Author:Paul Gilmartin

Which Animal is Eating Me?

As a recovering addict/alcoholic who lives with depression, I sometimes have trouble recognizing which animal I’m dealing with when I’m feeling something is wrong.

Generally, when I’m not doing the things to keep my depression in check (exercise, meditation, meds) I slip into a funk where I lose interest in things that normally bring me pleasure, and I find it really hard to get motivated to do anything.   Decisions become really hard to make.  I feel like the clock is ticking and there is only one perfect decision and I don’t know what it is.   I become worried about the future, and get down on myself for procrastinating, which makes me worry even more about the future.   I feel that the world is passing me by, yet I feel like I can’t take any steps to remedy it and before I know it I’ve worked myself up into a nap.

When my depression is being kept in check but my addictive personality isn’t, I find myself enjoying things but obsessing about myself and the need for more (money, things, accolades), and ignoring the needs of others.   I become so engrossed in feeling good I lose a sense of balance and moderation in my life.

When both are in check I have a feeling of being in sync with the universe.   I feel a sense of purpose that takes away my fear of the future.   I feel the presence of something in my life that connects me to everything.   I find myself patiently listening to my wife instead of thinking “When is this sentence going to end so I can unpause Tivo and go back to watching the History Channel’s Hitler Marathon?”   I love documentaries about Hitler when I’m procrastinating.   It’s a cheap, selfish way to feel better about myself.   I can say, “See.  Look what happens when you’re a go-getter.”

What better way to make my D into an A than by putting worthiness on a curve?

Here’s a scary thought.   Hitler is probably not the most evil person to ever exist.  I bet there’s even worse people around right now.   We’re just lucky they’re not go-getters like Hitler.   You could make me as evil as Hitler and the world would be perfectly safe.

Evil Friend: Paul, how’s Mein Kampf coming along?
Evil Paul: (exhausted deep breath)  I just.  I just have to sit down and WRITE it.
Evil Friend: Paul.   It was due three weeks ago.
Evil Paul: I know.  And I’m sorry I slept though the rally.
Evil Friend: It was spectacular.  We picked on the Asians.
Evil Paul: I heard.   I wanted to come.  I was up all night with my German Shepherd.  He ate my swastika.
Evil Friend: We’re German.  We just call it a Shepherd.
Evil Paul: I keep doing that.   I don’t deserve to be called Fuhrer.

If that bit offended you.  You’re on the right website.  You take yourself too seriously.

How does your depression or addiction manifest itself?   How do you cope?   Post your thoughts on the message board, I’d love to hear how other people deal with these things.

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Being Good To You

I just got off the phone with a friend who was compulsively engaging in an unhealthy behavior, and feeling terrible about himself.   As we talked he kept harping on his failures and shortcomings – beating himself up for his lack of control.

I offered him the perspective that while its good to take a look at the negative effects his behaviors are having in his life, it’s also important that he be nice to himself.   Not by engaging in the unhealthy behavior, but in healthy ways.

Addictive behavior is usually triggered by anxiety, and  being hard on yourself all the time does anything but relieve anxiety.   I know because I fight the urge to beat myself up all day long.  Some days I win, some days I lose.

A couple times a week, try doing something small that you think you really don’t have time for, or that is a little frivolous and do it alone.  Go out for a nice meal by yourself.   Going to a movie in the middle of the day, just for the hell of it.   Get an ice cream cone.   It doesn’t even have to cost money.   I rented an electric bike one day when I was having a stressful week on the road doing stand-up and it was amazing.   The battery even crapped out and I didn’t care.

A great way to be nice to yourself is to go just sit in a park and relax.  Don’t do anything.   Just observe everything and everyone around you.   It’s amazing what we miss in our obsession to “get ahead”.    Lose yourself in the present moment.   You’ll be amazed what details you’ve never noticed.    You might feel a nice, relaxed feeling for a moment or two, or if you’re lucky, longer.   That is who we are.   Not what we own or what we do.

I didn’t realize any of this stuff on my own.   I read it in a book called “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.   It’s an amazing book that I read every morning.    Why every morning?   I’m tempted to say “Because I’m an idiot”, but that would be just too perfectly ironic to end this piece.   The truth is I need it.   I need to start every day with kindness and calmness not only towards the world, but towards myself.

If somebody had told me ten years ago that I would be posting stuff like this publicly I would have asked to have them put me out of my misery, but I’m not embarrassed today that this is who I am and what I need and it feels pretty fucking good.
We “do” all day long.   Our culture is so geared not only to doing and owning, but to making us feel like we’re not doing and owning enough.   And it’s bullshit.   We forget that the real person inside us isn’t what we do or what we own.    It can’t be found by thinking about the past or the future.   It can only be found by just being in the present moment, wherever we are, being kind to others and especially to ourselves.

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Janet Varney

Paul interviews his Dinner and a Movie co-host Janet Varney about her battles with anxiety, depression food and panic attacks. Listen as one people-pleaser interviews another! Enjoy Janet parrying a compliment coming her way! En grade!  Be sure to listen to Janet’s podcast the J.V. Club.

 

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