TWENTY FOUR: anxIETY

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

My brain sometimes

I couldn’t tell you how many times I would be going about my own day, minding my own business before I hear this feint sound. When I stop to focus on the noise, it gets gradually louder and louder until it’s near deafening. But when I look around, no one seems to be batting an eyelid to the sound. It’s sounds a bit like…

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

That, my friend, would be anxiety, one of the devil’s most devious torture strategies. It’s an internal noise no one else can hear, it can come with absolutely no warning or reason, and when it wants to it will distract you from the most basic human functions, like a normal breathing pattern.

Anxiety in a lot of ways is like training a dog. At first it’s really tough to navigate and sometimes the little shit bites us. But with practice, we teach it to sit, we build confidence with our furry companion and before you know it, it’s second nature to you.

When I first started experiencing noticeable periods of anxiety, I found it to be a very confusing and very overwhelming experience. I would get a lump in my throat, my stomach would feel like it had been rotated 40 times inside of me and squeezed in a vice, and I would be hyperventilating to the point where I felt light-headed. It was awful, 0/10 would not recommend, and I daresay 4 out of 5 dentists would also not endorse it.

I’m 100% in agreement with you, anxiety is an absolute prick to experience, but let me tell you right now that it is possible to tame it. In my experience, it came down to three important factors; getting in tune with myself, and being present in the moment and (yes, I know it’s cliché) breathing. This may not be the same for you, so by all means, I recall someone (me) mentioning somewhere (in a number of blog posts) that speaking with a trained professional is both completely normal and extremely beneficial for these kinds of things.

Nonetheless, here is a breakdown of the things that help me when I breakdown;

  1. Breathing – yes, yes I know, the last thing you want someone to tell you when you’re FREAKING OUT is to breathe. BUT hear me out. I’m no scientist, but faster breathing = faster heart-rate = faster blood-flow = INCREASED PANIC. One of the hardest things to teach ourselves when the whole world is spinning around is to take a moment, even if we only find a fraction of a second to do it, to make a conscious effort to slowwww it alllll down. It took me quite a few goes to get the hang of it, but once you master the art of controlling your breathing, things suddenly become 90% easier to manage. You’ve been breathing all your life, you’ll get the hang of it with time. It’s like riding a bike pals.
  • Being present or “grounding” – breathing becomes a little easier to control when we start working on this part and the next part. During an anxiety attack, it’s so easy to completely lose yourself (in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go (OH)) in the panicked thought processes and the flooding mental images of just about every worst case scenario your brain can cook up. But the biggest tool my wonderful therapist taught me was what we call “Grounding”, which is the process of being present in your body and current environment. We do this by distracting ourselves with what’s around us. For me, it was about saying “Okay, let’s list 5 things I can see, then 4 things I can hear, then 3 things I can touch, then 2 things I can smell (if I can’t smell more than one thing, farting helps to create a new scent and also induce laughter because, at 26, farts are still hilarious)”. When you commit to grounding, you can surprise yourself at how your body subconsciously slows everything down, breathing included
  • Being in tune with yourself – As I got the hang of the first two, I started to recognise the early signs of a potential stint of ye ol’ anxiety, and began to doomsday prep for it. What made the process easy for me was reflecting on what I like to do in my down time when I relax. Maybe I’ll pop my favourite TV show on, or play the PlayStation, or read a book. Whatever it may be, if I start feeling anxious, I’d put myself in one of those comforting environments when I could. It’s not always possible, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll start to recognise external environments that’ll provide that comfort in those trying times. Music is a great one for that, when I get a bit aaahhhHHHH I’ll pop my headphones in and take 5 to slow it all down to the smooth jams of Chumbawamba.

Anxiety is about training the black dog, it doesn’t have to be a big scary event that we dread and fear. Once we learn to become wise old masters with great long beards, we begin to dictate proceedings on our own terms. “No, anxiety, you shut your mouth” and all that jazz.

Much like the building of a house that you actually want to keep upright for longer than 5 minutes, it’s important that we establish a strong foundation and that we give ourselves time to develop our skills and awareness when it comes to anxiety. So be sure to cut yourself some slack. As overwhelming as these experiences can be, never forget that you’re not alone!

Happy Mental Health Monday pals xx

The greatest lesson that I learned in all of this is that you have to start. Start now, start here, start small and keep it simple

Jack Dorsey

TWENTY THREE: Gucci Baggage

I tried to sue the airport for misplacing my luggage…I lost my case

I am punstoppable

Let’s be real, if you take more than one trip from the car to carry your groceries inside you are WEAK! We’ve all done it, we’ll suffer and strain and nearly cut the circulation from our fingers in one heroic trip from the car to the kitchen to drop all of the bags and hope none of the jars broke. We’ll carry that baggage through the gates of Hell for the sake of not going back to the car, unless of course we forget to lock it…damn it.

Which brings me to what I’ve been contemplating this week: baggage. Not the luggage you pay an absurd amount of money to accompany you on your flight. I’m talking the stuff you can’t see, the emotional and spiritual stuff that weighs you down, the invisible load on your shoulders.

I had a lot of baggage back home. I was in the town where I had my heart broken, it seemed like everywhere I went I was reminded of it. Ah yeah, that’s where we went on a picnic when I was unwell and overlooked the lake. Oh, there’s the spot where we got into a fight over such and such. Of course, that’s where we caught up with friends before they stopped talking to me.

My very existence in my hometown became incredibly taxing on me, far more than I was willing to admit to myself. I progressively felt more alien in my own home, and the decline in my behaviour followed. I started doing self-destructive things to offside the few who stuck around, right up to my final days in the country. I imagine I made it as easy as possible for my pals to appreciate that I was going away for a while, I was a difficult person to be around at the best of times. My social life suffered, I’d lost all drive and passion for my job, it was abundantly clear that I needed, in some way, to remove myself from the place I called home. At least for the time being, anyway. I needed to allow myself the opportunity to heal and unload this crushing weight from my shoulders and consciousness.

