anxiety

The Struggle Bus

I'm failing at this. Very badly. I've got a monthly pass for the struggle bus.

I had this fantasy that I would be shooting out blog posts left and right and podcasting every week. I have tried my best to podcast every week but they are so fucking boring. I talk too slow and I'm not talking with enough emotion. And these blog posts...I'm just fucking lazy.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I have been dealing with some anxiety and some bad habits of my depression have crept back. One of those things is lethargy.

Yesterday after work, I tried to find something to do (with a low level of effort though). I came up empty, which is quite normal. It was a Friday evening, so I sank into my couch and started dozing off around 9pm. I decided to just call it a night and went to bed. It was the earliest I had gone to bed in a very long time. 

I got about 11 hours of sleep and woke up today and did my normal morning routine, which is to feed Ruth (my cat) and then take my medication. I then proceeded to do laundry and watch old episodes of Rick and Morty. When the washer was done, I knew I had to throw my clothes in the dryer but I my body didn't want to get up. I sat there for several minutes deliberating if I should get up and put my clothes in the dryer. 

A normal person would have just gotten up and put the wet clothes in the dryer as soon as the washer was done. I sat there for about 15 minutes and forced myself to get up because I hate how clothes that stay wet for too long get that weird smell.

The simplest tasks become so difficult and daunting. When the will is there, I can be a very productive member of society, but when it's not, I'm just a heavy bag of bones and fat.

This is something I've struggled with for most of my life, but I didn't know how to put it into words growing up. And it usually is only the case when I'm by myself.

I went from someone that was very comfortable with being alone to becoming someone who is dying to get out of the house but is too lazy. It's still very difficult to explain how I feel. Obviously.

That said, I was able to muster up energy to finish two loads of laundry (clothes and sheets+duvet), take my cat out to get her nails trimmed (super sharp) and then get a cup of coffee.

Now I'm back home typing this up while listening to emo music in the background while I have the Wisconsin v. Villanova game on mute. 

I often have the feeling that I'm going through an existential crisis because I often feel like I don't really have a purpose. It's not so much a source of anxiety though because I honestly don't believe anyone when they say they have a purpose in life. I won't refute anyone, but inside I'm calling bullshit. But what I think doesn't matter to anyone else. It shouldn't. Live your life.

Human beings in general. What purpose do we serve? I haven't heard a good answer yet. Is our purpose to find a way to get off this planet and find some other place to ruin...I mean...live?

I don't mean to be so down. I'm just trying to find my self purpose, which to me is different than having an overall purpose. My self purpose is 100% selfish. My self purpose will never be something like, "making sure the children in 3rd world countries always have food to eat." It would be more like, "making sure that I always have food to eat."

Sometimes you gotta take care of yourself. I just don't really know how to do it.

Next stop on the struggle bus? Anywhere. I just want to get off and charge my phone cause it's about to die soon. 

Changes

Wowza...

That's the only utterance I have at the moment that isn't a curse word that is moderately appropriate at this very moment.

Not sure if you guys saw that solo press conference Donald Trump had the other day, but it was a complete shit show. The whole thing is just a mess, which he claims he inherited. Lets be real, it's never an easy transition from one administration to another, but to say that he inherited a mess after the shit he has done the last few weeks is a joke.

A joke that we need to take seriously.

I don't even want to type out his name anymore. From this point on, at least on this site, he will be known as the Lil' d (guys get it? I made the 'd' lowercase and it's a double entendre)

We need to take this seriously because Lil' d and fiends are master manipulators and we can't allow ourselves to be manipulated. They will continue to deflect and lie, but eventually even their own supporters will start to question their motives.

Okay, enough about politics. I have some changes that are happening to me that I want to share.

Tomorrow I will become a cat dad. Yes. I will be getting a cat. She will be my everything. Last weekend I scheduled time to meet a cat named Allie at her foster home. She was a little shy but warmed up to me pretty quickly. She loves to be pet and is just so adorable. She was found in a feral cat colony somewhere in Brooklyn, but she clearly is not feral. She's between 1-2 years old...that's what I am told.

This whole week during my spare time I've been on Amazon.com, Chewy.com, Wag.com looking at pet supplies to buy. Reading blogs and reviews. I got a shipment of stuff that's been delivered today and I have some stuff coming tomorrow as well. And next week. I bought a ton of shit is what I'm basically trying to say. I'm not just getting a few small boxes either. No, I'm getting boxes that I could fit in when in fetal position. I'm taking this very seriously. AND I CAN'T WAIT.

