Thank You for Today

One of my favourite bands dropped a new album today, and it’s an absolute doozy. It’s by Death Cab for Cutie, it’s called Thank You for Today, and you can make your own album cover! Which of course I had to try out:

deathforcutie

Thank You for Today is a statement of gratitude to everyone who’s helped the band to get to where they are now. And don’t we all have something to be thankful for? So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give some thanks of my own.

The “Ol’ Flat Peeps”

Thank you to the two amazing, kind, spirited women I’ve shared a home with for the past 18 months.

Thank you for the laughs and banter, the snapchats, the random car trips, the house parties, the shared dinners, and all the simple joys of flatting.

Thank you for supporting me when I needed it most, and thank you for talking sense into me when I was about to lose it.

Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me to do better for myself. You leave me far better than you found me. You’ve grown too and I’m really proud of you.

You’ve been the greatest “flat fam” a guy could ask for. Missing you already! 😢

The new “Krusty Krew”

Thanks to my new flatmates for being so open and friendly. You’ve made the best of what could have been a terribly awkward situation. And it’s great to be among fellow SpongeBob fans!

Campfire_song_song

Hope you stick around a while. Looking forward to many adventures ahead!

My online community

r_wellington

Thank you r/Wellington for welcoming me during what was a difficult time personally. You’ve opened the door to so many incredible experiences and social opportunities, and it’s no understatement to say you’ve changed my life for the better. This community is truly special and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.

Thanks to all the lovely people I’ve met through the site, either online or in the real world. You’ve played a big part in shaping who I am today. One year ago I was a loner. My, how things have changed.

You’ve also been a wonderfully supportive early audience for this blog. Thanks for your encouragement, and thanks for putting up with my advertising!

The musicians

Thanks to all the artists on my playlist (and elsewhere on my Spotify) for providing the soundtrack to my story. Your words and sounds have touched me at a very deep level. You’ve brought me joy, helped me find my purpose, and kept me going in my darkest times.

You probably won’t ever read this, but if you do, know that your work is appreciated down here in Wellington, New Zealand! (Also, please leave a comment!)

You!

And, of course, thank you, dear reader for taking the time to read my posts. It still seems surreal that the words I scribble in my notebook end up on computer screens all over the world (well, the English-speaking world). Even more so that thoughtful comments come back to me. Thanks to your feedback I know I’m on the right track, and I’m convinced there’s something more to this.

It is my hope that this blog will become a resource for anyone living with mental illness or going through difficult times. It’s very early days still, but already I’m finding it useful for my own reference, so maybe it can help you too.

 

Thanks to everyone who’s helped me to get to where I am now.

Thank you for today.

And thank you, Death Cab for Cutie, for Thank You for Today. (PS: Please come back to Wellington!)

 

What are you thankful for? Let me know!

And while you’re giving thanks, why not give the album a listen as well?

 

How to have a depressing Sunday

Don’t leave me drowning in your Sunday rain

It’s right down the drain I go

– Foo Fighters, Sunday Rain

I’m gonna talk you through the day I just had as an example of what not to do. It’s a warning to my future self.

Step 1: Don’t make any plans.

Don’t check in with your friends or other local acquaintances. Just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to be alone with nothing to do and a day to kill.

If you had plans but they fell through, don’t attempt to make any new plans. Don’t have a fallback. You went all in on those plans. Dwell on them.

Congratulations, you now have nothing to look forward to! Scene set for the day.

Step 2: Night-time self-loathing.

When you wake up to go to the bathroom in the night, once you get back to bed, open up your phone and start surfing. Go on, you’re only gonna keep dwelling on those plans otherwise. Soak up all the instant gratification (and blue light) you can get. Whatever crap you usually browse. Reddit, Youtube, adult content, the works. Don’t worry, it’s Sunday, there’ll be plenty of time to sleep in afterward. Except of course you won’t, because the sunlight/noise/your bladder will wake you up at your usual weekday time. But you don’t know that yet, despite the fact you’ve experienced this several times before.

Step 3: Wake up at your usual weekday time.

There it goes. Lie in bed for a while, secure in the knowledge you won’t get back to sleep. Forget about making last-minute plans now – no one wants to see you like this. Oh well, you’ve got some hours up your sleeve. What better way to spend that time than…

Step 4: Gaming.

