Reader Quit: Being Smacked Around by Mental Illness (by Dustin Tingue)

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What has two thumbs, OCD and an incredibly shitty intro to this blog?

This guy, right here.

Alright, so it’s not that shitty, and it’ll prove a point in a second.

As someone with OCD (and its idiot wonder-twin cousins anxiety and depression), taking the first step in any endeavor can be excruciatingly daunting. These issues can get in the way of things you want to do. I know because they’ve been in my way for far too long.

Which brings me back to my intro to this post. I wasn’t worried about coming up with the wittiest or most clever intro; my worry was about writing anything at all. Now that I’ve taken that first step, I’ve already delivered a decent sucker punch to the three-headed jerkface that is my OCD, anxiety and depression.

It’s an ongoing battle with mental health conditions. Everyone is affected differently by them, and everyone has their unique way of managing their struggles. I recently started discovering things I could use to fight back against mine, because it’s not really a battle if it’s one-sided, and I wanted to share those things with you.

 

Captain of the SS Bullshit

Being a person with OCD, anxiety and depression is like being Captain of the SS Bullshit, forever destined to sail the Seven Seas of Suck. There’s OCD over there on the poop deck, over thinking every scenario to the worst extreme. He’ll invent ridiculous, irrational thoughts in your mind, then skip his dumb ass over to your brain’s fear center and scream, “This is not a drill!”, causing a complete meltdown.

Oh, and then he’ll wink at you because he knows that you know it isn’t real, but he’s made your brain believe it is. He’s such a dick.

Anxiety, meanwhile, is darting across every part of the ship, up the sails and overboard as he’s bundled up into a ball of worry. Thing is, he’s not even sure what he’s worried about half the time. But, like his moron cousin OCD, he too can waltz over to Fear Central Station and take your mind for a ride on the 1 o’clock train to Panicville.

Depression lurks below, dwelling in the darkness, waiting until his vile brethren have you good and wigged out. Then he’ll come bounding up the stairs, kick the door in and park his big, fat, unmotivating ass right on your chest.

Drop anchor, dude. You’re not going anywhere. You’re now at the mercy of your shipmates, and they’re pushing you around like the new guy on board. So, you go below deck, find a bunk to hide out in and make plans to never come out.

This is what it feels like to be frozen with fear, indecision and constant worry. It grips you and makes you feel helpless. You worry so much about what might happen, you decide it’s better to just stay in your box. Your anxiety is imagining every horrible situation even though you know things will probably turn out alright, so you stay in your box. The depression makes you look inward and say, “Why even bother?” and again, you stay in your box.

 

But What If I Wanna Get Out of the Box?

Sometimes your woes will pump the brakes a little and give you a reprieve. This is just another element they use from their arsenal of dick moves. It’s not a shit-show 100% of the time. You get some clarity here and there. Your mood improves, things feel pretty decent. Unfortunately, you wake up every day wondering when the other shoe is going to drop and send you right back onto the SS Bullshit.

During these breaks, I’ve had many “my life changes now!” moments. I would find the drive to try new things or improve my lifestyle, but often threw in the towel before long when the three-headed monster came back. I bounced around from job to job, college to college, directionless and frustrated. At times I thought, “This must be how it’s gonna be for me.”

Mental illness won’t stop you from understanding what you could do to make things better. It won’t let you stop imagining how your life could be if you just took those first few baby steps towards improvement. It can, however, keep you from ever actually taking those steps. It’s as if you’re always on the sideline reading the playbook but never getting in the game.

 

Put Me In, Coach

Until recently, I remained highly skeptical that I could achieve the things I’d been wanting out of life. I felt forever tied to a dead-end job and saw only a black cloud when I thought about my future. The three-headed dillhole of mental illnesses had set up shop right in the forefront of my thoughts. Actually, I think they bulldozed the shop and made themselves a nice little beach to sit on while sipping from drinks with little umbrellas and making snide comments like, “You can’t do shit, you won’t do shit and you haven’t done shit. So sit down.” (Okay, so they don’t “speak” in that sense but that’s what it felt like.)

Then, one day, it dawned on me. Wait a minute, I realized, I have achieved things in my life that you three assholes always told me were impossible!

Sometimes we’re so caught up with the storm inside our minds that we fail to see what we’re getting done on the outside. I started to think about things in my life that had happened after years of believing otherwise. I’d let these ailments convince me I had no self-worth, no desire and no hope. Getting married, learning an instrument and performing for a crowd, maintaining my own place… all these things I’d wanted out of life were always met with a big “Haha, yeah right” whenever I thought about them over the years.

But guess what? All that shit happened.

I got married. I learned guitar and played a few shows. I found a great place to rent and I’m “livin’ the dream.” (At least more than I ever thought possible.)  I’ve been in the game making plays this whole time but not even realizing it.

I started to think about these situations more and more. They started to fuel me. If those things happened and I never thought they would, why not see what else I can do?

 

It’s Not Easy, Of Course

It’s not as if I rounded up my OCD, anxiety and depression and said, “Alright! Everybody out!” They’re still there, though I refuse to give them beachfront property anymore. (Tweet!)

Aside from past achievements propelling me forward, I started to ease up on the skepticism of other tools I could be using to combat these three morons. Over the years, I hadn’t done myself any favors in terms of taking care of my body. There was a time in my life where I felt Captain Crunch was a suitable choice for all three daily meals… for a week straight. When your illnesses have you in a hot mess, the last thing you think about taking care of is yourself.

