Depression is a Bitch and My Brain Wants Me Dead

Depression is a Bitch and My Brain Wants Me Dead

The posting was a simple one but in reality it said a lot, “Depression is an evil nasty little bitch and I absolutely refuse to let it win. If I’m being honest, it’s got a pretty good lead on me right now.”

It was Friday afternoon and I was sitting in the parking lot at work about to begin my shift making a post on Instagram. Because that’s what I do.

Rewind about 24 hours to Thursday afternoon.

I knew something wasn’t right and even said so much in a text conversation with Erica.

Thursday 4:18pm “I may be on the verge of a breakdown.”

I think I knew the truth then but didn’t want to acknowledge it. I wasn’t on the verge, I was there. I could feel it in every ounce of my being but I didn’t want it to be true.

The pressure I put on myself to be this perfect person is immeasurable. I know people look up to me and my biggest fear is letting them down.

God forbid they know I’m human.

Friday I woke up and couldn’t function. I stayed in bed until the last possible moment that I could, knowing I had to drag myself from under the safety of the covers and get to it.

Friday 3:50pm

I am not okay. I know this. To me it’s the most obvious thing in the world, but I can’t let the world know. I bury it.

I sit in the parking lot holding back tears. Fighting off those bad feelings I know are bubbling deep inside.

“Triggered” has become a fad phrase over the past year. Have you noticed? People like to joke that a meme, a photo, a situation has them triggered. Who the hell knows what they think they mean by this. I know they think they’re funny. Maybe they are.

Do you know what it’s like to really be triggered?

Here I am, ten minutes from having to clock in for a serving shift in the bar area of restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day and I am triggered. Really, truly, triggered.

It’s not as cute as you think it is.

My heart is beating like crazy, to the point where it feels like I may actually be having a heart attack. I’m sweating and I feel like I’m a million degrees but freezing cold. I’m thinking ten thousands thoughts at once but none at all. My hands shake and I grip the steering wheel of my car just to feel the steadiness, some sort of control. I have none. My throat tightens and my mouth is bone try.

I’m afraid. Like REAL afraid.

This isn’t even the worst of it. Oh no.

That’s still to come.

But I have to go to work. I can’t call out when I’m in the parking lot and my shift starts in five minutes.

I go through all the calming exercises they say will help. I don’t know who they are but sometimes they can go fuck themselves.

I hate them.

But I breath. I’m calm. I walk into work and no one is the wiser.

There is a comic I found recently on Facebook and thankfully I was able to track is back to its origin on a blog called “Beatrice the Biologist.

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It’s funny because it’s true.

People don’t see mental illness and therefore don’t understand it.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me to relax when I felt panicked, I’d be a rich man.

Here’s a fun fact, telling me to just relax isn’t a cure. You’ve done nothing to help. You’ve succeeded in annoying the living crap out of me.

So I buried the pain, the panic, the depression. I put on my smiling face and I clocked in.

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Working while in a persistent state of panic and anxiety probably wasn’t the smartest idea in the world. Many times through the night I found myself clutching either side of my head, hoping the screaming on the inside would stop.

The perk of working in a busy restaurant is that very few people are actually paying attention to you unless you’ve screwed something up. So when I disappeared to the bathroom just to get a few minutes away from it all, no one noticed. I was on top of my rotation and my guests were happy, why need to worry about me?

When I did lash out it was easily excusable.

Have you ever worked in a restaurant? It’s all laughing and smiles on the floor but put us in the kitchen and we’re at each other’s throats. Me yelling at a co-worker, no one is giving that a second thought. It’s busy, we’re all in the weeds. No one is happy.

I’m just less happy.

I’m more than less happy. Something ugly is brewing under there.

My brain has shut down and gone into auto-pilot. My vision has narrowed to tunnel vision and I’m going through the motions of being a human being. This was most evident in the fact that I walked out of the restaurant and went home without clocking out.

I’ve never done that before. It’s minor in the grand scheme but major in my mind.

I’ve begun to dissociate. It was happening all night, gradually but in the calm of my home, I’m breaking down.

Then the scariest thing out of it all happens. A small thought born in the furthest and deepest part of my brain slowly moving to the front, blaring a ready to go.

I want pain.

It has been years since the thought of hurting myself has crossed my mind. So long that I haven’t bothered to keep track because, frankly, I thought that part of my life was over. I thought it had gone away forever.

I was better.

Better, not best.

The first time I ever hurt myself is a distant memory from what seems like another life. The years of my teenage angst and anger. I hurt myself because I was mad.

I honestly wish it were something far more poetic than that but the truth is, I was angry.

I was fighting with my step-father about god only knows what- we were always fighting. Sometimes it turned violent other times it was just words. He was an abusive wreck of a human being.

