Longest Toss-Up AND Opening Day 2016 at Target Field – Balls 523-528 (April 11, 2016)

Chicago White Sox 4 – Minnesota Twins 1

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

April 11, 2015

Let’s begin at the beginning… hey, that sounds like a song…

But seriously, here goes post #1 of the 2016 baseball season. Brace yourself, get a cup of tea (or coffee, if you are dissimilar from me), and put on a helpful reading playlist (like this one), because there will be plenty to read and catch up on.

Before we get too deep, let’s discuss the coolest/longest “toss-up” – a ball that started off in a state on the East Coast, found its way over to the West Coast, before finding a home in the Midwest.  This was a spring training Florida commemorative that I was bummed to see announced when I had no way of getting down there this season to snag it.  The good thing for me was that I have the coolest person on my side, someone who is attached with baseball and part of the nicest team in baseball (I use that to refer to the team name on the front AND the back of the uniform).

I can safely say that “I’m not worthy!”  But alas, the inaugural “Spring Training Commemorative Set” was completed before the season began.  Excellent!  And to top it off, I got the ball in the mail right around my birthday (and during a rough time in my life) – this gift meant more to me than just a baseball, it was a reminder that there are caring people in this world.  I hope to be able to pass on even a little bit of that feeling*.


* – I think I did on 8/29 when I gave a kid a baseball after he was continually being shut out during the game.  His family seemed thrilled, and I was told that he was super excited and wanted to get one so badly.  Smiles go a long way when you are enjoying a simple game that bonds generations.

Thank you, D.  Thank you.  This ball would have been going in the “special” collection even without the commemorative logo, because of the meaning and story behind it.

Fast forward a couple weeks and all of a sudden…


A tradition shared with my buddy Jared that now spans 7 years.  I was able to snag a few baseballs (and even 3 commemorative ones) before being able to move up to where Jared and his wife Megan were sitting and just be able to talk about the craziness that was running in my head and happening in my life.  I look back at this game and think more about the conversations with them than catching any baseballs.  In fact, I don’t really even remember the details, only know what I logged on my spreadsheet (not stored in the brain).


Ball 1 – Todd Frazier

Ball 2 – Dominique (Opening Day commemorative)

Ball 3 – Oswaldo Arcia

Ball 4 – Miguel Sano (Opening Day commemorative)

Ball 5 – Eduardo Escobar (Opening Day commemorative)

I do remember leaving the game about midway.  Between having a dog at home and just not feeling myself with all that hung over my head, I had to check out early.

MVP Thank Yous:

  • D
  • Megan and Jared


Sort of.

I’m back with a companion piece to the latest episode of At The Gates Podcast (see embedded link below, and please subscribe on iTunes).


This episode was recorded at the WNBA Finals, game 5, winner-take-all game.

And here is the previous episode, also recorded at the WNBA Finals…

I am curious how you would fill out your bracket. Leave comments below and tell me your Final Four and your “Nasal Champion”.  I will be posting one of these brackets every month for the foreseeable future, so be on the look-out for some bracket fun (next up: US Territories/States).

BASEBALL UPDATE:  I am working on the baseball posts and will start the 2016 season recap VERY soon, like this month soon.  Excited?  I am.  It will be nice to reflect on baseball as I am trapped in a baseball-less land where the daylight evaporates quickly and the temperatures are bound to drop to levels that separate people into “glorified-Canadians” versus “the Southern type”.  I’m a lifelong “glorified-Canadian”, so I am prepared.

I wish I could attend one game of the World Series, but those prices just will not be justifiable in my logical side of my brain.  Think this blog can generate a press credential?  I didn’t think so.  So it is with a heavy heart that I must finally concede that my baseball season died when the Twins season was put out of its misery in Chicago on October 2nd.

But between the blog posts and finally being able to watch games on Fox, There is at least some way to live *some* vicarious baseball dreams for just a little longer.

