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I Don’t Know How to Soothe Myself

by D.J. Paris on January 21, 2014

What do you do to soothe yourself when you’re having a rough day?

I stared at my therapist blankly.

By 10am I had been having a “not feeling good” kind of morning. The cold and the sludge and no sun – it was affecting my well-being. I was bummed. Plus, I hadn’t slept enough the night before. Not in a good mood.

The first thing that my therapist does in our sessions is to ask how I’m doing.

“All I want is to go home, overeat pizza until I pass out, play video games, write jokes on Twitter so people tell me I’m funny, and not be responsible.”

Okay, you want to blow off the day. How will that make you feel if you do those things?

“Um – worse.”

So, escaping is not going to make you feel better. What could you do instead?

“There are things I can do instead of blowing off the day to change my mood?”

She then asked the soothing question. I didn’t understand what “soothing” meant so I asked for examples. Being a woman she listed things like chocolate, pedicures or massages, buying an item of clothing. These I can’t relate to, but I understood the concept. She was talking about self-care. What were some small gifts I could give myself that would change my feelings?

I can’t put on music or a podcast at work and it’s too damned cold to take a walk with my dog. Other than that, I was out of ideas.

She reminded me that I didn’t have any other strategies to cope with a tough day other than powering through or completely escaping. Both are not ideal.

I needed to find ways to give myself things I enjoy when I’m feeling crummy. The problem is I have no idea what soothes me. I just know how to obliterate feelings by going off the deep end into short-term pleasure.

Since I didn’t have any suggestions on soothing she offered this idea – I start trusting that my body knows this information. To continue to stay with the discomfort until answers bubble up from the feeling. I agreed to give it a shot and went back out into the cold.

What I ended up doing was leaving work a few hours early and taking an hour long nap. That was what my body was telling me to do. Then I was interviewed for someone’s podcast and my body suggested another short nap. I obliged.

Now, I’m ready for bed and I feel better. I listened internally and did the suggested actions. I didn’t blow off the day or try to use force to change my state. I trusted there was something happening inside of me and that it would pass. It did.

I still ate pizza and tweeted a little and I’m about to play a video game. But all in small doses.

I wish someone when I was younger would have told me how “feeling your feelings” would be one of the most useful skills to life. Would have saved me God-knows-how-much in therapy.

That being said, I’m still allowing one blow off day a week. Getting high by eating four donuts at 10am is simply fun. Don’t judge me.

pizza

I can’t believe I ate just a few of you. Moderation is weird.

photo credit: Adam Kuban via photopin cc

38 comments

I Sometimes Publish Crap – A Confession

by D.J. Paris on January 17, 2014

Years ago I used to bother celebrities on Twitter and write about the interactions.

I called it CelebTweets. After a few posts went live a television producer contacted me with an idea. If I wrote fifty more of these she could pitch it to publishers and get a book made.

She cautioned me, however, to be very selective on what else I wrote on my blog. I did a lot of other styles of posts and she thought that might hurt my “brand.” If I wanted a book deal, I needed to decide if I would be the guy that bugs famous people on Twitter exclusively.

I decided against it. I wanted to do other things.

At the time I was separated and starting to go through a divorce which would become the most painful experience of my life. I had only, up until then, written silly posts. I was terrified to try anything unfunny. Looking back, I don’t know why this was such a scary proposition – I only had fifty readers. If nobody liked the serious stuff I could always go back to comedy.

By the way, my dad’s dick post is still the most popular story on this blog. Can you believe 154k visitors read that last year? Yes, that’s sad. And yes, I’m bragging.

I decided to change up my style. I started to chronicle feelings, thoughts, and perspectives around daily life. Sure I’d pepper in a joke or two, but the overarching theme was honesty and vulnerability. That was my mission.

In 2012 I ended up writing every day. I published 185k words that year. And let me tell you, not all of the posts were gold. Some were flat out stinkers.