We fought and I stormed down to my basement room where, in a rage, I grabbed a pair of scissors and tore into the flesh of my inner thigh. It all happened in a blind rage and I wasn’t fully conscious of the situation until blood was running down my leg.

The damage was minimal but real. I was dumbfounded by what I had done and worked quickly to patch myself up and pretend it never happened.

That wasn’t real. That wasn’t me. That was never going to happen again.

Until it did.

Again and again.

Eventually I came away from this and learned to channel those feelings in other ways. I eventually regressed back to my old comfort of eating my feelings and turned to food to ease my pain and frustrations.

Over time I learned to manage it all in healthy ways while sometimes backsliding to more destructive means. But each time I began to feel destructive, I recognized the behavior and worked to move away from it.

While is what made this feeling on Friday night so scary. It was one that had been buried so long, I thought it was gone for good.

Nothing stays buried forever.

Between the depression I was feeling and the anxiety pouring over me, I was in a lot of pain. Physical, mental, everything. It was overwhelming and the screaming in my mind was maddening.

I wanted to control it. I wanted to feel control. I wanted to cut myself to channel and control that pain. To feel like I had control over anything and everything and if I could just feel it, control it, harness it, I could make it go away.

It was now 2am.

I sat, curled into a ball on my kitchen floor. The cats cautiously approached me, likely attracted by my crying but also scared of it.

I was scared.

If I could go just one hour. One hour without cutting myself. Maybe the feeling would go away.

My eyes burned holes into the clock on the stove as I watched the minutes tick away.

One hour became two, two became three.

I don’t know when I fell asleep. I don’t even know how I got into my bed that night. I was woken by my alarm at the unforgiving hour of 8am because I had a mandatory meeting to get to.

Put on the happy face. A smile means everything is okay.

The meeting happens. I pass as a functional human being.

I have some time to kill between the meeting’s end and having to be back to work the lunch shift.

I go home and sit on the couch, completely disassociated from reality.

Another alarm snaps me back to the real world telling me it’s time to get back to it.

My hands are shaking for most of the shift. I hide in the bathroom when I can, the walk in cooler when it makes more sense. I get through it. I crack jokes with my guests and co-workers.

I’m a normal human. It’s fine.

Everything’s fine.

Here’s the thing, sometimes depression is fakes smiles and laughter. It’s cracking jokes and saying ‘I’m fine.” Depression, anxiety, panic isn’t always easy to notice. It’s not easy to talk about.

There is so much stigma behind mental illness that people suffering are afraid to talk about it. To divulge that darkness just below the surface. There’s the fear of rejection. The fear of being brushed off. The fear of being “too dramatic.” The fear of being told it’s all in my head. The fear of being told to just get over it.

Why can’t you just get over it.

Just relax.

Just stop.

Do you have any idea how many times I’ve told that to myself?

It doesn’t work like that.

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When you are depressed. When you are having an anxiety or panic attack. When this is all happening, you have no control over your thoughts, they have now taken control of you and you are fighting a battle against yourself.

Do you have any idea how exhausting that is?

I have no recollection of leaving work on Saturday evening. I was in full autopilot mode and my vision had narrowed to a fine point.

My alarm went off Sunday morning at 5:00am. I had a race. Out of sheer habit I got out of bed and got ready. Got in the car and pointed myself towards the start line.

I don’t remember the race. I ran it. Ten miles. Couldn’t tell you a thing about it.

I don’t remember driving home.

I was losing time.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the Florida Hospital in Orlando when I called out from work on Sunday. I had no idea what the plan was at that point I just knew I wasn’t going to work. I had no idea if they were going to let me leave once I talked to someone about what was happening.

“Tell me about what you’re feeling Josh.”

“I’m feeling everything and nothing. I just want to scream and cry and just be angry at everything and I don’t know why.”

“Do you want to hurt yourself?”

I choke on the words but they come with almost no hesitation, “I do.”

There’s a pause and I start again.

“I do, but I don’t. The urge is there. I want the pain, you know? That makes no sense but it does. I want to feel it.”

“Do you want to die?”

I laugh sob. That’s a thing. I did it. It’s a thing.

“The angry, sad side of me does. The irrational part. The depression. But my rational brain doesn’t. It wants to be alive for the stupidest most rational reasons.”

“Such as?”

“My cats. I can barely find people to take care of them while I’m out of town, who on earth is going to take care of them if something happens to me?  And I’ve also invested far too much money in upcoming Disney races. They don’t just give refunds for that and there’s no transferring in Disney, if I don’t run that’s just wasted money. Nope, I gotta stick around.”

I spent a good chunk of the day at the hospital. My phone was taken away when I checked in and it was actually refreshing to be disconnected, even for a short while.

I was allowed to go home but I had to promise to come in for a follow up the next day.

I honestly went in anticipating a psych-hold.