Dream Guests for At The Gates Podcast…

Sorry folks, this list does not include fans, people I personally know, or anything like that.  I decided to make a list of the dream guests for the show – the celebrities so far above my reach that it is almost certain that this list will never have ANY of the names crossed off.  But let’s face it, as much fun as an interview with any one of these people would be, I’d still prefer to do shows with those that I know and those that share the same fanaticism for the sport (and hobby) that I love.

Before I pull out the big guns, the massive celebs, the “I know that name… there’s NO way you’re getting them on your show!” type, let’s focus on a few brands/companies I’d like to talk to:

  • The Hit Syndicate – I think this one is getting closer and closer. Should the opportunity arise to do a show in the Midwest (Twins, Brewers, Cubs/Sox), I think we could make this work.  Former Twin and Brewer All-Star, Larry Hisle and his son Larry Hisle, Jr. run this bat manufacturing company and also produce some really cool bat grips.  Check them out!
    • Topics to cover – MLB experience, bat manufacturing business, and love of the game from a point of view most of us do not have (growing up in and playing at a high level).
  • Wax Pack Book – I’ll admit it, I’m completely jealous of Brad’s idea.  He decided to write a book where he told the story about opening a pack of 1986 Topps baseball cards and making it his mission to meet every player in the pack… nearly 30 years after the cards were printed.  Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the guy has a Ph.D. (entomology… that’s bugs for the non-nerds).
    • Topics to cover – The book (obviously), cool science-y topics, a love for road trips, and what stale, 30-year-old gum tastes like (maybe even have a different edible dare).
  • Lumberlend Co. – AJ, Will, Jeff, and the rest of the company seem to be a cool organization of baseball-lovers.  Their business makes mugs out of bats!  How cool is that?  Click the link to take a look at them… How perfect would one of these be At The Gates?
    • Topics to cover – The mugs (duh!), testing of said mug(s) along with some local sodas, how to start a business from a dream, and BASEBALL!
  • The Needle Drop – Anthony Fantano, the internet’s busiest music nerd, could be my vegan brother.  His love of music and thicc vegan smoothies would be a welcome change of pace for an episode.  If you want to start diving into a world of new music, memes, and maybe pick up a vegan tidbit or two, check out his YouTube channels.
    • Topics to cover – Music?  Vegan food?  Music, again.  Eat some vegan food.  Then discuss the importance and impact of music in sports.  Top it off with a vegan shake/smoothie?  Who knows…
  • Pardon My Take – Yep.  The rivals, the big guns, my nemesis.  Might as well bring them on to see if the hatchet can be placed nicely in a grave in some neutral site, or if an impromptu airstrike is ordered while on air.  Honestly, these guys are doing a podcast in a tone that I wish I could pull off.  I wanted to have a similar style before I even knew they existed; now how do I pull it off without being called a copycat?!
    • Topics to cover – Humility, Mount Rushmore, forming a band, Foul Ball Guy, the troops… I think that sums it up.  (No, I won’t mention Harambe or Larry.  That would both be in poor taste AND trying too hard to “Be Like Mike”… if Mike were Pardon My Take.)




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The list of celebrity dream guests that Tony (me, I, myself, the writer, the show-runner, the host, the “man of the hour”, “that guy”, etc.) would like to interview begins… NOW:

