home in my quest for friends will help with that goal nor will it help my mental health all that much. At least the stress of updating and maintaining it would be gone. Never let it be said that I can not be positive.

My youngest daughter is a social butterfly and seems to know everyone and their mom(and dad) so I thought maybe she could introduce me to people fairly close to my age. She flat-out refused to help, although she was surprised I was even looking. She said it was something I need to do on my own. She is probably right but she definitely doesn’t understand that starting from zero friends makes it a challenge. My daughters have very little memory of me being with their mom and even less of me dating. It might be like watching a fish walk.

I did go against advice and looked online last summer. I tried various dating sites that allowed people to state they were looking for friendship. Zero luck there, although I did get a few messages stating that I am likely not able to find friends based on my profile. It was very generic. A statement of what I am looking for and a list of things I like to do. I guess it was scary? I didn’t post a photo due to extreme ugliness, but maybe I should have? I looked around for sites that catered to finding friendships but they were more of the hookup variety which is not what I was looking for and would not be good for me.

I only looked for women which might have looked odd but in my adult life all but one of my friends, real friends, were women. I am extremely awkward and shy around them but I feel more comfortable with them also. It is a strange contradiction. Both shyness and comfort are probably due to having 7 sisters and my father was out of town working most of my childhood. It just seems to happen that way without even trying. There is one neighbor that will talk to me rarely. The wife talks to me far more than her husband and that feels normal to me.

I had pretty much given up on finding friends and was frustrated that I still couldn’t kill the loneliness when a serious family emergency hit.

About two months into the emergency, things were starting to look up, so my mind wandered back to friendships. Even surrounded by family I still felt very lonely. I enjoy spending time with them, even under difficult circumstances but I really need something else. I found a website that looked perfect and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier. It was a penpal site. Surely, I could find people to talk to on there and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything going past friendships since they are so far away and it is, after all, a penpal site. That was my theory. It did make me sad, being on dating sites made me wish I were datable but virtual friendships can be fun and are certainly better than nothing. The site had people from all over the world and people in my area don’t seem to be interested in me at any level. Plus, I am interested in learning about different cultures and languages. What, if anything, could go wrong?

To be continued…

The Best Self-Help That I Have Found

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I think I have prattled on about how much psych issues suck enough. They do but there are things that can be done to not let it get out of control. Whether it is fighting to not lose a grip on reality and self-awareness or the symptoms that make it hard to do anything; I believe a large piece of the puzzle is exercise. It has a stronger effect on me than any med or therapy and few bad side effects, all of which have to do with my broken body. Another plus is that there is no rebound or exercise losing effect over time like meds can do. Getting into shape also has far more positives than just helping with MH issues.

Of course, this is an extremely difficult thing to do when doing the simplest tasks takes a massive effort. It is not easy to force yourself but I can say that I have never regretted doing it. Not once. I just ignore my brain screaming and fighting about it and it quiets down soon enough and the session ends with happiness. Yes, that is possible!

Growing up I was a pretty decent long-distance runner, 15-20 miles in less than 2 hours wasn’t a big deal. That is my thing, long cardio-based exercise but you might like something else. I detest lifting weights and get no mental benefit from it but I do it. Not as much as I need to but it is all about doing what will motivate you the most.

This is where a lot of my physical issues get in the way but I do what I can to minimize it. You might have issues that can get in the way but don’t let it stop you. Pretty much anything can be worked around so you can get all the benefits from exercise. A long time ago I was diagnosed with Chondromalacia, which causes pain in my knees with every stride and swelling if I run too much. I also have swollen nerves in my feet (The podiatrist called it a neuroma) that make it feel like I have lumps in my feet. I wear orthotics that keep the pain down but it is annoying and distracting. So what I do is walk/run. I bought a runners watch to keep track of distance and alternate between walking and running every half mile. I go for about 2-3 miles just to keep the pain the next morning down but I really want to go longer and run the entire time.

I can’t do that every day so I try to get out every 2-3 days. I also try to hike when I can as a break from the pounding on my knees. My knees don’t hurt nearly as bad when running as it used to many years ago when I tried biking. It is not as enjoyable to me and it used to make my knees feel like a dagger was coming up from my lower leg. But since my knees are a little better I might try that again to help add variety. I also love to swim so I do that occasionally but it really hurts my shoulder. I have a Hill-Sachs fracture, the repaired rotor cuff and tendons in one shoulder are calcified and I have small bone flakes floating in my shoulder along with a developing spur digging in. Naturally, lifting weights or doing pushups can be extremely painful. I haven’t found a good enough work-around yet since what doesn’t hurt in one rep or session might hurt the next time. I really need to see a physical therapist to get ideas.

Sadly, where I live we have fires in all directions causing hazardous levels of pollution right now so I can’t do much outdoors. I do have an elliptical I was gifted but it is so boring that I don’t use it as much as I should. I really should since it lets me get exercise without hurting my knees and feet. I seem to need a change of scenery to keep motivated. It was always like that. I could run 3 miles on a hilly cross-country or road course much faster than I could on a nice track.

Whatever activity you decide to do, get the best equipment that you can afford. Especially shoes if you are going to do activities that will impact your feet, knees, and legs. Safety equipment is also important. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can get good shoes for under $60. I got a nice pair of New Balance 481 all terrain shoes for around $55 on sale and it is good for running and hiking on a good trail. They are especially great for me since my ankles are easily twisted. I severely twisted them in cross-country during high school and since then I can twist them just walking in a store but I never have in these shoes. The sole on the heel is extra-wide.

The benefits to my little walk/runs are immediate. I get what is referred to as a “runner’s high”. I feel full of energy and my mind feels clear and fast. My body might be tired but it also feels stronger. Right after a run is the closest to feeling normal than I have ever gotten in decades. Anxiety is gone. Depression is gone. I have never had a psychotic episode in that state either. It does fade somewhat quickly but the fade is gradual. It takes a few hours to start really feeling the depression and anxiety. Ideally, running twice a day might keep everything away for a good part of the day but my knees couldn’t handle it.

Getting out the door is the hardest part so try to make it as much of a habit as you can so even when your MH issues win that day, you will know you are missing something which will motivate you to get out tomorrow. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t do it every time you try, that will only cause a downward spiral.

If you do have physical issues go see a doctor and make sure what you want to do is advised, especially with things like heart and balance issues. Regardless of any medical conditions I am sure there are things you can do to help your mind and body.