Depression lies. It leads you to believe so many things that aren’t true and once it gets a hold on you it doesn’t let go easily.

I know there are people that love and care about me. The friends I can lean on and talk to. I know I have that support system.

Depression tells me I don’t. Anxiety tells me I’m a burden.

They are liars.

Sometimes it’s just too hard to recognize it. To see through that haze, the curtain that it throws over your eyes.

Depression is a lying bitch. Anxiety it it’s best friend.

The two are a wonder duo.

I hate them.

Monday morning I called out of work from that same waiting room. Was it going to be another long day at the hospital or a short one?

All I knew is that I had used every ounce of my being to be in this moment and it was all the strength I had to be there.

“How are you feeling today?”

I take a genuine moment to ponder this question.

“I feel empty. Well, not empty but numb… I feel blank.”

“Blank?”

“Blank.”

I go home and watch a stupid movie. I laugh more than I probably would have under different circumstances. It was the laughter of someone who just wanted to be happy. I think that’s why Hollywood makes stupid movies.

Thanks for that.

This morning I went back in for one last talk. I understood now that rather than a 72-hour hold I was given a bit of freedom but still under a 72 hour watch. I signed an agreement each day that I would come back the next.

I’m a people pleaser.

Sometimes you need to give yourself that one hour.

“How are you feeling today?”

“My version of human.”

Close enough.

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I wish I had some answers or solutions of offer here as I bring this to a close. But I don’t.

Each of us is fighting our own battles and every one’s is different. My anxiety and depression are not yours and they never will be.

I do know that I applaud everyone who goes out there every day and fights those battles. Sometimes that just means getting out of bed to move to the couch. Sometimes that’s all we have the energy for and that’s just fine.

If all you did today was manage to hold yourself together then I applaud you.

I applaud me.

That’s allowed.

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My Cats Are the WORST Roommates

My Cats Are the WORST Roommates

It goes without saying that I love my cats more than I love most people. My cats are seriously among the best and I will gladly fight anyone that tries to say any different. People that hate cats love my little fur monsters.

I was once asked by a guy that I was dating if I would ever love him as much as I love my cats. The answer was no. This was mostly because I had already set my mind to breaking up with him which I did less than 24 hours after the question was asked.

In my defense, he was insane.

I attract crazies, what can I say?

Anyway.

My cats are wonderful little devils. To non-cat people that sentence completely contradicts itself. How can they be wonderful and devils?

I imagine people feel the same about their children sometimes.

Anyone with cats are probably like, “yep, that’s accurate.”

Cats and kids. One and the same.

I’ll fight you.

My cats are true delights and as I mentioned above, people that hate cats love mine. They are sweet as all get out and basically just want to love you every second of every day.

Burger does have resting bitch face sometimes but she will also be the first to come love the crap out of you the second you come anywhere close to her. She is also part parrot and will stalk you down until she can jump onto your back and climb onto your shoulders.

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For some strange reason the only picture I have readily available of Parrot Burger is one of her and my brother from way back when I first adopted her… featuring my old apartment… in Massachusetts… this picture is old. My cat is a parrot.

I often forget to warn people who come over to my house about this and they end up with a surprise cat on them within minutes of stepping foot into my home.

Normally I see it about to happen and stop it. Other times I’m not that quick.

Fair warning if you are ever a guest in my home. Burger will attack you with love.

My cats are also weird as all hell and make for the worst possible roommates sometimes. The bad part is that I can’t even be mad at them about it.

I bring this up because of two separate incidents that occurred in my home yesterday. Surprisingly, the only innocent one for the day is Lemon. ANYONE who has met Lemon will be surprised by this since she is about as dumb as a stack of bricks.

Her favorite pastime is knocking chunks of ice into the garbage disposal.

She is not normal.

No. Our two culprits for the day are Burger and Guinness and it’s because of their undying weirdness.

The first, and possibly most infuriating, incident actually happened somewhere between the hours of 3am when I went to bed and 9:30am when I got my day started.

For backstory: Guinness is OBSSESSED with my FitBit. I have no idea why but any chance she gets to attack it she takes. She will take it by the band and try to sneak away with it. As a result I have taken to tucking it away when I’m not wearing it to keep her from getting her paws (well, mouth) on it.

Despite having put all my regularly attack accessories in their usual spot last night, for some reason I had left my FitBit somewhere in the kitchen.

When I walking into the kitchen this morning I found my poor FitBit on the floor with part of the band CHEWED OFF.

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The damage is pretty back but as you can see I’m wearing it with no problem. It doesn’t actually stick out like that- I adjusted it to get the picture.

Ever the patient parent, I didn’t even get mad. I only had myself to blame.

She’s a cat, she doesn’t know that she was potentially destroying a $250 piece of equipment.

