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Crawling Ever So Slowly Out of the Pit

Crawling Ever So Slowly Out of the Pit

Jul 18

Depressed puppy will slowly believe that he can make it out of this alive

Liz wrote a helpful article last month about feeling low and it hit me right in the feels. It’s an important thing to think about and talk about, especially lately as people have had exams or getting busy at work and we in the Southern Hemisphere are at the height of winter (it’s common to feel low during the colder months). As a recovering depressive, I have recently experienced firsthand how awful depression is and how feeling low can affect your life so badly that it’s actually crippling.

Now I’m not going to claim to be a psychologist or a psychology student as I write this article, so I can’t actually tell you how depression works. I can only tell you what it feels like, specifically what it felt like to me. Depression can feel different to different people and affects them in different ways.

For me, it was very difficult to understand that what I had was an actual psychological illness. Instead of believing that I could very well be depressed, most of the past few months were spent with me wallowing in a pit of negativity and self-loathing. “No, I’m not sick,” I told myself in my head. “I would totally know if I was sick. No, I’m just a lazy, stupid, selfish, dumb, pathetic, ugly, dorky failure with zero time management skills.”

The mere thought of actually doing things would fill me with unnatural levels of stress and anxiety, even things that I knew I could do. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand what tasks had been given to me, or that I knew I did not possess the ability to do them because I did. I was just always anxious about things that, in retrospect, were totally fake. I was afraid that I would never meet the level of my peers and sometimes had the bizarre perception that the level of work required for the tasks I needed to submit were above and beyond what I was capable of accomplishing. I had no motivation to do anything or go anywhere, even to places or events that were actually critical to my assignments and necessary for their completion. I also found that I couldn’t sleep properly. I would often stay awake for up to 36 hours with only 4-6 hours of sleep before my next wake cycle. I tried to tell myself not to give up on doing things but I just couldn’t bring myself to even start things. Staring blankly into virtual space was preferable to doing anything.

Being in the pit is the pits.

Being in the pit is the pits.

Sociability was the worst hit aspect of my life. Before I even tried to engage with other people I would always run through my head various scenarios of how conversations with them would play out and they always ended horribly with people hating me or being angry/disappointed with me. Sometimes they would even yell at me. I came to the absurd conclusion that other people in general probably hated me. After a few weeks of that thinking, I began to feel a sense of simmering contempt for people in general for probably hating me even though in reality they probably didn’t. It coincided with a sudden loss of my ability to communicate with anyone about anything, especially if it was a problem. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to anyone, not about why I was doing poorly at assignments, not about why I couldn’t show up to group meetings in a timely fashion (sometimes I would say I was coming and then not show up at all), not about why I never really felt like going anywhere or doing anything. Simple social interactions eventually became so stressful that I couldn’t even bring myself to use social networking sites. Not only did I not want to talk to other people, I didn’t want other people to talk to me. All lines of communication to the world outside of myself were shutting down one-by-one until I had no idea what was happening in the world anymore.

It was a fast spiralling descent and I’m still in the process of working out the cause of it, as well as crawling out of this ditch I’ve apparently fallen into. It’s harder to get out of depression than it is to get in. The past few weeks have been a constant struggle against my feelings to get out and do things and find distractions that actually help improve my mood, just as Liz suggested. This, however, came later.

So, how did I manage my depression? Well, everyone is different so I can’t say that it will work for you too, but one of the things that helped me get on top of this problem was learning more about other people who have had the same problem. One of the dark feelings that was overwhelming me a lot was loneliness, despite the fact that that one was mostly self-inflicted. The self-infliction was in turn caused by a bunch of other sad feelings like low self-esteem, apathy and self-depreciation. I also felt like other people didn’t feel the same way but after discovering the Black Dog Institute’s literature space and the blog Hyperbole and a Half I slowly started to understand that this wasn’t true. Discovering these sites somehow made me less alone. Reading their stories of depression and how they recovered from it also gave me hope that this was something I could get over too.