The number one reason bloggers tell me they don’t write more often is that they want each post to be gold. I understand. I do, too. But I have way more singles and doubles in me than home runs. I also have strikeouts.

Yesterday I struck out. I sat at my computer for two hours trying to save a piece of shit. It wasn’t working no matter how many times I edited. But, in a way, I felt okay about it. The piece was as good as it was going to get. I had pride because even though the post didn’t turn out perfect, I had done all that I could. I hit publish.

According to stats 74% of my daily traffic comes from new visitors. Today many people were introduced to my blog with maybe the worst post I have ever written. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t return.

So, why do I publish strikeouts?

One, failure is part of human experience. We all put effort into projects that don’t pan out. People relate to mistakes. Two years ago I dropped the need for my posts to be perfect and the weirdest thing happened. My viewership increased. The comments from readers got longer and more frequent. I was connecting with people at a deeper level than that of just fart jokes.

Also, many kept coming back after a less-than-stellar post. People forgive. I found that the only time anyone got pissed was when I didn’t share something intimate or “real.” Like if I wrote a joke that for a quick laugh I would receive little engagement.

I believe part of respecting and honoring an audience is to show them the truth. The flubs. Times that it doesn’t come together. As long as the writing is honest and in my voice I push it through. Now, I accept the consequences of this behavior, too. I lose readers who expect better consistency.

I guess at the end of the day I just want to feel good. During that marathon session yesterday I put my heart and sweat into that piece. I just re-read it again and yes, it’s cringe worthy. It was also the best I could do. I feel good about it because I see all the hard work that went into the process.

The question is, however – should I subject the audience to a mediocre post?

I’m probably alone here, but I say yes. A resounding yes. I just want to try my hardest and let the chips fall where they may. Were there readers bummed out after reading yesterday? I don’t know – I’m sure some were unimpressed.

So, here’s my deal. I write a lot. I have a boring, normal life and sometimes my posts will suck. Usually they won’t. Thanks for understanding.

crap

Hey, at least when I publish crap, it’s free!

photo credit: Plutor via photopin cc

44 comments

Check Out This Crazy Note Left On My Friend’s Car

by D.J. Paris on January 10, 2014

My friend received a crazy note on her car yesterday.

She had not done the best parking job. She works in a high rise building in the downtown area of Chicago. The garage where she parks is only ever around half full. She woke up late and was hustling to work. By the time she made it to the parking garage she was flustered. She parked the car in a half-assed manner and ran to the elevator. Because of all the empty space she didn’t think twice about it.

When she left work later that day she found a note attached to her windshield. It read:

Dear Shithead – Learn how to park your car better or the next time I’m going to hit your door even harder. I don’t give a shit because this is a company car.

I could write a 2000-word essay on what’s amazing about that letter. I’ll skip ahead and tell you what she did. She took a photo of the license plate and sent it to her brother, a police officer. He’ll run the plate and tell her to whom the car is registered. She’ll then call the company and ask which employee drives XYZ car. Then, she’ll call his boss (has to be a him), and send over the letter. He’ll be fired.

It got me to think about my own inability to hold it together at times. How I can go from sane to crazy in a matter of seconds should the right stimulus present itself.

My psychiatrist put me on a drug a few years ago. I can’t tell you what neurotransmitters it affects, but the way it was explained to me is this – the medicine allows me a few seconds of rational thought before I go into fight or flight. In other words, it provides sanity when I most need it.

I have one of those brains that flips out at the drop of a hat. If you drop and break a plate I’ll jump two feet in the air. I’ll also let out a scream. I’m high-strung and always have been. When I was younger it was named “sensitive” by adults. The kids at school would call it a “spaz.” Thankfully I learned how to internalize my freakouts and keep them hidden from the world. Nobody wants to be the class spaz.