Preferably something fast-paced and mentally taxing, like real-time strategy. What could be more fun than building up a city and tearing down the neighbour’s one? Unfortunately, since you’re sleep-deprived, things don’t work out as well as usual. Your satisfaction evaporates, replaced by frustration. Time for the ace in the hole: cheat codes! Look on in guilty defiance as the enemy town burns in a hail of gunfire.

Okay, false start. But it’s only mid-morning, and you’ve got another strategy you want to try. Time for round 2!

Step 5: Share your joy with the world.

Now that your brain is thoroughly fried, it’s time to take on those errands you were putting off. Namely, groceries. It’s lunchtime and, on top of gamer brain, you’re getting hangry. It would have been nice and quiet in the morning, but that was gaming time! So you now get to experience the joy of grocery shopping at the busiest time of the day (if not the week).

Act like you own the place. This is your supermarket. Resent the fact that other people exist. They’re trying their best to get in your way and generally make the experience as annoying as possible. Don’t let them. Cut them off. Stare them down. Whatever it takes to get to the checkout.

Be sure to dither about your lunch options too. You want something cheap, healthy, and ready to eat, and you’re not leaving till you find it. No, it doesn’t exist, and it never will. Give up and go home to the canned food you already had. You could have just eaten that – why did you even go grocery shopping?

Step 6: More gaming.

Take out your grocery rage on some pixelated characters. Well, try to, anyway…

☀️☀️☀️

How to salvage something from a depressing Sunday

Step 7: Suddenly decide to do something.

It’s now late afternoon and you’re racked with guilt for wasting the day. But wait, it’s not over yet! What’s the quickest and easiest way to gain a feeling of accomplishment?

Exercise.

If you’re lucky, you’re feeling a tingling sensation in your legs at this point. That’s all the pent up energy from doing nothing all day. Time to strike. Get those training shoes on and hit the pavement!

Yes, it’s dark out. Too bad. Hey, at least it’s quiet now – a refreshing change from the supermarket!

Crush it for half an hour and bask in the warm glow of endorphins. Congratulations, you’ve done something today! But why stop now?

Step 8: Self-care.

Hooray, you don’t hate yourself any more! What better way to celebrate than with some R&R. Take a long hot shower/bath to clean away your sweat. Ahh, doesn’t that feel amazing?

Step 9: Don’t stop now!

You can have a good, productive day yet! You may be tired, but push through! Crank up the music and make yourself some dinner!

Way to go! You’ve accomplished something today, AND you’ve saved yourself some work in the coming days. I guess this Sunday wasn’t a write-off after all. But, looking back, it feels hollow. Don’t you wish you’d done something with the rest of the day?

Oh well. Let’s call it a draw.

Step 10: Promise yourself you’ll do better next Sunday.

You’ve got a week to make plans. Get on it!

How was your Sunday? What have you got planned for the next one? How do you deal when plans fall through? Let me know!

Alcohol: How I learned to love lemon, lime & bitters

Note: It has come to my attention that bitters is actually alcoholic. Reports vary on whether lemon, lime and bitters contains alcohol. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that it doesn’t, or that the amount is negligible.

It’s now August, which means Dry July is over. I’m pleased to report that I went the whole month without drinking. But I won’t be celebrating with alcohol – or really celebrating at all.

Because this was never about Dry July.

It’s personal.

My soul-searching session turned up booze as one of my triggers. I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with it. With three beers in me I can shoot the breeze – or rant like an angry grandpa – with the best of them. It’s an incredible feeling. But lately, the pendulum has swung from somewhere in the middle to plain old hate. (That’s totally how pendulums work, yep.)

It’s not the hangover that gets me. It’s how it affects my sleep. I’m a light sleeper at the best of times – an ongoing challenge I’ve struggled with for a long time. Add alcohol in the mix and I’m reduced to a few hours of low-quality kip. Being on medication as well just exacerbates the effect.

1 limit alcohol intake
I don’t like the drugs and the drugs don’t like me

I cut back severely after starting on meds, but continued with quiet drinks in the right social settings. Sadly, though, even this proved too much. So, one Friday night in the office with a half-finished beer in hand, I decided: “no more”. I put the beer down, packed my things, and snuck out through the stairwell.

This was on 15 June. I haven’t had a drop since.