So as I boarded a one-way flight from Melbourne to Malta, I left some of my emotional baggage at the gate. As much as I would’ve liked to have left it all there, it’s not always that simple and clear-cut. Nonetheless, we take the wins where we can, and I boarded that plane a little bit lighter.

We’ve all got baggage in some capacity; maybe it’s heartbreak, maybe it’s a broken family connection, maybe you’re still mad at the kid who knocked your sandwich out of your hands in school *shakes fist*. No matter how great or small, it’s there. It’s not something that we need be ashamed of, it’s as common as buttered toast. The best thing we can do with that big sack of bricks over our shoulder is try to lighten the load, or ask for help when we need a hand carrying it for a while. Easier said, Tim. Yes, yes I know, I’m getting to it.

I found it a strange coincidence (or maybe it was destiny *star twinkle emoji*) that I should encounter a young woman carrying a huge box, damn near breaking her back doing it, as I wandered the streets of Rome pondering the whole notion of baggage. For a brief moment I could see my younger self struggling with the box (I think the pony-tail, tiny frame and handbag helped), so I got her attention; “Madam, can I help you with that?”. The relief on her face was uplifting and I helped her carry it the short distance to her house. A polite farewell and I went on with my day.

What I thought to myself as I walked away was how much I needed help to carry my baggage back home when times were hard. I found help from my friends and family, who offered temporary relief in the form of comfort or a kind gesture of support. I found help in taking the time to myself to process my emotions and have a healthy cry to relieve tension when I needed it. However I needed to do it, for as long as I needed to, I did what I had to do to overcome the setback.

Identifying the ways we can get relief is so crucial in recovery from an emotional setback. It takes the pressure off of us and gives us an opportunity to explore ways we can lighten the load. It’s important to know that you will find a way to do it, however works for you, in as much time as you need.

The last part was something I struggled with, and still do at times. But acceptance comes with practice. Time and time again I would tell myself “it’s been 2 years, you should be over this by now”. The truth is, there’s no guide or time limit. And the moment I stopped being so hard on myself, I started finding ways to offload some of the bricks in that big sack over my shoulder. For me, as crazy as this year has been, I found ways to do it by experiencing new things in other countries when it was possible, or immersing myself in my current home country.

I left some bricks in Slovakia, I left some in Austria, I’ve scattered gravel throughout Malta and as we speak, I am leaving some at the base of the Colosseum in Rome. I left half a dozen suitcases in Melbourne as I departed Australia, then I downsized to a big shoulder bag, to the point where these days I don’t need to check in my backpack at the airport.

The point is, there’s no time limit on healing; and those who put pressure on you to do so aren’t worth your time. But the biggest barrier you will encounter on your journey is you. You know what’s best for you, trust your gut. And most importantly, cut yourself some slack. The moment you take some of that self-inflicted pressure away, you will surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.

Go for a walk this week, leave a brick somewhere. You don’t need it weighing you down. And for the love of God, don’t be so stubborn, sometimes all we need is a little helping hand to carry the weight for a little bit.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

We tend to forget, baby steps still move you forward

Unknown

TWENTY TWO: Forgiveness

Forgive me Father, pastor, vicar, padre, priest…for I have synonymed

Tim, Lord of puns

Ever had to carry around a really heavy bag? Well, duh, of course you have. Let’s think back to the last time you were at an airport hauling that hefty sack over your shoulder. It’s not those first 5 minutes or so that wear you down, it’s later on. When you’re stuck waiting in queues, when you’re squeezing through a crowd to get to your gate on the other side of the airport, that’s when shit starts to hurt. It’s not the size of the load you carry necessarily, it’s how you carry it, and how long you carry it for.

I will be the first to admit (I say that a lot, don’t I? Yeah, I’ll be the first to admit that) that I had mastered the fine art of holding a grudge. I held a pretty significant one from my early teens to my early 20s, with good reason. But none the less, a time came as I got older when I realised that, while it sometimes felt good in a way to have something to be mad about or someone to be mad at, it really wasn’t getting me anywhere. For the best part of 7-8 years, I carried that grudge, that resentment, on my shoulder. Until one day, I let go.

And boy, didn’t it feel good to let go.

The greatest gift, the greatest service you can do yourself is to forgive those who have done you wrong. And even more importantly, it’s important to forgive yourself for the wrong-doing you have done, as long as you take ownership of it. These were two separate, but very significant lessons I learned making my way (downtown, walking fast, faces pass and I’m home-bound *piano riff*) through my 20s. So let me impart unto you, dear Timmunity, what I came to learn about forgiving others and forgiving myself.

When it came to understanding why I needed to forgive others who had done wrong by me, I realised that it was important I did this so I could take control of the one thing I never thought I would get; closure. We all deserve an apology, or at the very least acknowledgement for when someone has hurt us. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always pan out that way. A lot of things that we deserve, or things that we work hard for may not always come into fruition (for reference, see pretty much every season of Game of Thrones), but it doesn’t mean we can’t create opportunities for ourselves.

Forgiving someone for what they’ve done doesn’t necessarily mean you are pardoning them or excusing their actions. It’s about you and you only, it’s about you allowing yourself an opportunity to move forward. It’s about you saying “I’ve carried the burden of these circumstances for far too long” and deciding to shrug this weight from your shoulders. Sometimes we don’t get the closure we deserve, but we can create closure for ourselves because we deserve to be at peace with our history. The events and the people of our past will only affect us to the extent that we allow them to, and by forgiving what has happened, we acknowledge that we have earned the opportunity to continue to grow without carrying that heavy load with us.