I’m to a point now where I wonder how much of the behaviors I’d like to change are medical vs. psychological. I mean, if someone drops a plate, I don’t have much choice other than to freak out. It’s automatic. Wake me up in the middle of the night and I’ll begin yelling at you before I’m even conscious. With this med, however, I have more control.

I’m also in a therapist’s office once a week to work on my issues. The struggle for me is knowing what I have the ability to change and what just doesn’t work right with my physiology. Is the sadness I feel just a normal reaction to life or because my dopaminergic receptors don’t have the right uptake process? It’s confusing.

So, what do I work on and what do I surrender to meds? The science isn’t yet perfected on figuring out mental health.

What seems to be a true north for me are feelings. To fully feel a tough emotion when it comes up, and learning to trust that it will lead somewhere useful. As a guy, however, I was not taught to indulge in my sadness, fear, anger, or shame. Even after years of practice the process is new to me.

However, I’ve never left a nasty note on someone’s car and dented their door. I’m not far off the charts, thank God.

So for me the formula seems to be something like this:

acceptance of how I currently am  + meds for how I currently am + therapy for how I’d like to be + feeling tough stuff

Or maybe I should just keep freaking out and writing about it. It does make for great stories. Like how, to soothe myself today, I bought a huge amount of beef jerky and stunk up my office gnawing on the worst parts of a cow. Then I stunk up my office in a whole other way. It was awesome.

freakout

I mostly just throw tantrums

photo credit: Frau Shizzle via photopin cc

12 comments

Some Behind the Scenes Reader Drama

January 8, 2014

Some time ago I received a private message from a reader. In this note the person claimed to be having an affair with another of my readers. I thought this was the coolest thing. Two readers met on my blog and fell in love! When I inquired further, however, the person mentioned that both are […]

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I Don’t Know When to Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em

January 5, 2014

I’m a terrible gambler. This foolio has been living at the Rio in Las Vegas for the past three days. I haven’t sat down once at a table or slot machine. I am surrounded by opportunity to play games and win some dough. So why aren’t I gambling? A few reasons – first, I have […]

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I’m Too Good to Pick Up Spare Change on the Street – A Confession

January 4, 2014

Do you pick up spare change lying on the ground? I don’t. I realized this fact on Christmas Eve during our family’s annual holiday party. Carolyn and Laura are two sisters who grew up in our neighborhood. They’re both very successful. One’s a realtor and the other an attorney. The attorney (Carolyn) stated she always […]

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Fun in the Bedroom – The D.J. Way

November 26, 2013

Yesterday I wrote about how I can fall asleep faster than Jessie Owens sprinting to the bathroom with diarrhea. Nice – I managed to work in a Jessie Owens reference. Need to update my references. Not very timely. Since I spend more time on my back than the ladies of a Thai cathouse, I thought […]

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Being Out of Control is a Good Thing

June 16, 2013

I’ve wanted to write about my control issues for a long time, but I was never sure how to articulate it effectively. I’m still wholly unsure. In fact, I have no idea how this thing is going to turn out, and I’m massively insecure about it. Oh well. I can always go back to stories […]

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The Support Group I’m Trying to Save

January 31, 2013

When my wife called me on a Wednesday and told me she had filed for divorce, I didn’t know what to do. I went into shock. My biggest fear had become realized. Even though she had not mentioned the word divorce any our past therapy sessions in hindsight there were signs she was planning an […]

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I Picked a Hot Photo of Myself to Impress You – A Confession

January 10, 2013

A friend recently pleaded with me to change my photo here on the site. He said it didn’t look like me and didn’t capture my silliness. Plus, he said it made me look like a bad man. He then went into detail about what kind of criminal I resembled. Without going into specifics let’s just […]

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I Promise To Go Back and Reply To All Your Comments!

November 18, 2012

I have a habit where I make a bunch of promises that, in the moment, seem perfectly doable. Then a few days go by and I realize, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this at all.” In the past month alone I thought of writing an ebook unrelated to this blog, starting a site for […]

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