One thing to note, I am allergic to cats. BUT I saw an allergist and I got prescription eye drops, some Zyrtec and two HEPA air purifiers. I think I should be good.

The reason I got a cat and not a dog though is for a few reasons. I love dogs, but they require more upkeep and I don't necessarily have the best lifestyle to take care of a dog. I also don't have a lot of space for a dog. I would want the dog to have green grass to run on and a lot of room to roam around at home. I have neither of those things.

I live by myself, which I'm super lucky to be able to do so in NYC, but as liberating as it is, it can be very lonely. I felt the need for a companion when I come home.

More to come once she settles in!

One more (potential) change happening. I'm considering doing a podcast for this site as well. Sometimes it's just easier to say things than to type it out. I'd want to also bring on guests to make it more interactive (for myself) and to have interesting and, hopefully, thought provoking conversations.

I've got a lot on my plate at the moment so may be some time before I can make a substantial update on here, or it might be tomorrow. Who knows, my mood changes many times a day.

I hope everyone has a great President's Day weekend. I bet Lil' d thinks it's a holiday for him, which is probably why he's golfing in Florida this weekend. I know, I know, I said "enough politics" but let me just get something off my chest.

Lil' d is hosting a campaign rally in Florida this weekend. He's campaigning for 2020. IS HE FUCKING SERIOUS?

No. Just no.

Ok, seriously, I hope everyone that has a day off on Monday enjoys the 3-day weekend and everyone else, just whatever. Enjoy your lame 2-day weekend.

Alternate Reality

I'm convinced I live in an alternate reality.

I'm sure many of you feel the same way. I think we arrived around the same time.

I wasn't aware of the change until fairly recently (within the last few years). But it's anyone's guess when it actually happened. Some suggest it happened between 1986 and 2011.

The biggest clue for me was that in this reality, the Berenstein Bears are called the Berenstain Bears. Just to clarify, the difference is in the 'stEin' and 'stAin'. I'm a Berenstein-er.

Mandela Effect or not, I was, and still am, deeply troubled by this. Really fucked with my sense of reality, my memories, and my childhood.

And now to further substantiate my theory, the President of the United States is Donald Trump.

I don't even know where to start. DAPL/KXL? Mexico? The Wall? TPP? Muslim/Immigration Ban?

Trumps visa ban also applies to citizens with dual nationalities! They are barring permanent American residents/those holding green cards from entering the US from 7 Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya).

What the fuck is going on? What is happening? What is this country turning into? We are clearly no longer the 'land of the free'.

All of this makes me uncomfortable. I am a naturalized US citizen, but I used to hold a green card. My parents immigrated to this country from South Korea in the late 80s with my sister and I. I'm Korean-American and while my identity is deeply rooted in both cultures, I find myself to be more American. But I don't share the same values of this administration and those that voted them in.

I fully admit that I am not normally into politics. I have my opinions, but in recent past didn't want to talk about it because the forums we use (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) only seem to preach to the choir, and then there are the times when you have that one friend that turns out to be a huge scum bag that uses your post to wage a war of words with another friend. It's too much.

I care a lot more about politics now because well, this shit has been keeping me up at night, among other more seemingly trivial personal issues. I get seriously anxious looking at my Facebook feed and when I watch or read the news.

That said, my frustrations aren't just aimed at conservatives, the alt-right, neo-nazi's, racists, etc. There are issues across all sides. There is no real dialog between anyone.

Everything has become so extreme. I get that nobody wants to back down, but we have to find a middle ground. I know it's easy for me to just say all of this stuff when we have a demagogue in power, but we are all better than this. We don't deserve this reality. The children don't deserve this future.

On a lighter note, while this reality fucking blows, the number of quality TV shows the last few years has been pretty great...amirite?

FML.

Learning to Cope

*This entry was originally posted on Medium as "(Still) Learning to Cope" on October 8, 2016*

I’ve been thinking a lot about coping.

Specifically, I’ve been doing a mental audit of how I cope with various situations. I wanted to see if I could find any consistencies or irregularities in how I handle them. Knowing that there are way too many different situations to consider, I oversimplified it by creating two buckets. Work and Life.

Lets take a look…

Work: If there’s a huge deliverable at work, if something is wrong, or if there is a fire drill, my natural instinct is to just focus on getting that particular task done and ignore all non-essential tasks. One thing I think about during those times is how I’m going to deliver that work.

