The Body-Mind Connection

We all know about the placebo effect, yes? The mind can effect change in the body. What doesn’t get acknowledge as much in our culture that praises the intellect as superhuman and sort of disdains the physical as merely human is that the body can also effect the mind.

What this means for the wellish – the healthy enough people with no diagnosable disease who are still miserable and shortening their natural lives – is that if you mimic sickness in your body it can manifest in your mind. If you, for example, spend a lot of time lying around, don’t get much natural light, don’t get a lot a face-to-face time with loved ones you are mimicking the symptoms of depression and it’s entirely possible that that is what causes your mind to begin mimicking depressive symptoms as well.

Mind and body don’t co-exist, the brain is part of your physical body and susceptible to physical aliment. Alzheimer’s is a physical ailment that manifests as memory loss, just like any other disease that might result in muscle loss.

When I got out of my last severe depression I doubt it’s a coincidence that my mantra was just to do what I thought a healthy person does. I didn’t feel like exercising but it’s what a healthy person would do so I’ll mimic it.

And I haven’t been suicidal in two years now, that’s the longest stretch since I was 13.

All my talk of changing one’s persona has to start with changing one’s behaviour. So much of the insidious trap of depression is looking for the one thing, the root cause. We tell ourselves little things like exercise won’t help because we have a big problem, something is fundamentally wrong with us and with life – nothing as quaint as a work out could possibly help. And that search for the one, big, key thing that you can discover that will make things okay and then allow to you to do things like exercise is like going into a burning house and refusing to put out the fire until you know where – and why – it started.

So the depression grows because we won’t look at the man behind the curtain and admit that he is actually rather small. And yeah metaphor round up these are firefighter in the land of Oz.

Everything being connected – your diet to your mood to your sleep – means they all fall together when something is wrong but you don’t have to let them. Hold the line or drag upward anything you can. If everything is broken there can be no wrong answer when you start repairing. And further more if you do have some diagnosable problem then you’ll root it out because it will be resilient. If you have true insomnia it’ll persist when you get your diet and exercise more on lock and blah blah blah knowing is half the battle.

We over diagnosis and self-diagnosis constantly now. There’s more drive to have something, an explicable problem, than to be okay. Rather than people being in denial and covering up a problem like we imagine was rampant in the 50s a lot of people are in denial that they’re basically okay and they’re just jacking their blood sugar around throughout the day which is effecting their mood.

There will come a time though when your unhappiness is so severe you realize it no longer makes you interesting. In fact the only person it made you interesting to was yourself, everyone else was so wrapped up in their own feelings they only cared about yours when it helped them express theirs.

The search for solutions can sometimes be quiet dull sounding, there’s no glamour no story we can tell ourselves in the fact that bananas contain serotonin precursors but at least it’s science, it’s objective.

It’s better than listening to your feeling because your emotions are generated by your body and you and your body don’t have a great track record of listening to each other so far.

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Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, Pragmatism

Race day

 

Night Before

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Bar hopping, wasted on gin!

On Route to Race

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Fantastic conditions.

This is, unedited, what I wrote on the way to the race grounds.

This is the doom race.

Internally I’ve got a bleeding tooth and stomach cramps for days now.

Externally it’s minus fucking one and there’s snow on the goddamn ground. Good luck getting sub 135 time when you’re just trying not to biff and die. Also guess who doesn’t own any cold weather running gear? Short shorts and a tank motherfuckers. Bitches out here got thermal toques on and I’m just a hungover viking in a space jam costume.

Whatever happens happens kids.

Post race

And now I know its so much worse than you imagined young Alastair.

Luckily the free shirt that came with entry was a long sleeve so I was wearing a long sleeve t-shirt, my tank top, and shorts while everyone else was in thermal pants, jackets, hats, hoods, gloves, the works – when it first started hailing. I was already freezing standing around waiting to line up and one guy made the point that cold isn’t too bad as long as it doesn’t start raining. So it hailed. It also rained a lot.

Just rain and snow and hail and slush and mud and sub zero temperatures. I thought about the fact that men in 1944 did worse stuff in colder weather with people aiming to kill them with no idea when it would be over so I just had to find my hardcore.

I actually ran a great race all things considered. And I mean that literally rather than as an apologetic figure off speech. With the weather and the track conditions I told myself there was no pressure to get a better time, just run smart and safe. I could have biffed it on some slush and getting hurt in the freezing cold super sucks. So getting my baseline time in worse than baseline conditions means I still improved.