  • Javier Bracamonte – Bullpen catcher for the Houston Astros, and quite possibly the nicest, most fan-friendly person in the MLB right now.
    • Topics to cover – Why he gives back so much to fans, what the position is like, and his backstory on how he got to where he is.
  • Mayim Bialik – If you are older, then you know her from Blossom, if you are younger, you know her from Big Bang Theory.  Mayim is a vegan and real-life scientist, both are things that interest me to a very high degree.
    • Topics to cover – The reasons to vegan, her background in science, and what it is like to be an atypical Hollywood star.
  • Gillian Jacobs – Admittedly, I am a Community fan.  But Gillian’s awesome acting abilities do not stop there.  Her most recent series on Netflix called Love is also amazing, though such a different character.  Gillian seems to be level-headed and somehow marches to her own drum in Hollywood.
    • Topics to cover – Community (sorry not sorry) and Love, teetotalism (of which, I also apply to my life), and maybe spill moments where we’ve Britta’d things in our lives.
  • Fred Willard – He’s been in everything.  From Best in Show to Undeclared to Modern Family to Anchorman… that’s a small sampling of how he’s been in my favorite movies and TV shows.  Fred has also shared his love for Dodgers baseball, especially Vin Scully on Twitter.  His unique take (being the oldest on this list) would be AWESOME.
    • Topics to cover – Dodgers/Vin Scully, old baseball memories, how to be lovable and hilarious with what looks like ease, and maybe a sampling of how he’d announce baseball (Vin Scully crossed with Buck Laughlin?).
  • Kate Nash – Go look up her music.  Every album she’s released just gets better and better – which is amazing since I admit to loving the one that came before.  She has done so much for empowering women in music (and in general) by having her own “Girl Gang”.  Growing up in England and being a recent Angeleno (Los Angeles), her view on baseball might be interesting to say the least.
    • Topics to cover – MUSIC!, the girl gang, life in the UK vs. USA, and probably me making an ass out of myself for admitting to dressing up like Bigfoot the day before Halloween for her show in Minneapolis a couple years ago.
  • Patrick Stickles – Do yourself another favor (the list is getting long, huh?) and go listen to Titus Andronicus.  Patrick has tackled mental health issues in his music so perfectly over the years and I love him for that.  The DIY attitude often tied to punk music has been brought back out of retirement within the music industry and Titus, as a band, seem to be running with it.
    • Topics to cover – Shea Stadium (both old Mets stadium and new music venue), music, our love of Craig Finn, and mental health.
  • Marc Maron – If you are doing a podcast and interviewing people, why not try to interview the master himself?  Marc’s openness with mental health issues, substance abuse, and reverence for pure comedy make him a unique and special part of the podcast world.
    • Topics to cover – Comedy (thanks, Captain Obvious!), vinyl records and music in general, his experience in podcasting, and maybe see if there is any baseball in that skull of his.
  • Amanda Palmer – Her music is amazing.  She, as a person, is amazing – not perfect, but so transparent that you cannot help but commend her for her choices.  I would love to have her on the show just as an excuse to meet her and have a couple minutes in her presence.
    • Topics to cover – Her musical journey, what it is like to be an author now, motherhood, and see if she can accurately/uniquely romanticise baseball for me.
  • Daniel Norris – Yep, THAT Daniel Norris, the one who pitches on a semi-rivaling team of the Twins.  The Detroit Tigers’ pitcher is open about his unique journey and his philosophy on life.  As a person who wants to have a tiny house myself, I’d love to pick the brain of Mr. Norris.
    • Topics to cover – I guess we could talk baseball, mainly tiny houses and road trips, subscribing to the hipster culture (or at least being identified with it), and see if he can share any musical insights.
  • Craig Finn – He is so close to being number one on my list, but the person below him beats him out for obvious reasons.  Craig has scored a hat trick of success in my book – I love Lifter Puller, The Hold Steady, and now his solo records.  His story telling is amazing and he has not been shy about his love of the Minnesota Twins.
    • Topics to cover – Twins, Twins, Twins, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Twins, some music, vinyl records, Minnesota in general, and maybe embarrassingly share my cover of Plymouth Rock by Lifter Puller that I did at Third Man Records (in the “make your own record” booth).
  • Trevor Plouffe – The namesake.  The very reason this blog exists – or at least why it is named the way it is and birthed the time it was.  He plays ball, loves music, donates hair, stands up against cancer, loves his family, loyal to his fans, and an overall decent human being.  This might have to wait until his playing days are over, but fingers crossed.  And hey, if he wants to bring his mom on, she’s more than invited!  (Diane, you can guest whenever you’d like!  If you want me to get my grandma up so you can turn it into a episode about being a nurse, then so be it.)
    • Topics to cover – Baseball, Twins, Minnesota vs. California, music (dream playlist, dream concert, and discuss that cool Pearl Jam experience and setlist from a while back), and probably embarrass myself by sharing my first interaction with The Plouffe (an autograph request turned awkward back in 2011).