Just like Panera Bread, You Pick Two

Just like Panera Bread, You Pick Two

On this chart here is a terribly illustrated version of a simplified project management triangle.

You can only choose 2 out of 3. At my old job I got alignment with my management that this is how we would handle urgent requests, but not all of my problems can be managed in this manner.

So to summarize how I cope with stress at work, I try to overcome it by working hard and focusing on the things that will help me deliver the best possible output.

Life: When life gets tough, I put my head down and I work extra hard and focu…oh wait. No I don’t. This one is a bit more complicated. Everyday I find myself in situations that I’ve faced countless times where those coping mechanisms are second nature. But I also face new situations on a regular basis as I live my life (as we all should!).

There are some situations that I find myself in regularly that I’ve been coping with but realized that my coping mechanisms just seemed to stop working. This coincided with my sudden anxiety flare ups late last year. There’s obviously a connection, and it’s been the question that I’ve been trying to answer for the last 10 months.

I find it so fascinating how we as people teach ourselves different coping mechanisms for similar situations. I’m not surprised because we’re all different and unique, but it’s just so amazing how our brains work.

I started going to therapy regularly again, different from the one I had earlier this year. My new therapist is great. I have probably already talked about her but her approach is what I need. She challenges me and provides different perspectives that I wouldn’t normally think about. Which is funny because one of my bad habits is to think about every possible negative outcome in situations.

In recent past I was a more resistant to medication. I didn’t really have any sound reasons as to why, but it was mostly based on not knowing what it would actually do to me. I had just started a new job and wasn’t sure when the insurance was going to kick in too so I delayed the process. I was also afraid of developing dependencies, but I spoke with my doctor and we decided to ease into it and try some things out to see how I would react.

There was also a more scientific approach to it. I won’t go into too much detail but it’s this thing called a GeneSight genetic test, and it basically tells you which medications work best for you based on your genetics. It’s actually pretty cool and I’d be happy to talk more about if if you’d like. If you know me personally, ping me or just leave a comment.

Anyway…therapy, books, medication, these things are not the solution. They are supposed to help me on my journey to figure out how to cope, but that journey has been rocky. I repeatedly make the same mistakes and I have developed some bad habits the last 4–5 months.

I won’t say that I’ve regressed since my first post, but I certainly haven’t progressed as much as I would have liked.

I had a lot of ambitions this summer. I had plans to go see this thing, hang out with thatperson, explore this area, try this food, build a coffee table, donate a bunch of clothes, learn self hypnosis, run more often, read all of my half read books, go to the beach, and so on.

To summarize what actually happened in a paragraph, I turned 30, saw some things, hung out with some people, didn’t really explore, ate the same food, didn’t build a coffee table, didn’t donate clothes but did put clothes to donate in a bag (halfway there), failed to teach myself self hypnosis, ran twice, started new books that have also only been half read to add to my collection of half read books, and didn’t set foot on a beach.

depressed george.jpeg

Summer is obviously over now, and while I’ve done some of the things I wanted to do, I didn’t really enjoy summer to it’s full potential. Like Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth”. Suffice to say I was psychologically punched in the mouth this summer. I must have done something wrong, right?

tyson.jpeg

According to my therapist, I tend to blame myself for a lot of things. Sometimes it really is my fault, but other times I just point the finger at myself because it’s easier and I don’t have to involve others.

She says that I don’t get upset enough. Not in the sense that I need to be upset, or she suggest that I do. She was just reinforcing the fact that I have a bad habit of putting myself at fault for most of my challenges, for lack of a better term.

I really wanted this summer to go exactly as planned. I was going to kick it off by turning 30 and start the next stage of my life. Early middle age. But I got caught up in non-sense and I chased ghosts. I exhausted so much of my time and energy, both physical and mental, to things that I shouldn’t have.

I don’t want to discount the great times I had this summer either. I don’t mean to down play or diminish the significance of who I hung out with and what I did. I mean, I got a new job outside of the agency world which is something I’ve been wanting for a while, and I did go to Amsterdam and Croatia at the beginning of September that was one of the best trips I’ve been on to-date. To all of my friends and family that spent their time with me and put up with my bullshit this summer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

this isn’t a subject that is always broached with my family, I know they support me and are there. I’ve also got a great group of friends who are very supportive and are there for me too. Is it sad that I have to constantly remind myself of this? Probably.

