No funny story this time.
Let’s talk real for a minute. No politics. No mask debate. No Trump talk. No ‘he said, she said’; none of that.
This is a post that has been a long time coming; and quite frankly I had to get this off my chest because I’m certain I’m not alone in this. Actually, statistics say that I’m not. I’m going to try and keep this short, but we all know how that goes…
June 12, 2020: exactly 3 months of working from home and feeling ‘off’ most of the time, I went to the doctor and got diagnosed with ‘severe’ anxiety. Pretty cool, right? I’m not sure that “severe” needed to be the adjective used, but I’m not the Doctor. I’ve always joked about having anxiety, I know that I’ve dealt with it for most of my life-but I was able to, for the most part, overcome it. I got bullied a bunch as a kid–I think that’s what started it, but that’s a post for another time!
This time seemed different; I could’t ‘laugh my way out of this one’. When I sat in the Doctor’s office, he said this: “I certainly don’t mean to make light of this situation, but you are another float in the long parade of people that have been in here in the past couple weeks for anxiety”. He also had another analogy that was really good as well; he said “picture a big lake with a couple stumps sticking out of the water: those are the people with anxiety right before this started. This pandemic has significantly lowered the water level so that more stumps start to show up”. Pretty deep, right?
When I got home and stared at my newly dispensed bottle of anti-anxiety pills and tried to figure out what to do. I felt like Neo in the Matrix; except my decision was a white pill or no pill at all. I needed to figure out how to get this under control somehow. I just wasn’t sure which way to go.
I finally chose no pill. The bottle still sits on top of my microwave and I haven’t touched it yet. Although-there have been plenty of times that I’ve thought about it! With the help of my wife, we worked to figure out what caused my anxiety: we basically came up with “the world”. So good news, that’s only everywhere. I think the negativity of everything finally got to me. If you turn on the news: negativity, drive down main street and see businesses shut down: negativity; open up your 401(k): negativity; and finally:
Social Media. The all-powerful demigod ruler of all things negative.
I understand “Free Speech”, it literally is what allows me to have a blog. Even better: you’re allowed to absolutely hate it, and if you do, cool – I hope you have a great day and move on with your life. Obviously, its rare for exchanges like that to happen on social media. It seems like everyone has to bash everyone else’s opinion now days. Go on Facebook or Twitter, even LinkedIn (quickly becoming Facebook with better profile pictures), right now and just do a search for “mask”, “COVID”, “Trump”, “Walz” (MN) and start reading the “conversations” people are having with one another. The comments under news station posts are the best. It really makes you wonder how we function as a society doesn’t it? We have this “I have to be right” and/or “I need to make sure I get the last word in” (I’m guilty of this one sometimes) mentality that turns everyone into a keyboard warrior to get their point across. We can’t just say “hey, I disagree with your opinion, but that’s fine”. It’s OK to keep scrolling if someone’s opinion is different than your own, I promise. I usually try to keep scrolling because I don’t like confrontation. :D
I wanted to get my mind under control, so I hit ‘reset’ in a way. I muted certain words on Twitter and un-followed SEVERAL people on Facebook. I still wanted to be friends with them but I didn’t want their views to somehow affect what I thought of them–because it really shouldn’t matter. I also limited the time that I spent on Social Media in general. I actually downloaded an app that blocks any type of social media/websites/phrases for a certain amount of time each day. That has definitely helped (I’m also more productive)! I exercise more, I even bought a Panda Planner and have tried to write in it every day to get some sort of structure into my life. There is also a spot where I can write what I’m grateful for each day as well as a personal affirmation section. This is something I’ve never done in my entire life-quite honestly, I thought it was silly. But, it really does make you think. If you are able to write down just two things each day that you’re grateful for; you’re probably doing better than you think you are. I also have a WAM (Weekly Accountability Meeting) every Monday morning with one of my buddies to set goals for the upcoming week and review the past week/weekend. These things have helped me get some sense of normalcy back into my life.
We’re living in an unprecedented time. I’d love to be living in “precedented” times, but we’re not. This shit is wild, let’s just face it. People miss the personal interaction with their friends and co-workers; they miss going to a full bar on the weekend, they miss “normal”. Now, whether you want to wear a mask, or you don’t. Whether you agree with President Trump or you don’t; whether you think this is all being controlled by the government or you don’t; whether you think kids should be in school or you don’t. You can at least try to respect other people and be respectful of someone’s differing opinion. You don’t know how they might be affected by this or something else going on in the world. The ‘new normal’ has taken it’s toll on me upstairs lately-and probably some of you reading this as well. Initially I struggled to keep it under control, but I’m managing and I do think it’s slowly getting better.
I grew up thinking that anxiety was something that could just be “fixed”, or just part of life, or “not manly”, or whatever. It is very real and it actually affects about 40 million Americans every year and and only 36.9% of those people seek out treatment. It’s getting better, but there’s a stigma around mental health-especially for men for some reason. Maybe it’s perceived as ‘weak’?
Call me ‘weak’ if you want; but then I guess you didn’t get the point of this post.
If you want to chat about what I’m doing to work on my brain; let me know. I’ll do what I can.
Funny one next time-I promise.
Disclaimer: If you use medication to treat anxiety and/or depression, good for you. I’m proud of you for tackling it in your own way. Also, I know that other people have been affected in potentially worse ways by losing their jobs or loved ones due to COVID-19. I’ve been very fortunate through everything thus far.