Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mourning a part of the community

    I got up Sunday in kind of a weird depressive funk I couldn't quite place the cause of. It was a lovely day so I decided to put on my skates for the first time in while. I hit up the skateparks down by the Hudson as was wondering where everyone was on such a nice day. I then pulled up the I Roll NY website to see if there was any event I was missing. There was. It was for a memorial fundraiser session in Flushing, Queens for a rollerblader named Alex Nunez.
   After reading it I decided it was too late for me to head out there and I was just going to roll home. Somewhere rolling up Park Place I had to sit down. Before I knew it tears started to form in my eyes. I texted a rolling buddy of mine just kind of dumbfounded.
   Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea, Alex and I were not friends. We weren't even crew buddies. We had a couple of mutual friends/acquaintances so I had skated with him a few times. I wasn't sure why learning of his death hit me so hard. It kind of sat in my head for the rest of the day stewing. As sometimes happens when I have a strong emotional reaction to something kind of tangential to my immediate life my brain starts looking for the real cause. It got a stuck on another person I knew and started to loop. Because this can sometimes also be the result of a cognitive misfire I didn't really trust it too much either. So I rode it out.
   I wrote a blogpost about "brain looping" hoping the process would get me to some root cause, and also hoping if it was a cognitive misfire it would distract me long enough for it to pass. The loop passed but the emotional pain did not. I racked my brain a little to try and come up for a reason a "stranger's" death would hit me so hard. Then it occurred to me he wasn't really a "stranger."
   Alex was in a bunch of video edits I had so I was pretty familiar with him. I felt like I knew him a little because of this. He also won the East Coast Real Street Contest the year I really, really got into skating. It occurred to me that Alex was a part of our community, this little subculture we call aggressive rollerblading or whatever you might call it. More than that he was part of the New York scene, and even more than that he was really close to me in age. We don't talk about it much, and sometimes we don't act like it, but this little community is a family, and we'd just lost one of our own. Now, we were all getting together to mourn, as a community, in the only way we really know how, by skating.
   On top of that I realized that a part of my life was now done too. That competition was one of the last times I was really into skating, with a crew of friends to back me up. What I was mourning was a part of my life that was now gone. Suddenly I was very aware of my own mortality, and all the things I hadn't gotten done, and in particular, all the people I felt I hadn't told I cared properly. And then I freaked out. I think I may have texted/Facebook messaged three or four of my friends that night asking when I was going to see them again. I panicked a little when not all of them replied right away.
   Then, as often happens, some more time passed, and so did the dread. But if you are out there and you didn't hear from me: Know I still care, a lot, even if I haven't said it in while. And if you knew Alex, were his friend, are a member of his family, or just some random person who rolled with him, know that I'm there with you too. Don't be afraid to tell someone you care about them, that you are sad or in pain at this loss. Care for yourself, care for others.
   Be a family to each other.

There are donations be taken for the family here:
"Paypal at sales@createoriginals.com. Seriously, ANY contribution will help. Also, if you do decide to donate, make sure you send it as a “gift” so paypal doesn’t take a percentage of it."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Looping and Obsessive Thoughts

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets these, but one of the more irritating little side things I've noticed of my post-head injury life is what I like to call "looping." Looping is when a few thoughts, or more often one line of thought, starts to repeat itself over and over in your head. I'm sure everyone has had a version of this. A song gets stuck in your head, an event that happened to you gets replayed over and over.
    This is of course one of those lovely qualities those of us who tend to over-think things have had to deal with throughout our lives of mental disorder/disfunction. I have at least one friend whose habit of doing this borders on the pathological. I am also pretty sure (in fact I have a few pre-injury friends who can probably attest to this) that this is something I did before my injury and I only really became aware of it post-head injury.
   That doesn't make it any less frustrating or problematic when it happens, especially when bouts of it also can, and often do, involve strong emotions. The issue here is that when it happens, the brain tends to fixate on whatever that train of thought is, and can't navigate its way out of it. No matter how much I may want it to, or how inane the thought is, my brain will remain in that state until a) it is distracted or b) the cause of the thought resolves itself.
   Some of the more fun results of this "condition":
- inability to fall or stay asleep, which is great, because lack of rest really improves this condition (no, it actually doesn't, for those of you bereft of the skill of detecting the sarcasm in the word "fun")
- compulsive and/or obsessive social media checking, which usually starts as a attempt at distraction, and then all of the sudden its 2am and you are arguing with someone in Vancouver about alternate side of the street parking rules. This is especially a bad idea when said cause of train of thought is a person. Most especially when that person is someone you may or may not be romantically interested in/involved with (Wait, what was that? It sounded like the collective painful sigh of several of my friends who relate. Awww... you're adorable...now shaddup)
- compulsive and/or obsessive texting to friends (see above)
- compulsive and/or obsessive blogging about your "problem" (okay, so I'm guilty of that one right now, sue me)
- combination with a cognitive misfire, a most dangerous mixture

I've found their are really only a few real solutions to "looping".
 - Distraction. Aside from the more dangerous forms listed above, comfort can often be found in watching television, a movie, listening to music and/or reading a book to get the brain working on something else. Be wary of movies, television, or music that reinforce your train of thought however, especially is said train of thought is a person. Also be wary of comfort eating, as a) it doesn't really work for this particular problem and b) is probably unhealthy either way. Exercise can also work pretty well too. And hey also, look at this, writing can also help. Unless of course you keep writing the words "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy," in which case please put the axe down and leave your wife and child in peace.
- Meditation. Meditation can help you clear your head but it takes discipline to do it correctly, and oh boy, can it take a while to do. Which leads me to my next point-
- Riding that shit out. Its miserable, it can stress you out, and even if you are meditating you still need to do it. Sometimes the only solution to "looping" is time. Sucks I know but thems the breaks. In fact, its best to ride it out a while especially if it lasts more than a day and you are forced to do the following step.
- Dealing with the loop's cause. This is generally only necessary if said cause is person and/or the loop is a recurring problem but I'm including it because its important. You need to deal with whatever issue is causing you to obsessively think about it. Since this usually involves a person you need to communicate with that person, preferably in person. Most often in my experience the thing you were obsessing over is actually not that big of a deal, and you are dumb. Every once and while however, it is actually a major issue and the sooner you deal with it the better.

   I have had this sequence of events (i.e. it's not a big deal and I am dumb) play out so often I beginning to suspect I might actually be a profoundly stupid person. Which is strangely comforting, actually, as it reminds me I'm still human. Also, I'm not sure when this blog somehow morphed into some sort of mental health self-help type thing, but here we are. Hopefully next time I will be back to ranting about Walking Dead, or giant robots or some such other nerdy nonsense, or (SHAMELESS SELF-PLUG INCOMING!!!) shall I direct you to my podcast: https://jaime-martin.squarespace.com/podcast/