All that said, I’m still learning to cope with anxiety, depression, and well…pretty much everything else. I’m still very much committed to self improvement the rest of this year and beyond. I have to come to terms with reality and just really dig in and focus on what is truly important to me, focus on what I truly care about, and let bygones be bygones.

 

Mental Health

*This entry was originally posted on Medium on July 5, 2016*

What is mental health? Before I go into my entry, I would like to share with you a definition and some facts from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO’s definition of mental health is:

“A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Here are some random facts on mental health (from WHO):

  1. Around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems
  2. Mental and substance use disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide
  3. Mental disorders are important risk factors for other diseases, as well as unintentional and intentional injury
  4. Stigma and discrimination against patients and families prevent people from seeking mental health care
  5. Globally, there is huge inequity in the distribution of skilled human resources for mental health

There are 5 key barriers to increasing mental health services availability (also from WHO):

  • The absence of mental health from the public health agenda and the implications for funding
  • The current organization of mental health services
  • Lack of integration within primary care
  • Inadequate human resources for mental health
  • Lack of public mental health leadership

Being someone who is seeking information on mental health, I’m shocked at the lack of attention paid to it. Sure, there is a lot of information online but there are so many opinions. Who is right? Is there a right answer? I assume no because as far as I know, nobody has truly figured out how the brain works.

Mental disorders of all kinds impact so many people. Yet it is seemingly swept under the rug. It is not viewed as a legitimate issue. People tend to shy away from the unknown and there is a lot we do not know/understand about our psyche.

The last six to seven months I have been trying to educate myself on mental health because I have reached a stage in my life where I am dealing with certain anxieties and stresses and realize that I have no real method of coping. I realize that I do not truly understand what these things are and it is really upsetting.

I have always had this baseline level of anxiety that, to me, seemed completely normal. I just assumed everyone had that same baseline, and to a degree I still think that. There is no person that is devoid of anxiety as every human being in this world goes through ups and downs. That’s just…life.

But what I did not realize growing up was that people experience anxiety in vastly different ways and in, equally, different levels of intensity. In my household, we never talked about mental health. Physical health on the other hand was discussed all the time. I was overweight as a child and remained overweight until I was about halfway done with university. My parents always wanted me to lose weight.

Maybe it’s a Korean thing, but when seeing relatives, there is always a criticism that they share with you, about you. And it’s usually based on your physical attributes. Or if you are of a certain age (18 or older) they will start asking if you have a girlfriend or boyfriend. I digress, as this alone could be a whole other topic that I can touch upon another time.

Back to physical health. Long story short, when it came to health, that is all that mattered, or at least that is all that was taught to me. Sure, in high school health class we talked about mental health, depression, anxiety, etc. But it was so out of context for me. I even joked about it.

My senior year quote was, “Depression is like trying to slay a dragon with a plastic knife.” I did not use that quote because of the content. I chose it because of who said it (a guy from the class below mine that had a penchant for saying odd/funny things), not because of what it actually meant to me. At that time of my life, it meant nothing. I was not depressed. I did not even really know what depression was at that point.

Fast forward twelve years and here I am, a week into my thirties and am almost as clueless about mental health as I was back in high school. The main difference between now and then is that I have experienced more in life and seemingly have more self awareness than my younger self.

In the last year and a half I have experienced more significant change in my personal life since I graduated from university. My relationship with my girlfriend ended, I left the company where I started my career and worked for six years, and I realized that I experience and possibly suffer from several forms of anxiety.

I had mentioned before that I always felt that I had a baseline level of anxiety that was considered normal. Normal in the sense that it is something everyone has and experiences. I couldn’t tell you exactly when but, as if some mysterious force flicked a switch in my brain, my anxiety levels elevated and have not come back down.

Sure, I have good days (even weeks) where I am completely happy and feel on top of the world. But I more often feel the complete opposite.

For illustrative purposes

Six to seven months ago I decided it was time for me to seek professional help in the form of therapy. The problem was, I did not know where to look. How does someone that essentially knows nothing about mental health find the right help? Do I need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What is the difference? What kind of therapy do I need? I had so many questions.

I was lucky enough to meet a new friend who shared with me their experiences and they were actually the catalyst for me to start going to therapy. Without going into too much detail, having someone to talk to that has also has gone through or is going through similar things is eye opening.

I logged onto ZocDoc and found a place that took my insurance and I set up an appointment. I had my first session on December 30, 2015.