I was running strong almost until the end, better than ever before, until one hill at – of course – K 17 completely fucked me. I went from okay-for-the-entire-race to -dying-for-the-rest-of-the-race in 45 seconds. Then the last 4 K was entirely muddy gravel.

Worst of all when I finished I couldn’t rest. Normally I sit down and take my calf sleeves off, drink some water and breath but it was too cold to drink and the ground was just snow and mud so I kept walking – wanting to get to my jacket at the bag check. The adrenaline dump, the blood pressure drop, the soaking wet while now standing still in the wind just wrecked me. I got the spins, I was coughing, I was glassy eyed. At the bag check they asked me if I was okay and I said I’m not 100% certain that I am so they wrapped me in a tin blanket and put me by the heater. I was able to smile and make jokes within a couple minutes so I knew I was going to be okay.

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And that’s-a my grapefruit, best grapefruit ever.

Then, of course, the sun came out and it got super nice. I traded my soaking wet shirts for Liv’s jacket and scarf and we hit the beer gardens, we got coffee, it was the great festival atmosphere I love.

We got fondue, we came home.

And we brought gin.

Posted in fitness

Race Weekend

Friday morning.

Pack, work, go to Banff, sleep, race, eat a meal, come home.

Nothing to do with anything my wisdom teeth are painful and bleeding so that’s just a fun little add on.

I took the week off coffee so I blame that. I’m about to have one now. And the plan is to keep it to one cup a day again for as long as possible. I’ve taken caffeine breaks before and the build up to 4 cups always happens eventually.

I’m excited to implement my new training design after the race. In the taper (the rest week before an endurance race) I go stir crazy wanting to work out so it’s a good time to come up with a plan. A plan for working out.

I am so wound up about this race, I think it gets worse with each one. Which is weird because upon careful thought my biggest fear is getting over 1:40 (it’s a 21k race). I mean, I’m also worried that I’m over-trained and I’ll injure my legs but that fear is tangibly less than just running a mediocre race.

Work’s been great this week, hopefully today keeps the trend. I realize that my other races were at the tail end of the work year and I wasn’t putting much stress on my legs. I might not be able to train as I’d like for another race in October. Being on my feet and moving in an excited, stressful environment for 8 hours a day really prevents recovery. But we’ll see, Ben Greenfield (whose book I just finished) much like Kelly Starett and Tim Ferris don’t push the idea that you need to run a lot to train for running a lot. You need to run enough to get your mechanics right then you need to strength train and do intervals. Most advice is about saving your legs for race day.

Anyway this was just a ramble to try and wind down a notch. I should be packing already.

Posted in Pragmatism

I’ve Been Slipping

Confession time, I didn’t hold the line last week.

Smallest things first there was a bunch of soda at work, I ate a bunch of fried food because I told myself I was overtraining (because it’s race week, more in a minute) but really it’s that I was exhausted and didn’t feel like having will power.

Anyway, as I’ve said in person before, thank god for race week. It’s easy to eat a little bit of garbage then decide it’s a week off and it’s fine because you’ll just get on-lock again next week. And you know how that goes.

But the race don’t move, the race can’t always be next week eventually it really is this week and diet (and everything health) isn’t about being good for goodness sake it’s a palpable fear that everything is going to positively or negatively effect your minutes.

So I’m super on-lock, Mr perfect paleo, even giving up caffeine til after the race on Saturday.

My work outs were all over the place because it’s the last week of training before the rest week that is race week. I still played great squash Saturday so I’m not injured or truly over-trained but the structure of work outs kept falling apart from fatigue and fear of injury so I don’t feel great about the week.

The biggest slip though was my first paycheck. I got that first paycheck and it was easily big enough to cover all the bills and plenty extra so I reveled in being able to order a drink without looking at Olivia first, go to the book store, see a squash racket that looked good and not have to tell myself that mine were fine, and sure enough all the money was gone. Zero progress on the money front, strike out first at-bat of the year.

I have 20 paychecks to sort out my financial life in a school year and I pissed away one of them completely. 19 left.

I’m sure it’ll settle down and it was just the relief of having money again after being unable to even buy a coffee for 6 weeks. I just wanted to out myself, give my sense of persona a little hit. Tell myself it matters and I shouldn’t just put it out of my mind.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, Pragmatism

The New Sex-Negative

Let’s talk about ‘slutty’ Halloween costumes.