Thankfully, despite being chewed the band is still functional despite not looking so wonderful anymore.

Completely unrelated: the major flaw, to me, for the FitBit Surge which is the model I use, it that’s it’s designed as all one piece so fixing and issue like this isn’t in the cards. Granted, the one time I had a problem with part of the wristband breaking, FitBit was nice enough to send a replacement tracker. I doubt I’ll be that fortunate this time around so I shall just learn to live with it. Function over fashion for once I suppose.

Anyway. I wore the tracker through the day with no issue so I’ll live.

Much like a parent with a toddler, I can’t fault Guinness for this because I know better than to leave the FitBit sitting around regardless of how tired I am when I remove it (did I mention I didn’t get to bed until 3am?).

Burger was our next offender for the day.

I spent most of the afternoon out of the house. I had a late doctor’s appointment and decided to take myself out to dinner rather than cooking for myself which would have involved a trip to the grocery store and I was in no mood.

I ended up running into some friends and stayed at the restaurant until it was time to pick up some friends at the airport.

It was a productive day… where nothing really got accomplished when you really look at it but let’s look at the bright side.

I left the house.

While Guinness has an insatiable hunger for my more expensive electronic devices, Burger has an undying love for uncooked pasta.

She can’t get enough.

It doesn’t matter what kind. Traditional spaghetti? So loves it! Elbows? She longs for it! Cavatappi? More like can-I-havi!!

Okay. That last one was a stretch but I’m tired.

Again, this is something I’m aware of and I do my best to not leave opened boxes of the stuff sitting around in the kitchen.

And again, I was making my dinner at one in the morning so I wasn’t really thinking when I shut life down for the night.

The box made it a good while without being disturbed but somewhere in the seven hours that I was out of the house, Burger made her move and attacked.

The result was a giant mess of noodles on my kitchen floor.

I can’t be made, this was a mess of my own making and she is an adorable fluff ball who doesn’t know any better.

On the plus side, my quick search of the internet tells me that her eating of pasta isn’t going to be a major issue. The stuff is basically flour, water and egg.

I’m just annoyed because that’s wasted food.

Not Burger’s fault.

It’s mine.

I should be less of a slob and remember to put stuff back in the pantry.

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YOU TRY TO STAY MAD AT THIS FACE!

There’s Nothing Wrong With Surprise Books

There’s Nothing Wrong With Surprise Books

I am notoriously fond of spoiling the crap out of the people in my life. I love planning surprises (usually without telling anyone) and springing them on my unsuspecting friends and family without a word.

One of my favorites was back in January when Andy and I were out at Disneyland. I had booked us the “Walt In Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” Tour. I kept it from just about everyone, which was hard because as good as I am as surprises; I’m also terrible at them.

I drove Andy insane as the time for the tour grew closer because he was super nervous that I was planning something embarrassing… this stemmed from Cruella pulling him in to be a part of the firehouse show the day prior. It was hilarious to anyone who was not Andy.

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The tour was an extreme success and we both had a wonderful time. I would actually highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about Walt’s history and that of the Disneyland Park. In addition, we got to tour the Dream Suite which was AWESOME. New life goal would be to stay in that suite.

It’s gorgeous.

I digress.

This past Saturday night I was spending some quality time with my copy of Jenny Lawson’s “You Are Here” and decided that my sister, Shannon, would really enjoy the book as well. She like weird and she enjoys coloring so it seemed like a win.

I decided to surprise her with a copy. As I was ordering I realized that she had no idea who Jenny was and so it was going to be weird to randomly send “You Are Here” her was with absolutely zero context.

Not to be deterred I decided it would only make sense to send along one of Jenny’s other books. I settled on “Furiously Happy” as I’ve been re-reading it more than is probably healthy for a human being.

With the decision made, I hit order and sent some books off her way.

So began the waiting game.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, the little surprise would be arriving Monday morning which actually turned out to be perfect. The Northeast is currently getting slammed with a blizzard and Shannon, a teacher, has the today off.

I’ll go ahead pretend like I planned it all to happen that way.

I got the delivery notification early in the day while Shannon was still as school and I promptly waited for her reaction to getting home and finding the package.

I then started to freak out that she would freak out. I mean, I knew she’d be weirded out by receiving an unexpected package but then I took a moment to think about how she’d react to receiving a book with an overly excited dead raccoon on the cover. (For context, meet Rory).

Then I realized that she’s related to me and frankly she should be expecting this kind of randomness from me.

I called her this afternoon to see what she thought and so far so good. She actually applauded the surprise since it was so out of the blue.

Her reaction was fun because she’s just as bad as I am when I comes to online shopping. We’re both big fans of doing some dream shopping and loading up our carts until we remember we’re broke and empty it out again. Her reaction was as follows:

“I saw the package and was like ‘I didn’t order anything from Amazon’ and then I got super freaked out that I got drunk and bought something but then I opened it was was like ‘is that a raccoon?'”