Me and alcohol

It’s fair to say I don’t have a typical relationship with alcohol. I skipped the “drunken student” phase, and I barely touched booze before I moved to Wellington. After the move I developed a more “normal” pattern of drinking – Friday drinks at work, evening meetups, a beer or two with the football team, occasional quiet ones at home. And, yes, the occasional wild binge, one of which left me crouched in front of the loo at the George. (Not my proudest moment.)

There’s something else about my experience that’s not typical as far as I’m aware. I hate the taste of beer. And wine. And basically every alcoholic beverage but cider. There’s the odd lager or dessert wine that I find palatable, but I wouldn’t say I like them for their flavour. If I do go for a bitter beer, it’s usually late in the evening when my taste buds have checked out. But overall, my distaste for drinks puts a natural damper on my consumption.

I just don’t want to drink as much as my peers. Unfortunately, this can make socialising a little tricky. What to do?

Enter my new favourite beverage.

Lemon, lime & bitters (henceforth, LLB)

Like coffee, I didn’t like this when I first tried it at a young age. It’s in the name: “bitter” is your body trying to tell you that you’re consuming poison and you should stop. It really did taste bitter when I first tried it.

Fast-forward to last summer, when I tried one on a whim and loved it. I guess my tastes have matured – either that or my taste buds are shot. Whatever. It’s a sweet drink, most bars serve it, and – crucially – it’s a big step up, in terms of refinement, from the usual coke and lemonade. Just look how fancy these are:

2b beersies
Not beersies
2a not
Also not beersies

Some places make it with the kind of flair you’d usually associate with a full-on cocktail. One bartender even asked me if I wanted more bitters, which was awkward but sweet! This stuff is every bit as sophisticated as beer. I felt like a 10-year-old kid drinking coke at a social gathering. Not so with LLB. It fills my need perfectly!

Where do I stand on alcohol?

Let me make one thing clear: I’m not a teetotaller. I won’t judge your drinking habits unless they’re obviously out of hand. But I am avoiding boozy situations, like after-work drinks, more than I used to. Even if that means distancing myself from certain social circles. (Sorry not sorry!)

I’m so much better off without alcohol, and I’m really glad I made this change. I’ve reclaimed my Saturday mornings. I’ve kept my friends (mostly). And I’ve made social occasions sweeter, healthier, and less awkward. So while I said I’m not celebrating, I did mark the end of July with a variant on my new favourite treat:

3 product placement
[product placement]
Here’s to sobriety. Care to raise a glass of LLB with me?

 

Did you do Dry July? Have you tried cutting back on alcohol long-term? How did it go? Let me know!

The [sunshine intensifies] playlist

I’m gonna go to a bar where the jukebox is on

Gonna shut out the noise with a rock ‘n’ roll song

– Keane, Playing Along

Music has the power to change emotions. To turn a bad day on its head. To get me in the zone. Or just to shut out the noise. I take advantage of this on a daily basis.

I’d like to give you the chance to experience that power for yourself. To that end, I’ve curated a playlist of songs that energise me. It’s a mix of hopeful, life-affirming, and rousing.

Give it a listen if you’re ever in need of a lift, and adapt it to suit your own tastes!



What are your go-to uplifting or motivating songs? Let me know!

I’m gonna turn up the volume

I’m gonna turn up the volume

I’m gonna turn up the volume till I can’t even think

 

Onesie Day: Friday, 7 September

I’ve just signed up for Onesie Day! This is a uniquely Wellingtonian event where people dress up in animal costumes in support of our local ambulance service, Wellington Free Ambulance.

I’m not entirely sure yet what I have to do, but I presume it involves promoting the event – which is what I’m here to do now! And, of course, wearing a onesie (to work!) on the day.

I’ve never worn a costume in public before*, nor done anything much for charity. Which begs the question: Why the heck am I doing this? Well, Onesie Day resonates with me for a few reasons:

  • I have personally called on Wellington Free Ambulance on behalf of a friend (thankfully an actual ambulance wasn’t required)
  • It’s a chance to put myself out there and push my comfort zone
  • And most importantly: I’ve discovered the wonders of onesies…

*Shortly before posting this I wore a onesie to a bar. It was quite an experience – and a great conversation starter!

I’m a penguin and therefore immune to cold

I’m wearing a onesie as I write this. In fact, I’ve written most of this blog so far in a onesie.