Then I started finding things to lift my mood. I would go outside. Yeah, I would just go outside. Take walks to nowhere in particular and then go home, go to the park for no reason or take a walk to a pizza café just for the sake of going outside. I always felt better afterwards. I also started trying to spend time with friends even when I didn’t want to and watching TV shows to lift my mood. I don’t know about you but when I feel bad I start to like the most awful things. When I got really sick a few months back, I got these terrible audio-cravings for Nickelback. When I got depressed, I got a terrible audio-visual-craving for Winx Club. Terrible, awful things. Yet somehow, watching/listening to them made me feel a lot better.

Oddly enough, none of Liz’s recommended numbers and websites were of any use to me. I ended up finding my own resources via the internet (because remember, social interaction was one of my shortfalls). I found out more about depression and its various causes via searches on Google. I also used online depression tests as a way of monitoring my mood, not as a substitute for professional diagnosis. The Black Dog Institute has a wonderful website with quizzes that helped me understand why I might be feeling depressed and submissions of stories and poems by people who had also been in the same boat. Hyperbole and a Half is a blog by someone who suffered tremendously under the cold iron grip of depression. Those anecdotes were by far the most helpful resources I found and Hyperbole and a Half was super entertaining on top of that.

The thing about mental illness is that you can’t not talk about it forever. Eventually I had to open up to somebody and I chose a professional to help me with that – specifically, a counsellor. I was having fortnightly sessions where I would talk about my feelings and in exposing my feelings to a stranger I gradually started to expose my feelings to my friends as well. It started with passing references to how shitty I was feeling and eventually worked up to discussions about the problem itself. Sometimes I didn’t even have discussions; sometimes there was nothing but one good friend who was willing to patiently allow me to lean and cry on her shoulder while no actual talking occurred. It is very, very, very important to have those kinds of friends when you are depressed.

I would still say that I’m recovering from this condition. It’s a most terrible thing and there’s not much I can do about it for anyone else, except point you in the direction of the resources that helped me the most. Perhaps they’ll be just as good for you:

Black Dog Institute: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
Depression tests: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/interactive/interactivetests/goldberg.php ; http://www.depressedtest.com/ ; http://psychcentral.com/depquiz.htm – remember that these are just to help you monitor your mood, they’re not a diagnosis.
Hyperbole and a Half: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com.au/
Winx Club episodes: http://winxcomics.livejournal.com/968389.html

Also, go and see a health professional for a proper diagnosis and for treatment. That is probably the most helpful thing you can do for yourself if you find yourself in this situation.

The moral of this article is: the internet really is your friend.

Image Source: [1|2]

Geek Survival Guide: Fitness Edition – 4 Ways to Not be a Douche at the Gym

Geek Survival Guide: Fitness Edition – 4 Ways to Not be a Douche at the Gym

Feb 09

douche I have a feeling

Fact of life: there will always be douches at the gym. It is always these douches that will ruin the gym experience and I think some people don’t want to go to the gym because of these douches and their judgmental douche attitude. Knowing this, you now can take steps to make sure you aren’t one of these douches. Or you can read along and feel/share my pain.

I will split these up into the order of when you will see these douche behaviours at the gym. These are the ones I have personally experienced and if you yourself have been a victim of gym douchiness please comment below.

1. Girls with Makeup

This isn’t a douchy behaviour that will hinder me at the gym but it’s still a vain douche thing to do. I’m going to put it out there: if you are working out with make up on, just stop.

Until very recently I was doing a full time summer job and this meant I had to get to the gym by 6:00 am, my gym happens to be an all women’s gym. This isn’t by any large bit of planning, it’s just the closest gym to my house. Anyway, when I get there, there are only about 4 women working out – so pretty empty for a two-storey gym. I then go to the locker room and there I see three girls all applying their makeup and straightening their hair! This isn’t after they have finished but just as they are about to work out.  I know this because they are always on the treadmills next to me.