For four and a half months I saw my therapist once every week. At the time I could not say whether he was good or not because he was my first therapist. I had zero expectations.

I would go into the sessions and he would ask things like, “how are you feeling?” or “what has been bothering you?”

Therapy cannot work if you are not honest with yourself and your therapist. I thought it was going to be really difficult to open up but I surprisingly found it easy to just talk freely and openly. Maybe because I knew it was a complete stranger who’s purpose in my life was to listen and help resolve my issues.

I learned a few things. I learned some breathing exercises to help calm myself down and relax. I learned that I need to not use my phone late at night before I go to bed. I learned that I need to be honest with myself.

Unfortunately my time with this particular therapist ended abruptly. I received a call from the owner of the practice saying that my therapist could no longer see his patients. The woman on the phone was actually quite rude and then asked if I wanted to see another therapist from the practice. I declined. I decided to take a little break and see if I could apply the things I learned to my daily routine (as I had been practicing) and see if I could deal with things on my own.

I lasted two months. My anxiety level shot up and I was having a really hard time coping. I was having panic attacks on a regular basis and I actually went backwards. I reverted to bad habits. I put strains on relationships and I was the most miserable as I had ever been.

To be honest, I don’t know why I’m typing in the past tense. This is happening to me now. In the present.

I am at a point in my life where I am open to trying new things that have the potential to improve my quality of life such as online therapy via Talkspace.

talkspace.jpeg

If you are not familiar with Talkspace, it is an online/mobile therapy app. You chat with a consultation therapist and answer some questions. You are then assigned a dedicated therapist whom you speak with in a private chat. The service of course is not free, there is a monthly or quarterly subscription model.

My experiences with Talkspace, to-date, have been okay at best. I signed up for a quarterly subscription so am committing to 3 months. It is a place for me to just type away how I am feeling at any given moment. The therapist will then respond back to you. What I really like is that it logs the conversations and you can just go back to see what was discussed as reference.

The challenge is that I find myself editing what I type. It is not the same as if I was just talking with a therapist in person. It is also hard because you do not get instant feedback. I never know exactly when my therapist will respond, but usually within 24 hours during weekdays. Weekends they log off but I can message them freely at anytime.

Time will tell if Talkspace is effective.

I started seeing an in-person therapist again as of two weeks ago although they don’t take insurance (another barrier to treatment). I entered the session with at least some expectations having gone to therapy in recent past. I realized that my last therapist did not really challenge me. I talked and talked and he offered up some suggestions, but never really dug deep. This new therapist is incredibly engaging and she really digs into the things I say, which I enjoy. It is uncomfortable at first, but is that not the point? To get away from our normal habits and really challenge ourselves…

I have also tried hypnotherapy. Now I cannot tell you what hypnotherapy is exactly but I really enjoyed my single experience. I ended up feeling extremely relaxed and had the best night of sleep in over a year. The idea is to train yourself to self-induce hypnosis. I have not gotten to that point yet though.

Source: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Source: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

Throughout the last few months I have come to realize that I take some things really personally. Things that I did not take personally in the past. I keep asking myself why? Why do I let certain things bother me so much? Why do I care so much about X/Y/Z?

I realize that I need to develop a new way of thinking and learn new ways to cope with my anxieties. This requires immense effort because I essentially have to create new neural pathways in my brain.

I am quickly figuring out that this journey I am on does not have an end. I do not mean that in an ominous way. I mean it in the sense that we are always changing and we need to be mentally fit to adapt.

I want to share my journey because one of the problems within our society is the overall lack of conversation around mental health, yet people talk about their weight-loss journeys all the time or their daily CrossFit workouts. I recognize there is a stigma with mental health but I genuinely feel that we need to be more open about it.

I am not spilling my guts to you. I am not giving you the details that I would otherwise only share with my therapist. That said, I am not in a place to talk about mental health objectively because it is so personal to me.

I admit that this entry has been in my draft box for almost a month now. It has been edited so many times because I was not sure if I was sharing too much, or not enough. I cared too much about how people would perceive me based on assumptions that I made up in my head. That is a really dangerous thing to do.

At the end of the day I know that there are many others that are going through similar experiences, and many more that have it way worse than I do.

My goal is to share the things that I learn on my journey. If I am advocating for more openness and conversation about mental health, I should start with myself.

I welcome a dialogue. If you have any suggestions or feedback for me, please leave a comment.