That’s right. These inspirational messages are written by a six-foot-tall, twenty-something guy in an animal costume. Didn’t see that coming, did ya? 😛

No, I’m not putting a onesie selfie here. That’s super-premium content. But I will grant you a sneak peek in my wardrobe.

birds
Onesie, twosie!
Why onesies?

Winter is cold. I’ve gone through past winters with thermals, trackpants and polar fleeces. By and large, these do the job, but they’re bulky and tend to let cold in through the waist, lower back and neck. Onesies are much lighter than they appear, and (with the hood up) don’t have these weak spots.

Oh, and they’re ridiculously comfortable. Seriously, you need to feel this to believe it.

What the heck does this have to do with self-improvement?

I don’t fear the chill of winter any more. In fact, I look forward to the coldest days so I can wear these things!

This is a psychological shift that shouldn’t be underestimated. I’ve taken a bleak, protracted period of misery and flipped (flippered?) it into a happy fun time. Because it’s not just the cold that gets me – it’s the fear of feeling cold. So I’m cutting off a source of my anxiety, freeing up mental space for more productive pursuits. Like blogging. Or charity work.

But Evan, you can get onesies that aren’t animals! Why dress up as a bird when you don’t have to?

Well that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? 😉

Fellow Wellingtonians: Get on board, spread the word, and put on your onesie!

Don’t have a onesie? There’s plenty of time to find one before the day 🙂

Gym, week 4-6: Commitment, schmommittment

That’s not gone well.

– Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear

Dear reader, I have a confession to make.

I failed.

There, I said it.

I set myself a target and I didn’t meet it.

You see, I haven’t done my prescribed five sessions per week since week 1.

Do I feel bad about this? Honestly, no. I did for a moment but I got over that pretty quick. Why? Because I learned a few things from this experiment. And that’s what it was – an experiment. Just another in the continual series of experiments that is my life.

I didn’t just fail. I failed forward!

Why did I fail?

I made failure an option. I defined the experiment in such a way that it was possible – nay, inevitable – that I’d fail sooner or later. The rules are simply far too strict: miss a workout and you’re basically done. Guess what? Life happens. Something will keep you from the gym at some point. Maybe for days at a time – or even longer. Sure, I added in some caveats after the fact, but they don’t come close to covering it.

I didn’t listen to my body. Put another way, I did too much too soon. I didn’t mention this at the time, but my first weights session was a group class – not my usual weights-machine/dumbbell routine. The classes encourage you to push really hard for the whole time (typically an hour), which feels amazing at the time but really takes it out of you. It’s also a one-size-fits-all approach (besides choosing your weights) and doesn’t consider your own needs. My PT told me I was lucky I didn’t get injured. As it was, I had sharp pains in my shoulders that took three days to fade.

Even with the standard weights sessions, I found I needed two days to recover. (Day 2 DOMS is real!) Seasoned pros can come back and do it again two days later. I can’t. Which means I can only do weights every third day. Let’s do a little math:

  • Days in a week: 7
  • Days per workout: 3
  • Maximum workouts per week = 7/3 = 2⅓

“But wait,” you say, “you could just work out Monday, Thursday and Sunday. That’s three times a week!” Hmm… That reminds me of a funny video I watched one time!

THE DUMBEST BOY ALIVE. PRETTY GOOD, EPISODE SIX. (Warning: language.)

(Once you’ve read this post, go check out the rest of Pretty Good. It’s brilliant.)

Ahem. Where was I…

I didn’t find the time or energy for gym. I have other interests besides gym – blogging, meetups, and quiz nights, to name a few. I have chores to do to keep things ticking over. I work full-time. I also need time to recover, physically and mentally, from these activities – my body makes this clear to me, whether I like it or not! Basically, my schedule is booked out – not necessarily in terms of time, but definitely in terms of energy. To make the gym thing work, I’d have to make big concessions elsewhere, and my options here are honestly pretty terrible:

  • Go out less? I’m putting together a social life for the first time in years – I’m not about to undo all that hard work. Knowing what I know now about the importance of social connections, that’s unthinkable.
  • Skip chores? Ok… so, hire a cleaner and eat out every day. I mean, I guess I could afford it, but there’s no way it’s gonna pay off.
  • Cut into my rest time? That’s a one-way trip to another mental health day.
  • Work less nope
  • Blog less nope nope nope

Exercise and physical health are important, sure. The thing is, I’m already doing ok on that front. How much am I willing to give to push for something I don’t really need?