Right now everyone’s completely tired of them, they’ve been growing in popularity and shrinking in creativity for like ten years. I get that.

But right off the bat I’m going to point out that because a costume is revealing or flirtatious doesn’t inherently mean that it’s not creative. Sexy cat? Not creative. Sexy refrigerator? That’s out of left field, if you can make that work you’re creative as fuck.

There’s the assumption that there’s no artistic value in sexiness. This is wrong, and it arouses contempt in the sexy artistic heart. We take it for granted there’s sexuality around cat imagery so it’s not very artistically valuable – it’s not expression anything interesting from author (meaning Wearer) to audience (meaning audience). But that doesn’t mean that sexual overtones can’t also be interesting. The original idea of the sexy school girl wasn’t to sexualize children, it was to juxtapose images of naivety and goodness with overtones of carnal knowledge and wickedness – that actually is a valid artistic statement. Until it’s done to death. But you can still see that rebellious, subversive sexual attitude-to-conventionality in something like the sexy pilgrim costume. The pilgrims were puritanical religious zealots, sexualizing their image satirizes that zealotry and plants a flag, a flag for freedom.

More darkly and unknown though, it’s accused that a woman in a sexy costume is just unlocking a cheat code to popularity and it’s therefore not legit. And you know what? You’re just body-shaming. Body-shaming someone who’s proud of their body is exactly as bad as body-shaming someone who’s embarrassed. People have a right to express their sexuality and if someone who normally wouldn’t be as expressive chooses to do so for Halloween then that liberation from normalcy through costuming is exactly the fucking point of Halloween. Take a break from yourself and enjoy. A lot of people don’t get the chance to feel sexy, period, and it’s a good feeling – don’t ruin someone’s good time because it might be the only time in the year that they get to feel this way.

And more darkly and more unknownly, there’s this assumption in culture right now that anything sexual is harming someone somewhere. Maybe you think a sexy costume is harming the girl (yes, girl. You’d never think that a sexy guy costume was harming him – you sexist you) because she’s objectifying herself, maybe you think it’s harming the children who might see her because you think ignorance is innocence, maybe you think it’s harming men who find her attractive because it’s training them in toxic masculinity, maybe you think it’s harming anyone gay or queer because it’s hetero-normative. And all of those things, all of those possible ‘harms’ are only there because society says they’re there. Repression and ignorance aren’t the cure for repression and ignorance. You want everybody to feel safe and comfortable? Then they need to feel safe and comfortable with sexuality because it’s a part of life. A big part. It’s where life comes from.

Now I know this current, secular sex-negativity didn’t come from nowhere. Like all things it’s the fault of capitalism.

There were times throughout human history – times like the 70s as far as millennials are concerned because we got Rocky Horror and Flesh Gordan – where sex in pop culture was funny, thrilling, silly, arousing, and blah blah blah all at once just like sex really is.

Then the greed-bags got a hold of it because there was more money in playing to it and over the 80s and 90s sex eventually the only sex we were exposed to was commodified, objectified, homogenized, bland, tedious, pointless, glossy, and unreal.

The push back against that started with gay people wanting an expression of their sexuality literally anywhere and as a 90s kid the first concepts I heard about sex-positivity all came from the gay community and were universalized outward from there. Bless you, gay van guard.

And the subversion of it started with Sasha Grey. A sex symbol who refused the ever tighten commodified definition of a sex symbol, a porn star who refused to be an object by making herself the subject, and a performer who treated nothing as exclusive or normative. Bless you, porn van guard.

Like all subversions it eventually got re-commodified because the capitalists just realized the market was bigger than they gave it credit for and like all push backs it became puritanical in it’s own way.

The push that non-hetero-normative expressions were as valid as hetero-normative ones warped into the notion that hetero-normative expressions were oppressive. Therefore if one sexual expression can oppress another than all sexual expressions must be oppressing some other sexual expression.

You want to know what created the wounded identity that asks bullshit questions about straight-pride parades? It’s that.

The fact is we were all oppressed by the glossy, inhuman sexuality of pop culture. It robbed us of the richness of a personal, expressive, perfectly imperfect, idea of sex and conversations around it.

Conversations that can start by not being a dick about scantily clad women this Halloween. Bless you, slutty van guard.