The other significant lesson that I learned is that, for a lot of us, the hardest person on the planet Earth to forgive can be yourself. We’ve all done stupid things over the years, that’s how we learn. But sometimes in the midst of our stupidity we hurt our friends and family. And while it can be tough to admit that to those we wrong, and apologise for it, it’s even harder to apologise to yourself.

It’s no secret that I was in a very damaging relationship a few years ago, not that I blame my partner for what happened. Well, not anymore. I might have for a short time, while I processed it all, but I came to forgive her for her contribution for the breakdown. But it was a long time later that I found it in me to forgive myself. For a long time, I shouldered a lot of the blame for the deterioration of our relationship and for a long time I told myself that there was more I could’ve done to save it. But, the reality of the situation was that I did all I could, and it didn’t work out. But, as I realised, that was okay. It’s okay that things don’t turn out the way we hope, it’s okay if we’ve done all we can, and it is absolutely okay if we can admit that we can’t do it any longer. Forgiving her was a big deal for me, forgiving me was everything.

It’s a lot easier said than done, I know. Sometimes these things take days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years. But that’s okay, there isn’t a right or wrong way of doing things. They say people run their own race, but I’d prefer to consider it a journey. You work at your own pace, you overcome obstacles the best way you know how, but the common denominator is that you will always come out the other side. You, my friend, have gotten through 100% of your challenging times victorious, stronger and even more devilishly handsome than before.

For all the times someone cut in line at the post office, for the times your friends said something hurtful, for the times your partner ate the last cookie in the packet, forgive them. Not for them, for you.

For the times you lashed out at a loved one, for the times you got drunk and called up the wrong person and said the wrong thing, for the times you knowingly ate the last cookie in the packet, forgive yourself. Not for them, for you.

Happy Mental Health Monday.

**I’d love to hear your thoughts friends! Feel free to leave a comment, or flick me a discussion suggestion at my Contact Page!**

I learned that every obstacle is really an opportunity

Jenna Ushkowitz

TWENTY ONE: The Complex Simplicities of the Brain

When does a brain get scared? When it loses it’s nerve

Another banger of a joke, I know

If you want to be specific, the brain is far more complex than a muscle. Looking at it’s cell structure alone, you can see just how much more there is to the brain compared to other muscles, for example our huge, pulsating biceps. But we’re not NERDS, so we don’t look at cell structures. I kid, I did some biology study for a test once and boy oh boy isn’t the human body both complex and fascinating?! Anyway I’m already getting off topic, stop distracting me.

Despite how complicated (and dramatic, am I right?) the brain is, it is, in a lot of ways, a muscle. To get the best out of it, it needs practice and repetition. You’re not going to remember the lyrics to We Didn’t Start The Fire without giving it a whirl a few times now, are you? And much like training ourselves to catch a ball, or learn a new language, we need to condition our brains to detect these things consciously until they become second nature. If you get good enough at something, you may find yourself saying or doing things without ever thinking about them. Let’s be real, that’s not always a good thing. How many times have you said something without thinking and wound up with your foot in your mouth?

Conditioning is a bit of a strange one. Sometimes you don’t even realise you’re learning or adopting a new behaviour until it’s become part of you, and even then we still may not even be aware of it. Sometimes it’s a good habit that your parents have encouraged from a young age, like farting at the dinner table as loudly as possible. Sometimes it’s not such a good habit, like saying please and thank you. Nonetheless, whatever it may be, it becomes a knee jerk reaction after a while.

Let me tell you about how I was conditioned.

Not two days ago, I woke up from a dream. Not a fantasy dream where I’m at the PlayBoy mansion surrounded by alllllll the gorgeous redheads I’ve ever encountered, no that was the night before. This particular dream was a memory, from my last relationship. I had woken up with that all too familiar knot in my gut, which felt way more unusual today than it did back then. Because back then I didn’t have the perspective I do now, and back then it was a feeling I had become accustomed to.

The dream took place the morning after I had been out with some work friends for a social night of bars and booze and ear-blisteringly loud music. It had been a great night, I’d had some drinks and a good laugh with some work pals, blown off some steam and stumbled home to bed. But, much like any of the other few occasions I’d ridden solo to a social gathering without my spouse, there was an argument the next day. I couldn’t even tell you the content of these arguments, but I can certainly remember how I felt waking up after a night out. I hated the feeling, so much so that I stopped accepting invitations, despite only really having nights like this once every couple of months because of work. I was conditioned to remove myself from social situations outside of my relationship off the back of associating it with one very powerful instinctive emotion. Guilt.

It makes my heart sink to look back and realise that I had been conditioned to associate independent time with friends outside of my relationship as something I should feel awful about. And it completely threw me to realise that, despite the feeling being more subtle now, that it is still an association I make. It’s something that I realised has affected my relationship with alcohol, and has also affected my ability to connect with the opposite sex in the dating world. Like a puppy that’s being taught not to pee on the carpet, I’ve been walking around with my tail between my legs without even realising it.

Two years into my life as an undeniably handsome young bachelor who is still yet to even scrape the surface of his potential, I had found myself in a position I had never before been in. For the first time in my life, I’d felt like the hopeless romantic in me had been stolen. Stolen by guilt. I’d been feeling as if the gut instinct that had lead me to express myself with big romantic gestures and picking petals of flowers to see if she loves me or not, had been unplugged.

