Thunder

Trying something a bit different today…forgive the amateur quality of this particular post.

She looks up, as the sky weeps unto the land. Across distant treetops cloud-light flashes, creating a brief, but mesmerizing, display, the spotlights of a hundred stadiums brightening the sky all at once. She turns her attention downward as the crackle of thunder roars at her, a roar somehow hitting her from all sides. On the stone below her droplets hit, seemingly bouncing back up for a millisecond before settling in with the rest of the gathering water, making way for the thousands more drips to come after it. On the bare earth, however, they disappear, sinking into the brown abyss.

Another stadium display lights the clouds above her, turning her attention back upwards, where the partially stripped trees sway, unhinged but for their roots. An orange-brown leaf flicks at her forearm; she feels its leathery, veined touch before it flies away to join its multicolored companions. Roar, the sky hurls at her again, yet closer this time.

Leaves crackle and squelch underneath her boots as she makes her way forward, the occasional pocket of mud being hidden in the covered forest floor. A third flash, brilliantly creating a silhouette of trees above her, a half-second from a ’50’s horror flick.

She knows its coming this time, she braces herself for it.

It doesn’t help. This roar is louder than any ones prior to it, so loud she’s certain there’s no way they could get more deafening. She knew it was coming, but it still bites into her, assailing her, beating at her chest harder than her own heart. It almost hurts.

She realizes she can’t beat this. Knowing another roar is inevitable only makes it worse. Nature itself is a force of nature, and no strength of will can stop an unrelenting force.

……

Right?

My fear of having fears

I often refer to my struggles with anxiety as “paralyzing,” and I’m more than certain many others feel this way about their own battles with this illness as well. When my anxiety prevents me from physically getting out of bed in the morning because I’m so fearful of facing the day, that’s paralysis. When my anxiety tells me that I shouldn’t go out with friends to some public place, because I may be put into a social situation I’m uncomfortable with, that’s paralysis. When my anxiety refuses to let me speak my mind for fear of what others may think of me, that’s paralysis.

All 0f these paralyzing things, these anxieties, stem from fears. Notice I didn’t necessarily say rational fears – in fact, 9 out of 10 of these fears are irrational. But when it comes to irrational fears, anxiety is the package deal. “If I say this thing, what will [person] think of me?” “Remember that unimportant thing that happened a week ago that made you slightly uncomfortable that everyone else has likely forgotten about? Dwell on it.” “That person gave you a look that could maybe be taken as offensive, so naturally, it means that person must hate your guts – there’s no other explanation.”

Now, I’ve said this dozens of times, but for those without anxiety: we know these fears are irrational. I, who worries about many of these things on a daily basis, can look at these as I type and say, “That fear isn’t rational.” Trust me, I know, and people with anxiety know. But the day simple logic stops an anxiety-riddled mind from thinking the way it does is the day anxiety no longer exists. This is what separates anxiety-sufferers from “normal” people who are just worrying about something: logic and the knowledge that their fear is irrational will do next to nothing to soothe their roiling thoughts.

This may unintentionally go the way of Inception, but the reasons above are precisely why I fear what fears I may have in the future. I fear my future fears. Why? Because I know, once I have this fear branded into my mind, however irrational it may be, it will be another opportunity for my anxiety to paralyze me. If my anxiety (and I do specifically mean my anxiety) determines that something is to be feared, it’s mighty hard to convince it otherwise. The very anxiety that tells us to prevent doing this thing we fear is the same thing that prevents us from seeing the irrational thought behind it. Sure, it would be great to ride that roller coaster to show our anxiety it won’t come off the rails and kill us all, but there’s no way in hell our anxiety would let us actually do that. What, the odds of you dying on an amusement park ride are 10,000 to 1? No way we’re taking those odds!

So, long story short, I fear what I will fear in the days to come, because I know that it will prevent me from experiencing so much of what life has to offer. This is one of the many reasons I’ve taken to practicing CBT and mindfulness – I refuse to let my mental illness get the better of me if I can help it.

Does anyone else feel this way? We’re so afraid of these fears being stamped into our heads, because we know what the consequences are. If anything, this post certainly argues for the quote: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Ain’t that right.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

A Beginner’s Guide to Coffee Tasting

For many, there’s quite a difference between enjoying a certain coffee, and appreciating the differences and intricacies from cup to cup. If you’re interested in becoming one of the latter, a good first step is to learn how to do a proper coffee tasting. When done correctly, a coffee tasting is planned to bring out every aroma, taste, and feel of said coffee. Keep in mind that tastings should be done only with black coffee – any added sugar or cream will dilute and alter the original qualities of the coffee.