Then she found the gift note.

I love random gift giving.

Ya’ll have been warned.

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I have no pictures to add to this post to enhance it since my sister is not a blogger and doesn’t think to capture random moments… so here’s Guinness sleeping in the bathroom sink.

UPDATE: My sister has been enjoying “You Are Here” and sent me this picture of a finished coloring page:

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For the record, spellcheck wants to corrected “weired” to warded and now I’m in a Game of Thrones mood. But I have to go to the doctor. Violence and bloodshed will have to wait… for later.

Never Again; or, the Soundtrack to Your Break Up

Never Again; or, the Soundtrack to Your Break Up

Josh’s Note: The entry started its life as a chapter for my book “You’re Doing It Wrong” but it won’t be making the final cut. I didn’t want to just toss it away so I’ve transformed it into a blog post. To give some context to it all, I wrote this following a really nasty breakup with a guy who was cheating on me. Mentally, I took a really nasty turn and my personal life went to a dark place. I quite often use music as a release and naturally, during this dark time, I turned to my iPod to help me make sense of things. One song that really stood out to me to scream-sing was Never Again by Kelly Clarkson. This took me down a Kelly path. Once upon a time I had even told a friend who was going through a break-up to listen to the album “Stronger” on repeat. I was able to follow my own advice a dig myself out of that dark hole. Hopefully I can offer the same to those reading. For the record, the name I am using for my ex is Cawley and you’ll learn a tad more about that once we go to print with my book!

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There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Taylor Swift is an amazing artist. Love her or hate her, she is in amazing talent. I will be honest I wasn’t the biggest fan for a long time though I enjoyed a select few songs. It wasn’t until Speak Now and beyond that I really began to respect her as an artist, musician and human being.

As a young woman, Taylor has seen her share of heartbreak. She has had her share of men breaking up with her, and she breaking up with them. The results of these breakups are a slew of chart-topping hits.

You go girl.

Most people would think that Taylor Swift would be the one to turn to in time of intense hurt and heartbreak. Those people would be wrong.

If you’re my friend Leslie, the advice is always to pull on you Beyonce pants and move on. As I’m not willing to do the number of squats required for Beyonce pants, I’m going with someone who was rocking it before Beyonce called all the single ladies to arms.

Also if we’re being completely honest, I’m not a Beyonce fan. Please feel free to stop reading now Beyonce fans.

My answer for any romantic situation gone wrong is one Miss Kelly Clarkson. Oh yes, the season one winner of American Idol is where you want to turn when your heart has been viciously ripped out of your chest and stomped on.

My December

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In 2007 Kelly released the album My December and was met with a pissed off record label and some fans unwilling to take part in this dark turn. Prior to the release of this album she had seen hits with ‘Miss Independent’, ‘Behind These Hazel Eyes’, and ‘Breakaway’. When she took a turn into some somewhat darker territory, people turned their backs to her and said, “No thank you.”

I will fully admit that when the album was released I wasn’t impressed. I purchased it out of my love for Kelly but I couldn’t find the time and place for the catharsis she was attempting to bring to me. That was, until my break-up with Cawley when My December found itself on repeat for more time than I’m comfortable admitting to.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing beats a good cry. Only thing better is angry crying while belting out ‘Never Again’ at the top of your lungs. Repeat this with the whole album until you’ve reached a state of mental ease.

Your “Ugly Crying ” Song: Never Again

MVP Song: Don’t Waste Your Time
MVP Lyric: “I don’t want your hand, you’ll only pull me down, so save your breath, don’t waste your song on me.”

Stronger

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Now that you’ve gotten the rage out, it’s time to start the moving on process. Because you’re better than that. It’s time to switch over to 2011’s Stronger album.

(Note: If you are going through a regular break-up you can skip straight to this album if you so desire)

This album has been my go-to since its release. Around the time it came out, two of my very good friends ended their four-year relationship. She was looking for marriage, family, settling down and he wanted to hang out and smoke pot. She came to me looking for guidance and I responded by burning her a copy of the CD.

When it came time to mend my own broken heart (and I had worn out My December on my iPod) I turned to this album next.

When I get super frustrated, angry, or stressed out my answer is usually to go for a run. This album has some great songs for running out your frustrations and moving on. The running helps you gain a sexy body to make the poor bastard ever regret letting you go.

Sweaty is sexy.

Your “Ugly Crying” Song: Breaking Your Own Heart

MVP Song: The War Is Over
MVP Lyric: “All I have to say is you don’t deserve me. I’m finally walking away because you don’t deserve me and you’re not worthy.”