Don’t mistaken this for a blame game, I’m never going to chastise my former spouse because there was a lot of things going on in their life that conditioned them in a lot of ways to have these responses. But at the same time, that right there is part of being in an emotionally abusive friendship or relationship. Even when you are on the receiving end, you can still find ways to justify their behaviour. For over two years, despite how the experience impacted me, I still find ways to defend it.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact it’s far from it. Recognising conditioned behaviours, or identifying certain habits that hinder rather than help you, is a sign of growth and an indication that you’ve matured from your experience. This week I learned that sometimes the effects of a abuse extend beyond any kind of physical or emotional pain, sometimes it can be found in our instincts. But in the same way that you have learned those instincts, you can unlearn them. Your brain is a muscle, with enough sessions on the ol’ mental bench press, you can crush these behaviours like an empty can and throw them out (into the recycling, because the Timmunity loves planet Earth).

This week is not about feeling sad for how our past experiences may or may not have affected us, it’s about admiring that we have made it through 100% of our bad days, and continue to learn more about ourselves from the experience. Every single time you recognise and overcome a bad habit, a conditioned behaviour or when you proudly fart at the dinner table, you become 1% better at it.

The brain is a muscle, go flex that beautiful bastard.

Be patient and tough: someday this pain will be useful to you

Ovid

TWENTY: Say Noes to Squashed Toes

I never used to enjoy peer pressure. But then my friends got me into it

Albert Einstein (probably)(not)

My psychologist asked only one thing of me when we first started our sessions together.

“This is a place where we can discuss anything and everything you feel you need to. The only thing I ask, for the sake of being able to help walk you through the challenges that you might be facing, is that you be transparent, that you be honest. You can choose not to discuss certain things any further if that’s what you need to do, but for your own sake, keep things honest”

It was the most reasonable thing anyone in her position could ask of someone in my position. If I am going to the effort to go to seek her advice, the least I could do for myself, more than anything, is be straight with how I conduct myself in that room.

What I found interesting as I recounted the various challenges of my life was the unique perspective my therapist offered me. And once she did, it became so blaringly obvious that I almost felt foolish for not seeing it myself. Almost, but I didn’t. Because that’s what makes talking to someone so productive. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes when someone else tries the shoe on our foot, even for a moment, they can suddenly see things in a way that we can’t.

Which brings me to one of our most recent sessions. After a few visits to get to know each other, which allowed me to tell my story, my therapist pointed out something I’d never considered.

“You’ve painted me a very clear picture of the kind of person you are. But I do wonder, let’s discuss some behaviours you’ve recounted to me that seem to contradict that personality. For example, what urges you to drink too much when you socialise with friends?”

To which I responded with an inquisitive frown and a “huh”. One of those “huh”s you make when something has just dawned on you.

Very rarely have I ever gone out with friends, gotten drunk and woken up the next morning and thought to myself “aw man, what a great night!”. And yet, despite how shitty I usually felt the next day, because the something silly I said or did, sometimes small, sometimes big, I’d eventually come back around and do it again. But at no point throughout my late teens or early twenties did I ever take a second to think about the times I’d been out drinking and actually thought about what I was doing at the time. Like really thought about it. I just switched my brain off for the evening, without ever stopping for a moment to consider, “Am I actually enjoying this?”. What is great about perspective, is that it opened my eyes. I suddenly realised that every time, I would reach a point where my enjoyment levels plummeted.

I started to wonder, why the hell do I reach that point in the night where I go that one step too far. And I realised it came down to a few things;

  1. Anxiety – while I’ve learned to manage my panic attacks over the years, anxiety takes oh so many forms. It had gone unnoticed to me, but a big part of my behaviour was a desire to feel like I could “hold my weight” to “fit in”. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that if you have to go outside of your comfort zone to fit in with your friends, are they really your friends? Truth be told, once I relaxed and started saying no to certain things, I felt like I was respected even more for my honesty.
  2. Letting my guard down – you could almost say that sounds contradictory, but when I would be out drinking, I would subconsciously say to myself “it’s a night out, blow off some steam, there’s no consequence to that”. Oh Tim, you muppet *sigh*
  3. Conformity – I wanted to be a part of the crowd, which, as my therapist told me, contradicts how much I tried to break those prejudices and social norms.

What did I learn this week? I learned a lot about peer pressure, and the sub-conscious need to conform in various aspects of life. For me, drinking had become one that had flown under my radar for a long time. Not to the extent that I identify having a drinking problem, especially considering how infrequently I would partake, but I did find myself considering; what else am I doing that clashes with this picture I paint of myself?

Behaviours in a lot of ways are like clothes. Sometimes we put them on and they don’t fit, but you feel great in it and try to brave the discomfort anyway. But eventually, you realise that your squashed toes aren’t worth it. Sometimes it takes us a little longer to realise those shoes are not worth our time, but eventually, much like a behaviour that doesn’t fit us, we discard it. On the flip side, sometimes a behaviour fits perfectly, and you spend your days stylishly and comfortably rocking that look.

More than ever, I’ve started to feel like I could express myself in a way that felt better to my very core. Throughout the year I started doing things I used to screw up my face at, and challenged those stereotypes I’d foolishly grown to adopt.

“Non-alcoholic beer? That’s not very masculine”

“What do you mean you don’t eat meat? That’s weird”

And yet, I’ve flipped those self-judgements on their head, and challenged myself to open my mind to new opportunities and possibilities. So here I am, 60 days since I last ate meat, and 60 days since I was last drunk on a night out.

So here’s the weekly wisdom. Don’t be set in your ways, because closing your mind to new perspectives, new habits and new opportunities impedes on your own ability to grow and discover new sides of yourself. They say you can’t teach a new dog new tricks. Wellllll bullshit, if I change how I view something, I’ll stand by it, no matter how old I am.

