Wednesday, 1 April 2015

All of the Sudden…BOOM, You're Sad.

I'm pretty certain anyone can relate to this happening at some point in their lives. For me, it's happened just recently, at the age of 46. When you're coasting along in your life and all of the sudden, you're sad. Just SAD. You don't notice it right away even though the signs are all there: not motivated to do anything, and I mean anything, like finishing projects you started, whether it's DIY stuff, garden stuff, or even personal projects like writings, paintings or a web design or something. Then other stuff starts becoming a challenge, the usual  routine stuff seems like a load- simple stuff, like emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the bathroom, cooking a meal or putting away the fresh laundry.

You go out with friends who seem to never be at a loss for words or interesting stories and you have nothing to add. You used to be the life of the party and now you're sitting there with a drink in your hand, watching everyone else talking and laughing, and all you can think about is how you'd rather be home in comfy clothes and slippers, watching television.  I don't know how I thought this was normal. Probably all those Buzzfeed posts about "Life in Your Forties vs. Life in Your Twenties" or "How to Tell You're An Old Married Couple" or whatever.

But, one day, you wake up, get your coffee, sit down in front of the computer, scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds and every post has some sort of sappy story about a lost dog, or a mother cat who hugs her sleeping kitten or a baby piglets and goats playing and squeaking, or dogs that attend their owner's funeral or some inspirational kid with Downs Syndrome who completed a marathon while the city cheered and you just start crying. First off, you think: "Well, nothing like a good cry to start your day," but then it hits you- you're sad ALL day long and it's not because of the videos. Even though no one died, no one is hurt, the animals are fine, the sun is shining. Yet, there you are. Sad. For no reason. Then it slowly started making sense.

I hadn't plucked my eyebrows in months, I would wait until I couldn't stand my hair before I would get it cut or dyed, I would let my podcasts and writing go until the last possible second because I just didn't feel like doing them. I didn't care if my sneakers were old, if my jeans had holes, if I saw or talked to anyone for days. I couldn't find the tiniest joy in anything any more. It's different from a depression, I think (I don't know for sure) because I wasn't UNaware of all things I had to be grateful for or  the people I love or who love me. I was still appreciating those things. I wasn't suicidal, I wasn't in a daily struggle with demons, or in an obvious blue funk, I was just a big lump of lazy. Maybe that IS depression, I have no idea. Could possibly be, I'm no doctor or therapist, that's for sure. It was just a quiet, underlying unmentioned, unaddressed sadness.

That's been me for quite some time, and even though I have a seriously charmed life, and I've recently quit smoking, you can understand how confusing it is as to why I would be sad. Not just a basic sad. I've been unexplainably consumed with sadness and was just now realising it so I knew I had to take a deep look at what the hell was going on. My mind was all over the place. I was suddenly, out of the blue, really aware that I had no self confidence any more. To make matters worse, I felt like if I was feeling this, then of course my wife probably felt the same way about me- did she have no confidence in me, either? Then that became something to worry about which added to my sadness.

When we sat down and had a heart to heart discussion about what was going on, I told her everything I had been feeling. I was down on myself for not being able to find even the smallest, insignificant part time job. I had gained weight when I stopped smoking. I was feeling lousy constantly, everything ached, I had colds and illnesses all the time. I didn't want to do things or go places. I was telling myself it was because I was just unmotivated but the truth was that I had really become fearful of going out because I had no confidence in the way I looked or felt. I was in the same clothes over and over, I went days without putting on make up because why bother? I wasn't going out, I wasn't going to see anyone. I didn't even care that I wasn't taking care of myself, I guess because in my mind, I was the only one who had to see me, no one else, and I just didn't give a shit, really.

I was SO far from that person I was 5 years ago. I realised so much of my recent behaviour was because I was so unhappy with myself. It was causing me not to be able to make friends, even though I had convinced myself I just didn't want any more. It was causing me to gain weight. Just buying bigger clothes wasn't hiding anything. The truth of the matter was I was so worried (and sad) about what people might be thinking about me that it was just easier not to be around any one. I thought about how I was just a few years ago. I liked going out and meeting people, socialising, hosting events, going to different festivals and places because everything was material to write about. I could usually make it funny, too. It was exciting to be on stage, it was exciting to be a part of something, to be around people and lately, none of that was happening.

It was literally painful to admit it all. Plus, I didn't know how blatantly obvious it was to my wife, and furthermore, I didn't truly know the effect it was having on me, mentally or physically. But, I was getting it all out now.

