I recently stated in my review of Chris Hardwick‘s book The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) that, after listening to his book and doing some subsequent reading, I had made a lot of changes in my life that were worthy of their own blog post.
Some years ago, I was in a work-related conversation between myself and another individual. The other person asked me where I pictured myself in five years. I don’t really recall what I said, probably that I pictured myself living elsewhere but doing the same thing, just better. The embarrassing part is, it was sort of a bullshit answer and he and I both knew it. It wasn’t that I was completely drifting through life, but my hand was pretty loose on the till. It has been that way since I started becoming an adult. I think for a long time I made the excuse that I was like water, something borrowed from Taoism and the personal philosophy of one of my heroes, Bruce Lee, but the reality is being flexible doesn’t mean that you should be goalless. Water flows downhill and does what it is meant to do; so in this analogy, what am I meant to do?
Almost three years later, I accomplished exactly what I’d said I had planned to, but it was pretty small. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty proud. Uprooting your life and moving your family over 900 miles just for a change of scenery and to get different life experiences isn’t aimless, and is no small task. The issue isn’t in the accomplishment, its that the goal was somewhat vague and small. There wasn’t a real timeline involved, it was just that circumstances had put us in a position where it suddenly seemed like the perfect time. I’ve also made personal progress career-wise as well.
A lot of the time a big move is something people think will fix their problems. I had no such illusions, but I did want to use it as a catalyst for change. Yet, almost a year later I was falling back into old patterns. Anxiety with the occasional bout of depression wasn’t helping.
A small space of about two or three weeks created a Perfect Storm of change, however. I was one of the first writers for this site. Writing about my struggles forced me to think about things. I had been analyzing my issues with sleep and my introverted nature and doing research, but to that point, I hadn’t done anything about it yet. The same day that my article “Going Green in Emerald City” was published, I was in my car queueing up Hardwick’s book on Audible. At times, it was a rough listen because it brought up some of these same issues I had been thinking about—my lack of goals, my struggles to work through my anxiety issues (which were starting to really affect the rest of my life), the fact that working in front of a computer all day and then being on a computer until bed time, combined with many other factors including diet, stressful life events, and depression, had me packing on more than a few pounds, etc. In a way, it was a wake up call. Hearing someone else talk about their own struggles and how they overcame them made me feel more empowered to deal with my own problems.
The other big takeaway was that baby steps were okay, as long as you were moving in the right direction. I downloaded and started using an Android app called Taskhammer, and put goals in like “make healthy eating choices” and “take the stairs instead of the elevator.” These seem pretty small, but I was so used to making excuses like “my legs are already sore,” or “I don’t have time to find or make something healthy,” that they were good first steps for me. Already I started feeling better, not just from a little more exercise and healthy eating, but I was accomplishing something. I was still putting some of my other “to dos” off, but they would come eventually. Things looked pretty good, until one Tuesday, I had a melt down.
We’re not talking about a little slip up, we’re talking about a full blown depression sociopathic don’t-give-a-damn-about-anything-including-my-own-life-because-I-can’t-feel episode, followed by extreme anxiety bordering on a three hour panic attack. It was not pleasant. Instead of making healthy eating choices, I simply didn’t eat. I didn’t care. I had to work late and blew off the friends I was supposed to hang out with after I got home, because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. After a few hours of apathetically moving from activity to activity, none of which did much for my boredom, I spent another few hours having anxiety over knowing that when I went to bed, I was going to have more anxiety that would keep me awake. Finally around 1:30 AM, I was sitting in front of my computer again searching through local therapists. Less than 24 hours later, I had an appointment for later in the week.
Therapy has definitely helped. Its not immediate, its not easy, but its been working pretty well. I’m able to fall asleep most nights now, and have begun working through other issues as well.
In fact, it worked so well that as of the time I’m updating this (sorry, took time off for NaNoWriMo), my therapist has “fired” me. She said she only dealt with clients in “crisis” mode, not necessarily those in upkeep. I can still call her and set up an appointment, but I haven’t been going for a few weeks now, and I still feel pretty good.
Back on the subject of “Going Green,” I tried it. I didn’t want to try and get a full MMJ card because they won’t give you one for anxiety alone, but I had done my research. I walked into a recreational dispensary and, after waiting in line for 20 minutes, asked for their strain with the highest CBD content. The woman behind the counter showed me two varieties, which just happened to be the last two types they had left. Neither was particularly strong in what I wanted, but they were my only options. I paid my $27 for a gram of the one with the highest CBD and left.
Later on, when I had a night that I could feel some anxieties beginning to build (this was while I was seeing my therapist still), I tried using it. My therapist had said she didn’t care if I tried it, as long as I didn’t “numb the pain” constantly. Her philosophy—and I agree with it—was that we need to feel that pain in order to move past it.
I will say this for it: even though it was not the exact strain I was looking for, and keeping in mind that different chemicals affect people differently, it did actually help. I had zero anxiety that night. I became incredibly focused on reading technology articles on Reddit. I didn’t behave weirdly, other than eating an entire Costco bowl of pre-cut fruits. My wife didn’t even know I had taken anything.
The only drawback was that occasionally I still got that “buzzed” feeling as it worked its way out of my system, for a day or two after. I’ve used it one other time, and I didn’t have any issues with that.
A gram isn’t much, but I used little, so I have leftovers. I keep it in the cupboard as my “emergency stash,” in case I suddenly have a panic attack or I let my anxieties get the better of me. Probably not a great idea since it does have an expiration, but it should be fine for my purposes (I’m not exactly a connoisseur).
That’s my update for now. Things have been going much better, I “won” NaNoWriMo with 50k+ words by the 30th of Nov. that I’ve continued to work on and improve. My therapist said I’m doing too well to keep seeing her, and my emotional state has been pretty good since. I have no doubt I’ll continue to update and find topics to write on, including issues I have myself. I’m under no illusion that things are going to be rosy from here on out. In the mean time, I’m just going to keep working on those baby steps to improvement and meeting more of my goals.