Challenge yourself when your behaviours contradict the kind of person you want to be. And for god sake, don’t wear a shoe at the expense of your toes.

**I’d love to hear your thoughts friends! Feel free to leave a comment, or flick me a discussion suggestion at my Contact Page!**

We are limited, but we can push back the borders of our limitations

Stephen R. Covey

NINETEEN: Motivation

If you can dream it, you conduit

Motivational quote for all of you electricians out there. You’re welcome

It’s a word we so often throw out there – motivation. We all want to know the industry secrets. What does it mean to be motivated? How does one master the art of maintaining consistent levels of being PSYCHED enough to stay the current course. Whether it’s fitness, academic pursuits or, I don’t know, eating a whole cake in one sitting, these things take a steady level of uplifting, blood pumping motivation, right?

Wrong.

Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to take that nasty-ass word, and toss it outside. Motivation is far too unreliable a term and concept for the Timmunity. It doesn’t meet the entry requirements to join out mental healthternity, and thus has been politely asked to leave.

But Tim, why the hostility?

I’ll tell you why, because motivation relies far too heavily on our mood. Think about it, we’re only ever motivated during those high energy moods, namely when we’re angry or when we’re in a realllllly good mood. Don’t get me wrong, capitalise on those opportunities to smash out a great gym session or a huge section of your essay, but don’t rely on it. For me, consistency comes from two places; discipline and remembering the “why” to what I’m doing.

Discipline, hey? Yep, discipline. The process of getting shit done even when we don’t wanna get shit done (quoted directly from Oxford dictionary, obviously). I apply these to things that I need to do for whatever reason. We’ve all got those dreadful tasks we would rather put of to assume our best couch potato look, but unfortunately this stupid adulting thing gets in the way.  So, when it comes to going to work when we really don’t feel like it, or cleaning the kitchen, or doing some exercise because we’ve done nothing but eat pizza and watch Netflix, it’s about being disciplined. Get it done, get it checked off your list then do something else afterwards.

There’s discipline, then there’s remembering why you made this commitment in the first place. Personally, I could apply this to a number of my whacky schemes, but the biggest one was the slight lifestyle adjustment of packing everything into a couple of items of luggage and going for a short, 16,000km stroll to the other side of the world. In a year that has thrown many a spanner in the works, it had crossed my mind a few times, “what on earth am I doing here?” On the few occasions that I have fantasised about returning home, I remember why I ventured out this way in the first place;

  1. To put myself out of my comfort zone, and discover places and cultures I had not yet experienced.
  2. To give myself an opportunity to shrug the emotional baggage of the last few years off my shoulders and start fresh in a new town (…or country…whoops).
  3. To give myself the time to learn more about myself, and set some goals for my future. I wanted to go home with a plan.

I could probably rattle on a dozen reasons why I came to do this. To me, these became a mental contract, an agreement I made with myself. Right, you’ve read the contract, if you didn’t read the Terms and Conditions, that’s on you. But you’ve made this commitment, you know why you’re doing this, so fulfil your end of the bargain before you even THINK about pulling the pin on this whole operation. When I’ve seen the places I wanted to see and done the things I set out to do, then I’ll consider when it’s time to roll on back home.

So consider discipline, my lovely Timmunity, and remember your why. No matter what it is, if the thing you have been pursuing means that much to you, then you’ll keep at it whether you’re fired up to do it or not. Whether it’s dropping a few kg, getting that degree/qualification or even reading for 30 minutes before you go to bed, it’s when you don’t feel like doing something that you find out just how much it means to you. Even if you don’t give it the same output as yesterday, even if you only do 1% of the job, you’re still 1% closer to your goal than you were yesterday. The only time you can do a disservice to yourself is if you do nothing. And we ain’t about doing any disservices to ourselves now are we?

Capitalise on those moments when you’re PUMPED UP and MOTIVATED to smash all of your goals in one day, but don’t be reliant on that feeling to do that. As the self-aware community that we are, we all know that emotions come and go in waves, but discipline is 4eva (if you work at it).

That is what I impart unto you this week Timmunity, consider your why. Reflect on what it is you’ve set out to achieve, review the contract you made with yourself and remember who or what or why or how or when you’re doing what you’re doing. You take that contract and you be annoyingly stubborn about it.

And hey, I’ve been monologuing for 19 weeks. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. Not even necessarily about this, but you’re welcome to leave a comment below. Although if you have any thoughts about any topic that you wish to share, feel free to drop me a line at my Contact page! You can stay anonymous, but if you want my unprofessional opinion on something, I’ve give you my two cents (and most likely a terrible pun).

Have a great week Timmunity. Go outside at least once this week for the love of God (that’s more at me, but applies to you too), eat your veggies and call ya Ma. See you all next week, Happy Mental Health Monday!

In order to carry a positive action, we must develop a positive vision

Dalai Lama

EIGHTEEN: My Favourite Shirt

What do you call a reptilian detective that wears a sleeveless shirt that just can’t let something go? An InVESTed Gator

Slim pickings this week *nervous laugh*

So, I have this t-shirt. It’s my favourite t-shirt. I don’t even remember buying it, but it’s stood by me through thick and thin. I wore it when I was happy and healthy, training hard, madly in love, thriving in my job. I wore it when I had piled on weight and was heart-broken. I wore it in Egypt when I discovered just how big this little planet of ours is. I still wear it now, living abroad, figuring out who I am, what I want to do and where I want to go.

But here’s the thing, it’s not what it used to be. It’s slowly fading in colour, the sweat of my hundreds of gym sessions in it are starting to stain (I know, gross right? Sweat, ew). But I’ll wear it until I pull it out of the dryer and it disintegrates into dust in  my hands I tell ya  (would be a cool party trick for the ladies on a Saturday night, am I right?).

