You wouldn’t think those were strict criteria…

Y’all ready for a “let’s get this out of the way” post?

I sure am. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment in just over an hour, and while I could probably just write in the inevitable half hour waiting room break, I don’t wanna. I’m doing my check in post anti-depressants to gauge how things are going. Oddly enough, my doctor has gone on mat leave and I’m meeting her year long replacement. With something personal like this, I’m starting to understand the mentality of people wanting to see their specific doctors. The decision for me to go on these meds was thoroughly discussed, and would’ve been a rollercoaster if not for the time and patience my doctor had for looking at all of our options together. Ultimately, I know they’re working and have been an outstanding decision, so I’m not worried about talking with some new dude about them. At the same time, it brings me closer to the importance of a personal doctor relationship kind of thing. Usually, I don’t care. I trust that the clinic I visit has qualified professionals. I’ve had only good experiences with the staff there. The receptionists are very hesitant to put me with anyone else unless it’s an emergency. I don’t blame them whatsoever. That’s just policy. Still, if there’s something wrong with me, I will go to most anyone who has more knowledge than I do. Just put me in, coach.

I’ve got a fancy, fancy party tomorrow night and I’m excited. I got so excited that I bought two tickets by accident. See, I can trace back the idiocy of this decision. Let’s back up. I go to this Library fundraiser every year. It’s the one event that’s very costly (over $100 per ticket), and I get all dolled up with friends. We’ve gone for the past few years. Tradition, and all that. There’s early bird pricing, which we generally tend to get. This year, because of my shift work, I wasn’t sure if I’d be free on the night or not. We have a big group chat going about it (and other neat events). I re-read the chat yesterday. Everyone chimed in back in early September about having purchased early bird tickets. Normally with these events, I post something like “got my ticket” or whatnot. I hadn’t. A few weeks ago I was like oh shit, did I get my ticket? I know I missed early bird. I looked in my emails for a sign of a ticket purchase. No confirmation emails. I looked back in my bank account. No sign of an earlier non-early bird ticket purchase. I bit the bullet and bought a billet. Then yesterday, I got an email telling me to activate my ticket. I logged in and saw two tickets. Weird. I looked back in my emails, and realised that I didn’t have a ticket purchase receipt for the second one either. So that was clearly what happened first time around. I’d bought two tickets. Dummy.

I emailed back asking if I could get a refund. Then my mind started spinning. What was my best course of action? These weren’t cheap tickets. I think the fully priced one came to over $130. I could offer it to my girlfriend, but I couldn’t really expect her to pay for it. Also she’s kinda flu-y at the moment. What if she was too sick to go? I started thinking of other friends, but more importantly I thought of the group I’m going with. It’s a tight knit group. Wonderful, witty people. It’s also a very particular vibe. If my girlfriend couldn’t make it, I’d need to find someone else. It’d have to be someone who’d a) fit with the group, b) have fancy things to wear, c) like eating/drinking a lot (on account of the open bar and unlimited delicious foods) and d) be available last minute. I made a shortlist and it had possibly five people who’d fit a-c. Turns out that I can get a refund, however, so I don’t have to worry about last minute rearrangements. I just need to make sure I have a non-creased shirt.

I better get a few ice cubed and toss my shirt in the dryer.

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Yeah yeah yeah, you turn it into a rectangle, then how do you not get tangled?

Oh I love The Internet.

It probably consumes most of my waking hours. Whether I’m scrolling through Reddit/Facebook/Twitter, playing Magic, streaming shows or, well, doing exactly what I’m doing now. I’ve become used to the internet as a forum for arguments, hatred and showcasing the worst that humanity has to offer. Political rhetoric may not have overtaken porn as the central use of the internet, but it’s zooming right up its butthole. Even with the absurd amount of time I spend on it, I still forget how genuinely useful the internet can be.

I’ve had this muscle in my arm that’s been sore for days. At the top of the forearm, kind of on the outside, by the bicep. I don’t know how I stressed it (some kind of overuse, no doubt), but it’s been making itself known quite profoundly. Any time my right arm has been bent and doing some sort of pulling motion, I’ve felt pain there. Bicep curls, obviously. Pull ups, definitely. Outside of gym stuff, certain gripping actions have inflamed it. Feeling down the arm, I noticed that the muscle was connected somehow to my index finger. I wondered if it’d been because of workplace RSI. I’ve tried at multiple junctures to do trigger point release. In short, finding points on the muscle where pressure created strong pain, and holding that point firmly until the pain eased. Letting the muscle relax, basically. I did a bunch while lying in bed last night, and found the stress abating a bit. Pleased, I nodded off. I woke up this morning, with the pain still there.

