Mental Health, Books, and Sons of Anarchy…oh my

The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for me.  I’ve definitely fallen into the two steps forward, two steps back routine.  As frustrating as that has been I try to look at the silver lining and realize that being at a net zero is better than being in the negative.  Also, even if I do regress I’ve had the experience to feel what those two steps forward felt like, even if for a short while.  My OCD has been improving since I’ve returned from the mountains, but my overall anxiety has increased to fill the void.

I had been taking guitar lessons to help as a form of music therapy, as well as the fact that I love music and have always wanted to learn to play the guitar.  Unfortunately, the guitar is the most anti-ergonomic thing I’ve ever had in my hands.  This wonderful instrument that has given so much to the world is a torture device to the beginner.  However, I knew going in that practice, practice, practice would be the key to removing the awkwardness and developing the natural feel of the instrument.  Well…at the end of last week, while I was practicing, I had a panic attack.  Practice wasn’t going well as I kept making errors and then BAM!  I just folded, shaking and heart racing, chest tightening, and my breath disappeared.  And this my friends is how anxiety leads to depression…while performing “therapy” I have a panic attack.  That is depressing!  I know, I know, “Woe is me”, but hey, it doesn’t make it any less sucky.  The good news is that I haven’t given up on guitar, not at all, but I’ve stopped with instructor led lessons and am now using video tutorials, apps, etc.  I believe that the accountability of having a real-life human as an instructor led me down the rabbit hole of fear that I would disappoint them.  Now, was all of this emotion driven, irrational, and not based on reality?  Absolutely!  Did this logically make sense in my mind?  Nope!  Welcome to anxiety…the land where logic is asked to wait outside while emotion runs free.

While the guitar experience hasn’t turned out as planned, I have been able to enjoy a few books and finish up my latest TV watching binge.  I had never read a David Baldacci book before but came across one that had this very intriguing story line about a detective who had suffered a brain injury and was unable to forget anything.  This book appropriately titled “Memory Man” was an easy read but had enough twists and turns to make it hard to put down.  I found out about the book from seeing its sequel that had just came out, titled “The Last Mile” which is where I first learned of the character referenced above, Amos Decker.  So, I picked up the paperback of “Memory Man” and downloaded “The Last Mile” the day after finishing the first book.  The stories are well done and I truly enjoyed the Amos Decker character.

I also read a nonfiction book, “Jesus Before The Gospels“, from one of my favorite authors Bart D. Ehrman.  Since Ehrman is a New Testament scholar, his books are fascinating because he looks at Christianity through a historical-critical perspective which provides context and intellectualism which is absent in many of the books written about this topic.  This book in particular investigates the question of how the story of Jesus was shaped and, most importantly, remembered in a mostly non-literate society and how those forces impacted what we are presented with today.  This is one of those books that doesn’t require you to be a believer or not, there is no doubt of Christianity’s role in the world, especially here in western society.  Understanding the what, why, and how we have ended up with our current stories makes for an interesting read.  Also, as stated above, Ehrman is one of my favorite authors and I highly recommend his other books as well.

I also finished the seventh, and final, season of “Sons Of Anarchy“.  I’ll have to admit, this was the third time I tried to watch this series with the first two times not making it past the first couple of episodes.  At first it seemed very cheesy to me, but after a friend guaranteed me that if I watched a few more episodes I’d be hooked, I kept on.  They were exactly right, after I made it through a couple more episodes I was sucked into the world of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club and all the action, drama, and suspense that went along with it.  I’m very glad I listened to my friend because it was well worth the ride (no pun intended).  The show does a great job at developing the core characters and continues to find ways to make you want to punch your TV and/or have your heartstrings pulled as the story progresses.  Quite often I was amazed at how angry, sad, and happy I could be…all in one episode.  While I think the show probably would have been better served by not dragging certain pieces out for a 7th season, it is still a tremendous show that I highly recommend.  Just remember, don’t give up if you’re not hooked after the first couple of episodes…give it a couple more and I think you’ll be glad you did.