So there it is.  Any of these dream guests that you’d like to hear on the show?  If so, they are all on Twitter and you could be more than kind by suggesting to them that they do the show.  Let’s keep it at suggesting and being kind – just at them and the show and mention that you’d love to hear their input.

Are there ones you thought for sure I’d have on the list and maybe forgot?  Sne dthose over, too.


I’ll keep this brief and try not to wander too much.

Last week I went out to Michigan – specifically the Charlotte/Bellevue area.  The occasion was not exactly for the reasons you choose to go to Michigan for a vacation, but nonetheless it was as good as could be expected.  We brought my grandpa home.  I lost my first grandparent back in June, which was so incredibly tough, but we finally had the chance to celebrate his life and his family as a unified group.

The trip was especially good for me since I had to tackle a couple of my anxiety-inducing fears – flying and death.  Dealing with the finality of bringing a loved one to their resting place will challenge anyone with their thoughts on mortality.  But not everyone has the flying phobia that I do.  I am happy to report that I passed the test.  From MSP to MDW to GRR (and back) I was able to curb my anxiety by facing it head on.  Sure, there were times where it felt like I couldn’t face any more, but rather than give in to those feelings, my practice with mindfulness and confronting those thoughts enabled me to handle the situation much better than times before.  Plus, it was helpful to just have supportive people around me.  Thanks, family and friends!

And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Michigan without the obligatory Demetri Martin “MICHIGAN!” reference.  My dad and I have been known to really beat that joke to death.

Thanks, dear readers.  And as for the baseball stuff?  Do not fret, I have a MASSIVE idea brewing.  My adventures will be chronicled in detail.  There may even be a “short film” in the works.

Dear @MLB, I Have a GREAT Idea

Dear Major League Baseball,

I love you.  I dreamt of being on the front of a Topps baseball card, of playing on an all-star team, and even of winning a World Series ring.  Unless something goes horribly wrong with your league/players or something AMAZING happens to my body/arm, I will not live these dreams.  However, I still have dreams of being around baseball.  What other sport blends history, statistics, romance, and scandals so perfectly?  The greatest curses and the most sacred of numbers are found in America’s true pastime.

So here it is, my pitch to you.  I know that I only get a finite number of pitches, let’s hope my “stuff” is magical and electric…

The Dream:

This is where it all stems from; my definition of a “dream job.”  There are few things I enjoy more than road trips and baseball.  If I could somehow turn that into a job?  Perfection.  So, MLB, the ball’s in your court, nay, the ball’s in your hand… let me hit a home run!

The Idea:

A weekly special to be played before/after MLB Network’s game of the week which shows what the typical road-tripper/vacationer can do in that town and what the park has to offer someone from out of town.  Every single city has its own unique flavor, places to visit, things to see, and areas that might otherwise go unnoticed.  Meeting some fans and life-long residents of that area could give such a deep look at each of the 30 clubs’ territory.

Then there is the stadium…  Highlight the stadium tours, places to visit in and around the stadium, and cover any unique sight-lines/seats the park has to offer.  I am sure each club would absolutely LOVE to get information out to their visitors that they have tours or other special activities that they offer in addition to their standard baseball ticket.  That’s the beauty of baseball, uniform rules for a game played on non-uniform fields (each one has different dimensions, characteristics, and history).

It’s really that simple.

And what would make this even more perfect?!  If I could get a tiny house to pull behind me so that I could live on the road while doing this whole experiment.  I’d love to not have to stay in different hotels every day and have a “home base” to come back to night after night.  Plus, my little 60 pound lap dog needs a safe place to stay – I don’t want to be separated from her.