Piece By Piece

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Feeling better? Good. Now I want you to throw in 2015’s Piece by Piece for a reminder that there are good guys/girls out there. You’re going to find someone that loves you, that cares about you, that will take care of you. They will make you feel safe and complete and hold you so tightly that all those broken pieces come back together again.

You deserve that.

MVP Song: Second Wind
MVP Lyrics: “You can forget about me, while you were looking I was getting even higher. Say what you want about me, your words are gasoline on my fire. You can hate me, underestimate me, do what you do ’cause what you do don’t faze me. Just when you think I’m at the end, any second I’m gonna catch my second wind.”

Bonus Tracks

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Don’t think for a minute I’d forget about the other albums in Kelly’s catalogue of amazingness.  Here are some bonus tracks to add into the mix.

Breakaway

Your “Cry It Out” Song: Behind These Hazel Eyes
MVP Lyric: “Now all that’s left of me, is what I pretend to be. So together but so broken up inside.”

Your “I’m Pissed” Song: Gone
MVP Lyrics: “Your eyes, they sparkle, that’s all changed into lies that drop like acid rain, you washed away the best of me, you don’t care. ”

Your “I’m So Over It” Song: Since You’ve Been Gone
MVP Lyric: “You had your chance, you blew it.”

All I Ever Wanted

Your “Ugly Wine-Induced Snot-Crying” Song: Cry
MVP Lyrics: “Is it over yet? Can I open my eyes? Is this as hard as it gets? Is this what it feels like to really cry?”

Thankful

Your “Dancing Around Your Apartment Singing Into A Water Bottle” Song: Miss Independent
MVP Lyrics: “If you wanna use that line, you better not start.”

I’m not going to say this will work for everyone but it was Kelly Clarkson who got me through the toughest time of my life so far.

Counting Down to Halloween Horror Nights 27

Counting Down to Halloween Horror Nights 27

There are currently 189 days until Halloween Horror Nights opens to the world and I couldn’t be more excited.

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For the event’s 27th year they are running a total of 34 nights which is a welcome extension in my opinion. Last year’s event received an unprecedented extension when Hurricane Matthew caused the event to shut down for two nights.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the extended nights as I was in New York for the marathon.

Adding to the insanity of this year we will see an event night on a Tuesday where Halloween will be falling. The event will continue into the following weekend which will likely be an ideal time to visit as a lot of attention will be on Disney for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend.

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From what I heard of last year’s November dates, it was a quiet time and a wonderful opportunity to really experience everything without the insanity of the crowds. I’m excited to give it a go which will make it a crazy weekend for me since I will be running that morning. Not going to stop me from getting my horror fix one last time!

Now it’s a matter of waiting on announcements for houses and entertainment offerings. I’ve heard some rumors but it’s not my place or desire to spread false information on the internet so I’ll be waiting patiently like everyone else to find out more about what’s to come for Horror Nights.

Last year the first house (Texas Chainsaw) was announced in April so I’m hoping we don’t have too long to wait.

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I would gladly welcome to return of crowd favorite, Academy of Villains. As anyone who follows me on Instragram knows, I was instantly hooked to the show upon my first viewing and my face was a regular in the crowd.

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I truly loved the American Horror Story house and would love to see a continuation of that as well.

The original house “Tomb of the Ancients” was also one that I really enjoyed as, visually, it was stunning.

I wish I was one of those allowed to take photos inside the houses and have early access but, alas, I am not. Perhaps I’ll spend the next few months feverishly working towards figuring out how that all works.

Until then, I’m just going to watch this video over and over again.

189 days ya’ll.

Be the Aloha You Wish to See in the World

Be the Aloha You Wish to See in the World

Hello, my name is Josh and it has been four years since I’ve stepped foot on a Hawaiian Island.

I am lucky enough to be able to travel all over for work and I will never get tired of the grand adventures that I am able to go on. Back in 2013 I was lucky enough to visit the Hawaiian islands not once, but twice in the same year. On my second visit, I was hired to work on three of the islands: Maui, Hawai’I and O’ahu.

Anyone who knows me knows that Lilo and Stitch is by far one of my favorite movies and being able to travel the islands was so much fun. (I’ll be completely honest though, O’ahu was my least favorite island on account of all the tourists).

So why the random post about Hawaii?

Well, Moana came out on blu-ray today and the first thing I did today was run to Target to buy it.

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Not ever close to kidding.

Woke up.

Remembered it was Moana Day.

Ran to Target.

Barely remembered to put pants on.

I did decide to be somewhat productive afterwards by getting a haircut and going to Starbucks.

Winning?

I promptly returned home and popped that sucker into the player.

As proof, right after I wrote that line, I snapped this picture.

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Can you spot Pua?

I bought him after seeing him in Disneyland last September and falling in love.

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Anyway.

Watching Moana led me to reminiscing about my time in Hawaii and I decided to hunt down some pictures from my time there.