One last note, you may have noticed that there is a new page on the blog, “Music“.  Though I’m still learning to play the guitar, I have been creating music electronically for a while now.  I’ve added this page to provide an avenue for me to post those songs.  You can listen to them directly from the page and I will continue adding songs as I create them.

As always, I’d love to hear your comments/feedback.  Also, I’m always looking for ideas regarding TV shows to check out as well as books that you have found to be interesting.  Your suggestions are always welcomed!

Mark’s Journey: Trapped – Six days in a bad Mental Health facility

Been out of pocket for a couple weeks, unfortunately experiencing the dark side of a mental health facility.  I discuss the events and unbelievable activity that took place in my six days at the facility in a vlog post.  Everyone, stay strong, and know that getting treatment is still the best way to go…just be careful and make sure you find the right provider and/or facility!  Take care everyone!

Mental Health First Aid

Recently I took a Mental Health First Aid certification course.  It was a great experience and I talk about the class and its benefits in the video below.  I had never heard of this type of class until I stumbled upon it, but was glad I found it and took the class.  It was informative, helpful, and I believe a great tool to help battle the negative and ridiculous stigmas surrounding mental health.  They have classes all over the country and there are organizations who offer this type of class outside of the US as well.  Here is the link to the Mental Health First Aid USA site.

My First Geocaching Adventure

When I was at the residential facility in Wisconsin they offered recreational, as well as art, therapy.  One day our rec therapy consisted of Geocaching on the facility grounds.  I had always heard about geocaching and thought it sounded like such a fun activity (who doesn’t like treasure hunts).  It brought out my inner Goonies.  🙂  Well, I had a blast and was determined that I would continue this activity when I got back home.  As many of you know, I got back home much sooner than expected, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this new sport/hobby.

There was something very therapeutic about being out in nature, practicing mindfulness, and focussing in on the task of finding this “cache”.  I was hoping that would carry over to when I got home and started geocaching outside the bubble of my residential facility.  Today was my first attempt and I can happily report that I LOVED the experience.  I made a short vlog to accompany my first solo cache hunt in the “real world”.  I felt such a peace come over me and my anxiety seemed to quiet as I listened to nature and focussed my attention on finding this tiny cache that ended up hanging from a small tree.

I’m already planning my next outing and hope that I stick with it.  It’s something that truly combines a tangible goal with a sense of calm and excitement during the search.  If you’ve never heard of Geocaching I would encourage you to check it out.  However, if you are a pro or have some experience with Geocaching, I’d love to read your feedback, pointers, etc. in the comments section.  Thanks!

Mark’s Journey – I Received My Insurance Denial Letter

I officially received my Insurance Denial Letter which sent me home from the residential program I was attending. I’m having a hard time getting it off of my mind and tonight was having trouble sleeping…so I thought I’d vlog about it and how ludicrous the letter is. Also, I wanted to talk a bit about how ridiculous this whole situation is, not just for me but for all of us. We all deserve better.

Mark's Journey - Received My Insurance Denial Letter

Mark’s Journey – Back home, earlier than expected

Well, I’m back home much earlier than I had originally anticipated.  The 45-60 day residential program I was attending was cut short because my insurance company decided to stop paying after two weeks.  I would never have imagined that they would have approved me to attend a residential facility and then pull the rug out from under me after 14 days, but that’s how insurance companies operate in the “free market always knows best” land that we live in.  I’m upset but I am practicing Radical Acceptance, a skill I learned while receiving treatment.  It’s part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which I was introduced to for the first time during my journey to Wisconsin.  I can say without doubt that the time I spent there was worth it and I’m glad that I had the chance to even go for that amount of time.  I believe DBT is the missing link that I’ve been looking for.  I talk about this and where I’m currently at in my journey in a vlog post on the YouTube channel.