The overhead seems low, just production and scheduling being the large costs.  The talent (me, my dog, and the crew) would be pretty cheap; while the settings would essentially be free – it is nothing more than a show that advertises each MLB club and the MLB as a whole.  Look at the popularity of HGTV, the Travel Channel, and other networks (Food Channel, CNN, etc.).  All of those networks do “reality-based” shows that are dedicated to travel and living a new way in the technology-era.  Surely sponsorship would be easy to incorporate, too.  The tiny house can have logos and have its own Instagram to track its whereabouts – and have fans take their picture in front.

As for the ability to keep this a long-running show, it should be possible to not only get the base 30 episodes (one for each club), but continue that into additional seasons/specials.  The playoffs offer a completely new experience – doing a “near-live” episode before one game in each of the series for a mini-episode that takes a look at each stadium in “playoff mode” would be a good way to keep the brand in recognition into the off-season.  This mini-episode could then be placed strategically during breaks, rain-delays, or on the numerous networks’ pre-game shows (TBS and Fox) to showcase MLB’s original content.

A second season is still viable because most, if not all, cities have more than enough to fit multiple hours-worth of content showcasing their attractions.  Plus, if performing well (meeting/exceeding expectations), maybe local celebrities or current/former players would also like to become involved.  Think of it like This Week In Baseball meets Travel Channel.  (Post/sell this to a streaming service at the end of the season and you have even more revenue, or at least the ability to co-produce to spread the costs/risk.)

So, Mr. Manfred (and the MLB marketing and PR departments), what do you think?  Do you want to produce my dream?

My Puppy Is Becoming a Dog…

Similar to a real father, I have become a little nostalgic and even a little sad knowing and seeing my littlest one grow up.  Evelyn Nibbler has become a full-grown, 60 pound, lap dog.  I am so happy that she snuggles with me still and that she is super friendly to everyone, but what happened to her time as a puppy?!  Time travels too fast; hopefully her and I can slow it down a little and enjoy the days to come just a little bit more.

Here’s to the last remaining days of being a one-year-old, Evie.  I cannot wait to celebrate your birthday on August 12th and hope you live a good life well into your teens.


I love you, Evie.  Thanks for making me smile and helping me through the rough times while also creating a bunch of good times.

Best Music of (half of) 2016…

With the personal chaos that has defined 2016, so too has the soundtrack mirrored said chaos. I have gravitated towards both extreme ends – diving deep into my despair then doing a complete 180 and hoping that my life can spew even a gram of the happiness expressed in a pop song. Life, death, regrowth, anger, acceptance, and escape are all part of what defines the list below…

The best music of 2016… (so far)


10. Mogwai – “Atomic”
Technically a soundtrack to a documentary film, this album definitely reflects the unstable nature of atomic energy, while exuding the life-giving nature of atoms. Not fully chaotic, this controlled experiment still hits the highs and lows expected of the godfathers of post-rock.

Stand-out track: Ether


9. Radiohead – “A Moon Shaped Pool”
Admittedly, my opinion regarding Radiohead is one of confusion at best. They have always seemed a bit pretentious and overrated (at least in the last few albums). I liked a handful of songs coming into this LP, but upon hearing ‘True Love Waits’ I could no longer deny this group. The simplicity is perfect, the emotions real, and the execution spot on.

Stand-out track: True Love Waits


8. Tegan & Sara – “Love You To Death”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Radiohead are Tegan & Sara – the soft spot in my heart for them will more than likely never harden. T&S 2.0 took a little getting used to, but I am now completely fine with the new pop musings from this Canadian duo. Plus, ‘100x’ really speaks to my personal chaos in my life now.