So my question is WHY?! Excluding you there are five other women sweating it out and about 2 staff members. Why is it so important to impress these seven people? Is it a comfort thing? Because I know that you probably had to get up extra early to do all of that and that isn’t exactly comfortable.  Also we sweat at the gym and because we are running – it is impossible for that not to happen – so why would you want to worry about runny mascara? That also doesn’t sound comfortable to me.

There is also the question of straightening your hair. WHY are you straightening your hair that goes up into a pony tail and that will get messy as you work out anyway? I hope you do realise you will probably want to straighten your hair afterwards?

Actually if you are a girl that wears make up at the gym and/or straightens hair at the gym, can you tell me why? I promise I won’t attack you, it is just so baffling to me!

2. People who judge/make things a competition

I’ve been going to the gym long enough that I put myself through decent levels of difficultness.  In other words you can say that I’m in the healthy/average category of fitness. I’m pretty proud of that considering how rubbish I was two years back.

I like to push myself and feel a sense of achievement when I get to a higher level/can go for a longer time. So as you can see this is about personal achievement. I thought that is the way to go about the gym, but apparently not!

So, so, so many people have to look at your screen as you are working out! It is ridiculous. There are middle aged women smirking slightly because they cycle faster than me, or can run faster than me. It’s also annoying when they are doing the smirking thing, and running faster than you but are also running on flat road. Lady, if you stopped looking at my freaking screen and looked at the gradient of my treadmill you will see that I’m running uphill.

If I do happen to go faster than Miss Screen Peeker beside me, she amps up her speed. This is quite hilarious as they tend to overdo this and two minutes later have to go back to walking pace while I keep my pace.

3. Stealing Showers

This has only happened to me once, but it was enough of a douche move that deserves to be on the list.

So I had just finished my work out and I went to the locker to grab my things for the shower. I put my things, neatly folded on shower stall bench and hung up my towel. This also happen to be the last shower stall available.  I then realised I forgot my water bottle. I quickly got out of the locker room and grabbed it. As I returned I see my clothes on the bench outside the stalls but no towel, I turned to where the shower was and I saw that it was still unoccupied and my towel was still hanging over the shower door. .

So logically I took my clothes and moved to the shower area.  As soon as I got to the door, this chick, from out of freaking nowhere cuts me off and says “Sorry, but this is my stall.” She then proceeds to close the door in my face. What a cow.

She didn’t explicitly say it, but I can put two and two together, and so I say she is probably the same chick who put all my clothes out of the stall. At least they were still neatly folded (note sarcasm).

4. People taking up more room at mirrors then necessary.

In the gym locker room I’m at there is a mirror the length of the wall and then there is a counter underneath as long as the mirror is. There is ample space but for whatever reason, some people still take up a third of that space.

So imagine that there is woman just putting her make up on after she has hit the gym. She has the contents of her makeup bag strewn left and right of her and also has her face towel and water bottle a mile away from her, leaving plenty of space between the items. She has her giant gym bag on the counter, which is just… there. She doesn’t need it right now or even 15 minutes later. She needs it after she has gotten herself prepped to leave the gym – it could have been perfectly fine on the floor. This woman is also standing in front of one of the three hairdryers. Two of the hairdryers are currently in use.  She has finished using the one she is in front of, but can’t even shuffle two steps so someone else can use it. Now try to factor personal space between the woman’s items and your own and there goes a third of the space.

Usually you will meet one of these people in the peak hours, sometimes even two. It’s just a really douche thing to do! There is no other explanation except for being selfish and inconsiderate of others.

Take note of these four things and avoid it like the plague, unless you aspire to be a douche. Also be prepared for this sort of behaviour – it’s a douchy world out there ladies and gents.

If you have experienced any of these kinds of behaviour or have other things to add to this list, please just comment, I am always fascinated by the level and amount of gym douche bags in the world.

