THIRTY FOUR: The Pursuit of HappMEness

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea… does that mean that one enjoys it?

Food for thought…post digestion

So last week I told the Timmunity that I was experiencing somewhat of a slump, but much like the great Detective Jake Peralta we all know and love, I chose this week to flip that slump on its head. I pmuls’ed, I did the ol’ backwards slump.

You may recall once upon a time that some smart cookie on this blog mentioned that we sometimes need to breakdown to breakthrough. Sometimes what we need to give us a little kick up the backside is a fresh dose of adversity, sprinkled with a bit of self-pity. Feelings, much like waves, come and go. Happiness comes, happiness goes. Sadness comes, sadness goes. Anger comes, anger goes. The only thing that is permanent is dad jokes, they are forever.

Often when I find myself in a bit of a rut, it generally comes down to feeling like I’m lacking a bit of direction. Tim needs direction, he needs goals and he needs something to work towards or his head explodes. Maybe I’ve neglected my routine, got myself into a rut-tine, if you will. This usually comes about as I sip a deliciously toxic concoction made up of neglecting any kind of fitness, avoiding social interactions at all costs, and eating crap on the sofa until I turn the metaphor of a couch potato into a living, breathing enigma of self-loathing.

In my experience, when it comes to feeling a little down or depressed, it’s perfectly valid to allow some time for it to run its course. Sometimes we need a little time to be a little grumpy, be a little sad or feel a little like the world’s against us. That’s absolutely fine! Honestly, everyone has moments like that. What’s important is that we recognise that there needs to come a time when we put our big person pants and get back into our groove. Whether it be a day, a week or a bit longer, the key is planning ahead. Take your time, padawan, we have plenty of that to spare.

For me, turning a slump into a pmuls is about reflection, understanding what it is that is making me feel the way I do, and planning a battle strategy to conquer the little brain gremlin. Last week, I was allowing my neglected fitness regime, poor diet and the subsequent lethargy and weight gain affect my mood. So it was important that, if I was to turn this rut-tine into a routine, I would need to address this head on.

Once we set ourselves a goal, the greatest service we can do ourselves is to allow every subsequent action we take be in pursuit of that outcome. If I decide that I wanna be an astronaut, then everything I do from this point on will be in the pursuit of becoming a moon-man

^what he (me) said.

Okay, so I’ve taken the problem, identified it, now it’s time to plan out a way to get out of the situation I’m in. Take my example, for example…example, if I am to get out of this rut I am to take the negative actions and do the opposite. Eating crap? Okay I’ve gotta cut back eating so much crap. Neglecting fitness? Alright let’s join a gym and get back into it. Avoiding social interactions? Okay I’m gonna call up my best pal and we’re going to have a quiet get together, something simple that won’t overwhelm me.

You could take your own rut and make your own rut-busting plan of attack in the same way. It’s about taking the issue, identifying the contributing factors and flipping them on their head and shaking out their lunch money. Got it? Great, let’s go charging, guns blazing!

Whoaaaaa whoa whoa whoa, slow down there cowboy.

One of the greatest disservices we can do ourselves is to go all-in on one hand and hope to win the lot.

^what he (me) said.

It was important that I took things slow and steady this week. As much as I hate it, the key to getting back on the horse is a little patience. As much as I would’ve liked to have returned to my former glory of getting FIT 4-5 times a week, 1. It’s not necessary for me to be happy and 2. To expect the same level of output as the Tim that was training 4-5 times a week is just not realistic. Instead, I opted to go twice, and go for a some walks throughout the week.

In  the course of the week, nothing externally has changed, but internally it has made a lot of difference (not my tum-tum, my brain. Well, actually maybe a little in my tum-tum, I am eating better after all). While we’re preoccupied furiously planning how we’re busting out of the damp, dark cocoon we’ve woven for ourselves, we subconsciously discover a more positive mindset.

No feeling is permanent, but we can always put ourselves in the best possible position to manage our topsy turvy rollercoaster of emotions in the things we do in our day-to-day. Any baby step in the right direction is progress, so if all you do for yourself is take a quarter of a step in the right direction, you’re already heading the right way.

Stay safe, stay opTIMistic and remember to brush your teeth. Happy Mental Health Monday

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% hoe I react to it

Charles R. Swindoll

THIRTY THREE: A Session of Depression

I don’t slump, people. I opposite of slump. I pmuls. That’s slump backwards and it’s what I do.