Although not required, you may get better results when tasting two different coffees side-by-side. This allows comparison between the two, allowing you to make observations based on what each coffee does or doesn’t have (i.e. Coffee A has more acidity than Coffee B, or Coffee C has a mouthfeel of [blank], while the mouthfeel of Coffee D is more akin to [blank]).

If you are just beginning coffee tastings, don’t worry when you aren’t able to pick up many differences between the coffees you taste – a more refined coffee palette comes with experience. The more coffees you taste and are able to describe, the better-equipped you’ll be to point out the differences between each.

Step 1 – Defining Aroma

sniffingcoffee

The nose can determine dozens more scents than the taste buds can pick up, so figuring out what aroma the coffee gives off is a logical first step.

After pouring the coffee, take your hand and cup in around the top lip of the cup, pressing your nose under it, creating a natural funnel for the aromas to reach your nostrils. Breathe in deep with your nose, doing your best to describe what aromas you sense. Nutty, floral, chocolaty, earthy, basil?

Step 2 – Defining Taste

best-tasting-coffee-at-grocery-store

To be honest, this step always makes me chuckle, because while teaching people how to do coffee tastings, my advice for this step is basically “be as obnoxious as possible.” When doing the actual ‘tasting’ part of a coffee tasting, slurp the coffee. Yes, slurp it! If the person next to you can’t hear your slurp, you aren’t doing it right. By slurping, the coffee is spread out all over your mouth and tongue, allowing different tastes receptors to pick up different, well, tastes. Some parts of the mouth are more akin to picking up sour tastes, others better for sweet. By allowing the coffee to spread out over your palette, you can pick up more intricacies in the taste.

Step 3 – Determining mouthfeel/body

a-simple-guide-to-becoming-a-coffee-expert-13-638

As the picture above describes, body is basically how long the coffee sits in your mouth after you swallow it, and before that, where the coffee sits in your mouth. Take a sip and swallow. After the coffee goes down your throat, where is the taste (and general overall feel) lingering in your mouth? The middle of your tongue? Tip of your tongue? Sides of your mouth? Without going into too much detail, the mouthfeel of a certain coffee is often a good indicator as to how much acidity it has. Acidic drinks, such as orange juice, are felt on the sides and tip of your tongue – acidic coffees are the same way. Also, using the picture above, what is the “thickness” of the coffee? Is it smooth or almost watery, like skim milk? Or is it closer to whole milk, leaving a slight coating on your tongue?

Again, with your first few coffee tastings, don’t expect them to go perfectly. You won’t be able to determine every intimate detail of each coffee you try, but your palette becomes more accustomed to coffee with each new one you taste. Let me know if this technique works for you, and if this is all old news to you, let me know some of the best coffees you’ve tasted! I’m always looking for new ones to try!

Happy Caffienating!

  • Ryan

I hope you never understand, I hope you never forget

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to be physically crippled by your own mind.

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to wake up and not be able to get out of bed. Not because you physically can’t – your legs are working just fine. I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to not be able to move, simply because your own mind is preventing you from doing so. Glued to the bed, battling your own mind. Move your foot, take a step. Pick your head off the pillow. Get out of bed.

I don’t want you to understand what it feels like to nearly be overcome with anxiety just getting through your morning routine. I don’t want you to be filled with dread at the simple prospect of what the day might bring. Even if nothing has given any indication that the day ahead may bring bad things. The mere possibility that terrible things may happen can be enough to make you want to run and hide.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that everyone in the world has it better than you. You obviously have it better than so many people, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to your mind. You can’t even pull yourself out of bed in the morning, remember?

I don’t want you to understand the feeling of a hopeless future leading nowhere.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that the best place to spill your feelings is on a blog, because those people can’t see your face. They can’t judge a faceless writer, hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

do want you to understand that it’s okay not to understand.

I do want you to understand that understanding isn’t necessary to support people, and love people, and have faith in people, even if those people don’t have faith in themselves.

I do want you to understand that nobody, mental health issues or not, can fix everything. I do want you to understand that nobody expects you to be able to, either.

I do want you to understand that everyone has their own stories and their own battles, regardless of whether they let other people actually see those things.

I do want you to understand that people shouldn’t expect to be loved by all, or worshiped, or the center of attention at all times. People just want to be accepted for who they are, not forced to change to suit society’s whims and expectations. In fact, I bet you already do understand that.

I don’t want you to understand my mind, just be content with that fact that you never will. I truly don’t want you to feel any of this for yourself. So just talk with me. Support me, if you can. Be there for me when I need you, and hell, even when I don’t need you to. I will do my best to be there for you. Protect me from my own mind, because ironically enough, that’s what I’m most afraid of.