Now, I know that Moana is a Polynesian story more than a Hawaiian one but the two go hand in hand. The Polynesian islands cover a massive stretch of the planet. So please don’t come after me with any crazy nonsense.

I’m too tired.

My love for everything about the experience of getting to explore the islands knows no equal. Part of me wishes that I was one of those crazy big time bloggers who get those awesome sponsored trips to far off places because I would totally love to go and explore more of the islands of Polynesia.

Go ahead and add that to the bucket list.

For now, I’m getting ready for a rousing trip to Wisconsin for work. Perhaps as a goal for this upcoming year I’ll start setting aside some money for another grand adventure.

Gasparilla Distance Classic 2017

Gasparilla Distance Classic 2017

Once you’ve completed the Dopey Challenge at Disney it’s easy to think that’s as crazy as it gets. That is, unless you’ve heard of the Gasparilla Distance Classic.

This past weekend while thousands of Princesses stormed the Magic Kingdom for the annual Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I was trekking to Tampa for a different challenge.

I’m actually grateful for the weekend in Tampa as I’ve run Princess before and I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. I mean it’s another fun Disney race but I’m not the biggest fan. There is the thought of returning to it in 2018 to tackle the Glass Slipper Challenge but I’m up in the air. Gasparilla is cheaper and the challenge is easily $100 less than a Disney Challenge.

I digress.

For 2017 I returned to Gasparilla to tackle a beast of a race weekend with the Michelob Ultra Challenge. This two day event involves four races for a total of 30.4 miles of running.

I was asked on Sunday morning but another racer if I thought this was easier or harder than running the Dopey Challenge at Disney. Let me tell you something, it’s a whole lot harder.

I digress.

Like any big race weekend, it all starts with the Expo. Erica (who was in town for Princess) and I made the drive to Tampa for bib picket up. Now, normally I would do day of bib pick up but with a longer, challenge, weekend I’m willing to make an exception and make the extra drive.

The expo takes place in the Tampa Convention Center which has plenty of parking nearby as well as hotels if you are from out of town. Has both Erica and I been running this races this weekend together, I might have opted for local lodgings but I would be driving in each morning for the race. Not ideal but it made sense with our plans for the weekend.

For last year’s races one of our teammates had picked up all the packets so I had no idea what to expect so I was a tad nervous about the experience. There was no need!

Bib pick up was an absolute breeze (make sure you know your number, which is emailed to you, to make everything move along much smoother!). Once you’ve grabbed your bib, you move along over to pick up your shirts. The area was arrange with a section for each race and then one for the challenges.

The race SWAG is amazing if you’re crazy enough to do a challenge. As I mentioned, I was running the Michelob Ultra Challenge which involved all four races. As a result I received a shirt for each of the races along with a challenger jacket.

The weekend does have two other, slightly less insane, challenge options: the Michelob Ultra Lime Challenge (the 15k and 8k) and the Ultra Amber Challenge (15k, 5k, Half Marathon). The thing is, I am full blown nutty so I was in for the whole shebang: Saturday: 15k and 5k, Sunday: Half Marathon and 8k.

The result is some pretty awesome SWAG!

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There’s no such thing as too many running shirts!! 

At the challenge pick up area a wonderful volunteer puts together your bag with all four shirts and your jacket. Gasparilla does its best to be a green race and as a result your SWAG comes in a reusable shopping bag. It’s a great addition to the collection that lives in a drawer in my kitchen and I never use because I’m forgetful and apparently hate the environment.

I digress.

The expo is a lot of what you’d expect with sponsor’s booths, running gear and race supplies, as well as other local races (usually offering expo discounts!). We walked around for a bit but since we had to get to the RunDisney expo, we didn’t stay too long.

Saturday Morning

Race 1: The 15k

Both days are an early start because of the hour drive to Tampa. With the 15k starting at 6:45, I headed out around 5 for the drive and to allow time for parking. Just about anywhere near the start line you are going to pay for parking. Everyone was charging a $10 Event Fee for parking so plan for it. I made sure to have cash with me since it would be easier and faster than a card. This rang true for the parking garage I ended up in which was only accepting cash as far as I could tell.

I hit a port-o-john and seeded myself for the start. For the 15k the race is self-seeding unless you have a magical yellow bib. I didn’t qualify so I started in the second wave. I placed myself just a bit back from the front of the pack since I didn’t want to slow down the faster people.

Yeah, I run a lot and I’m not slow, but I am very much not fast either.

Not much worth reporting for the 15k. I kept myself at a steady pace and was happy to shave a few minutes off my personal record. I didn’t push too hard because I had another race starting just 45 minutes after I crossed the finish line.

I tucked my finisher medal into my running belt and made my way to the start line.