As I listened to myself pour out my guts and everything that was weighing on my mind constantly, I heard how devastatingly unhappy I was….with myself.  Not my life, in general, but with how I was living it. When my wife began to cry, I knew we had a real problem because she doesn't cry over ANYTHING ever. When I said, "What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Why are you crying?"  She simply said, "…because you're not happy and I know you're not happy, but I don't know what I can do to make you happy because I feel like there isn't anything that I CAN do." For me admitting all of it was hard, but listening to what it was causing someone else was gut-wrenching. "I want you to be around for a long time, but I want you to be that happy, funny person I fell in love with again."

She felt all kinds of pressure to entertain me, after her long hard work weeks, she felt like she had to come up with things for us to do, which isn't an easy task because I didn't like walking, I didn't like bike riding, I didn't like anything too physical. I didn't like being out late, I didn't want to go far, I didn't like being out when it was too hot, or cold or rainy or snowy, etc, etc. As she poured out her feelings (which she doesn't do too often) I realised what a GINORMOUS pain in the ass I had become. How much longer could she go on around me like this? Ugh, I was overwhelmed with what I was hearing, feeling and with what I was facing.

Simply because I didn't like myself anymore -- and with that came fear, anger, and most of all sadness. The fear was causing the limitations I was giving in to, the anger was coming from the fear, and the sadness came from not doing anything about it. It was a vicious cycle.

I have never been one to put a lot of effort into change. I didn't like change. I didn't like challenges. I don't like them. Still. I don't have a lot of will power or determination, I'm not hard on myself about anything. I like things simple and easy and routine. I don't know where it came from because my parents aren't like that. Well, maybe my Dad was a little bit like that, but he's been gone for like 25 years so I can't blame him. My mother rises and faces each day with MS, and barely complains about anything, like how difficult it is to walk, to get around the house or a store, to carry groceries, to clean, to entertain her friends, to have company over, to just make dinner. So, I have no clue why I am the way I am. But, I am this way so trying to fix THAT is a whole other story.

For now, I knew I had to tackle the things that were immediately causing me to be so unhappy. I felt like there was now this pressure to be better otherwise my marriage was at stake, my life over here in England was at stake, and I had to do something pretty fucking fast.

I was worried about failing, though, so I knew I had to be careful not to jump into some massive lifestyle overhaul I would soon get sick of and stop. So, I've decided to make small changes about what I eat, the amount of physical activity I get, the way I think, and how I look at things, mainly myself, moving forward. I'm trying to trick myself into not thinking these are huge things I'm changing on a minute to minute basis every single goddamn day, but in fact, they are- and each time I make a better decision than I have in the past, I'm feeling a little better, a little happier, a little more proud of myself, and that's making a difference in how I'm doing. It's not easy. It's not going to be easy. I'll have set backs, I'll have days where things don't go well, but it's a matter of getting back in the groove right away and moving ahead to better days. Look, I'm not going to make the right choice every time, but I find what's happening is I'm getting into a rhythm of feeling proud of myself when I do and I haven't felt proud of myself in a really long time. Understanding things like that are a big deal. So part of getting myself to better place is being able to recognise that but it's also not falling into a trap of beating myself up too badly for being that way in the past.  Or if I do have a gelato at the mall once in a while.

Sometimes I think that somewhere deep, down inside I knew this day would come, where I would have to make big changes but focusing on everything and everyone else around me helped keep it at bay for a really long time, and I think my sadness started when all of the bad choices kept bubbling to the surface and annoying my thoughts so I would smoke, eat, nap, clean, focus on all kinds of stupid stuff instead of myself in order to avoid facing the realities that were catching up to me.

Now, they're here. Right here. Doing all kinds of damage. Not just to me. Now, I've said them out loud, I've written about them, I've talked to people about them, and I'm completely and utterly aware of them at all times. I'm aware of them when I eat a healthy breakfast, I'm aware of them when ride the stationary bike for 20-30 minutes a day, I'm aware of them when I walk around the block every day, or to the store, or to a friend's house, I'm aware of them when I pick out normal clothes to wear, I'm aware of them when order a salad instead of a burger, I'm aware of them when I choose a vegetable instead of fries. I'm aware of them every time I make the right choice about what to be eating, wearing, or doing. I'm aware of them when I'm getting things done, and I'm aware of them as I'm moving on….and you know what?  SonOfaMonkeysUncle, I'll be damned: I'm aware that I'm gettin' happier. I feel heaps better all the way around.

I didn't add a bunch of pictures this time (only a few) because it would end up looking like an episode of "The Biggest of Loser" but I did find this one picture of a monkey and he's probably another monkey's uncle, so …there's that.

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