Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’

Getting the Temple in Order

June 18, 2018

I have never been and probably will never be an athlete. This probably surprises nobody I knew growing up. I was a boy who would rather read a book, doodle on a piece of paper, pretend my lunch box was a sentient being, write, or run around pretending I was a superhero. Now, although I regularly go to the gym, I have no drive to go out and get physical with other people. It is not a lack of team spirit, as I am an avid D&D player and I play trivia when I have time to go out on Wednesday nights. I just never had that athletic drive. As I have previously mentioned, I played little league baseball and soccer at different points in my childhood. I never bought into the hometown obsession with lacrosse even though I did have a stick at one point but that was more about fitting in. I tend to shy away from being athletic in a way that depends on other people. Maybe because I am afraid of somehow hindering their competition or their good time. That was why I briefly enjoyed wrestling in middle school, a sport I was actually good at for a bit.

As soon as I got out of high school, I no longer had an athletic requirement. In college, I walked everywhere and I was constantly hauling equipment to set up some show. However, when I was not in class or working, I was sitting on my bed on my computer. When I moved to Sussex County, I was once again working my butt off hauling equipment and building sets. However, as soon as a show was up, I was sitting on my butt working on a sound or lighting board or surfing around on my computer. I did not have many friends up in Jersey as I lived in a small town and I have never been really great about finding new friends outside of the workplace or school. The friends I did make were online and they helped keep me sane out there in the sticks, mostly alone. However, this is not about my previous hermit lifestyle. This is about a new direction in my life.

When I quit theater and started taking office jobs, I became more sedentary both at work and at home. To combat this, I started to go on long walks. This started when Pokemon Go was released. Off and on, I would go to the gym but my heart was never in it. My social anxiety was always triggered by working out in the gym. It felt performative. I felt like I was inviting people to watch me and that feeling of being watched was troubling me. After a while, some excuse would drive me from the gym and I would once again go on long walks to try and stay healthy but I was mostly driven by a mobile game. It kind of stopped being fun at some point.

This year, I decided to make a change around Christmas. I vowed to be healthier. I went back to the gym with a vengeance and I found that I had less of a problem doing cardio at the gym. Instead of a sedate walk, I was doing the stationary bike and actually jogging on the treadmill. I still felt weird and creeped out in the middle of the gym floor and I dreaded having to sign in at the front desk every visit. So, I made another change. I went to a psychiatric nurse and she listened to my description of my life and told me that I was suffering from generalized anxiety and social anxiety, something I readily agreed with. I have talked about my stage fright on this blog but that also extends to crowds as well. She put me on Zoloft and I nodded and started to take it with new hope. After several weeks on the drug, I feel braver. I feel like the anxiety has ebbed away. It is not completely gone but I feel so much better.

My brother took an interest in my gym visits. He is a bit of a gym rat himself and does races like the Spartan and the Tough Mudder. He is a fight choreographer and a guy who works with his hands. He has been on his own journey towards health. He asked to come to the gym with me and I nervously agreed, not yet on Zoloft. We went together and he spent an hour teaching me how to use various equipment. He also taught me about reps and about how to have confidence in the gym. All those people I thought might be watching me? They felt the same way I did, probably. And if they didn’t? Fuck ’em. They don’t know me.

So, I started to really work out for the first time in my life. I currently average four visits a week to the gym. I gladly hop on the elliptical and I run for up to thirty minutes although it is usually about 25 minutes (the length of an anime episode). I do watch anime or movies while on the elliptical but not while I am in the weight room. I do exercises with hand weights and I do plenty of crunches. The most shocking thing to me is that every visit, I head directly to the weight room and I benchpress weights. I am currently benching with 50 pounds on the bar. I never thought I would be benching. Guys who benched back in high school were the actual athletes. Guys who benched in college were the assholes in the frats. Now, I bench and I run and I work out and I feel like a superhero when I am doing it. I feel healthier each day and I am losing weight and slowly (very slowly) gaining muscle. I will continue to work my butt off in the gym so that I can feel accomplished when I relax on my couch later.

It Has to Stop

February 19, 2018

As usual, I do not want to talk about politics but today I feel like it is important to talk about activism. Heck, I think it is important to talk about activism every day. Activism has been an important activity since long before I was born and it will be important until the last human being dies. What spurs these thoughts should be obvious. Parkland, Florida is what I am talking about. But Parkland is just the latest incident in a long line of incidents that include but are not limited to Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine. At least, I hope Parkland was the most recent as I publish this Monday morning because we are averaging one a week now. Each one is a blow to the heart so I cannot imagine the pain parents and friends are going through. It makes me scared and it makes me angry. I warn you that I am probably not going to say anything you have not heard or read elsewhere but I feel the need to say it too.

