Day 14: Warrior II

My back pain flared up recently. I have sciatica and a few herniated disks in my lower back, and arthritis in my mid back. I decided to confront it instead of just being in pain or medicating.

I’ve found some stretches that work, and Muay Thai. I’ve done a few classes here and there over the years, but I haven’t been able to really pursue it due to scheduling. I was worried the rotational nature of the kicks would aggravate my back. It hasn’t, but it has had the benefit of loosening up my exterior and frontal hip muscles, which contribute to pain and immobility. I’ve been really drained in jiu jitsu, especially working takedowns. My hips have been weak, and MT has helped my athletic stamina for BJJ.

In addition to minding my posture and stretching every hour, I’ve been trying to do yoga several times a week. The other day, I was able to bend forward from the waist more than I could in years, and was feeling great. I cam almost do a perfect downward-facing dog now. I went into Warrior 2, and the instructor said “say something positive and affirming about yourself”. Without thinking, I calmly said “I AM a fucking warrior”. I was stunned for a second, then I smiled, because even though it’s kind of corny, I know it’s true.

The past few months have been a period of transition, and I haven’t had much of a routine to speak of. Taking the time to ground myself and be intentional with my time has been hugely beneficial, physically and mentally.

I was talking to a friend who had started seeking mental health services. He was worried he was making a big deal out of nothing, or too sensitive. He’s also in the military, and there’s still a stigma about seeking help. He asked a few coworkers about it, and a few thought he was just being whiny. I pointed out that the people he asked are 1) men and 2) military members. We are cultured to ignore feelings and get the job done. When my mom was dying 10 years ago, I feel I shouldered a lot of the administrative burden of managing the details. I had to. I promised myself I would process it later, so I could take care of business. I thought I was acting out of strength, or being tough, but it was a reaction of fear. I was unwilling to process my emotions and thoughts head on, and packed them away. In not dealing with it, I was being a coward. It blew up years later.

That’s not what warriors do. Sometimes you do have to keep moving forward, but you also need to make sure all your gear and faculties are battle-ready. This includes mental health, diet, sleep. Everything.

Being a warrior doesn’t mean being perfect. Namaste, fuckers.

 

 

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Owning my body

I was talking to a dear friend earlier. She’s a makeup artist, and her husband is a tattoo artist. I realized both of them work in helping others own and customize their bodies. I think that’s beautiful.

Prior to that conversation, I managed to do a 25 min pilates routine with Paloma crawling all over me while I had spaghetti going on the stove. When dinner was prepped, I went to jiu jitsu. It was a short class, but one of the most technical, effective sessions I’ve ever had on the mat.  I feel great. I can often be in a rut, waiting for my alarm clock or lunch or sleep. I don’t want to be in stasis until I die. I want to be awake, to be present, to learn, to experience, and move.

I want to feel great all the time, but I know that’s not how life works. Still, I’ve been having a lot of nice days lately.

Things are looking up. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday. For me, this year, it brings to mind the importance of relationships, specifically friendships. Also,for me, #squadgoals are mostly hoping to join or start a squad.

We caucused yesterday. This was our first time living in a caucusing state. It was disorganized, and they ran out of ballots. Towards the end, the kids were cold and tired, but they made it. Utah seems at times ruled by religious zealots and rednecks. It was encouraging to see a lot of progressives out, of various ages, colors, economic brackets. The enthusiasm was infectious, and it was therapeutic to be with a multitude of people who give a damn. It’s so easy to be cynical and not care- I did this around 2005 as a defense mechanism. I got better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two years

Facebook reminded me it’s the 2nd anniversary of meeting that a-hole monster, Dravet Syndrome. Here are some of my posts from that day:

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I can help

I consciously decided to not hide my struggles with anxiety and depression. I want mental health, in particular, seeking help for mental health issues, especially among men, to be destigmatized. I’m still fighting, but I might be one step ahead on my journey to wellness and resilience than some people-and thit might be enough to make a difference.

Of  course, me coming forward on my blog wouldn’t do as much as, say George Clooney or Randy Couture having the same conversation, but I’ll do what I can.

What I’ve learned is I can be of use, connecting people to resources, and listening. Do I want strangers to contact me and unload on me? Not really. It’s hard to listen to someone else’s suffering and not take it in. I’m not a trained professional, I don’t have the ability to both empathize and compartmentalize. For a friend, though, I’d go to the ends of the Earth.

A few friends have reached out to me-we talked about my struggles and theirs. In a few cases, our relationships didn’t really have this dynamic before. It was encouraging to discover I have become resilient enough to handle this, that I am a sort of mental illness warrior bodhisattva. I’m glad for it- I need dudes to talk to. We talk about career stress, fatherhood, depression. We talk about art and music and motorcycles and cagefighting. We attempt to close the distance that at first is a comforting insulation, and morphs into a dark and funky isolation.

Connect with someone, preferably someone you can meet face-to-face. Get professional help. Whatever you do, don’t to get through it on your own. It may be to handle, and you may not be thinking clearly. If you have no one, you can talk to me.

Today is Suicide Prevention day. Please take a moment to visit http://www.afsp.org/.

Robin Williams

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Robin Williams died on August 11th, 2014. It affected me deeply, to include being the catalyst which pushed me taking my mental health seriously.

It seems silly to be profoundly shaken by a stranger’s death, but it floored me. I had to work that day, a Monday. I cried at my desk. I closed the door and I cried. I would start crying at random moments. I wanted to dig a hole and lie down in it. I floated around in a grey, numb haze for a few days, haunting my own spaces. I eventually mustered enough fear I might perhaps go down a similar path to Robin’s, and called a mental health hotline. I was afraid to tell anyone how hurt I was, I was afraid of being dismissed, judged, or ostracized; I already felt so alone, unmoored and drifting.

I’d been a fan of his work as long as I could remember. I started being interested in comedy around age 11, when I’d listen to comedy albums from the library and soak up all the Evening at the Improv, SCTV, Kids I the Hall, and SNL I could. When I flipped channels, I’d stop every time I saw someone with a bad haircut and a worse suit before a brick wall. I’d stay up late on Friday to watch Leno or Letterman (when Johnny Carson was on the air I was too young to care or stay up that late). I got deep into The Simpsons and Conan, and went through a protracted “Monty Python” phase, which many label as “being a dude”.

Through it all was the work of Robin Williams.

Only recently I’ve been able to listen to his albums and watch his movies again. I had the pleasure of watching “Hook” with my kids, their first time seeing it. If I were to recommend any one piece of his work which summed up his essence, talent, and humanity, it would be his appearance on “Inside The Actor’s Studio”.

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Damn, he was funny. It seems could not be human if he wasn’t being funny. Also, James Beard’s makeup stopping abruptly at his chinstrap beard is kinda funny, yoo.

It feels funny to celebrate the life of someone who didn’t/couldn’t be alive. I’m not using “funny” so much because I am running out of words. It’s intentional; where I felt only a great deal of pain, I can now find a little ironic nugget of humor, which comes from a place of hope. It’s my slow-growing resilience showing up and flexing a little. I am stronger than I was a year ago, and in an odd way, have Robin Williams to thank for that.

Please get help if you are feeling signs of depression and having thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Do not take your light out of my or anyone else’s life.

RIP, Robin. And again, thank you for everything.

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