{Image Credit}

Geek Survival Guide: Exams – Food

Geek Survival Guide: Exams – Food

Nov 10

Exam period is a dangerous time for a geek. It’s often sacrificing time from your beloved T.V. show/book/role play/anime to attain that pass (or for ambitious few, that distinction). Preparation often includes studying and/or cramming and getting ourselves mentally in ‘The Zone’. What a lot of you probably don’t do is actually pay special attention to what you eat! And I think that is crazy.

We all know that food can have an effect on mood and sometimes behaviour. For example, chocolate gives us endorphins, which of course makes us happy. Too much chocolate probably will result in a sugar high and there would be a subsequent crash, which makes us feel lousy.

Since we all know this, why aren’t we using food to our advantage when it counts the most? So here is a list of what to eat. After all, every little bit helps when it comes to surviving the exams!

Do Eat:

Blueberries

Blueberries are pretty much the bomb-diggity of the fruit world. But what is of importance to us here is that it contains anthocyanin. Anthocyanin softens the arteries and prevent them from getting constricted due to stress. Vasoconstriction caused by stress induces high blood pressure which can result in cardiovascular disease (so you see, here at GayGeek we are really saving lives ;)). Blueberries also improve mood by giving the brain energy (alertness and focus). One cup of blueberries contains 14.4 grams of vitamin C!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C keeps you from getting those stress sickness (flus and colds that come around exam season). It has also been found to help you concentrate. So get those oranges, mandarins and tangerines out.

Fish

Fish also helps you concentrate. It also create new brain cells, because of all the Omega-3 in it.

Coffee

This is quite obvious. Helps with alertness, focus and concentration.

Eggs

Eggs help concentration by providing necessary nutrients and protein while still being low in saturated fat and calories. One egg contains all of the nine essential amino acids and 6 grams of protein.

Yogurt

Yogurt is good source of protein, all the while keeping tryptophan low. Tryptophan, found in many protein rich foods, and is the amino acid that makes us sleepy. None of us want to feel sleepy in the middle of an exam!

Don’t:

I only have one don’t because I see that this is the one thing people keep on having when exam time comes around and that is ENERGY DRINKS.

Energy drinks are high in sugar content and are very likely to cause a high and excess energy. You don’t want to be itching to move when you have to sit still for two hours. Even if you don’t feel like bouncing off the walls, you will have a crash that could very well be in the middle of your exam. Do you really want to risk it?

That is really my one exam no-no.

So that is all for me and exam food. Good luck, young padawan and may the forces of the exam gods be with you!

Geek Survival Guide New Skill: Isolation by Contact

Geek Survival Guide New Skill: Isolation by Contact

Oct 24

So today I thought I’d write a post about my newest keeping-my-hands-busy-while-I-watch-TV obsession, which I’m also incidentally hoping will eventually make me seem incredibly badass and/or magic:

Contact Juggling! Just like Jareth from Labyrinth! yaaay!

Or rather, just like the world-class contact juggler they had squashed up against David Bowie’s back pretending to be Bowie’s hands:

Jareth’s enormous cape suddenly makes a whole lot more sense, because, let’s face it, we all knew he had nothing to be compensating for.

Michael Moschen, renowned worldwide for his juggling, hid behind Bowie in every scene in which the crystals appear, and managed to do everything you see onscreen both blind and while wearing gloves. To see more of this, there’s a whole behind-the-scenes clip about it here.

But back to the actual topic of the post: Contact Juggling is the art of manipulating a ball so that it appears to be floating magically around your arms. It’s called “contact juggling” because, as opposed to normal toss-and-catch juggling, the ball is in almost constant contact with your skin. Contact juggling actually relatively easy to get the basics of…though getting it to the point where you can do this takes a little more work:

THE BUYING OR FINDING OF THE WHATSITS FOR THE THING THAT WE ARE LEARNING:

FIRST WHAT NOT TO BUY:

Ok, so the funniest thing about that video with the Japanese busker wasn’t the moment when the cute pouch spat up the ball, or the bit where the lady from the audience tried to take the ball off him. No, it was the tiny little flag at the beginning, put on by the video’s uploader: “THESE ARE NOT FUSHIGI BALLS”

Well….no. They’re probably not. Because this guy is a professional, and “Fushigi Balls” are the most hilarious con I have seen all month. And I’ve been watching White Collar.

