“So I thought this Insanity Workout program would involve more yelling at people at the bus station and living under a bridge.” – Rex Huppke
I guess I need to start this off with a disclaimer. I’m not a professional in any of the subjects I am talking about in this post; these are my experiences, and I’m sharing them because I’m confident that I am far from alone in dealing with these problems. That all said, your mileage may vary.
This past week saw a pretty huge derailing on the Captain Hammer Project. Not a catastrophic one, but definitely one I can’t afford to have happen frequently with the goals I have set for myself. What happened? Well, like 6 of every 2 Americans, I suffer from depression. I also suffer from an inability to make up statistics that sound even remotely accurate.
For those of you who don’t have this problem, it’s a little hard to explain. Or, maybe not difficult, but I think that this really describes it better than I ever could. This is pretty much dead on for how that goes. It’s no fun. It becomes really difficult to focus on all of the good things in your life.
For me personally, I’m losing weight. Pretty Sneaky, Sis is carving out a unique voice out in the nerdy wasteland of the internet and the support for the site has been overwhelming. I have a beautiful, funny daughter with an explosive imagination who is shaping up to be an awesome nerdling herself. For fuck’s sake, I’m a white male living in America. I live in a country where I piss in potable water every day when millions around the world are forced into compromised health because of the quality of the water they have no choice but to drink. I’m employed; I’m not rich by any means, but I enjoy a standard of living considerably nicer than what I would call “destitute.”
The point is, when you look at basic quality of life criteria, there are no really solid reasons for me to be sad. Yet here I am. See Allie Brosh’s story in the link above. So, what did it mean? What did it do? And most importantly, what comes next?
Because this is an event that has happened on multiple occasions, I’ve decided to talk about it here for a few reasons. First, so that I can reference it later. In some ways, the Healthy Gamer column acts as a journal of sorts, and I’m interested in looking back and seeing where I was at various points of this transformation. Secondly, I’m exposing myself to the mercy of the internet. This is a highly questionable prospect, and one I’m not so confident will work out in my favor. This is a point of vulnerability for me. I’m anticipating neither empathy nor cruelty, and I’m gambling on the notion that taking this part of me public may help to reduce its presence in my mind. Besides, part of this whole project is to reach out to people living through similar experiences, and it would be dishonest for me to portray myself as someone free of these problems. They all go together, and in order to truly correct one problem, I have to also correct the problems tied to it.
Not a day after I wrote “Hey! Awesome! Progress!” and “MUST. WORK. HARDER.” My motivation to exercise pretty much jumped out the window. I still monitored my calorie intake as religiously as always, but when it came time to hit the bike or take a walk, I found myself staring at the wall, battling my inner demon, a CR 15 extraplanar beast with stupid amounts of DR. It was never a battle I could win, but it was possible for me not to lose.
It’s tricky. When you exercise, you get that super sweet endorphin rush that smashes depression. Obliterates it. +5 Holy Avenger style, baby. I’ve not yet found a depression in my life that can withstand a dopamine pounding. I trust in this to the same extent I trust in gravity. And yet I couldn’t get the drive to actually make it happen. Depression is a crafty foe quite capable of protecting itself.
So I didn’t get much done. This quickly turned into a reason to become angry with myself. I’ve got a lot riding on this whole thing, and I’m not feeling like I’m taking it seriously enough. (If you didn’t click the first link, go do it. Everything here makes better sense with that frame of reference.) In this compromised state, I find fault in every aspect of my life, most of which are ballooned by my imagination. This compounds and multiplies until the weight of my anger and despair are paralyzing me. This may all sound familiar to some of you.
So I became a recluse, and with the exception of my bi-monthly Pathfinder game, I didn’t really leave the apartment. I stopped reaching out to my friends and honestly, it took a considerable amount of mental energy to just be numb, which was preferable to being actively sad or angry. The argument can easily be made that letting go and letting those feelings run their course is the more healthy choice, but in my experience that has rarely been a cathartic experience.
A friend of mine, sensing something was wrong, reached out to talk to me. I explained what I was going through, and the absolutely maddening dichotomy of being aware of (and technically capable of performing) the solutions to my problems and the suffocating oppression stopping me from carrying them out. She told me that I was doing well still. She told me that despite all of my current problems, I was still making sure that I was at least getting my intake right, and that these slips didn’t need to become avalanches.
Common sense, of course. See, what she was telling me, and this is the point I was missing: when my intake goes awry for whatever reason, either I’m under calories, or I didn’t drink enough water, etc., I acknowledge it, and I take steps to correct it the next day. If I paid my mental issues the same kind of simple respect that I do my physical ones, this would cease to be an issue. One bad day would be one bad day, instead of one bad day snowballing into a bad week. Of course, if it was really that easy, surely I’d have done it by now, right? But it might actually be that easy.
So yesterday, with nothing really having been changed, I got back to exercise and pushed myself harder than I previously have. True to form, the results of the workout left me feeling great and charged to get back to action. I got to thinking about new activities to incorporate into my exercise routines and reached out to a friend to make plans to get out of my apartment.
I’m not “cured.” The problems haven’t breathed their last. It’s one good day. That’s all. And I’ll strive to make the next one another.