Disappointed, I consulted the internet. Google has gotten adept enough to handle my dumb queries (“muscles connected to the index finger”), and I found a page full of individual arm muscles. I looked through them all until I found the one that seemed to fit my symptoms/arm location. The brachioradialis. I then searched for brachioradialis stretches. Within a minute I’d found a YouTube video of a British physiotherapist giving a stretch for the muscle. I tried the stretch, it went straight to the source of the pain. I tried on the other arm just to test. Nope, no pain. I’m pretty sure that I’ve found how to ease the strain over the next few days. I consider this a total success.

It’s so easy to forget this part of the internet, but it kinda feels like that was what people originally had in mind. The internet, despite all the trolls and clickbait, is a massive repository of human knowledge. Chances are, anything you’ve asked has already been solved (and/or, pornified. Thanks Rule 34). I don’t know how many times I’ve asked the internet questions like:

  • How do I fold a suit for travel?
  • How do I fold a fitted sheet?
  • How do I iron a shirt?
  • How do I cook ______?
  • What is a remedy for _____?
  • How do I sew a button?
  • Sorry, I forgot the fitted sheet thing?
  • Which bike accessory fits my needs?
  • What do I eat/drink/see in this city I’m visiting?
  • Is there a free alternative to this software?
  • Is there an easier alternative to fitted sheets?

Mostly, the internet has delivered. There are any number of tasks that get so much easier with guidance, and if you’re willing to look, the internet provides.

Also, thanks to The Google effect, I still haven’t bookmarked that Martha Stewart folding fitted sheets video.

Getting in my own sway

I’m not sure if you know this, but if you get tired enough you’re basically high.

Cut to me roaming the halls at work, swaying as I walked. Not a sexy, seductive kind of sway. Less hip movement, and more of an I’m losing touch with reality and boy oh boy I need to keep my head from flailing into errant walls kind of sway. Perhaps it wasn’t a wise idea for me to bike to work. Perhaps it was an even less wise idea for me to bike home from work. All I know is, I’m very thankful it was a moderately slow shift, because I don’t think I could’ve handled much workload. I messaged my girlfriend at some point to let her know I was getting motion blurs from turning my head too quickly. It was like bad VR, which already gives me motion sickness. Thank fuck my eyes have a decent depth of field, otherwise I’m not sure I could’ve handled my own body. The saving grace was that as long as I was stationary, I was mostly fine. I don’t need to rapidly turn my head at my desk to do my job, so I could at least get the work done without much of an issue.

Last night I made an important, but boring decision. I decided to stay home from the final of Late Bad. As I’ve raved over the past week, it’s quickly become my favourite local comedy show. The hosts are fantastic, the recurring bits are absurd, and it tickled my funny bones all over. In a whimsical, not creepy way. I think having your bones tickled might be a meth symptom, but I can’t be sure. Hell, I’m not even sure how many funny bones I have. I clearly cannot be trusted as a medical expert. In any case, I was at work thinking I might be stepping outside of liminal time right now, but do I stay up in the present to see Late Bad? I did notice how much better I’d felt after eating a full meal, and I’d thrusted enough caffeine into my body to make sleep an intangible concept. T H R U S T E D. I knew going to Late Bad wasn’t a good idea, but I didn’t trust myself to make smart decisions. Like, how could I know that the things I thought were ill advised were actually, well, that? What if my concepts were twisted all challah-like? It was Rosh Hashana, but what if it was also opposite day?