But here’s the thing pt. 2, there’s going to come a time when I can’t wear it anymore. Eventually it’s not going to pass Mum’s “suitability for public wearing” test, one of these days I’m going to have to retire it. Which comes to something I’ve been thinking about a lot this past week, and that’s knowing when to let go.

I don’t need to let go of my shirt just yet, he’s still got some life left in him. But I will have to eventually, because there will come a time when that old shirt doesn’t serve its purpose anymore, when it’s best for both parties to make that tough call. And I’m sure by now that you’ve realised, this can be applied to more than just a shirt.

This past week marked two years since the end of my last relationship. Looking back now, the separation completely altered the trajectory of my life, it started the chain reaction of events that lead me to Egypt, that lead me to Malta, that has me sitting in this very spot. It came to benefit me, improve the quality of my life, moving here. I am constantly working on bettering my relationship with myself, I shrugged off most of the baggage that weighed me down back home. It gave me the opportunity to grow, to reshape my sense of self and to build a better identity for myself, into something I could be proud of. Yes, in a great many ways everything that happened to me to get me here was the best possible thing that could have happened, but it doesn’t mean it was easy.

I’m sure you know by now, my beloved little Doguin, that I’m a pretty open book. And in the interest of remaining that open book, the truth is I still feel the sting from 2 years ago. Not the way I used to, but it’s still there. For a long time I’ve been frustrated with myself for not being able to shake it, but my therapist (still a normal thing to do, boys should still talk about their feelings, it ain’t weak to speak fam) is great at shedding light on this. Regardless of how I feel about it, it’s my actions that demonstrate my intentions. I definitively put an end to any possible contact with her, I packed my things and I moved forward. I didn’t stay where I was, in false hope that it could be fixed, I saw an opportunity for myself and I took it.

Yes, it still stings. But when you’re prepared to spend the rest of your life with someone, if you’ve panned out your next 50+ years of your life with someone, it can be difficult to acknowledge that the reality you built in your mind is  gone. But, the important thing was, I let her go. I did myself a favour and was selfish, in the best way possible. While she hoped to one day remain friends, watching her in a new relationship with someone else wasn’t healthy for me, so I did what was best for me. I mustered up the courage to let her go.

What does it even mean though, to let someone go? For me, the practice of “letting go” is 0% about the other person and 100% about you. It’s about recognising, “hey, it’s not in my best interests to maintain this relationship. I need to have the courage to acknowledge that and make the change for me”. It isn’t a reflection of whether you love that person any less, it’s all about showing yourself the respect you deserve. At the end of the day, if you put your hand on a stove while it’s still hot, you’re the only one that will feel the pain of keeping it there.

Letting go of my ex wasn’t a reflection on how I felt about her, it was me acknowledging that what I felt was not healthy for me, and if I was serious about a future where I could be at peace with this, a future where I moved on, then this was the first and most significant step I needed to take for me. It was about being honest with myself. I could lie to you, I could lie to my parents, to my best friend, to my siblings, but I knew deep down I couldn’t lie to myself. And the truth was that until I made this one significant step forward, I wasn’t serious about moving on. I wasn’t serious enough to show myself the respect I deserved. It didn’t happen right away, I had to put my ego aside, I had to stop being stubborn for 5 minutes, and eventually I did it.

If there is anything I hope you take out of this week, it’s to show yourself the respect you deserve. If no one else on the planet shows it to you, you should be the first to show it to yourself. If you’ve got an old shirt,  or stuffed animal with ¾ of its limbs missing, or an unhealthy relationship sapping the life out of you, do yourself a favour and let go. The hardest thing and the right thing can sometimes go hand-in-hand, but we all know the Timmunity never backs down from a challenge.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

A positive disposition yields much more in life than the opposed

A wise customer we had at work this week

SEVENTEEN: Breakdown to Breakthrough

Spiderman has always been great at witty comebacks, because with great power comes great response-ability

Unknown comic genius

Setbacks produce bounce backs. Breakdowns produce breakthroughs.

If I was to sum up the last two years of my life in a single line, there it is. But no means am I enjoying the fruits of my great many successes, nor am I achieving everything I have wished for myself, but I am miles from where I started out. Quite literally miles, I’m 16,105km from home, from where I started.

Look at any great underdog story, any documentary of sporting greats, of famous scientists, researchers, doctors, theorists, and they will all follow this theme. There was no success without setbacks, you NEED ‘failure’ first, you need to learn and grow and adapt to challenges before you can reap the rewards for your labours. One could never truly appreciate the extent of their success without being able to reflect on the hard work, the sacrifice and the perseverance they endured to get there. Not one is right first time, every time (except me, I am never wrong), but the lessons from each setback equips us with the perspective we need to try again with more confidence. Success is not measured by bank accounts or assets. It can be, if that’s what you’re striving for, but it doesn’t determine your worth. Failure isn’t a lack of success, it’s feedback to put you on the right track.

Which leads me to a very important friendship I had during the toughest emotional setback of my young life. Every now and then you’ll stumble across another person you just immediately click with. Not in a romantic sense, just on that rare occasion that you meet someone and you just get each other. I’ve been blessed to know a few of them, but one in particular inspires this piece. At a similar time in our lives, we had experienced the same challenges and were both faced with our own individual, but parallel, crossroads in our lives. We would go through cycles of highs and lows together. There would have an off-week, there would be a setback, there would be a lesson, there would be a recovery. Just as hard as we fell, we always had a killer bounce-back, we always came out of that slump stronger.