Fushigi balls are marketed as AMAZING MAGIC BALLS THAT FLOAT AND ARE AMAZING AND STUFF. They’re…not. Well, they CAN be, but only if you practice. A lot. (Seriously, watch the ad. It’s pretty funny.)

Basically, Fushigi Balls are a repackaged, less well made version of your standard acrylic contact juggling ball. The steel ball within the clear acrylic coating makes it structurally weaker than a regular acrylic, and more likely to crack, and they have been known to shatter, which a pure acrylic will almost never do. The centres are also often, well, off-centre, which breaks the crucial illusion that the ball isn’t spinning. If you already have one, though, don’t worry, because whether or not it makes a good performance ball, it’ll make a great (though relatively expensive) practice ball.

THE STUFF YOU ACTUALLY WANT:

Where to go:

There are a few sites that will sell you various juggling equipment for decent prices. Far and away everyone I’ve talked to’s favourite is Home of Poi. They have a huge range, relatively cheap prices, and speedy delivery, so yay all around. Also, they have a fantastic loyalty system: after you make your first purchase, you get a unique discount code, (that you can share with your friends, who will then get codes of their own after their first purchase). The more stuff you buy using that discount code, the higher the discount associated with the code goes!

Types of balls:

The link I just gave you all to Home of Poi actually goes to the juggling balls section of the site, which incudes balls for contact juggling. Not all the balls on the page are good for contact juggling. To help you out, I almost made a huge list talking about each type of ball in detail, but then I realised that this guy does it much better:

I started with an orange. It was fun!

THE LEARNING OF THE THING THAT WE ARE DOING:

When it comes to tutorials, the only thing I really have to say is “TO THE YOUTUBES!”. The move you’ll probably want to start with is called the “wave” or “butterfly”. It’s the basic roll from the back of your hand to your palm, and is pretty essential to most contact moves. I personally started with this video by AmazingKennyT, but there are lots out there. Just search Contact Juggling Tutorial and you’ll come up with a heap of great videos….including this PARODY. (Stress on the parody. It’s wonderful.)

The other relatively simple set of tricks (which also look amazing) are called “Isolations” (which I exploited mercilessly for the sake of the title of this post). The idea is to keep the ball completely stationary in the air, while you move your hands around it, so that it looks like it’s floating. Again, I started with  one of AmazingKennyT‘s vids, but as I said, YouTube’s bounty in the treasure that is tutorials floweth unchecked, so knock yourselves out.

The thing I really love about contact juggling, is that since the most important thing is really learning to balance the ball in different places, you can practice while doing pretty much anything else (TV, reading, procrastinating, whatever!). And since magically detaching my thumb at parties just doesn’t receive the awe it used to, contact juggling may possibly be my final shot at Hogwarts.

Peace Out, and Make Magic!

~Willo

[Bowie photo sourced from here | Moschen & Bowie photo sourced from here]

A Lesson From Captain Confidence

A Lesson From Captain Confidence

Sep 27

I want you all to do something for me. Time yourself and list five things you hate about yourself. It can be anything, physical, habits or things you aren’t good at. Write down the time and the five things. Now do the same thing again but with five things you like about yourself.

For the most part, most people find that it takes longer to do the second task than the first and that is just stupid. If you are not one of these people then good on you.

To give you some background as to why I asked this of you, it is because one of my closest friends came to visit me all the way from a different state. We lived together for four days and it really opened my eyes. Whenever we would go out, she needed to put make up on. When we went dancing, she thought that she needed to wear tights because she thought her legs looked fat. This girl is a size 6 (or 4 if you are in America).

I thought she was being extremely ridiculous, she gets asked out randomly and a lot of her guy friends had crushes on her. I do understand that everyone gets insecure but I thought she was being silly about a lot of the things she was saying. Being one of her closest friends I knew the key things she was not happy with (unruly hair and needs more boobs), but I never thought that they were ‘real’ problems.

