Hi-Octane

I’m not sure why I chose that particular title for this blog post; it just felt right, I guess. It’s been about a month and a half since my last post on this blog, and probably a while before that post, too. I think a lot of it was that I didn’t feel I was getting anything from the blog anymore – my posts felt more negative than I wanted, and they encouraged commentary that, while well-meaning, did not feel particularly helpful. So, I took a break. I’m not sure when I’ll be posting here again after this; some of my creative impulse has been routed to my newer blog dedicated to reviewing comics-based media, called Crisis on Infinite Media. So this will be something of a data-dump for the last month and a half or so.

About halfway through April, I started feeling some pretty high-anxiety moments; I’d wake up after only a few hours of sleep, my body telling me that I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what. This isn’t new for me – as a student, that tends to be the signal that I’m ready to hammer out my final papers or projects for class. But usually, that takes place only a few days before the assignment is due (I do the research and other work beforehand, it’s just the writing that waits until later). So I was puzzled by this anxiety. After a few generally sleepless nights, I decided to try something out to alleviate my anxiety – exercise.

Those of you who may know me in real life are probably familiar with my general thoughts on exercise, and they don’t tend to be pleasant. I don’t know that I took pride in my sedentary lifestyle, but I certainly didn’t feel a huge need to change it, especially not if it involved intentionally causing myself pain. So, taking up exercise was a move from way out in left field for me. I started just by walking around my apartment complex – when my anxiety woke me up, I’d throw on shorts and a t-shirt and go walking, usually for about 30-45 minutes. I’d come back , somewhat more tired than I started, but my anxiety would have scaled back, so I started repeating this.

At the end of April, I ended my time working at a bookstore – at least on a regular basis – because my MSW courseload was increasing significantly in my next semester, and I felt I needed the time. Of course, in the short break between ending work and starting my next semester, I found myself with more free time than I was accustomed to. Also, oddly, the same anxiety, despite all my work being done. So, I added on some more exercise to my routine. And I noticed something weird – well, weird for me. I started feeling more awake, more alert, even – dare I say it? – more energetic. So I kept at it.

My new semester started, and with it, came a lot of work – I’m going from 2 courses a week in my previous semesters to 4 courses, and one of them has an expected 16 hours of weekly work to put in, to help prepare for a field placement internship in my 4th semester. I even had an interview for my first potential field placement, on literally my first day of class, which was high-anxiety for me. I felt it went pretty well, but they ended up deciding that I wasn’t a good fit for their program, so now the search continues for another placement opportunity.

What was weird was, while I was upset that I didn’t get it, I didn’t get depressed. I didn’t feel like somehow I’d totally screwed up and everything was wrong forever – and if you think that’s overstating a possible reaction, you’ve never met my depression. No, I just accepted that I wasn’t a good fit, and asked what to do next. This is a reaction that probably surprised some people – and I should know, because when I realized that it was happening, it surprised the hell out of me.Not only that – I’ve been a lot more active in other ways, too. While I’ve been a member of several online dating sites, I was very… let’s say reclusive. I didn’t send out many notes, and when I did send them out and got no reply, I would then desert the site for a month or so, sure that I’d never find someone willing to talk to me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve probably sent out 20-30 notes, and even had a lengthy e-mail exchange with one woman – which also turned out not to be a good fit, for either of us, but I didn’t freak out. I’ve joined a weekly online D&D game, and I’m looking to set up an in-person RPG group again.

Now, I have no idea if any – or all – of this is linked to exercise. I suspect at least some of it is, but my background in data and science is such that if I had to, as Matt Damon puts it in The Martian, science the shit out of something, I would die a horrible, unscienced death. But in case it does, and there are readers who are similarly sedentary, I’ll lay out what I’ve been doing and gradually adding to my routine.

First, most days I go out and walk – I try to do it early, but sometimes it ends up mid-afternoon – for about 45 minutes to an hour. I just walk around my apartment complex, listening to an audiobook (so far, I’ve gone through Avengers and Philosophy: Earth’s Mightiest Thinkers and The Gifts of Imperfection). I’m slow, so I get maybe 3-3.5 miles out of this. Every other day, I try to do some weight training or other high-intensity exercise – I have a pair of kettlebells, 15 and 30 pounds, that I use, and I’ve become very familiar with squat thrusts. I’ve also been doing a daily exercise routine, one of many found at a website called Darebees – it’s pretty low-impact, involves no equipment, and so is pretty easy to do. I’m currently done through day 26 of the Foundation program though day 28 is going to be rough. Once I hit day 30, I’m thinking of moving on to either the Hero’s Journey, or the Fighter’s Codex (though after looking at both of them, I may well just end up going back to Foundation and level-grinding on the next difficulty level). And finally, I’ve also started throwing in – during times when I have 15-20 minutes of time where I’m not really doing much – the use of the sword I have hanging on my wall in exercises from the Forza program and Jung Shin (I don’t have a katana, I have a broadsword, but the same principles apply).

Wow. Now that I write it down, it seems like a lot. But, aside from the walking, everything else can be done in maybe 30 minutes. And since starting this, my anxiety level has dropped; my sleep has moved to a more socially acceptable time, for the most part; I find myself with more energy – which was really weird, because having that much energy actually felt like a low-grade panic attack to me; and I’ve been doing a lot of writing. Some of the writing has been for my other blog, and some is more personal – I’m currently at page 44 of a story that is part personal fantasy, part introspective therapy. I doubt anyone else will ever read it because of how personal it is – and yes, I say that writing on a blog where I’ve talked about my experiences with attempting suicide – but it’s still a longer piece than anything I’ve written in maybe 10-15 years.

The next few months are going to be really busy for me – lots of coursework and preparation for field placement, for one. I’m going to try to put in time writing for my other blog, since writing that is really kind of enjoyable (yes, I like researching comics for fun, shut up). And hopefully I’l keep up with the new exercise routine, because it seems to be treating me well so far. But what I likely won’t be getting into much – unless I run into something I really feel the need to share – is this blog. I don’t know that it has run its course, but I do know that, while I felt a need to write it when I started, I don’t feel that anywhere near as strongly. So while this is almost certainly not goodbye, it’s until we meet again. For any of my readers who have been keeping up with me for a while, thanks; I hope you’ve gotten something from my ramblings, and I know that I’ve gotten a lot from comments. Time to see where the future takes me next.