Detective Jake Peralta of the 99th Precinct

Y’know, for a mental health guy, I haven’t really talked much about the challenges that we face when our mental health is strained. Y’know, the dreaded “D” word? No, not that, ye pervert, I’m talking about Depression.

Today feels an appropriate time to talk about this, because despite my hiatus from alcohol, I have found myself sitting at the table with a dozen empty depresso martini glasses. Big T has been a bit down in the dumps, a bit caught in a slumps.

But are you okay Tim?!!?! Of course, because like all Timmunity members, I know this is temporary. But what’s important is I recognise the things I am doing that are helping, and the things that aren’t. And for a while, I’ve allowed myself to do a bunch of things that don’t help at all. From my experience, and I’m sure some of you can relate to some or all of these, these kind of behaviours are what I consider to be “mood manglers”. Things like;

  • Not exercising/spending minimal time outside of the house.
  • Eating an imbalanced diet, resulting in lower energy levels.
  • A reluctance to be social, disconnection from the majority of my social connections.
  • Negative self-talk, particularly in areas like body image.

In one way or another, we all experience our own mood manglers that often drain us of the motivation or energy we need to overcome our slumps. And while it might maintain it’s grip around our throat for longer than we would like it to, it’s important that we realise that one of the most important steps in the right direction is to be as patient as we can with ourselves. Depression isn’t homework, or a presentation for work, it doesn’t have a deadline that we need to meet, so take some of that pressure off!

The reality with mental illness is that it’s not in its nature a physical ailment. Sure, it can certainly affect us in ways that are physical, but that isn’t the source of the issue. It’s not like a cut on our foot, or a common cold, so a few stitches or dose of cold ‘n’ flu tablets won’t fix the problem. It’s a psychological ailment, it’s something that affects our brain and thought patterns. And if we know anything about our brains, it’s that the little blighter is responsible for just about everything our body does. From typing a blog post, to letting off a fart so loud that your housemate hears it in the other room. Since it’s not a physical issue, it’s not as simple as slapping on a band-aid. Depression isn’t a breakage that we can just piece together, and there’s a couple of reasons for that.

For starters, you are in no way, shape or form “broken”, my friend. You’re human, what you are feeling is 10000% valid, and what you feel is felt by far, far more people than we care to admit. But as the saying goes, you have survived 100% of the bad days you’ve had and come out of the other side. This will not be any different.

Secondly, depression or anxiety might not be a wound you can just stitch up and forget about, but there are some things that we can do in our day-to-day lives to help ease the intensity of what we feel, and how long it decides to hang around. So over the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing to take baby steps in the right direction. This is how I am doing it;

  1. To combat my lack of exercise and reluctance to be social, I finally bit the bullet and went and signed up to a boxing gym. I found that going to the same place and lifting up heavy things over and over got boring. By choosing to participate in something out of my usual routine, and something that involves classes with other human beings, I am metaphorically killing two birds with one stone. Metaphorically
  2. Planning my week of meals – Monday is a good a day as any to make plans for my week of tasty goodness. If I can plan ahead what I’m eating, and pick something I’ll genuinely look forward to, I’ll be far less likely to eat too much takeout. If I’m eating better, I’m feeling better and I can tell all that negative self-talk to shut the fu-, uh, front door…on their way out.
  3. Making social commitments – sometimes being social is exhausting, and getting back into the swing of things can be hard. But baby steps, baby. I went to a group event for a few hours then came home to watch my basketball team play. That to me sounds like a bloody good night.

Overcoming depression isn’t about finding a cure, it’s about management. When you look at it more as a mood rather than an illness, it doesn’t seem so daunting. Sure, it may not go away permanently, but does any mood? We don’t stop being happy and think that’s the last time we’ll feel that, nor do we feel that way about sadness, or anger, or excitement.

Depression comes in many forms, it affects us differently, sometimes without us even realising it. And with that variety comes a variety of ways to tame it. The important thing is that you listen to yourself. You know you better than anyone else, and if all you can muster is just getting out of bed, then give yourself a pat on the back.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, trust your process. You’re building something great.

Happy Mental Health Monday.

