Posts Tagged ‘Self-Care’

High Anxiety

July 14, 2018

I have started to examine my anxiety more and more. In the past, my anxiety was something that I accepted as gospel and I tried not to think too much about it so I did not trigger anything. Thinking about being in crowds, public speaking, or meeting new people made me almost as scared as actually doing those things. Now that I am on my new medication, I have started to have random thoughts about how I dealt before. More specifically, I have thought about how I did not deal with it. I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and also specific social anxiety which was something I kind of knew about growing up but never really got around to dealing with. Like most undiagnosed or unmedicated individuals, I developed coping mechanisms to get me through my life. I got really good at coping mechanisms. The key coping mechanism became my philosophy of “Just Do It” in where I sucked it up and just went into those situations that made me uncomfortable.

I was reminded of this philosophy when I recently discovered a song by Icon for Hire called Theatre. The lyric that has caught in my head over and over is. “I’m gonna burn this theater down and pray to God for the strength to face the crowd.” Sometimes that was what it felt like to walk into a party or step into a mall. I felt like I had left all of my defenses behind and I was out there on my own. Every bad social situation like this was like a ride on a rollercoaster and I hate rollercoasters. Obviously, the more intense rides were things like speaking in public or being at a party. This was the philosophy behind my ill-fated flirtation with being an actor. I auditioned the one time and I shook so hard that the director thankfully did not pick me. However, at the time I also joined the drama club. In it, I joined several other people in reading plays. This was fine. However, then we started to rehearse them in order to perform them in front of little kids. They were really good plays, kind of fascinating. However, I vividly remember stepping out on stage, blacking out, and then stepping off stage and wondering what happened. While I have talked to other actors who have had the same experience, it was not fun to me. It was not something I remotely enjoyed doing.

However, I realized that one of the big triggers of my anger problem was this social anxiety. When I was out in public, it drained me. It made me more prone to being irritable. About two years ago, my mother agreed to have her house used for a big fundraiser for cancer awareness in West Virginia called Identity Crisis. Every year they have a themed party where people show up in costume. At the time, I was staying there while I was taking summer classes at community college. The thought of the upcoming party rattled me. When I stepped into the party, my fear turned to anger. I snapped at people for being overly familiar and using the house as their own. It was wrong. After a confrontation or two, I retreated to my room and hid for the remainder of the party. I just could not handle it. I have had a similar experience in airports and in malls. As I get tired, I am more susceptible to my more primal emotions. Combine that with getting hungry and my hangriness can get downright terrible. It is an issue that I am working on. The medication has helped immensely with that and so has exercise and my more positive outlook.

There was also a situation that I just remembered in the past week that kind of scared me. On another occasion while I was visiting my mother, she and my stepfather were having guests over. The thought of having to deal with these unknown quantities got me nervous. In addition,we were eating dinner outside which is something I absolutely hate doing in the summer because I hate the heat. I generally do not drink because I am always either working the next day or driving later that night. That night, neither were true so I said yes to wine. I almost never say yes to wine. I am a total lightweight and two glasses later and I was totally drunk which scared me. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been drunk. I slipped away to do dishes so I could get away from the table while people talked. Except, there I was trying to do dishes while dizzy and lightheaded. It turned out fine but looking back I was absolutely self-medicating. I never attempted that method again, thankfully.

So the point of this is what? Basically, I want to tell everybody who is reading this that help is out there. You can only help yourself for so long. Coping mechanisms only get you so far and these coping mechanisms are also really tiring to deal with. You do not have to do this alone. Tell your friends and family what is going on. Talk to a professional and get to the root of what might be wrong. It is very possible that your brain chemistry may be irregular and there may be a medication that can help you feel more normal. I am only on one part of the road to being normal as I start to unlearn the habits of a semi-hermit. I will keep trying to help myself but also I will continue getting help. Hang in there. You can do this.

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.

Valentine’s Day 2018

February 12, 2018

Heart

Why yes, I did learn how to make Animated GIFs. (Hard G 4 Life)

Well, dear readers, once again Valentine’s Day approaches. This holiday usually comes and goes rather quickly through my life, here and gone in a flash. After all, I have never had a girlfriend. I have had relationships but no actual girlfriend. As I posted before, this is not something that really troubles me when I think about it. For some reason, the holiday has gotten stuck in my head this year. It might be that all of the advertising for flowers, pajamagrams, chocolate diamonds, and chocolate covered berries. Maybe it’s all of the magical girl stuff I have been watching lately. Maybe it’s the sum of all of pop culture around this time pointing us toward showing affection to our significant others.

I remember hating Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. We had to bring Valentine’s Day cards into class and we had little mailboxes on our desks. I hated having to come up with a cheap valentine for each member of my class. I hated receiving all of them because I knew that everybody had to bring a card for everybody in the class. I was shy and unpopular and I was stuck between a desire for validation and wanting to hide in plain sight. I do remember liking seeing my favorite superheroes on the Valentine’s Day cards which I had my mother buy even though I’m sure not everybody in the class liked the X-Men. Of course, I had yet to find girls who liked the geeky stuff that I liked. I also thought the whole thing was kind of pointless as we were little kids and it really was not going anywhere. Thankfully, a lot of that disappeared in later years of school.

In later years, I saw boyfriends and girlfriends in school giving each other gifts. It was cute but it kind of ratcheted up a sort of pressure in me. At times, that made me want a girlfriend but not because I actually wanted to spend a lot of time with a girl, but because I felt I was supposed to. Of course, that is the dark side of Valentine’s Day. Those who have somebody feel content and those without somebody feel like something is missing. When I grew up a little more, I realized that the pressure came from within and not from society as I had originally thought. Once I let go of that pressure and embraced just being friends with people, I felt way better. Later, I found out that “aromantic” is an actual thing and it may be where I am at. So now, I am way more at ease with Valentine’s Day.

This year, whether you are with somebody, somebodies, or alone, I urge you to first learn to love yourself. That is something that I have struggled with in the past. I have struggled with anxiety and depression where I just knew that I was not good enough. Lately, I have been doing my best to turn that around. It is part of my larger goal to accentuate the positive instead of dwelling on the negative. It is something that Commander Holly (of YouTube and Dungeons Dragons fame) taught me. She yelled it out “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anybody else?” at the end of a Game Grumps Valentine’s video and I loved it. Ever since I heard that, I have tried to incorporate it a little more into my life each year.

Please don’t view this post as an indictment of regular Valentine’s behavior. Go out and buy jewelry or don’t. Go on a date or don’t. This year, I am naming you guys as my Valentine. I love waking up to notifications that somebody has subscribed to this blog or liked a particular post. I love you guys so that’s why I am giving you a little piece of my heart not just for Valentimes but also three days a week year-round (and more during April and October). Whatever you intend this Wednesday, I hope you have a good one.


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