Forgive me for starting a post this way once again, but I've been slacking on this blog and since we have an episode that needs to be released in 4 days yet we have nothing even recorded. I had a ton on my mind that I intended on sharing on record. But Conover has been busy and my passion for the issue is losing relevance. Sort of like how when you write an angry letter and put it in a drawer for a few days. It's a good exercise to get out your frustrations without confrontation. Merely feeling better is all well and good, which I do, but since starting Awe, Really I realized I need to do more than just get over my frustrations. I need to use the tribulations of my life, no matter how large or small, to help others.
I'm sure everyone gets a little down when the weather starts changing and they realize the Summer is coming to a close. But Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and I suffer from it. I hesitate to even use the word suffer because it's a rather mild condition, at least in my case and the others I've heard of. The low light, the low temperature, and the dreary days take a toll on my ability to function normally. It just kind of takes my 'get up and go' and turns it into a 'lay down and don't do shit except stress out about all the things you should be doing instead of laying down stressing about them.'
This has been my life for the last couple of weeks. Of course you guys remember I also have General Anxiety Disorder, which is another hurdle that stands in front of me and finishing my to-do list on any given day. Even on the sunniest of days, without my medication, it can seem like a mountain to climb just to do minor run of the mill tasks. I'm not even talking about things like projects for Safe & Gentle (you'll remember I am the Senior Marketing Director of my father's laser tattoo practice.) I'm talking about doing the dishes. I'm talking about calling PSE&G to pay the bill (oh shit i still didnt do that ugh. That's next...hopefully.)
When Autumn comes around my anxiety and my SAD (holy shit do I hate that name/acronym) collide, it seems to rock me like a right hook from Rampage Jackson (we'll talk about my newfound love for UFC in the next episode lol) and I can barely get out of bed. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time suffering from this stuff without a clue. I thought that's just how life worked and it was just fundamentally crappy - it lead me to the brink of suicide and later down the road of addiction. Since then, I've gained a bag of tricks as coping tools that come along with maturity and mindfulness. But this does not mean I'm cured of any of the above by any means.
It has been a rough few weeks. I hadn't accomplished much and I've been drinking a bit more than usual as I've been waking up and simply watching TV waiting for it to be late enough to go back to sleep. A position like mine where I make my own hours is bittersweet in that I can take a couple weeks to fall into a dark depressive coma without too much fall out. The only responsibility I really can't shirk is showing up to the Safe & Gentle office on Saturdays to document our customers' sessions. People have their appointments and I have to be there. As rough as it has been to get up and do really anything, having the responsibility to show up on Saturday morning forced me to get out of the apartment, interact with people, and provided me with a sense of accomplishing something.
That is a vitally important in breaking the downward spiral. Just doing something productive, finding any way to give yourself that feeling of accomplishment works wonders and sometimes being forced to do something you don't want to do or pushing yourself out of the comfort of your bed can be like a reset. It can help you see how counterproductive it is to wallow in your own self-pity and provide the motivation you need to get back on your feet metaphorically as well as literally.
The single most important thing to do though is simultaneously very simple and rather complex. Recognizing your body's signals is a skill; something that takes practice to develop the ability to be mindful of what your body is telling you. Regardless of what you want to do or think you should be doing, if you are suffering from a mental health issue, sometimes your body just needs more than it usually does.
It's so important I'll say it again - it's okay that your mind and body are not up to par all the time!
During these past couple weeks when I've basically been wasting away, I was very mindful of what was happening to me. While I knew I had to break the cycle as I mentioned, I also knew that willing my mental health to improve was not only ineffective, but it would only make things worse to come down hard on myself for being lazy or pathetic or unsuccessful. While I was aware that I was not in a good place and that I alone had the power to change things, I also allowed myself to be affected by my illness without guilt.
Especially when you're already in a negative mind space, telling yourself that you are wasting time or that acting this way is the root of all your problems or something like that is only going to make things worse. The same way you would allow yourself time to heal if you broke your leg - you wouldn't get down on yourself for not walking around until you were ready - same goes for anxiety and depression.
This is a delicate balance. It is all too easy to enable yourself to wallow, extending and empowering your bout of depression. It is also really easy to tell yourself that you're just being dramatic or lazy and that you HAVE to go do this, that, or the other, which is like trying to walk on that broken leg, which will also increase the amount of damage and time it will take to recover. In either case, you need time to rest and recover, and then you need to put in some work to get back to normal.
If you've never had to deal with this type of thing, firstly consider yourself lucky, and secondly, you may be wondering why I'm sharing this. To you, it might seem kind of "duh" or like I'm just singing songs of my own sorrow for attention or to further wallow in self-pity. I wouldn't blame you if you did think so - but you'd be wrong.
I am sharing this because I know for a fact that there are millions of people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders that can relate. I know that it can be extremely isolating to feel this way. I know how comforting it is just to know that someone else understands. I understand. If you relate to this predicament, I want you to know that you're not alone. It sounds cheesy as fuck but I don't care. If you know someone who you think might be going through something like this, be cheesy!
Isolation is the worst part of all of this. In my case, I am physically isolated a lot of the time because of the work I do. But even if you work in an office or a restaurant or anywhere else there's people, it doesn't stop you from feeling isolated. In fact, it can seem even worse when you're around a bunch of happy people when you feel like crawling into a hole. This isolating feeling comes from the lack of understanding others have about what you are going through.