If today all you did was feel good for a minute, it was enough to get started towards better days

THIRTY TWO: Thinkin’ Bout Drinkin’

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder

Bruce Lee (probably)(not)

How shit are hangovers? I mean, looking back on a dusty Sunday morning with a missing sock and a thumping headache is funny after the fact, but boy oh boy I hate being hungover. Far too often over my early twenties would I wake up with the familiar feeling of regret for how much I drank the night before, as I try to piece together the events of the previous night with the help of a sloppy text message thread and some of my fellow drinking buddies.

I’ve never been a regular drinker, my job never really allowed for it. I had been in bar work in my early twenties and spent over 5 years in management positions in a few places, so I was often on the “wrong” side of the bar on a Friday/Saturday night. I saw a lot of shit, fights and tears, all alcohol induced. Because it was rare that I would drink, I’d often make too big a night of out the occasion and wind up making a dick of myself. Whether I said something dumb, did something dumb or completely lost my inhibitions. As I got older, I started asking myself;

What the fuck am I doing this for?

The last few months I started having a real hard think about my relationship with alcohol. Sure, I like a beer as much as the next guy, and I don’t sit around craving one, but it had become apparent that after a certain point I lose track and the enjoyment level of the evening plummeted. So I started to consider, what is the actual purpose of getting drunk? Not “having a few” with some friends one evening, I’m talking getting plastered and passing out. What am I trying to achieve?

That’s drinking culture for you. And I think some of it, at least in my experience, links back to that “toxic masculinity“ thing I spoke about a while ago. I spent a couple of years in a rugby club trying to prove how manly and tough I was. And that wasn’t just on the field, holding your booze was as much a part of the sport. And when it wasn’t the rugby club, it was the fellas I started socialising with that would tell me not to be “soft” and have half a dozen beers in quick succession.

It baffles me though, what was I doing it for? Like, honestly, what was I hoping to achieve? The more I reflected on the various experiences I had involving excessive drinking, the more I realised that, even at the time, I never actually enjoyed it. I didn’t enjoy it during, and I sure as hell didn’t enjoy the feeling of being hunger. So what the blazes was I doing?

So I stopped.

When I reflect, I consider that there’s two main reasons why inebriated brain thought it a good idea to keep boozing up. And it’s this;

  1. I’m trying to prove my worth (to pretty much no-one) according to how much I can drink
  2. I am suppressing a bunch of emotions that I would rather ignore until I lashed out at someone or punched a wall or did something else I would feel bloody awful about the next day…into the next week…into the next month…that I’m still regretting now.

It took me a long time to turn the idea into a commitment, over a year if I’m tracking. I had a reality check before I left Australia. As a matter of fact, I had two. One of them involved me being an absolute prick to some of my close friends for no reason whatsoever, right before my timely departure from Australia. I’m sure I made the exit slightly easier *nervous laugh*. The second one involved drunk dialling my ex (oh bite me, we’ve all done it), and doing something so monumentally stupid and dangerous that I’m lucky that I didn’t get hurt or hurt someone else. They’re two occasions that leave a knot in my stomach, but remind me that participating in this toxic, peer-pressure driven culture of excessive drinking just doesn’t work for me.

I think I picked the right time to drop off the drinking scene, seeing as bars aren’t crowded like they used to be, but it still came with a few minor challenges, most of them social. On the most part I’ve had a positive experience with the people I know when I tell them I’m not drinking, which tells me that I am associating with the right kind of people. So, thank you friends. But on the odd occasion I’d be met with what I could only describe as a scowl of disbelief, followed by ‘what do you mean you’re not drinking?!?!”.

To that, I would simply say that it’s not for me. If it doesn’t work for them, so be it, but what I’ve discovered from my decision to not follow the crowd as they collectively stumble through the street on a Friday night is that people seem to think that no booze = no fun. Like Tim, how will you go on dates without alcohol?! What’s the point of meeting up with us at a bar then?!?!?!?! Well, I mean, there’s more to being social of an evening without 5 litres of liquid courage. And as for dating, if it didn’t suit the suitor then maybe they’re not a suitor after all?

I’m not about to be a preachy non-alc guy because, to be frank, I don’t know if I’ll never drink again. But if I do, I’ll be working on my relationship with it. But, what I want you to take out of this week is considering, what do we do it for? Not a couple of quiet drinks, but big nights out into the early hours of the morning. Do you genuinely enjoy them? Would getting more intoxicated than you are now really make you enjoy yourself more than you are now?

If you do enjoy it, then all power to you, my friend. But no matter what you do, be safe pals, both physically and mentally.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out joy

Jim Rohn