There’s a lot I take from my wonderful friendship with this dear pal, and the biggest thing was that whenever we’d fall into respective slumps, we’d not only support one another, but we’d be hyping the shit out of the inevitable bounce back. Sometimes the hype would be a bunch of memes, sometimes it was a bit of tough love, either way it worked. It got to the stage where I would embrace the lows because I’d be looking forward to the highs. And it helped me get out of them, it motivated me to get out of them sooner, it pushed me to get the most out of an emotional breakthrough. It’s what helped me get back into a healthy routine, to get back into the gym and feeling better about myself, it helped me pick up a second job, save money and travel. Above all else, it taught me a valuable lesson;

The stresses and challenges of today prepare us for a better tomorrow. Sometimes the things that trouble us today will be nothing more than an afterthought next week, or maybe next month, or maybe next year. No matter how long it takes, that’s exactly what it’ll be, nothing more than a distant memory that we can look back on and reflect on what it taught us, what we’ve done since and how far we’ve come. With a shift in mindset, that I slowly built upon with each stumble along the way, I learned to see the things that challenged me as an opportunity, not a disadvantage;

Oh, I didn’t get into this particular university? That’s disappointing, but hey look there’s another option here that would suit me better that I hadn’t considered before. Maybe there’s a good reason I didn’t get into the original one.

So here’s the lesson I bequeath unto you, my dear reader: no emotion is permanent. How you interpret that depends on how full or empty you see that glass in front of you. But what I want you to take into consideration is that, yes, happiness and elation are temporary, but so is sadness and sorrow. Life is made of cycles. We experience memorable, joyful memories; getting married, getting the dream job, passing the important exam, witnessing our brother hold his first child. And on the flip side, we experience some truly sad ones too; a relationship breakdown, the loss of a friend or family member. They are natural parts of our lives, albeit some are unwelcome. But despite all of your setbacks, your challenges, you’re still here. You know what that means? That means you’re a mighty Doguin, that means you’ve overcome 100% of the obstacles you’ve encountered.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

Rain is merely a temporary obstacle in life, it’s a metaphor of the inevitable downfall before success.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

SIXTEEN: Murphy’s Dumb Law

Murphy’s law states that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong

Cole’s law primarily consists of thinly sliced cabbage, carrot and mayonnaise

An oldie but a goodie. Heheheheheh

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those weeks where everything that could possibly go wrong decides to do just that. Well, at least, that’s how it looks within our own little mental bubble. And doesn’t it feel great to just let that be an excuse to be absolutely furious at how unfair the world is? No, it really doesn’t. It feels like shit. So here are my thoughts on the famous teachings of Murphy’s Law

Murphy’s a dick.

If I have a choice between being remembered as the guy who looked at life like old mate Murph and being forgotten by the time my grandchildren have their own kids, then let my legacy be noting more than dust. Fancy being the guy that’s famous for saying “aw man, when it rains it pours hey :(“ or “man, everything that could possibly go wrong in my life has :’(“. Get your negative ass outta here, quit your moaning.

I was Murphy this week. I spent the entire week holed up in my house, going outside only to get shopping, caught up in the mindset “I really need a win”. And when I wouldn’t get the outcome I hoped for, the world was ending. I was getting frustrated in my inability to find a university to study with, I was getting agitated with work, I was getting closed off and not wanting to do anything social. My exercise regime went out the window as I opted for unhealthy food habits and atrocious sleep routines. Then of course this all came to a head when my rugby team got their ass handed to them. Like for goodness sake, couldn’t I at least have THAT to be happy about? Essentially, I completely contradicted absolutely everything I talked about last week when I talked about H.E.A.L.T.H.

Does that make me a hypocrite? Not at all. I mean, you’re welcome to think that, it doesn’t concern me, but no it doesn’t. Because, despite all of my perfections, I am just as flawed as the mere mortals that walk alongside me this earth (when I decide to actually go outside and walk). But, my experiences with mental health allowed me to recognise the self-loathing and self-destructive behaviours of the last week. And with that recognition comes a week long eye-roll as I allowed myself to be a couch potato, knowing full well I would not feel better until I put a stop to it. While it would be easy to submit to them for an extended period of time, that wasn’t ever going to do me any good. So, I gave myself a time limit. Righto Tim, if you wanna be a sad sack, go for it. But come Monday you better get your ass up and get your shit together or so help me GOD.

So I did. I served up a little tough love to myself, finally washed the dishes, finally had a shower, finally had a shave, finally went back to the gym, finally ate something that wasn’t just a bowl of straight carbs. And what do you know, I found a bloody university to apply for. After spending hours scouring the great continent of Europe looking for a country that would get me an education that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg, and didn’t require me to be fluent in another language, it finally dawned on me that I wasn’t looking at my home country (facepalm). And what do ya bloody know, I found 4 colleges that offered my degree online.

Never forget where you come from, kids.

So now I’ve shed my couch potato, sad sack skin, let me tell you how to beat Murphy and his dumb law. Like all movie/video game villains, defeating such a foe requires strategy. If you have Thor’s hammer, that definitely helps. But, seeing as I have misplaced it, we need alternatives. So, this is how I do it;

A STRICT time limit with a sprinkling of tough love – sometimes you need to be a sad sack, sometimes you need to eat garbage, binge an unhealthy amount of Netflix, sometimes you gotta listen to the dreariest playlist known to man and Kim K cry the week away. BUT, this is temporary, and absolutely cannot be allowed to become a lifestyle. For me, it’s about saying, “alright mate, you’ve got 2 days to get your act together”. Once those two days are up, that’s it. No more self-destructive behaviours, you’ve had time to feel sorry for yourself. Put on your big boy pants and get up.

Divide and conquer – it’s so easy to consider all of the “failings” of the week to be one big, steaming pile of horse shit. But nothing helps me more than taking one and flipping it in my favour. The best move forward is finding the most manageable “problem” on your radar right now and making it your bitch. No matter how big or small, a win is a win. A win is progress.