Stand-out track: 100x


7. Beyoncé – “Lemonade”
I gave pop a bad image in my head. I liked the fringe pop artists (Kate Nash, Lily Allen, etc.) and even the pop rappers (Kanye, Jay-Z, etc.), but almost no Top 40 stuff. But then Beyoncé had to release this gem. Again, the personal chaos and hurt in my life led me to this album and never did I imagine I would ever identify with the Queen herself… But here I am. ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’ are incredible. Period.

Stand-out track: Hold Up


6. Anohni – “Hopelessness”
I had one Antony and the Johnsons album before picking up this solo(-ish) release. Even though I have had that one previous album (“The Crying Light”), I never really dove into it. But my search for comfort and peace led me back to that album and then into the arms of her newest journey. Antony/Anohni has such a strong political voice on this album, and even though I couldn’t see her voice paired with poppy-electronic beats, it worked. I stand behind so much of what she has to say and what she believes in; the hopelessness in our current “democracy” is a mutual feeling.

Stand-out track: 4 Degrees


5. Nada Surf – “You Know Who You Are”
These guys just keep maturing in such a peaceful and sonically pleasing way. There isn’t much that is new in terms of innovation or sound, but there is something so pleasing and rewarding when you can listen to a pop-rock group in their 40s and identify in a mature way with their lyrics. Matthew Caws seems like he wrote an album not focused on the break-up, but that strange transition period right after – the one where you find yourself, make plans and goals, and look back to hopefully learn a thing or two for next time.

Stand-out track: Victory’s Yours


4. Conrad Keely – “Original Machines”
Though this first solo release is more of a collection of songs than a standard album, the flow and path seem to be well representative of Conrad himself. Being an artist with the pen/pencil/brush as well, this album seems like a glimpse into his sketch pad of sonic portraits/paintings. At two minutes a song, even if you dislike a track (which I don’t) you don’t have to skip much to see the next sketch. Many of the ideas on here are reflective and peaceful; a true help for my running mind.

Stand-out track: Warm Insurrection


3. Death Grips – “Bottomless Pit”
Again. They did it AGAIN! This band will never release a bad album. They just won’t. Stuck between The Money Store and No Love Deep Web, these songs revisit what “poppy” side Death Grips may have. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks still come in hard and at your face, but they are also some of the catchiest and straightforward that this group could possibly make. Need to unleash and let your energy/crazy side out? Just put on “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”; it’s like a workout in 3 minutes.

Stand-out track: Giving Bad People Good Ideas


2. Weezer – “Weezer” (aka: The White Album)
The fourth self-titled release reveals that maybe, just maybe, Weezer is back? I’m a bit snake-bitten to commit to that statement, but for this batch of 10 songs the case can be made. Think of a great summer pop-rock sound and add a heaping pile of California to it (beach, cool kids, mellow attitude, and reflective hippie mantras). Once you have those pieces add some lyrics with personal substance to the mix (Thanks, Rivers!) and you have a very strong Weezer album.

Stand-out track: King of the World


1. David Bowie – “Blackstar”
While true on some levels that every song and every album is a work of art, not many can even begin to compare to this definition of the word MASTERPIECE. This album had love from day one, but by day two the artist who created it left planet Earth. The lyrics, which were already dark and deep, carried an even heavier and clearer meaning. This was Bowie’s farewell gift, his performance art piece of the grandest of scales. The title track will be the best song I hear this year, and probably in the running for best of the decade. I also do not see how another album could displace this from the top of 2016’s list.

Stand-out track: Blackstar

I have also revisited or been introduced to some music that wasn’t released in 2016.  For more of what I am listening to and what is stuck in my ears this year, check out the list below.

“New” artists/albums I’ve fallen in love with in 2016:
Grimes – This is the kind of “weird pop” I love.
Antony and the Johnsons – See #6 above.
Beyoncé – See #7 above.
David Bowie – I liked his singles, but after Blackstar I decided to dig deeper.
Low – Ones and Sixes just kept growing into 2016.
Radiohead – Maybe A Moon Shaped Pool will be a launching pad?
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain. Enough said.
Beach Boys – The 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds had me revisiting just how beautiful those vocal harmonies and performances are.
Suicidal Tendencies – Their self-titles release had me opening my eyes towards punk sounds. ‘Institutionalized’ is an amazingly awesome tune.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Exploring more of that pleasurable post-rock sound, I picked up “F♯ A♯ ∞” and took a cool western trip.
NooseA vegan straightedge hardcore band from Chicago?! Count me in.

