I have waited for the perfect day to write this article. I had an idea of a feeling I’d have, some form of mood, that when I’d have it, it would be the right mood to write this article in, and today, right now, is it.
Most people in my circle of friends know that I’ve had my run-ins with depression, anxiety and general unhappiness for the past 10 years. It’s been on and off, and I never noticed when it actually started until I, one day, suddenly realized that the way I feel, act and respond to the world around me is abnormal. When I hit lows, I really hit lows, and it seemed like I stayed there longer than others. The worst part of it, in the end, I really liked it. I wasn’t really aware of this pattern until now, but back then I just felt “off” without me being able to pin-point what exactly that was off. It was just off. Weird. Not right. I didn’t feel right. The times I was happy, it felt more like I faked being happy. I felt like it was expected of me to laugh at that particular moment, or to think positively of something we’ve discussed or experienced together with my friends. Having a genuine, belly laugh was a rare occurrence.
I had my Goth-emo-period later than others, I was 18-21 years old. I just identified with darkness more than I did with light. Darkness felt like home, even though it felt like absolute shit, it was MY “shit”. I listened to bands like Staind, Seether (still do love Seether though), Linkin Park, Prodigy, Apoptygma Berzerk, Marilyn Manson, Massive Attack, NIN, Disturbed, Span, SoaD, even Limp Bizkit at some point (gotta have some of the “KEEPROLLINROLLINROLLINROLL” & “And if my day keeps goin’ this way I just might break your fuckin’ face tonight!!”-action), etc etc, absolutely LOVED movies like Pulp Fiction, Matrix, Snatch, Fight Club (<3), Crank, Army of Darkness, Apocalypse Now. Me and my friend had these bro-nights where we just drank Jack and smoked a pack of cigs, lit by our zippo’s, while we just drowned in the setting of Apocalypse Now. Mmmmm, gotta love the smell of zippo fuel and the sound of opening click. I loved my black nail polish and I was chain smoking the living shit out of my lungs. Man, was I cool (hint: I wasn’t). It’s been generally really weird 10 years, when I look back at it now being 31.
But I digress in nostalgia. I clearly still do love my spot in darkness, since it’s been my home for over ten years, but that’s not where I live today, and how I got “here” was actually by pure accident. I’ve been through a year of therapy: high dose SSNRI-usage coupled with weekly talk sessions with my therapist. Weirdest year so far, and I don’t really remember much of it. Another digression: SSNRI’s really fucked up my memory and focus on a permanent basis, and I still don’t quite know how to recover from that. I’m quite forgetfull. However, after that year, I decided to quit both therapy and SSNRIs as they felt more like they were in my way, instead of being helpful, so “fuck that” and that’s how I discovered brain-zaps when you quit SSNRIs cold turkey. Good times. Regardless, years that followed were much better than before. I was more aware of my mechanics and how my internal thought and feeling’s processes worked. That was also the point in my life when I got really interested in psychology, and hence self-development. I started reading books, self-help books, life-style books, all that jazz. Everything that could manipulate negative and destructive internal processes into better ones, I was obsessed with it. Fast forward a few years and we’re talking about The Year of 2015(tm). Yes. That was a good year. A productive year. Perfect for individual growth. If you read “sarcasm” and “anger” into what I just wrote, you were quite right. It started really great, then it was good, then I met one wrong person, and it all went to shit from there. I’ve been recovering from that for the major part of 2015. I’ve done some really destructive shit throughout the year, including binge drinking single malts and stuffing my face with my local store’s chocolate and crisps storage, and lifting weights I probably shouldn’t lift. However, I’ve done something that saved me before, and it was reading self-help books. My therapy experience enabled me to identify areas of my internal processes that required attention, so I could pin-point topics that needed adressing. So that’s what I did, I went straight on Google and Amazon and bought some books for my Kindle. Out of sheer luck, I stumbled upon this one book: “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Kristin Neff. I stumbled upon some quote on some Instagram account in my feed, so I did some further research because it resonated that well with me. It hit me “right in the feels”, so apparently, it hit a sore spot. I don’t remember the quote, however, the book hit me like a sledgehammer even more from the page one. The following is just an excerpt from www.self-compassion.org
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.” Source here.
No matter how depressed I was, I was always compassionate (to my best abilities) towards others. It suddenly hit me while I was reading that book that I was never self-compassionate. In fact, I was the opposite of compassionate, I was resentfull of myself. My self-talk was negative. “Nah, not gonna even try applying for that job because I’m not good enough” (I was), “She probably doesn’t see me that way” whenever I liked a girl, or even worse (this is my favorite): “I’m not hot, handsome, fit, funny, interesting, successful enough to ever be noticed and this family-life-business is for others, not me”. Whatever the situation was, I rarely felt that I fit in, or was good enough for given situation. One of the biggest “mind=blown”-moments was my choice of women throughout the years, and my general experience with women. I’ve had bad experiences with girls/women (result: scewed sence of self-worth, anticipation of rejection), so my choice of women mirrored that, and I always picked girls that would subconsiously confirm, and therefore reinforce the notion that I’m “just not good enough”. Result? 10+ years of female suckfest, and there’s no pun intended here. Next one worse than the previous one, and I’m not saying that they were bad people, but the relationship was so wrong for me (and sometimes for both of us), that, one day, I met “The Mother of All Self-Destruction” and the whole thing broke me so bad, so thoroughly, that I ended up rebuilding myself from the ground up. The worst and difficult part of it to accept was: I allowed it to happen from day one (again: subconsiously seeking confirmation that I’m not good enough).
See, normally I would be resentful, hateful, in emotional pain and just drown in that shit for months on end. After reading this book, everything changed. What changed? I started loving myself. Fuck, man, I’d never thought I’d write something this cheesy, but it’s straight up what happened. If I was my best friend (and I am. Now.), I’d feel my pain, understand it, tell myself that it’s really shit, but not everything is so shit, and I’ll be fine, it will blow over, and I’ll be fine again. You know, I’d offer myself compassion like I automatically do towards people I’m close to. “Woa. Dude.” That’s when The Self-Compassion Bomb(tm) hit me and literally changed everything in my life in matter of days. The change spread like wildfire. And by everything, I really do mean everything. Two weeks after I got hit by that realization, I was happy. It wasn’t because of anyone or anything. I was happy because I was me, I loved my identity and personality qualities. The first thing I noticed was constant happiness and serenity. Second thing I noticed was self-esteem. There is so much literature on self-esteem and how to gain it, like a whole business market for it, and you should do this, and that, and eat eggs raw and just walk off that broken leg, fuck bitches every night, because then you’d be alpha as fuck and all of your self-esteem issues would be fixed. Wrong. That’s fake self-esteem. A cover up. A mask that easily digestible. A learned response you perform in given situations, when your natural internal response is nowhere close. Self-esteem is a no-cost, absolutely-fucking-free by-product of self-compassion and it is as autonomous as breathing. And when I suddenly realized that, one realization amongst hundreds that I had the weeks that followed, I became even more happy. Self-compassion was like a re-programmed virus, spreading from cell to cell, untill it fully saturated every cell in your body. That’s how I felt the effect of self-compassion. All the aspects of my life that I saw in a negative way, or had struggles with, anything that was a source of unhappiness, struggle or discomfort, everything got saturated with it and became slowly transformed into happiness or serenity: a sensation of feeling content.
(Mostly) all of my bad memories were disarmed and could no longer hit me like a truck anymore, because “It’s ok. It’s over, it’s in the past, it happened, you learned, and right now? You’re fine. Look around you. You are safe, you have a job, a roof over your head, food on the table, you still lift and enjoy the fuck out of it (no matter how injured you might be). You’re fine. You’re ok”. Should I have a painfull memory flash-back, that’s my inner dialog, which is usually followed by a warm inner feeling and a smile. Spilled your coffee on fresh pair of pants? Yeah, that sucks. But it will dry, and you can just wash it off. Burned that dinner? Really fucking shitty, and now you’re hangry and have to do it all over, but it’s ok, you will either buy take-away or make new dinner, and you could just chill for 20 minutes while it cooks, it’s not an end of the world, and it will be worth it in the end. See? Positive attitude. Opportunities instead of limiting beliefs.
Self-compassion is not pity.
Feeling sorry for yourself and doing nothing about it is a highly unproductive thing to do. However, accepting, understanding, listening to yourself is a much better thing to do. An easy cue for this in any shitty situation is this: “What would my best friend say?” This requires a solid best friend though, I see the weakness in this approach, but even if you don’t have one, think of a person that has your best interest at all times, listens to you, understands you on a deep level, imagine that person and think what would he or she do or say in this situation. The result is likely to be compassion. It doesn’t mean that you’re unstoppable and unbeatable, or that you stop feeling shitty emotions or not wind up in tough situations ever. However, self-compassion gives you all the room you need to accept your humanity, for better or worse. We all fuck up occasionally to a varrying degree. By accepting that we do this, is accepting that others do it too, and by doing so you see other’s behavior in an entirely different, more understanding view (no matter how difficult your emotions might be in the situation). The ultimate level of self-compassion is if you can forgive the person that hurt you, and even understand their perspective. This doesn’t mean everyone gets a free pass at acting like a douche, you don’t have to accept it or condone it, but you can understand it. And by understanding it, you can accept and move on. Full circle. You can forgive a person, but not the action. If you see the difference, you’re likely to be compassionate already. Shitty things do happen. We need to accept that too. Ups and downs are a natural part of life.
I had to screenshot this post from Instagram, because it straight-up summed up what “The New Me” does. I still struggle with “don’t hate” and “work hard” parts, but hey, “I’m only human” and I’m working on it. It’s a priority (see: “Get your priorities straight”).
The next step.
This was the next step in the wake of The Self-Compassion Bomb(tm). I literally CAN’T be stressed out by what others do, what I should be doing, or not doing, or even think of HOW I am or not doing it, and what others might think about it. I don’t give a fuck, really. What matters to me is my own road, my own progress, whether or not it’s in line with my own values (it should be), and whether or not I get anything out of it. You can’t force me to compete in your own game, if that makes any sence. Considering the fact that I was trying hard to compete in other’s game before, this kind of makes the contrast of “before” and “after” pretty clear.
Not going to lie, I started a diet in january 2016, this year, to feel more physically attractive. I weight 94kg and felt like shit. That was before the transformative change happened somewhere at the end of february. I can’t even remember (lol, memory problems, yo) when it was exactly anymore. To this day, 10th april, I’m still on a diet, but for entirely different reasons and it feels so damn good. I have lost 10kg since then and I’m almost finished with the diet, since my goal is 83kg w/ water retention to match my new weight class in powerlifting. In comparison, where I only planned 10 weeks ahead, I now have a training plan layed out in my mind for the whole 2016 and I even have vague ideas of what I wish to do in 2017. Talk about believing in myself, setting high goals, dream big, and having “none of that shit” 😀
Another transformative change was my long-term dream of having my own family. Having made the choices of women that I did, it’s no wonder that I am where I am right now: 31 and single. Not passing any blame here, I was “young and stupid”, and as much as my previous relationships were so wrong for me, I’m pretty damn sure I wasn’t a perfect ray of sunshine to be in a relationship with either. Cudos to my exes here. Respect for holding on so long. Another digression, but the point is: if you have a dream of having a family, being 31 and single is not exactly a good position to be in. Given the time needed to even start considering of setting the idea of small Spawns of Satan-production in process, I really do not have much time. This idea freaked me the fuck out and was one of the biggest sources of grief back then. Given the examples of my internal self-talk earlier, you can probably imagine the Purgatory-bullshit I was drowning in. And my (not-so-)recent(-anymore) dating experience really fucked that dream up and made me lose all faith in humanity for a good damn while until I finally recovered somewhat from that. See, I’m grateful now, for all the bad & ugly I experienced, felt and heard about, because these memories, experiences,things I heard about are a perfect example of what I do NOT wish to be involved in ever. I do not wish to hear about it, I do not wish to be a part of it, I do not wish to be near it. I have my own game, my own rules, my own goals, and my own things to focus on. I’m literally busy living my own damn life.
My whole value system has been revamped and I value more….mature things. See, whereis there is a life of parties, random sex and ruthless gossip, there is a counter-part to it: a life of walks in the nature, dinner and/or movie parties, deep conversations, there is training-together-with-friends-sessions, there are quiet nights under woolen blankets, a cup of tea and your favorite TV-show. Neither of these ends of the spectrum are wrong in and of themselves. There was simply a time where I tried to “fit in” the prior, and now live happily ever after in the later, and I’m loving the shit out of it. This is “home”. Where I can geek out with my Forza or Halo on Xbox, watch my favorite movies like Fast & Furious-series, watch some cheesy guilty pleasure teenage-drama-TV-Show like Vampire Diaries, with no shame or fucks given. I can spend 3-4-5 hours at the gym five-six days a week with no shame of me “spending too much time at the gym and being a gym rat”. I no longer care about external labeling, because all that matters to me is my own acceptance, my own happiness and my own pleasure. I have ONE life and I wish to do all the things I enjoy doing, in environments I enjoy being in and being a part of. I wish to participate in activites that really fire me up and make me enthusiastic. And most importantly, I did not forget the ways I’ve been previously. I’m not proud of everything, I have memories of me wronging people that I shouldn’t have wronged. But I am human. I fuck up. I have my own set of previous experiences that made me respond the way I did. It’s not perfect, it’s not an excuse. I’ve been forgiven by some, ignored by others. And I’m absolutely fine. Instead of hating myself and ruminating on it for years, I forgive myself, and accept the “not-so-good-side” of my own humanity, learn my lesson, and move on with my life, striving to be a better person that I was yesterday. The power of self-compassion, ladies and gentlemen.
If you, for whatever reason, are more often unhappy than not, have negative self-talk, limiting beliefs or really fucking shitty self-image, or can’t seem to enjoy your own life for no apparent reason, I highly recommend this book: “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself” by Kristin Neff. I’m advertising for it as if I was paid to do it, but trust me, I wasn’t. These 10$ transformed my life into a life of happiness, content, acceptance and love, as cheesy as it may sound. Kristin Neff’s self-compassion and Brené Brown’s Power of Vulnerability changed my life dramatically for the better. No amount of therapy or drugs could ever have given me what that these two have given me. From crippling depression and countless suicidal thoughts to a happy, loving and rewarding life real quick. I’ve made peace with death so many times, I really thought the next time would be “it”. Each time I made peace with death, I thought that a part of me died and was never ever going to grow back. Now? I have never been better, never been this good, and looking back at at the situations that triggered that kind of thoughts, it is so absurd and surreal. I will never ever let anyone or anything affect me so much, that I decide to bail from this world. Ever. Because, I AM that good. I’m 2good2bail. This world needs more “me” and I am damn sure going to deliver.