I hope you find happiness to the best of your ability, and I hope that you wish the same for me. I hope you’re able to remember that you aren’t alone, you have people here for you, whether you realize it or not. I hope you understand that there are others who understand. I hope you understand that there are others who feel the same things you do, in good moments and in bad.

I hope you know that people care about you, and what happens to you, and your happiness. I hope you never forget that.

I hope you stay strong, regardless of what your own mind says to you, because you can overcome it.

  • Ryan

Anxiety over everything

Anxiety takes what good there is in life and overrules it. It is a breath never released, a clenching feeling in the deepest pits of your stomach. It takes a match and lights fire to your insides, a raging fire that, when quenched, will leave nothing but ash and the memory of what tortured you so.

Anxiety is the buckle in your knees at any given moment, the rug that threatens to be swept out from underneath your feet. The unlocked front door, your safe that should be locked, swung open for all to take as they please. All that you value, all that you love, out in the open, vulnerable. The butterflies in your stomach, the shivers down your spine, the cat who has your tongue.

Anxiety is the splinter in your finger, a source of pain that so many say is easy to remove, but the tweezers are nowhere to be found. Anxiety is a fire fed by fuel, all we need to do is stop feeding it to stop it. But that fuel is fear and desperation, that which we have in abundance, and into the fire it goes.

Anxiety is the bully at school we avoid – if we don’t acknowledge him, he can’t hurt us. But others see our so-called cowardice, instead of facing our fears, we run from them. Other people have fears too, we’re told. Ours aren’t any worse than theirs, we’re told. Shame on us for worrying about these mundane things, we’re told. More fuel for the fire.
Anxiety is the ghost of the dark room, the unknown spirit that could lurk around the next corner. Anxiety’s favorite words. Could. Might. Possibly. Probably. Definitely. It’s almost always definitely.

Anxiety is the worst outcome of any possible situation; whatever parallel universe exists to bring us the most pain and despair. It is the pickpocket of your happiness, your contentment, threatening to strike even as you walk through wonderland.

Anxiety has no method to its madness – it runs rampant through our consciousness, no end goal in mind, but causing destruction nonetheless. It is a boulder rolling down a hill – no set path, but crushing whatever lies in front of it.

Anxiety wants us to hate ourselves for existing. It wants us to feel like we shouldn’t exist. But we do exist, and for that reason, we’re already one step ahead of it.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

 

 

 

Being single works just fine

To all of the couples and the single people, happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re getting some expensive piece of jewelry from the one you love, or you’re sitting at home alone having a hot date with Netflix, I hope your day is fantastic.

So naturally, with it being Valentine’s Day, I was genuinely considering putting some snarky post on here, something entitled along the lines of “Singles Awareness Day” (super original, I know), but I thought better of it. I have single friends who hate today for the same reason so many people love it – it promotes romantic connections, those of which they do not have. I’m single as well, but I’m in no way bitter or resentful towards the holiday. From my point of view, Valentine’s Day doesn’t berate people who don’t have a significant other, rather, it is meant for celebrating the joy of those who do. 

Now, I understand the bitterness towards seeing others happy with their significant other, and wishing you had that for yourself. There isn’t anything wrong with feeling sad about that – I fall prey to that mindset myself. But thinking that you can’t be as happy without some “other half” that you haven’t found yet isn’t true. We can receive love from other places – friends, family, pets. I know this isn’t “romantic” love, but it’s love all the same, isn’t it?

Having someone in your life who loves you romantically is wonderful, I don’t deny that. But life isn’t all about romantic love, though today does a pretty good job of making many forget that small fact. Love makes the world go ’round, yes, that includes romance, but all the other types of love still apply. I’m absolutely convinced that, before anyone enters into a relationship, they have to make sure they love themselves first. Self-love. I’ve had opportunities to enter into relationships, but I didn’t take those opportunities, because the way I see it, asking someone to love and accept me for who I am, when I have trouble doing that on a daily basis, isn’t right. Romantic relationships can do wonders for those with depression, but believe me when I say they are in no way a substitute for loving yourself.

So, if it comes around to February 14th next year and you’re single, that’s okay. Same with the next year. And the next. Love is so important, but it comes in many different forms. Familial, friendship, compassion, and yes, romantic. That being said, if you are in a relationship, don’t take it for granted. Just having someone there for you romantically is something so many people wish they could have every single day.

You’re amazing. You’re fantastic. You’re worth so much, you have so much potential, and you are worthy of romantic love, whether you’re in a relationship right now or not. Life is about so much more than boyfriends or girlfriends, husbands or wives – happiness can come from so many places, including within. Don’t forget that.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

 

P.S. You know you like that Han Solo pun in the cover image. Admit it.