Filtering the content you consume – one of the highlights of my brooding week was the abundance of sitcoms I watched. When all else failed, I found comfort in the familiar characters, stories and good feelings of my favourite shows and movies. Find your comfort, whether it’s reading, video games, meditating. The healthier the habit, the better the results. Do what you need to do.

Those are a few little cheat codes on being Murphy the moron and his dumb law. But, of course, everyone deals with these things differently. I am open to your input! It’s important that we’re not so hard on ourselves, but we also don’t let ourselves get away with too much of a bad thing. You know you better than anyone. Do yourself a favour and stay honest.

So, in summary, Murphy sucks. No-one listen to him. Instead, listen to Lord’s Law;

Our experiences grant us the ability to discover the best version of ourselves. In success and in failure, trust the process.

That’s better. Have a wonderful week my precious doguins.

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one

Hans Selye

FIFTEEN: H.E.A.L.T.H.

Good health is for chumps. I don’t carrot all

Me, secretly caring about my health

If you were asked how you felt about your current health, how would you measure it? Your waistline? Your hair? Your skin? How well-rested you are? For a lot of us, health means looking and feeling physically good about ourselves. But too often do we overlook what it really means to be healthy, so let’s look into the word “health”, shall we?

The term “health” was coined in 1722 by Mr T. Immunity, who was the founder and creator of the Timmunity. This is no coincidence, for health became the very foundation that built this great, monumental, global family. Little does anyone know, but health is actually an acronym, and a near 300 years later, it is just as relevant and true as it was the day it was discovered. So let’s blow this thing up, it’s time you knew the truth. Health isn’t just about your body, H.E.A.L.T.H. is so much more than that;

H appiness Across

E very

A spect of Your

L ife

T immunity

H oneys

That’s right. I am here to tell you the complete truth, that truth being that the number on the scales is not the only thing we should consider for good health. In fact, throw the scales out, you don’t need them to be healthy. The number doesn’t tell the story of how you’re feeling. Health encapsulates all aspects of our lives. I can assure you that there are millions of people out there in the “healthy” weight range that are not living healthy lives. 2020 seems as appropriate a time as ever for the Timmunity to get back to its roots, to remember the teachings of old.

So, if it ain’t just about the size of my gut, what’s it all about, wise-guy? Well alright sass queen, it’s not just physical. It’s about everything we do, it’s about the people we surround ourselves with, the places we go, our habits, our thoughts, everything we say and do. It’s about every aspect of your life, I would say you could break in down into a few categories. But, in saying that, I think it is far more intricate than merely splitting it up into just a few. Yes, that’s right, I am admitting that this is too advanced for even my thoroughly untrained mind. So, if an unqualified expert like me is still working on it, then so can you mere mortals. So let’s consider health, but in more ways than one. Here are a few examples, if you will;

Physical Health –  Yes, physical health is super important. but isn’t the only thing we should focus on for a balanced, healthy life. (Tim) Lord knows that there are plenty of people affected by conditions that cannot be measured by weight. To be physically healthy is to be balanced in our approach to our eating habits and how active we are. It’s maintaining a healthy relationship with what we eat and how active we are. If you wanna eat a pizza and sit on the couch on a Sunday evening, by all means go for it, my friend. Balancing a lazy Sunday with a more active Monday, with some healthier food choices and an exercise regime, is just that, it’s balance. But following the same inactive, sodium-soaked routine over and over again over a significant period of time is what will clog your arteries. B a l a n c e, my friend.

Mental Health – everyone gasps. The mental health guy says mental health is important. What a surprise. But, of course, we all know it’s true. How we are feeling, our thought patterns, the things we say and do are all a reflection of our current mental health. When things aren’t A1, are we turning to someone, are we getting it off our chest? The mental health guy would say that this is the most crucial element of general health that we need to maintain, because (from my experience) our  mental health sets the tone for the rest. If I am having a poor mental health week, the other aspects of my life generally follow suit. Don’t forget to water the pretty little flower that is your brain.

Social Health – huh? What in tarnation is that? I’ll tell ya kid. Are the relationships in your life healthy? Do the people in your inner circle have your best interests at heart? Good social health means surrounding ourselves with people who care about us, who lift us up when we need it. Sure, not everyone is going to like us (except me, of course), but being with people who do makes the world of difference. Those are the opinions I care about. If I ain’t coming to you for advice or support, I certainly ain’t adding any weight to negative things you say. Because being with the right people is what it means to be socially healthy.

Sleep Hygiene – ah, crap. I was hoping he wouldn’t bring up sleep. Buuuuut I did, because one simply cannot ignore poor sleep hygiene. And no, I’m not talking about how you smell when you go to bed (but, you know, have a shower if you stink), I’m talking about the quality of your nightly shut-eye. While it is all very cool, very swag, very hip to say you’ll sleep when you die, the quality of your night dictates the quality of your day. Believe it or not, a well-rested human will function significantly better than it’s sleep-deprived, zombie equivalent. While it’s sometimes easier said than done, consider your nightly, pre-bed routine, and consider how you can better put yourself in a position to sleep better. If your pre-kip habits include the use of screens/phones before you roll over, consider switching it for a book. The less we stimulate our brains with the lights and sounds of Candy Crush, the better.

This seems a good place to start. So let’s make these the priority this week. Being physically STRONG, being mentally IRON-WILLED, being a social BUTTERFLY and a sleeping BEAUTY. Now you know the truth, go and spread the word, the good word of good H.E.A.L.T.H. Godspeed, Mental Health Messaiah OUT.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other

Abraham Lincoln