And of course, the day after I release this list, a new album drops that could have easly cracked the top ten…


#?. Krishna – “Ascend to Nothing”
The collaboration between Dead Neanderthals and Drvg Cvltvre has been brewing for quite some time.  Almost a year ago they shared the stage and made an experimental trance unlike anything the majority of my readers will have heard in their lifetime.  I do not exaggerate; it’s a style that few have ever heard.  Dead Neanderthals are an experimental jazz/grind-core sax/drum combo and Drvg Cvltvre is a self-described blend of “doomy, dark house and techno”.  Together they are Krishna – a force that sounds like a dark, angry lone wasp waiting to take out its revenge, but ultimately leads you into a blissful trance.

Stand-out track: Ascend to Nothing

Mindfulness: A Journey to Recapture My Mental Health

Confession:  I took my mind and effort away from my own mental health.

I apologize to myself and, more importantly, to those around me.  I did a fantastic job of working through panic attacks and generalized anxiety, but I did not give my mental health a FULL examination.  While I am still proud of the fact that I went in to get help (after suffering a few panic attacks), admitted I needed medication, and then worked to get to the point where I could stop medication, I am also disappointed in myself.  I did just enough to identify the issue (anxiety) and did just enough to get back to the bare minimum of “normal”.  I did not focus on getting better or happier, just eliminating the scary parts, like panic attacks or staying on medication.

So what have I learned?  I’ve learned that mental health and the issues that come with it are incredibly complex and fuzzy.  My anxiety wasn’t just anxiety, but also had some roots within depression – there is a reason why they have an anxiety/depression scale.  I’ve also learned that just because you suffer from a named illness, there is no “correct” or universal way to treat it.  My underlying struggles are coping and obsessive thinking.  Sometimes I can use those things to my advantage – obsessively thinking about something until I perfect that skill or idea – while other times I let it bring me down until I have a panic attack or get depressed.  But it doesn’t stop there, it also affects those around me.  My treatment of myself bleeds into how I treat others and how much energy I drain from them.

Now I am not trying to make it sound like people don’t want to help someone with a mental illness, far from it.  But in many cases, those around you have no clue what you need or the correct way to handle someone who is suffering mentally.  Doctors have a hard enough time defining and treating it, so why do we think our loved ones can shoulder so much of the burden?  I was guilty of this, especially since I thought I had done enough to say that my journey was over for the time being.  The anxiety was better, but the anger and other issues still remained.  I worked on my anxiety, but I did not work on myself and did not do enough self-reflection to elevate myself into a better life.

A lot of people face an issue (mental of physical) and only look at overcoming that obstacle.  What we don’t see is how we elevate ourselves even higher so we don’t have to continually face those same/similar obstacles in the future.  While not true for all mental health issues, there is still a lot to be said on working on yourself and your happiness in order to lessen the likelihood of suffering mental health setbacks.  This doesn’t mean having rose-colored glasses or being happy every single second of the day like some cartoon character, but it does mean working on basic things in order to improve your daily life.  For me, that skill is mindfulness.  I know, I know, that is the “in” word right now; from yoga to meditation, we all think of mindfulness as some weird Buddhist/guru jargon for hipsters.  But it is more than that.  Slowing down your thoughts and allowing yourself to reflect on all your emotions, dreams, goals, and whatever details that pop into your brain really allow you to focus on those things and not let them build up.