Yes, your emotions matter

Whether we like it or not, emotions are very clearly an integral part of our lives as human beings. I say it like that because I’m certain there are some individuals out there who are convinced our existence would be easier if we were all emotionless, unfeeling blobs. I suppose, on my crappiest of crap days, I can sort of see where these people are coming from. But emotion is a two-sided coin. If there’s sadness, there is also happiness. If there’s anger, there’s also serenity. The darkest shadows wouldn’t exist if light didn’t shine. I sound like I’m reciting the Jedi Code from Star Wars, but I digress…

My vote is in favor of emotions, and I’m willing to bet most people feel the same, most of the time. How we feel is directly linked, obviously, to what happens to us, around us, and from us. Very rarely can we control what happens to us, but with discipline we can control how we react to it. It’s called mindfulness. I’ve mentioned it briefly in a prior post, as it seems to be a growing practice among many who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. In short, mindfulness is putting our emotions aside during our initial reaction to a situation, and viewing that situation from a purely logical standpoint. Mindfulness does not ask us to become those aforementioned unfeeling drones, but instead to only take our emotions into initial consideration of a situation when absolutely necessary (which it rarely is). By avoiding passionate emotions such as anger, jealousy, and rage when reacting to a situation, we save ourselves the trouble of jumping to conclusions or doing things we later regret. After we’ve given ourselves time to view that situation from an unclouded mind, only then do we let our emotions run through us. It takes constant practice and dedication, but a mindful view of the world has done wonders for people.

Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our emotions, just not when initially reacting to a situation. The emotions are still there, though. They’re real. They mean something. With that in mind, I think about a little reverse psychology trick depression loves to play on people – telling us that our emotions don’t mean something.

The word itself, depression, recalls all sorts of terrible emotions: sadness, hurt, guilt…the list goes on. Depression is an expert at bringing these feelings into the forefront of our minds and letting them rule out any positive emotion that tries to come in. Here’s the irony – sometimes that same illness will try to tell us that those emotions we’re feeling, the ones it invited to the party in the first place, are wrong. Invalid. Undeserving of our attention.

Cunning depression tells us there are those out there who have it much, much worse than you.

 

“I barely have enough money to make rent this month…”

“So? There are parents with families who can’t even afford meals each night.”

 

“I feel like absolute crap, but my boss says I have to come into work today anyway…”

“So? There are people with illnesses so terminal they have only months to live.”

 

“I want to hang out with my friends, but I have more important obligations…”

“Ha! Don’t even get me started!”

 

It’s like…your boss at work telling you to do something. You do what they ask to the letter, but then they get mad at you for it afterwards. “I did everything you wanted, depression! I let these negative emotions lord themselves over me, and now you say ‘shame on you for feeling those things.’” What even…?

It may seem that through this, depression is convincing us to be thankful for our blessings instead of our inconveniences. Indirectly, maybe. But what it’s really trying to accomplish is make your head go in circles; telling you that your emotions aren’t valid, so you feel even crappier that you felt that way in the first place, and the cycle starts anew. It’s the job of a depression-addled mind to make you feel hopeless. It rubs salt in the wound – not only do you not deserve to feel happy, but you aren’t even worth it to feel sad, or angry, or livid.

Like most of the things depression tells us, this isn’t true. Through mindfulness, we can put our emotions aside, but there is not one person on this planet who can “turn off” their emotions permanently. Again, whether we want them to exist or not, emotions are there. To deny their existence or validity only does harm to us. Your emotions matter.

I watched a YouTube video yesterday of someone talking about mental illnesses and the stigma surrounding them. So many people who are uninformed about what someone with a mental illness goes through say that we shouldn’t pay attention to our emotions. “If your depression makes you sad, just push the sadness away! You aren’t actually sad, it’s just your depression telling you that!” No. No. NO. You ARE sad. You’re upset, you’re ecstatic, you’re giddy, you’re guilt-ridden. Any emotion you feel is real, no matter if it’s brought on by a mental illness. In that YouTube video, the girl used the word “valid” a lot, and I think that’s a fantastic way to put it. Even mindfulness, the very technique that teaches us to put aside our emotions, doesn’t deny that they’re real. You have every right to feel the way you feel, at any given moment.

I feel like this post is quite scattered, so I apologize for that. The video I watched yesterday made me think about it all last night and early today, so I figured I’d put my thoughts to (digital) paper and make sense of this myself. Regardless, I stand firm on what I said. Even in the moments where we may not want them to be, emotions are real.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan