Words in My Head

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Tag: mental

The Prisons of Thought We Build for Ourselves

This past Friday, I was doing a workout for the CrossFit Open and found myself saying a number of things I hadn’t heard come out of my mouth for a while. “No more.” “I can’t.” “F*ck this.” All while attempting to squat under a 20 pound medicine ball and thrust it upwards to a 10 foot target. It’s a common movement in crossfit and one I’ve done many times before. But I seriously wanted to quit.

Putting aside any physical discomfort, this is a common problem for me in more than just crossfit. There are many, many boundaries I bump up against that are purely in my brain. I am a creature of comfort. If I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, I really struggle to continue.

Thank goodness for crossfit and the demands of family life or I would be even more of a social hermit than I already am.

I’ll give you an example.

I hate crowds. They are exhausting to me. I’m pretty good at reading the room, both from a strictly neutral observation standpoint and from an emotional one. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that I’m empathic, but I have used that word before. If I’m in a space with more than 5 or 8 people, it gets difficult because I am bombarded with input.

Sometimes I can center myself enough to enable myself to remain calm in certain situations. A couple of years ago we went to a concert where I was able to sit on the ground with my family, close my eyes, and focus on the music rather than the masses of people that surrounded us. I almost reached a sort of meditative state to where I was able to tune out the world and just listen.

Other times, that’s not an option. I’m a geek and like geek things, but places like Denver Comic Con are completely overwhelming. Even a few hours of wandering through the vendor and art hall, I have to really fight to stay calm.

Honestly both of these reactions are ridiculous and I believe I learned the behavior from my father. He has hated crowds as long as I can remember. Going to places like Elitch’s or Disneyland was not his idea of a good time, so now it’s not mine either. But I’m at a loss with how to combat it.

My response when my wife asks if I want to go somewhere where a crowd is almost immediately no. But I’ve gone to Denver Comic Con a few times now despite it. And by forcing myself to endure those situations, I hope I’m helping myself get over the automatic “NO” response. It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s helping, but hey — at least I’m trying.

Here’s another one of those weird behaviors that is having a detrimental effect on my ability to function day to day. Talking on the phone. I go out of my way to avoid it, actively putting off the simplest of conversations simply because it causes me a great deal of stress.

A few years ago we had some issues with a collections agency. We went through one of those organizations that helps with such things and that was supposed to reduce our stress while resolving the problems. And it did resolve the problems, eventually. But it did not reduce my stress.

I learned to hate the phone during that period of my life. Now I go out of my way to avoid any phone number I don’t recognize. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. But it doesn’t help the other way. Calling people back. Making simple calls to make appointments. All of this becomes impossible because there’s a huge ball of stress that builds whenever I even contemplate picking up the phone.

We only have one working landline in our house right now and I’m considering killing it. We all have cell phones. Cell phone coverage is good at our house so if we need to dial 911 or anything else, we can do so without needing a landline.

But that doesn’t help me. I still have to pick up my cell phone and make the damn phone call.

It’s the most ludicrous thing ever, but it’s standing in my way to doing certain things. I usually ask my wife to make the calls for me so I don’t have to, but even that is becoming harder and harder because I see the insanity of it all.

So as you can see, I’ve built a lovely little conundrum for myself. I don’t like crowds, so you’d think that a phone call would be a perfect solution. But I can’t make a phone call because I can’t get out of my own way to call someone. I’m becoming a hermit in my own house.

What does all this have to do with the crossfit workout at the beginning of the post? Good question. I think it comes down to the fact that if you say things or do things enough, you start to believe them. “I can’t” will eventually just prevent me from doing those damn wall balls, despite the fact that I can do them. Nothing physically is preventing me from doing them, not really.

Just like nothing is preventing me from picking up the phone and making a damn chiropractic appointment. And yet, I can’t bring myself to do it.

The mind is a powerful tool for defining our own prisons. I just wish I could find the damn key.

I know I’m not alone in this, but damn I’m a bit frustrated.

Beating Myself Up

I thought about titling this one “The Art of Self-Flagellation” but I kept thinking of the character Silas from the Da Vinci Code and decided maybe it wasn’t a good comparison. You may disagree when I’m done.

Nobody is better at tearing me down than I am. Years and years of practice attempting to control the world around me through willpower. We all know how that goes. Ultimately I can control exactly one thing… me. And sometimes even that’s a challenge I’m not up to.

Today I am dealing with a few extenuating circumstances that led to an unsettled mental state:

  • Going on a week-long business trip. (Always stresses me out.)
  • Not sleeping well. (May have squeaked out 3 or 4 hours last night if I was lucky.)
  • Haven’t been eating well (less healthy than usual) or drinking enough water.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. (One, sometimes two drinks a night, which is unusual.)
  • Coming down with a cold on the eve of my trip.

All of these have led to less-than-stellar performance when I go to the CrossFit box. (No, I’m not going to talk about CrossFit here – if you want to know about my CrossFit experience I’d direct you to my CrossFitz blog.) And usually I just try to keep a positive attitude, do what I can do, and chug through it.

Today I quit during a workout. Could I have continued? Probably. I would have been slow as molasses and was having issues breathing right, but I probably would have finished after about 18 minutes or so.

Man Shouting Through Megaphone

The quitting is what is eating me alive now.

  • I walked out of the box after cleaning my equipment. I simply didn’t want to have to interact with anybody and explain why I had done so poorly.
  • I let myself down because I know I should have done better.
  • I took a protein recovery shake (a post-workout ritual) with me and decided I didn’t deserve it due to my poor performance.
  • I swore a lot during the workout and afterwards.
  • I decided that I really don’t deserve to eat lunch because of my poor performance either.
  • I’m upset as well with the fact that this is probably the last workout I’ll get in before I go on my trip, which means I’ll leave on a failure.

None of this is healthy. The critic is running rampant. And I need to let it go.

A healthy response would have been:

  • Accept that I wasn’t feeling up to snuff and bailed early on the workout.
  • Accept that I get a DNF (Did Not Finish) today and that it’s still better than DNS (Did Not Start).
  • Accept the minor victory that I accomplished a 2:09 400m run.
  • Challenge myself to do better next time.

I have finished Helen before. I will finish it again. Today was just not my day.

Or, as my Dad puts it: “Get mad, get glad, get on with yourself.”

Yes sir. I’m trying. Failing, but trying.

A little more self-compassion would be good. Just a little.

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