Race 2: The 5k

The downside to back to back races like this is the in between time. My legs with feeling it by time the starting horn went off.

Now for the 5k, they were going with something new. As this is the largest race crowd of the weekend, they decided to break everyone into waves rather than having a mass start. I appreciated this as it made life somewhat easier. It didn’t stop people from jumping into corrals they didn’t belong in but I’ll just mind my own business.

As I’ve mentioned before, 5Ks are not my favorite as they are usually populated by people who are not experienced runners. There is nothing wrong with that but when people seed themselves improperly, it can lead to a frustrating beginning of a race before the crowds thin.

This was the case with this race and I chose to ignore it since I knew I wasn’t going to be Mr. Speedy for this race anyway. I race my race as best I could with tired legs and came in at about 34 minutes. This is about 7 minutes slower than my best 5k but I had just run 9 miles before this so I wasn’t about to be mad.

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Why yes, there are people handing out donuts on the course. Yes I took one. Nope, I regret nothing… except this is the best picture of me from the entire weekend.

Sunday Morning

Race 3: The Half Marathon

Now, sometimes, I am not the brightest bulb in the pack. This was the case for Sunday morning. For some reason I had both races in my calendar wrong. I had them starting 15 minutes AFTER they were actually gunning off.

This resulted in a bit of a rushed morning. I had arrived and parked before realizing my mistake which left me just enough time to get to the start line and go.

For the half marathon the race actually starts in a different location than on Saturday when both races kick off from the same point. Sunday’s start was a bit further away. I got myself into the crowd of runners (this race was a one start free for all) and managed to seed myself with the 2 hour and 30 minutes pace group. I would have preferred to start a little closer to the front of the pack but from experience last year; this was going to be my expected finish time.

For the most part it was your standard half marathon experience. There was one “WTF” moment around mile 4 when a woman running directly in front of me realized her shoe was untied and rather than moving out of the way and stopping, she went around and came to a grinding halt in the middle of the road. This caused me to ram right into her, knocking her over

I. Was. Pissed.

I believed my exact words were “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”

She had some choice words for me as well.

Seriously people. Runner etiquette. Learn it.

I finished up with a respectable 2:20 time and had enough breathing room to grab a snack and make my way to the next start line.

Rather than tucking away my medal, I opted for medal drop off. This is a wonderful perk for challenge runners that don’t want to run with their half marathon medal. As this one is hinged, I didn’t want to risk ruining it while I was running.

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The medals this year were amazing as they were celebrating the 40th running of the weekend!

Another perk is that right at the medal drop off, they have some bananas and other snacks available just for challenge runners. This is wonderful because it allowed us to refuel without having to walk all the way to the runner relief area as the 8K start was right next to the finish line area.

Race 4: The 8k

I went into the 8k with no personal expectations other than to finish as quickly as possible and get back to Orlando.

I started off the race a bit annoyed because of a pair of women, a mother and daughter, next to me. They had seeded themselves way ahead of where they should have been and they knew it. In fact, they were boasting about it as they saw the pacers seeding themselves in.

DAUGHTER: Ha, look, we’re with the 6 minute a mile group!

MOM: Haha no way we’re going that fast.

DAUGHTER: Should we move?

MOM: Nah, people can just go around us.

I don’t know who you two are but know that I hate you. We all do.

This is not a safe move for anyone. Sure, everyone wants to get out there and go but when you don’t properly seed yourself with the appropriate pace group you run the risk of injury to yourself or someone else. When those elite people go, they go and if you’re in their way it’s going to cause problems.

What annoyed me the most is when I made the turn around and was heading towards the finish line, I saw the mom walking alongside the chase car. This meant she was literally the last person that was going to finish the race. Nothing wrong with that at all but it was an indicator that she should have started further back. The first half mile of the course is congested enough without walkers causing unnecessary traffic jams.

I encourage everyone to get out there and do their best but please be safe and smart about it.

I finished up the race, receiving my 8k medal as well as my challenge medal. I picked up my half medal from the drop off and made my way home.

In the End

Having run this challenge twice now I have to say it’s a sure thing to add to your running bucket list. The course is wonderful (though please note that you are running the same course for each race so prepare for the same view over and over and over again) and the SWAG is generous.

I will say that this challenge is a tough one, much more difficult than Dopey. Yes Dopey is more miles but it’s spread out over four days as opposed to four races in two days. Especially since you are starting one right after the other.

As of right now I’m not sure what my plans for 2018 will be when it comes to this race weekend. Gasparilla butts heads with Princess Half Marathon every year without fail so it is about choosing between the two. I’d like to run with my team at Princess and complete the last challenge on my RunDisney list, but I’d also love to spend less money.

I’ll definitely keep ya’ll posted on my plans!

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I actually love this year’s jacket so much more than 2016’s!!!