There really is no secret to getting your body healthy. It’s simple hard work. And, of course, hard work is intimidating when every thought in your head is telling you how horribly unqualified you are to do, well, anything. (Also, they make the bad food taste so good!)

But the thing that happens when you start taking care of your body is, it starts taking care of you. When you eat shitty food you feel like shit, right? Wouldn’t the opposite of that be just as true? When you put good food into your body, you start to feel good, simple as that.

Oh, and your mind and body will really love you for exercising. As humans, we evolved as hunters, running around all day in search of food. In doing so, we stayed in excellent physical shape. Now, since we haven’t had to chase our food for centuries, we’ve become overweight, stressed and our bodies suffer because of it.

All the nutrients we need come straight from the Earth. In fact, as we’ve been guzzling down Coke like it’s going out of style and layin’ the smackdown on a batch of double Whoppers, I can imagine the Earth screaming, “No! What are you doing, you idiots? Just eat the stuff I put in the ground for you! Augh!”

Simply put, eating real foods and exercising goes a long way in making us feel better. As I type this, my legs are still on fire from the gym, but all that means is my body is getting healthier. No pain, no gain, right? Sometimes the cliches are true, folks.

 

Why Now? What Happened?

I don’t know how many false starts I’ve had when making changes in my life. Far too many, I’m sure. I think a shift in mindset had to happen first. I had to believe that I could achieve things and not allow these ailments to control me as much. I had to make a decision and stick with it. I needed to start running towards the light at the end of the tunnel instead of running from it in fear. I already knew how low I could get — now I finally, truly wanted to see how high I could go.

It’s still a struggle, but I refuse to give in. I found the confidence to leave a job that was soul-crushing and dive into freelance writing. Even though the work could be harder and more demanding, I know that it’s all on me, and that’s what I’ve wanted from a career — freedom and flexibility. But of course, throughout my life, my bouts with OCD, anxiety and depression always kept me believing, “That’s not for you.”

Jim Carrey was kind of a personal hero of mine growing up. He might’ve gone batshit crazy (see some recent tweets of his) but he did say a few things that really resonated with me. In 2014 he gave a commencement speech at Maharishi University where he said:

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the universe for it. My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him. And so, he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which was, you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

Amidst the countless inspirational Facebook posts and motivational memes strewn across the Internet, it was this that really hit me. Why keep failing on things I didn’t want to do anyway? I made an out-of-the-box choice and, while I’ve still got a long way to go, I’m a lot further from where I started.

Have you let the negative voices in your head hold you back for too long?

 

Dustin picDustin Tingue is a freelance writer (for hire!) parked at Pencap Creations. He’s not a part of your complete, balanced breakfast… but he could be.

 

 

 

 

Image:  Travis Modisette / Flickr

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  • Lauren R. Tharp

    Ahhhhhh! I related to this SO much. Great job, Dustin! 🙂

    • Thank you so much! Without your suggestion I wouldn’t have known about Cordelia’s awesome blog. I’m glad you liked it.

  • Ivy Cadwell

    Dustin, awesome post! I love hearing people speak out about their mental illnesses (and what dicks they can be ;)). I struggle with anxiety and it makes me feel less alone when I read stories like yours. I am so glad you’ve gotten into a healthy lifestyle, exercise and nutrition have worked wonders for me as well. Keep writing and telling those 3 bastards where to go and what they can do! 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words. This being my first guest blog I’m pretty ecstatic to read that it helped you. Not everyday is a picnic but we just keep grinding away the best we know how and hope for the best.

  • Rick Carter

    I’ve been living this especially the last two years .. I’d be happy to share down the road if you’d like! thanks for the post! God Bless! Rick =)

  • Denise Segler

    Been fighting clinical depression for the past 10 years. Medication, counselors, healthier habits and learning about the physical causes all help. It’s not all in your head; it’s a chemical imbalance in your brain. OK, technically that makes it all in your head but work with me here, all right? 🙂

    I know what you mean when you talk about your brain sabotaging you. Whenever I think of trying anything new the first thing that pops into my head is the worst case scenario. I have to consciously make myself think about what might happen if it all works out.

    Always glad to see others talking about this kind of thing. It takes a great deal of courage to post things like your blog post online. I’ve never met you, but I’m proud of you.

    I try to remember the following: If you have a mental illness, you don’t have to let it stop you. You don’t have to let it define you. And most of all, you don’t get to use it as an excuse. Period.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂 That’s all we can do. Some days will still be hell. Allow yourself a little break if you need it, but don’t ever completely stop doing what you want to do.

    • Thanks for the comments, Denise. I definitely know where you’re coming from. Not everyday is a picnic. It’s enough to drive you nuts, bouncing back and forth from having the confidence to apply yourself one day to feeling like you’re completely incapable of anything on the next. Sometimes it feels like there’s no answer but we press on and do what we can. Appreciate the support.

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  • Isabel

    I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, depression and anxiety at age 13 and recently BPD (borderline personality disorder) has been implied to me by doctors. I am 28 and feel that I have done absolutely nothing in the past 10 years. This is my first time reading a blog related to mental illness. I have been planning on leaving my accounting job I hate for a long time but until last week hadn’t said anything. The boss pretty much gave me an ultimatum ( I think they know I am miserable and thus suck at my job) two weeks ago. I am scheduled to give my two weeks tomorrow, Friday afternoon, when no one really cares about anything. I have plans of starting two small businesses this month, one supporting the other. I know I have the creative mind to do what I want but that bitch committee in my head…well you know.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I have never read anything I could relate to really. I think I am about to step into the light, it doesn’t seem so far away now.