I went to the same school from first grade all the way to graduating high school. I was lucky enough to go to a private school and I recognize that privilege for what it is. Good genetics and hard work from my family. I felt cradled in safety when I went to Friends School of Baltimore. Every day was routine and the most I had to fear was a run in with a school bully and eventually teen angst. We used to hear horror stories about Baltimore City public schools that were probably exaggerated. I remember nodding but letting those stories slide off of me like the plot of a television show somebody else had seen. I was a high school sophomore when Columbine happened but even then I thought that those kids were just psychos. The now familiar cry of “mental health”. As a country, we pigeonholed a whole group of kids (the goth/Matrix-y kids) to the point where I unintentionally scared people by running around college with a long black coat.

After Columbine, discussions that were started quickly stopped when they should have continued. How did these boys get guns? Why did they shoot up their school? Why did nobody see it coming? I can tell you one thing, it was not video games, Heavy Metal, or Marilyn Manson. I liked all of those things and I never shot a single person. I never even thought of shooting another human being. Not once. As a nationwide community, we agreed to stop talking about it because it made us uncomfortable and people had their scapegoats to chase after. Everything was settled except for the problem. We returned to our lives and tried not to think about school kids getting murdered at school. Some concerned schools put up metal detectors and other schools required kids to carry transparent backpacks. These were lazy solutions that just treated normal kids like criminals.

The problem is, that Columbine was not the first school shooting and it was not the last. If it was, there would not be much of an issue. We would have cried our tears and then thanked the universe that it was an anomaly, a blip in the system. Instead, it is a persistent issue. That sounds too weak. It is a constant crisis that our country is facing. I say our country because most other nations do not have to worry about school shootings. In fact, a lot of countries of comparable population density do not need to worry about mass shootings at all. Why? Because the smart ones got rid of their guns, something our country is unreasonably stubborn about doing.

To a certain degree, I understand. These are the United States of America. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave and we have a document over two hundred years old that guarantees the right to bear arms. Great. I can get into the whole debate about how there were also documents that said it was alright to own slaves or that black people were only worth 3/5 of a white person. Also, documents that declared it was alright to keep American citizens in camps because they happened to have Japanese heritage. But I will not go down that rabbit hole today because I am a student of the law and I could go all night. The point is, the law is not written in stone. We can leave that to the religions of the world. It is a living document and we can banish any part of it that is causing people in our world pain.

So we should. We should absolutely get rid of all of our firearms. We do not need them. It has to be cheaper, less time consuming, and less dangerous to go to the supermarket at this point. (Of course, we are not getting into the issue of food deserts here but google that term.) We do not need guns for self-defense. But I know that taking people’s guns away is a long way off. Instead, we need to focus on real solutions. Prayers and thoughts are like so much air. We need common sense gun control and we needed it more than a century ago. We need to turn away groups like the NRA at the door. We need to make it harder for people to get their hands on guns. We need to choke off the loopholes and the illegal sources. We need to change the whole culture.

If people want to cry out “mental health” every time this sort of thing happens then let us actually take action on that too. If you see a kid who needs help, then say something to somebody. Let us actually spend money on education that gives kids hope for their future. Let’s get some school counselors who do not have to spend their time on standardized tests but instead on talking to kids about where their head is at. Like gun control, we have to actually do something about people who are getting left by the wayside. That includes not treating mental issues like they should be something to be ashamed of. Therapy and medication are not dirty words if they can actually help us be healthier and happier and safer. I am tired of so many words being silenced by lobbyists.

There is good news. The kids who survived Parkland are speaking out. They are lashing out at politicians who pretend to protect them in order to silence talk of gun control. People are rallying around those kids in ways that I have never really seen before. Part of that is that social media allows people to speak their mind without corporate interests being able to shut off the signal. More and more people are getting tired of hearing the same old song. People are getting tired of 18 school shootings (so far) in the first two months of 2018. Eventually, the issue will have to reach critical mass. I have to believe that because believing anything else is depressing as hell. I hope that generations in the future will shake their heads in confusion at what we allowed to continue.

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