We have enough stress in our lives.  Personally, I am dealing with my mental health issues (anxiety AND depression) along with two family situations that only add to the two mental health issues listed earlier.  And that isn’t counting the daily stresses of life – job, house, dog, chores, finances, etc.  Without reflecting and allowing myself to feel these emotions, I would build up quicker than a snowball falling down a mountain.  And if we just go through our daily lives with our heads down, without focus, and without reflecting, we lose sight of our dreams and goals.  We start to take things for granted and even get cynical and negative.  The stress eats away at our true self and you are left with someone who can only get through the day, not someone who looks forward to tomorrow.

Even if you do not battle diagnosable mental health issues, I would recommend looking into some sort of reflection/mindfulness.  We all have times when we get stressed to an unhealthy level, we all get anxious and/or depressed, but many of us still do not know how to work through those tough times.  Eventually we get through them (and if you don’t feel like you can, please reach out to a loved one, a doctor, a hotline, or even 911), but being proactive and being able to have a good foundation for when times do get tough is key.  Mindfulness doesn’t have to just be for stress or dealing with negative emotions/feelings, you can be mindful of the happy things, too.  One of my favorite things to do is a mindfulness exercise where I listen to an album and concentrate on *only* that music.  Listening to the intricate sounds of my favorite music while tuning out the rest of my mind/world is cathartic.  It is my happy place.

So this May – mental health awareness month – let’s make a commitment to ourselves, to those around us, and to each other that we re-evaluate our journey.  Let’s be more proactive and get to a place better than normal, somewhere we truly want to be living, not just surviving and getting by.

*Edit: No more than one day after I wrote this draft (4/27), I see a link to THIS ARTICLE on Google News.  The title is “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Can Reduce Chances Of Depression Relapse”.  Talk about serendipity.*

If you have questions about mental health, want to donate, or need additional resources, please click THIS LINK.

Also, if you are suffering from any type of crisis and live in a household where someone is employed and has an Employee Assistance Program, I urge you to call that number.  Those programs are designed to help you in a multitude of ways – mental health being just one small piece.  My program offered me 3 free sessions with a licensed therapist for the situation I was facing.


Life Is Like A Blog…

Life is like a blog; everyone has the ability to write their own.  However, we often forget this lesson and we do things that derail our own story and hurt others along the way.

We sometimes look at other people’s lives/blogs and wish that we could write for them.  We either wish that we had what they have or that they could be more like us.  But it is not our experience that someone else wants to live, they have their own blog/life to write.  This does not mean that you cannot make appearances in their life/blog, or even play a critical role, but just remember to not take away their unique voice.

I know that giving up that control is hard.  The closer you get to someone, the more you want to protect them and the more you want to share with them.  Trusting that they want to share with you takes time and may even hurt a little along the way (no one is perfect, them or you).  I know just how hard this is, because I am working on trying to write for myself, while giving up control and trying to only support instead of write for others.

It is crucial to understand this: Only write for someone else with their full permission.  And even then, try to offer more of a supportive role and let them use their voice.

The other piece that can also derail us in our life/blog is forgetting to write.  We either get overwhelmed with daily tasks, stresses, or lose our drive in some other manner.  Maybe we let someone write/live for us because it is easier or we are scared.  No matter the reason for your absence, make it a focus to write/live (even if it only for yourself).  Without goals, without focus, and without you speaking up for yourself, your story will not be one that you control.  Do you really want to live/blog someone else’s story?

Another crucial point: I am not recommending focusing solely on yourself.  Inviting others to share in your story, to offer their commentary, and learn from their experience can add more growth than staying solo.  Maybe even decide to start a blog/life where you co-write a story while still maintaining your own blog/life.

I know that this seems obvious and even a little preachy.  But the fact is that I am writing this as a lesson I have had to learn, and one that I am reminding myself to follow.  Sometimes we lose focus on what is important and how we affect those around us.  We also forget that we have the chance to write for ourselves, and even share our triumphs and struggles, so that others may learn (or empathize) along the way.

Temporarily Closed For Repairs…

(see title)