It’s been awhile since I’ve written on my blog. I’ve started to write a few things. But I can’t seem to click that damn “Publish” button. And the longer I put it off, the more difficult it seems. Funny how that works…
As I dig through pages of rough ideas, semi-finished posts, and random notes, I thought we could start by catching up. This past year has been one hell of a ride. With 31 on the horizon, I can’t help but reflect on 30. So let’s see where we’re at…
Alanna, Sammy, and I spent the majority of last year on the road. After living in Los Angeles County for the better part of a decade, we picked up and decided to visit my childhood home and bounce around the East Coast for a few months. We left California in June and drove ~3,300 miles to Massachusetts.
As mentioned in previous posts, it was a rollercoaster of a trip. I hit some low points and was forced to face some demons that I thought I had left far behind. While in Massachusetts, my anxiety plagued me every waking moment some days. I was forced to go back to the basics. But by the end of our stay, I feel I finally made my peace with my childhood home. We hit the road once again and landed back in California in November.
Once back on the Left Coast, we decided to move somewhere a bit quieter. After contemplating the move for awhile we landed in Joshua Tree, which is a small town two hours east of Los Angeles. We signed a lease back in December for a spot about 10 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park. Seven months later, we’re still digging it. It’s quiet. The skies are beautiful. There are lots of places to explore. There’s no LA traffic. So far, so good.
It wasn’t planned, but we adopted a rabbit named Bruno. Alanna’s dad got Bruno at the swap meet last Summer. Bruno came to our new house in January for a sleepover… and he never left. While I never planned on having a rabbit, he chewed right through our security deposit and into our hearts. He grew on me and has since become part of the family.
One of the first things I did when I got back to California was see my doctor and my therapist to get a handle on my insomnia and anxiety. In addition to General Anxiety Disorder, I was diagnosed as having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Prior to the diagnosis, I didn’t know much about OCD. Like many, I assumed OCD was essentially germophobia, excessive hand washing, and being overly organized. It turns out there are many subtypes. The more I researched it, the more certain aspects resonated with me. My OCD manifests as Pure OCD and Somatic OCD.
The following excerpt from IntrusiveThoughts.org explains it well:
Every person is different. Relationships, hobbies, careers, talents and lifestyles vary from person to person. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder does too. OCD is a complex mental illness that affects every sufferer differently. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not all about handwashing and organization. While there are similarities across cases, individual manifestations tend to mirror specific anxieties based on a person’s unique life experience.
It may sound a bit odd, but the diagnosis was a bit of a relief. By knowing what I was dealing with, I could figure out how to manage it. And if I keep adding acronyms to my name, maybe people will think I’m someone of prestige, like a doctor. Ryan Cowles GAD, OCD.
I started a low dose of an SSRI and have been back in regular therapy to learn how to manage my OCD when it spikes. It’s hard to say if it’s regaining stability, the medication, or the therapy that’s helped the most. But I feel much better than I did just a few months ago. My sleep is getting back on track. I’m making steady progress and it feels good.
I’ve gone 270 days without any alcohol. In the past, I always considered myself a social drinker. I’d have drinks when we’d go out with friends. I’d have drinks on the weekend. But the last year has me re-evaluating things and trying to figure out how to better take care of myself. I wasn’t drinking every day. I was functioning in day-to-day life. But I was leaning on alcohol as a crutch.
It got to a point last Summer where I turned to drinking to help with my insomnia. I knew it wasn’t healthy. And it took me to some dark places. But at the time, it seemed to be the only thing that worked. So I was drinking to fall asleep. Taking a step back, I realized it was contributing to the cycle of anxiety and depression. So when I got back to California, I decided to take a break from alcohol.
The first few weeks were tough. I was forced to face my anxiety without the safety net that drinking provided. It felt very raw. But as time went on, it got easier. I gained some clarity. I discovered this thing called “Saturday morning”. And it feels good to not be hungover every weekend.
I still haven’t committed to never drinking again. I have enough trouble committing to plans for next weekend. But for the time being I’m taking a break. I still enjoy going out to bars, shooting pool, and being social. The only difference is I’ve swapped the PBR tallboy for a Ginger Beer.
The company I work for, Automattic, offers a fully-paid three-month sabbatical when you reach five years of tenure. I started my sabbatical on May 28th. While some coworkers have traveled, taken time to learn a new skill, or done something incredible, I’ve taken a more low-key approach. I needed time to disconnect and recharge. I set no lofty ambitions for myself and instead have been learning to take care of myself.
I’ve spent time with family. We’ve gone on some short trips. I’ve been playing video games with my brother-in-law and my nephews. And I’ve spent time laying in the hammock in our backyard.
With a little less than a month of sabbatical remaining, I’m working on building a routine for myself. And I’d like to work on a few small projects. I want to write. I want to paint. I want to draw. But I’m not pushing myself too hard. Slowly, I’m starting to reconnect with those passions.
I’ll be 31 next week. As I put the pieces together, I’ve realized there’s no one-size-fits-all guidebook to this “life” shit. But being forced to go back to the basics has given me a chance to reflect on what truly is important to me. Some days are better than others. The good days are easy to share, while the difficult days are often hidden. We’re quick to share our highlight reel, but hesitant to talk openly about our struggles.
Couldn’t face the world today, so I ordered pizza and binge-watched Jersey Shore. #blessed
I’m sometimes hesitant to write so much publicly for fear of oversharing. But fuck it. I am nothing if not honest (I believe “real AF” is the proper nomenclature). And I find writing to be therapeutic.
As for my current day-to-day, the good days are starting to outnumber the difficult ones. And coming up on 31, I’m finally learning how to take care of myself. Now that I can put some of this anxiety and depression bullshit behind me, perhaps I can get back to writing about other topics as well. We’ll see…