If the above sounds like mere excuses, then how about I put it this way: I didn’t want it enough. If and when that changes, I’ll find a way.

Look on the bright side!

While this was technically a failure, I’ve had some successes along the way too.

  • I’ve been able to up the weights on every exercise. Just to the next one up – but in some cases that’s a 50% jump!
  • I’m having fun! Going 2-3 times a week instead of five means I get to keep some sense of novelty. On a good day it feels like play rather than work.
  • Stress relief. The various exercises give me lots of options to decompress after a tough day. It’s more effective than my previous methods, and healthier too!

Let me make one thing clear right now. I’m not quitting the gym. The weekly updates on the other hand? In case you haven’t noticed, they’re dead. To which I say: Good riddance! There are so many other stories I want to share, and the gym posts were getting in the way.

This little experiment is over. But don’t worry, there’s plenty more to come – that’s life!

The power of one (coffee a day)

Coffee interferes with your medication. You knew that, right?

– My flatmate

Well dang. That explains a lot.

1 good day
It’s a good day to have an “It’s a good day to have a good day” mug!

In the lead up to my mental health day, I thought the meds had stopped working. I felt like I did before I started on them – constant tension, fatigue, pounding heart. Oh, and difficulty getting to sleep.

I was having three cups of coffee a day. With a heaped teaspoon of powder in each – so effectively six “standard coffees” a day. (Side note: why is standard coffee not a thing?) And guess what? Caffeine basically does the opposite of what the meds are supposed to do.

2 powder
There’s power in the powder

I don’t know how this didn’t occur to me. Did the doctor not tell me this? Did I not find this in all the research I’ve done on anxiety? Did I know it but just forget?

I had a quick google and supposedly the two don’t “interact”. The drug info sheet doesn’t mention caffeine. But surely if it undoes the effect, it’s worth a mention? Whatever, I guess I don’t have to feel quite so bad about missing this.

Still, I was left with a couple of questions:

  1. How did I get here?

and

  1. How do I get away from here?

Time to search my overcaffeinated soul for some answers…

3 water in
Hot stuff
The coffee capital

When I moved to Wellington, aged 24, I’d never had coffee before. I couldn’t stand the smell when I was a kid. It didn’t occur to me that my tastes might have changed since then.

Enter my uncle. I crashed at his place while I looked for a flat, and being a long-time Wellingtonian he instinctively made me a cup of coffee – as he would for any guest, I guess. I drank it out of politeness, and something amazing happened – I didn’t hate it!

4 cool off
…too hot!

One thing you need to know about Wellington is there are cafés everywhere. Seriously. Our café density is off the charts. So of course we had a café in the building where I worked, and the team went there once a week. And so the habit was born. A habit which, as I alluded to above, eventually got out of hand.

That other hot beverage

I never got into tea either, much to the dismay of my English parents. I didn’t hate it either. It just seemed kinda meh.

I’ve had several work colleagues espouse the benefits of drinking tea instead. (You know it’s bad when people tell you to cut back!) Yes, there’s caffeine in tea too, but not as much. And, crucially, it still satisfies the craving for a hot drink. I’ve come to appreciate it, even if I don’t love it!

So here we have a viable alternative to coffee. But I wasn’t prepared to quit cold turkey, so I made a compromise: I’ll have one coffee a day, and I’ll make an event of it. Even if it’s just the instant powdered stuff I get free at work. Because it’s all tea from there on in. (I get that free at work too.)

It’s coffee time. This is all you’re gonna get today. Make the most of it.

5 cuppa
Whoa whoa… What if this is all the [coffee] you ever get?
How am I coping?

It’s been two months since I cut back and I feel so much better for it. The panicky heart-pounding sensation has faded, and I feel like I’m back in control, or at least a little more than I was. And I reckon I fall asleep quicker too. (Staying asleep is another matter, but this is a start!)

More importantly, I no longer find myself hanging out for the next coffee. It’s distracting to know that I’m due for another hit soon. I’ve been able to let go of this and concentrate on the task at hand instead. The tea breaks are worth looking forward to as well, of course, but they aren’t nearly as compelling.

Best of all, I still get to enjoy coffee every day – and because I have to make the most of it, I genuinely enjoy it. Even more than I used to enjoy three coffees!

6 empty
It’s over!

How many coffees do you drink a day? Have you tried cutting back? How did it work out? Let me know!