Posted in Gender, Pop Culture

Song: Finish Line

Formerly known as I’ll Stay Away and probably called I’ll Still Stay Away if it ever gets requested.

This song is about deciding not to reconnect with people. People you’ve hurt. Partly because it’s the fact that you hurt them that made you start being a better person and partly because just because you’ve gotten better doesn’t mean you get to be a part of their life again.

You hurt them because you’re selfish and it would be nearly as selfish to show up again, implying they should forgive you on your timeline, and say look I’m good enough now that it should undo everything.

Being better, being humble, means admitting some people don’t need you and your desire for redemption isn’t more important than their stability without you.

But also, selfishly, it’s about how when you start getting better (or accurately – stop being so shitty) because you royally fucked something up you don’t want to unfuck that, let it hurt forever so you don’t forget to be better than that. No closure, no peace, only progress.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, Songwriting

Taking To Everyone At Once

I think I said this before but it’s unlikely most people reading now would have seen it the first time and/or anyone would realize they’re reading it a second time.

Anyway, I often write with one specific person in mind. By the end. I’ll start with a vague idea and just ramble until the voice of someone I know pops up in my head with a question they’d ask or an objection they’d make and then the piece flow from there.

It’s more difficult all the time because I become aware of who’s reading all the time. So instead of one person’s spectral criticism popping up it became two or three – and my writing got better for it because I had to make things really clear to feel I’d explained myself – then it became a multitude. Family, drinking buddies, co-workers, and strangers from book-lovers to work-out enthusiasts.

One big trap of writing is knowing how something is going to sound to someone who will never agree with you (the feminist in my head) and writing angrily against them. But when you feels the perked ears of everyone at once it’s the harshest expectations that shine through, even if those expectations aren’t attached to anything real.

There was a car ride with Jay that made me realize this, it was so delightful to be one-on-one, in an enclosed vehicle, outside of town, and saying things that I think are interesting that would get torn to shreds instantly by somebody before I’d made my point.

I’m out to explore the personal but there’s a degree to which you can’t do that publicly. Not out of pride or privacy but out of an imbalance of generosity on the part of each listener. In person I would talk about running with a book-buddy but it would be dialed down and brief to suit their level of interest in order for me to not spend their conversational generosity. And I wouldn’t say much about what I think on gender with a hardened bro or a declared feminist because I lack the generosity to paddle up the hill of their indoctrination while watching out for innocuous land-mine terms.

Metaphor round up this is a river with land mines.

At a concert this week I found the singer of band really cool and sexy and the feminist in my head said you can’t say that and I went down a rabbit hole of how could explain that being attracted to someone is not the same as considering them a sexual object, and why is the hard left sex-negative and joyless and blah blah blah (I may still write about this, stay tuned) and then I had to remind myself that I was talking to no one, that I’ve just been given the impression by the internet that the misguided and the deliberately shitty who hate Sam Harris are just waiting to hate me too.

But I still prefer to talk to them rather than the bros and incels that might be waiting to like me.

On some level all jokes are inside jokes because they at least rely on common language, and that’s personal – unique to the people involved.

The internet is actually quite private because you’re anonymous, you can hide. You can also not engage if you want to be truly private. It’s idiotic that people use the most narcissistic self-broadcasting platform in human history, screaming look at me with all the power of the post-industrial age, then claim privacy as sacred. Privacy is myth, privacy is a buzzword the powerless think adds leverage.

But if you’re being anonymous it’s much harder to be funny or interesting because those things come from being personal.

This blog is somewhat personal in that I’m always writing as myself, and somewhat anonymous in that you don’t know if I exist.

This blog is also Public.

When a comedian makes a joke it’s personal, she’s talking to her audience even if that audience is 5000 people in a theatre and the infinite number of people who will see it if it’s recorded. But it will also be seen by not-her-audience. People who will miss the personal connection of text and subtext deliberately and engage as if the comedian and the audience were anonymous examples.

This is why comedians now make jokes about who they know is listening. Like Iliza Schlesinger tagging a joke with I know not all women want to have babies, this joke isn’t for you, wait your turn. But this is supposed to be about blogs and social media even though I’d much rather be dissecting modern comedy.

Actually it’s time to wrap this up because the one audience concession I don’t cringe at making is that I don’t write passed the length I know most people will read so I’ll just pick this topic up again when I’m closer to having a damn point.

Posted in Pop Culture, Pragmatism