Deep down I knew I shouldn’t go. Look, there’s no misdirect here. I already told you I didn’t. But we’re living in the future. I didn’t know that even after I’d left work, liminal time or no. I got let out early, and had ample time to actually make it to the show. I was on my bike, and still couldn’t decide. I was riding seated, one-handed, up a hill, texting my girlfriend about my indecision. Then I realised, that I was riding seated, one-handed, up a hill, texting my girlfriend. I wanted to go to the show, but I clearly wasn’t in a sane state of mind to make those decisions. I took stock, and thought back to the festival. I remembered how good I’d felt making smart decisions not to fall prey to FOMO. I thought about my potential next day after staying up late at Comedy Bar. No doubt I’d get a drink, maybe two, get sucked into the frenzy of the final off-festival show and 4am last call. I knew how terrible today’s shift would be, given that it might actually get busy. I understood that, if I decided to see the show, much as I wanted to, it would mean I’d clearly learned nothing from my experiences. I may have been delirious with exhaustion, but I wasn’t a dummy. I went home, chilled out, and had a full night’s rest.

Sure, I kinda regret my decision, but I was going to either way.

No cold, no sweat

It’s not the last day of JFL42, but it might as well be.

I think I’m pretty much done with traditional stand up for a little while. I’ve had an amazing time this festival. For the first time ever, I’ve put this nebulous concept of “value” to the side, in lieu of understanding what value really means. Every other year, with the delights of the credit system, I’ve gone balls deep. It’s been about maximising my experience, seeing a 7pm, 9pm, 11pm and midnight show every day for nine days (it’s a ten day festival, but inevitably I’ll get a cold on day five). This year I’ve been cruising, choosing and snoozing. I cut out a bunch of my 11pm shows and instead got a good night’s rest before work in the morning. This other concept of value is something I’ve been striving for in life, and this has been a pretty good representation of it. What the hell do I mean? I’ll explain for any other dummies like me who took a while.

You know buffets, right? For basically my entire life, anything All You Can Eat has been an excuse for endurance/pain tolerance. A little while ago I realised that this is a weird concept. You’re not gonna beat the house in a buffet. Just not gonna happen. If you do, the cost you pay will be your own discomfort in trying to evacuate your body for the next few days. Sub-optimal. So if eating as much as was humanly possible wasn’t the point, what was? Well, the variety. At a buffet you can do all kinds of combinations. You can try flavours together, or get usually incongruous foods that’d be too expensive to acquire in a normal restaurant. Enjoying the range of options was the goal, and the increased price point represented that.

Applying this to JFL42 has been a game changer. Every other year, I’ve been champing at the bit to maximise my number of shows. Every other year I’ve been seeing every single act I could, even if I didn’t have a ton of interest. The point was to see as much comedy as I could, which came at the detriment of being more discerning. Every other year I’ve been physically exhausted, mentally drained and borderline ill at the end of the festival. I haven’t been participating in as many shows, but I’ve tried to ensure that the shows I’ve seen are ones I’ve very much wanted to. Konmari-ing the shit out of it. Consequently, I feel so much better. I’m tired, yes, but I haven’t burned the candle at both ends.

That said, once my work rotation shifted and I had days off, I switched into watching my new favourite show: Late Bad. It’s an absurd collection of one liners, live commentary, musical accompaniment, impressions and character work. It’s been a free, non JFL42 show starting at 12.30am daily. Much as I love the festival, Late Bad may have overshadowed it. My desire to sit for an hour and watch one act has been obliterated by this bizarre, fragmented collection of bits. So while I haven’t been going all out to see these traditional stand up shows (and I may skip all of mine tonight to attend my friend’s Erotic Fanfiction Competition party), I’ve very much been staying out late and having a blast.

Weirdly, this may have been one of my favourite JFL42s ever.

Best of all, I don’t even need to toss any wrapping paper

Is there any more splendid feeling than giving yourself a gift?

This morning I had cereal for breakfast. On my days off, I’ve been becoming lazy about eating breakfast. My usual porridge seems too much of an ordeal, and I have cereal instead. I have a favourite small spoon. It’s halfway between a tea spoon and dessert spoon. It’s very sturdy, and ideal for porridge, which is often too hot to eat a lot of at once. When I have cereal, however, I like having a dessert spoon. It’s more in line with my ideal cereal per bite (CPB. An unnecessary acronym I’ll probably never use again). Today I reached into the cutlery drawer before emptying the dish rack. I found a dessert spoon with a large bowl, of a solid density. I realised that months ago I bought myself this spoon, then forgot it existed. It’d been buried under our more commonly used spoons. What a gift I gave myself. My cereal was at least 20% more enjoyable than it would’ve been otherwise.

Today I made a gift for my future self. I finished up at the gym, and looked at the scale. It’d been six months or more since I’d last looked. I’ve always had a pretty shitty relationship with the scale. I know that numbers are just that, and lack the nuance of proper health indicators, etc. I’m fit, flexible and fibrous. I don’t have any major ailments or conditions. I have an excellent quality of life, and I’m happy. Still, I’ve been raised on years worth of RPGs, and it’s hard not to look at those numbers like an XP meter. At times when I’ve worked hard, then seen lower numbers on the scale, it’s reinforced a positive relationship between that hard work and results. In times when I’ve felt shitty about my body, those numbers have made me feel substantially worse. A while back, I realised that those numbers had a net negative effect on my life, and resolved to ignore them.

At the same time, I’ve been feeling good about myself lately. Between going on anti-depressants, and the life changing effects of enjoying how my new work structure makes me feel, I’m riding on a high. I know that I’m not at my most toned, but I have a positive self image that’s improving my ability to navigate the world with a more balanced attitude. When I look in the mirror, I like my body. It’s a huge development, and I’m incredibly grateful to be undergoing it. I looked at the scale, and asked myself a question: Given that I’m happy with how I look and feel right now, would those numbers make a difference? I’d still be the same no matter whether or not I stepped on the scale. If the numbers attached to the way I feel were higher than I expected, but I was positive about that body, would those numbers mean anything? Purely out of logic, it didn’t make sense to get emotionally wounded by a few digits. I decided that if I could step on the scale and feel okay regardless, that would be a huge victory, lesson, and gift for my future self. I stepped on the scale.

For reference, my resting weight is around 78kg. If I’ve been working really hard at toning up, I often get to around 74kg. I think 73kg was me at my most toned. I was at 83kg for years, and it was a real effort to get under 80kg. Once I got there and made some healthy life changes, it became easier to maintain it. The scale today said 79kg. I stepped on and felt. Well. Fine. So I was heavier than my resting weight, but what did it matter? Just a number. I felt good about myself, and why would one digit change that? I’m hoping this is something I can carry forward, knowing the absurd weight those numbers have carried for years.

This was a great gift today, just imagine how good it could be in the future.

Easing high anxiety

A friend asked to check in with me about starting medication. I figured elements of our discussion could maybe be helpful for others, so I’m posting them here. Hopefully it helps.

Starting medication definitely is a journey, and I don’t for a second assume that it’s the same for everyone. The meds have worked really well for me, and I know that there are lots of complex chemical interactions happening that mean different brains adapt differently.

It’s great to go in with zero expectations. My hope is that everything just gels for you, but it’s very understandable that maybe these meds aren’t quite right, and it could be an adjustment that takes time. I was very lucky that after the initial loading period (~ 2-5 weeks), things felt a lot better for me, and the side effects weren’t severe. Some people have intense side effects that mean years of going off and on different medications, doing the bioaccummulation thing again and again, until they find a combination of helpful effects and low side effects that works for them. For some people, it just clicks. I really really hope this is the case for you.

My experience isn’t far ranging. I went on cipralex. It’s been fantastic and I wish I did it years ago. I haven’t tried anti anxiety meds, but from what I’ve heard the experience can be similar. The big thing is to give yourself all the patience and time, and understand that this will be a process in one way or another. Take breaks when you need it, and be honest with people if they’re asking more than you have the capacity to deliver on. You’ll probably feel a little mentally foggy at first,, maybe a little nauseous. This is very normal and unfortunately a big part of the bioaccumulation.

Also this should go without saying, but a doctor will usually prescribe a ramp up period where you take low doses and incrementally increase until you’re at the desired dosage. Mine was 5mg for the first five days, then 10mg after. It took me a few days to adjust to the 5mg, then again for the 10, rather than it all hitting at once. Please follow their timeline. Please make sure you take your meds every day, and at a similar time. Most people set alarms. With anything SSRI based, you might feel a teensy bit high after you take your meds. Not everyone does, but when I was taking them in the morning, it made my commute a lot more pleasant.

I did find that after the fogginess subsided, it really helped me with focus. I know I get a lot of manic energy. Going on these meds has really given me the capacity to do projects again. Instead of freaking out over there being too many steps, I can take them one at a time. Also the big thing is that I can do multi-day projects again and not freak out that everything isn’t finished instantly. I’ve gotten back my ability to plan, which I lost for a long time. Everybody feels shitty and useless when starting this stuff out. It sucks, and feels really discouraging when the whole point is to push all that stuff aside. It takes time.