When I was a server, there were days where I would feel like absolute shit but my job required a positive and energetic attitude and interacting with people all day long. The desire for the fake attitude to reflect my actual emotions was painfully apparent. When you're in that state of mind, all you want is to cry in the fetal position and be hugged by everyone you've ever loved. But this isn't very practical, is it?
It's hard to ask for help. It's hard to admit you need help. When you get past school age it gets even harder. No longer are you around hoards of people your age. No longer do you see your friends on a regular basis. People have started growing up. Your friends get jobs that conflict with your schedule. They work all the time and it can seem like you've been left in the dust. When you and your friends spend the majority of the time away from each other, it makes things really tough. I used to be able to rely much more heavily on my friends in times of need - which for me happens relatively often, not always to such a serious degree, but I always seem to need to have a close connection with someone. As a single 26 year old guy, the need to rely on myself has really grown over the past 4 years.
I was hoping that on Saturday, when I was at the office, it would be refreshing to be out and doing something, which it was, but if you know anything about me, you'll know that any time I'm around my parents, it's like walking into a lion's den. I don't blame my dad, he's not a mind reader nor does he have anxiety issues like mind and thus has no way of knowing what I'm going through. I even tried to reach out on Sunday and asked him to hang out and watch a movie because I was feeling "blah."
What I really wanted was to share with him some of the stuff I'm into. I wanted him to indulge my desire to watch a movie or show or podcast or something of my interests. I wanted to share a connection over one of my interests. I was feeling like I needed a little extra indulgence. But I failed to communicate to him exactly what was going on and he ended up being a bit resistant and closed-minded. We ended up watching a movie that wasn't bad, but just didn't create that feeling of connection.
I wish I had reached out to my friends. They surprisingly can't read my mind either. In the downward spiral, I get this feeling that they too, should know what I'm going through and should do something to make me feel better. It wasn't even the case that they weren't around. I got several invitations to go out over the weekend and turned them all down. I felt like my friends should have picked up on the fact that I wasn't up to going out because of how I was feeling and that they should have done something about it. But how impractical is that? All I would have needed to do was tell them that I was having a hard time and I'm sure someone would have come brought me chicken soup or something! Again, it was a failure on my part to communicate.
But remember! That's okay! It's okay to fuck up. It's okay to feel like shit. It's okay to need time to be vulnerable.
I decided to go to the restaurant I used to work at to hang with some of my old friends who still work there. I drank a little more than I intended and my mind was in a bad place and long story short (I'll explain on the next ARP episode) I got kicked out and banned from the restaurant, which was definitely an overreaction on their part, but still my fault. I then went home and threw a bit of a tantrum in the form of a Facebook post that tagged the restaurant and raked the people at the restaurant who were involved over the coals in a very unflattering way for all of us. I guess someone reported it because it wasn't that bad but I got a message from Facebook that my post violated their terms and got banned from Facebook for 3 days.
It wasn't a good weekend.
Pick Yourself Up
Some moral support would have been great. Conover has been working hard and even when he's been home this week, he's been catching up on sleep, so even looking forward to him coming home to have someone to chill with was thwarted by him going right to sleep. Usually when I'm in a slump of this kind I at least have Morty, (my dog in case you haven't heard the podcast or read anything I've ever wrote) but as I've explained so many times before, I don't even have my little dude living with me anymore. Sometimes the moment you need someone is the same moment no one is there for you, regardless of whether you've properly communicated your needs or not.
No matter who you are, sooner or later the time will come when you have nothing but your own resources to pick yourself back up and break the cycle of the downward spiral. For me, it started with just cleaning up the kitchen. When your in the throws of a bout of depression, you can bet on dishes and clothes piling up. I emptied the clean dishes out of the dishwasher, I loaded it back up with the dirty dishes, cleaned the counters, took out the garbage and the recyclables, and even prepped the marinade for some chicken I had defrosting in the fridge.
My to do list is full of things like adding a new page to the Safe & Gentle website (SafeAndGentleTattooRemoval.com check it!) I also have to create some promotional materials, and I have a list of tattoo shops around the state that I need to visit and present the company's services and try to get them to join our rewards program, which will also relieve my dad's concerns about not gaining enough new clients. But those things are all daunting. Those are the things that I've been laying in bed stressing about not getting done. Like I said, that didn't help.
I have a clean kitchen though. I got a real sense of accomplishment and progress from that. Some people might find that silly. Very few people would give you a 'Congrats!' for cleaning your own dishes in your own kitchen. But guess what? I'm not concerned with what other people think or how society dictates that I should behave or feel. It was important for me to find a way to feel better, and I did. That was all I did yesterday, but it was the first day in a few days that I had gotten anything done at all and I choose to take my victories when I can get them. Here I am the next day, up and out of bed before 9am, adding to my blog, working on my career.
I hope to use this momentum to get a bunch of other stuff done today, and since I've started writing this, I've confirmed that Conover and I will be recording ARP13 later tonight. But even if nothing else gets done today, I will have made progress and given everything I can, which is all you should ever ask of yourself.
Compete not with the world or society, just do your best to be a better version of yourself the day before - even if you fall short, you have not failed. Even when it seems like you'll never get better, you can always remember the Awe, Really motto:
Believe nothing, except that anything is possible. Including you getting better!