November and December are bad months for me. November is filled with anniversaries of loss, including my father and my marriage. (And I think there was something else bad that happened this November, but I just can't put my finger on it.) December comes right after that sucker punch of a month, and brings tremendous anxiety. Will I pick the right presents so that people know I love them? Can I finish that long list of goals for the year in the last couple of weeks? I also tend to relive the tragic events from my time as a paramedic. Though tragedy happens all the time, the impact is somehow amplified at this time of year. Most of the potent memories I have are of the people who left their families behind just before the holidays. (And then, my brain being what it is, I start into a cacophony of minutia and existential crises that would make even Nietzsche shed a tear.)
The thing is, this is ok. I know that January is coming, and with it cleansing, new beginnings, optimism, and hope. My daughter and I have even started a new tradition for New Year's, in which we will celebrate in a different country each year. For her, it's still just an adventure, but for me it's an opportunity to break away from everything in my life that is transient, and focus on the two things that are permanent: my daughter, and my hope for the future.
The reason that I'm bringing this all up, besides the fact that I agreed to a challenge from my best friend Rhae to blog every week, is that now, more than ever, I want to contribute to "normalizing" the discussion of mental wellbeing. If this was a blog post about the challenging transition from summer exercise (Colorado, anyone?) to winter exercise, and how the holidays always give my smart scale liberty to be a smart-ass scale, people would empathise, or sympathise, or just laugh because even in the summer, I'm the least fit person in all of Boulder. But there would be no stigma. No short inhalation. No judgement. And, if there's any change I would love to see in the world (besides the equally important and upcoming rant about how we treat women), it's that I would like discussions about mental health to be treated the same as physical health.
My cholesterol is high, my serotonin is low.
I cannot change the underlying causes for either of these things. Genetics, lifestyle, and past choices have all contributed to these states. But I can take action to address them, and I want to draw parallels between the two approaches:
First: I see trained professionals who have studied science and learned how to help me manage these conditions. (They are both fantastic. If you need a referral, hit me up directly.)
Second: I take rosuvastatin and escitalopram. (Yes, the roots give away which is which, but otherwise they're both just chemicals). They don't fix the problems. They keep me ALIVE long enough to work on the underlying issues.
Third: I take deliberate physical actions to reduce the impact of the conditions. Specifically, I exercise. Bam! Two birds. One stone.
Fourth: I try to make intentional decisions to break the patterns of behavior that contribute to the problems. I eat another fucking carrot instead of buying that delicious looking tub of French onion dip. I'll fight the urge to withdraw and isolate, and instead recognize that those feelings can be a trigger to tell me I need to go to T|aco or Oak and be surrounded by friends.
Fifth: I remind myself that the present moment is temporary. A single point on a journey. At a future point on this journey, I'll be happy and I'll look good naked. (Or maybe I won't. But let's hold on to that dream just a little longer, shall we?)
So my point (perhaps belabored) is this: These two things are a normal part of my life. Some of them are normal parts of other people's lives. But they are both NORMAL. We should feel free to talk about both of them as such.
If you're feeling sad, shoot me a message and we'll meet at T|aco.