Please trust the process. It’s a hard and frustrating lesson, but it’s been helping me a lot now that I’m in a place where I can hear it.

Pro tip: Make it as easy as possible to say yes

Fitness is really hard. I’ve been working at it for a long time, and I don’t think there’s a point at which it just gets easy. I was chatting with a friend about how to get back into it, and I figure if it helps others, I might as well share some paraphrased snippets.

Finding a good routine really helps, and consistency is a big part of that. If you can try to be active (note, this doesn’t have to be strictly going to the gym. Biked around a bunch? Gone for a long walk? Helped a friend move? Had a big night out dancing? It all counts) three plus times a week, it’s a good goal to hit. This is a pretty good maintenance level, and tossing more on top would help you see progress. Still, maintenance is a great goal in itself, and if that gets comfortable, work towards progress.

Unfortunately for me, sleep is a big part of the equation. I love staying up late, I don’t really love sleeping, but in the past few years I’ve noticed how much a solid amount of rest does for my body.  I try to get 7-9 hours a night if I can. If my schedule is regular (when working 9-5 I had a pretty consistent midnight snooze, 7:40am rise and shine going), it helps me stick with a routine, and recuperate after a physically tough day. Magnesium citrate isn’t essential by any means, but it does help my muscles recover well, and improves the quality of my sleep. I think you are really on the money looking at sleep patterns. That’s really hard.

So back to the routine thing. Getting something regular going really does help. The hardest thing about fitness type things is not finding excuses. If you form habits around your activity, it’s more difficult to find reasons why you “can’t” [as an aside, a big part of feeling good in your body is knowing when you do need to take it easy. There’s no value in just pushing yourself against your better interest. It’s definitely more beneficial to take a rest when you’re feeling unwell, or too exhausted to give it a proper go. You’ll get to know the signs of this eventually]. If you have a regular work schedule, try to fit your activity around it. Do you get energised and ready to face the day post workout? Or is it a useful way of working through frustrations? Maybe do it post work.

It can be worth understanding how to motivate yourself. A common dichotomy is internal motivation vs external. Internal motivation means you’re doing it for yourself. Whether that’s proving that you can accomplish something so you know what you’re capable of, or setting goals to feel satisfaction through your own progress. Maybe validation important to you, and your goals are more aesthetic. Whatever gets you moving, bud. External motivations lie outside yourself. That could be getting fit to be able to keep up with a partner, your dog, kids. Or even so people will think you’re cool. I dunno, I’m not you. Find what inspires you to work, and use it.

Good personal trainers are worth their weight in gold. And trainers are often heavier than gold, so I don’t say that lightly. They’ve always been fiscally a bit out of my reach, but I have done a handful of sessions and they deliver great results. They’re good at looking at your goals and working towards them. Or if there’s too much info out there and you feel overwhelmed, a trainer can take care of the planning for you. I’ve never had a gym buddy, but I’m sure it helps for accountability. If you’ve got someone on a similar schedule, that could help. I mean, accountabilibuddies work in AA, right? Also, having accountabilibuddies you don’t work out with can be really helpful. Just talking things through, y’know? For instance, if you wanted me to be your accountabilibuddy, and you were debating whether or not you could be bothered going, I’d be happy to talk it through. Something like:

“Have you been active over the past few days? Do you think you’ll feel better if you don’t go? Or is this an “I’ll be okay if I make it through the doors kind of thing”?” etc.”

If you’re looking for a pull quote, it’s this: Fitness motivation is really hard, because results don’t come fast, and the rewards aren’t often noticeable. Like, the reward for keeping limber is that you don’t hurt as much doing things. Say you got a lower back ache every time you left a certain chair? You’d notice if you hurt, but it rarely registers when you don’t. But that in itself is a huge burden lifted, I can’t even describe it. Being not in pain so frequently has a cumulative effect. It just feels easier to approach things, and overall makes life easier.

Look, I know how hard it is. I struggled for a good 10+ years going to the gym before it stuck. Then things came incrementally. I’ve learned a lot over time, and the more I learn, the more I appreciate what I know.

Mostly, I know that I appreciate it.