Then I realised I did it too. I complained that I had too many pimples (there were five, but they were big ones!), that my hair flicked to one side and that I needed to lose weight. She would give me the same look I gave her. It was then that a light bulb switched on.

People don’t actually perceive you, the way you do yourself.

A lot of people know this, but not a lot of people understand it. This has a lot to do with the fact that when we see ourselves, we think that the friend/mother/whoever sees us like we see us and we think that they are giving placating statements. This, of course, does nothing to dissuade us from believing in the faults that we see, because we think others can see them/it’s actually there.

When you think about it, it’s very twisted. In a world where there is no such thing as perfection it is hard to separate true flaws from imagined flaws. So what you should take from this is that some flaws that you see in yourself are nonexistent and some flaws aren’t. But learn to trust your friends because if they are true friends then they will tell you the truth.

The image is Eddie‘s, give her some love!

Geek Survival Guide: Fitness Edition- Fat Versus Calorie

Geek Survival Guide: Fitness Edition- Fat Versus Calorie

Sep 17

Everyone knows that ‘fat’ and ‘calories’ are bad and we should lose them. Yet surprisingly, not a lot of people know what they are, or why they are different to one another! So here is a quick FYI on fat and calories. Knowledge is power as they say, and that means you can actually do stuff!

 

What Is Fat?

The fat on your body is the emergency stock in case food is unavailable. The average thin individual, if eating nothing but multivitamins and drinking only water, can survive a whole month just on fat!  Each fat cell contains a drop of oil and if the body is in need of energy it can burn the oil. It has been proven that the more fat we have the longer we keep eating.

Fat cells increase in size and number as we get heavier! Once fat cells become as big as they can be, they multiply. The problem then is that these new fat cells are created to stay and to get as much fat as they can. Once we have those fat cells it is very difficult of get rid of them.

 

Why Does Our Body Store Fat?

Typically we eat food every couple of hours, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, for the most of our history, food was scarce. Doctor Eric Radisson, an obesity genealogist, says that in the days of cavemen and cavewomen we eat what we could catch, and sometimes it wasn’t enough. This is when our storage systems, fat, became extremely helpful.

As we all (should) know, human history has gone through periods of abundance and scarcity in foods. When global famine happened, around two thirds of the world ‘disappeared’ (or at least of the world as they knew it back then). At times of famine only the fattest survived.

Now imagine this storage system when it comes in contact with people who eat McDonald’s or drink slushies every other day. In other words our body hasn’t adapted to over eating or the phenomena of obesity, so it stores it in case the next famine happens in our lifetimes.

The reason why some people are always thin and can never get fat, is because of their genes, but these types of people are harder to find than obese or overweight people, mainly due to human evolution.

 

What Are Calories?

Calories are essentially the energy content of different foods. The rough estimate is carbohydrate: 4 calories, protein: 4 calories, fat: 9 calories.

A lot of people think that they need to burn off all or most the calories they eat or they will gain weight. This is far from the truth. Your body needs calories to function; it keeps your heart beating, your brain thinking, your lungs taking in breath and to keep your body warm. The process in which this energy is burned off is called the basal metabolic rate. This is regulated by our metabolism (not surprisingly).  The metabolic rate is actually pretty steady, meaning that if it takes only 1000 calories a day, just to keep your body functioning today, then it would do so for everyday of this year, the next ten years etc. However, this isn’t the case for kids or teenagers as they are still developing. Needless to say everyone’s metabolic rate is different.

So why do we get fat if we have too many calories?

Simple. When you have excess calories, the body doesn’t know what to do with all the extra energy, except to store it, so it turns into fat.

 

Okay people, I hope you have actually learned something from this, because it is important to know the differences and to know what each thing actually does! And I hope you know by now that low fat, doesn’t necessarily mean low in calories, because they are two separate things!

[Image Credit]

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