tl;dr – My anxiety pushed me to my breaking point, I had a breakdown the other night, and I’m really worried about my long-term health. There’s a lot that’s been slowly chipping away at me.
Let me preface a lot of this by saying I have a lot on my mind so please excuse my anxiety induced rambling. I’m trying to make an effort to write more and get a lot of things off my chest that have been taking a toll on my existence. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt the increasing presence of my anxiety coming back. Maybe it’s the seasonal impacts of days with not a lot of sunshine. Maybe it’s a number of things that I haven’t dealt with causing problems for me again. Right now though, I don’t feel healthy in both a physical and a mental state.
I’ve talked at length with a good friend (Ryan Stimson) yesterday about things and it helped for most of the day. Fortunately for Ryan I didn’t go into the long-winded tangent of my futile quest of figuring out why I exist and what my purpose on this planet is. There wasn’t advice or the “hey, this is what I do” crap some folks often offer subconsciously. It was just dialogue and questions – oh and lots of support. It sort of got me to the point where I felt comfortable dumping my thoughts out here.
One thing that came up was how I dealt with being a notable figure. I’m not trying to pump my tires here, guys. A few others in private discussions have had similar issues and concerns on this topic too. Social media can be really empowering for giving people voices, platforms, the ability to connect with like-minded individuals, but at the same time it can drain you. I joke a lot about the meta elements of something like Twitter; things like a brand and so forth. I’m just drained from the brand that is Mike Fail. Everything about it seems to bring on mental fatigue these days.
It’s why I took a break (and take breaks) and sorta just disappear from time to time. Sometimes it helps, other times not so much. Part of the problem is the impact of disappearing, having a horde of folks look for you, and creating external pressures that make things worse. Thinking about it makes me anxious and dealing with it is uncomfortable. Inevitably it compounds everything I’m feeling and makes things I do or want to do nearly impossible.
It’s exacerbating on so many levels even if the things I write or the things I make end up positively impacting someone. Part of it comes from internal pressure I have on myself to do the best work I can and it’s something I’m trying to work on (and failing miserably at), but part of it is external pressure of being measured against others. It’s a weird dichotomy in Hockey Twitter and I feel really insecure being impacted by it. Eventually everything hits a breaking point for me and I have a breakdown.
This feeling that it’s inescapable for me that I can’t be anyone else besides this Mike Fail figure that people know of me as. In a lot of ways it transcends the space that I could regard as safe spaces from it. At work people know about what I do and then they’ll want to talk about it. If folks are curious when I mention offhand that I write about hockey it’s one thing. It’s another to often deal with coworkers (some who I report to) talking about how I was on the front page of Reddit again or I was on Deadspin.
It’s a world that I try within reason to keep separate from my day job, a job that I love deeply, and a job I enjoy because of my colleagues. Work honestly is a refuge at times, even if it doesn’t seem like it some days. I feel comfortable here, I have a good support network, and I can be left alone to just do my own thing.
I just wish I was a bit more impervious to the anxiety it causes. It feels like I’m unable to turn off that part of my life for a few hours. I’m really trying to work on it, but at the moment it’s a really obvious trigger for anxiety. All that said I love the side-job that is what I do in the hockey community. I love having the ability to write, engage, and create with so many wonderful people. I love that it’s afforded me opportunities to travel, meet people, do stuff I couldn’t imagine relative to where I was a few years ago, and grow. I have a position of privilege and power that I’m aware of and I need to be cognizant of that regularly. I’m not perfect in that regard but I’m making an effort to do so.
But this weird pseudo-fame element of being recognized at games by people who might follow me makes me feel uneasy. It makes anxious to where I find ways to avoid folks, who likely mean well, but I literally want to avoid everyone. Then I start to have issues reconciling who I am as an adult, who is 28, and still uncertain about the trajectory of his life. Am I this Mike Fail brand or am I Mike Pfeil who is some schmuck who needed an escape from the real world to talk hockey a few years ago?
I feel like a caricature of myself when these feelings creep up.
All of this converges and makes writing an article or exploring an idea harder. Time and deadlines came up when I was talking with Ryan. It’s a huge pressure in the sports world and in sports writing. Most of your windows for ideas aren’t spread out over weeks or months. Those windows are hours, if not a day or two. It’s stressful and it creates a writer’s block. It’s impossible to explore ideas in those time frames because of the day job I have.
Not only that but the writer’s block impacts my day job. It’s frustrating to be unable to write documentation, do analysis, and work on my projects in a coherent fashion. I listlessly sit at my desk some days, struggling to write half a page of documentation, or completing a meager amount of work. I feel like I’m drowning because of the assortment of absurd and not so absurd things troubling me.
Really, I just want some form of mental clarity that allows me be successful enough where I don’t feel like my world around me is collapsing.
Finding the strength to put myself back into the dating world is daunting. On one hand I don’t like being alone and on the other, I really like being alone because it’s feels safe? Throwing yourself out there is incredibly hard when you’re always trying to pacify your anxiety long enough to last through an evening or even five minutes around a woman I like. I tried though and I think I failed. I had a few dates recently then the anxiety that I tried managing broke free after everything so I feel like I’m back at square one again.
I’m just an anxious mess really whenever I try to converse with someone I’m interested in. In the last few years I haven’t felt that anxiety that comes in these situations with one person. Often I wonder if there is a weird internalized pressure to aspire for that with others when I know full well that may never happen.
Most days I feel like an insecure mess barely held together with bags under my eyes darker than some scene kid’s makeup at the 2009 Warped Tour. All of these insecurities, anxiety, and daily battles just fucking suck. It coalesces into trying to figure out if I’m worth dating or if I’ll just die alone? Naturally whenever I hit this point it concludes with the aforementioned act of disappearing and ceasing contact. I feel like a coward when I do that. It’s all cyclical for as long as I can remember and it hasn’t gotten easier with age.
I just hope at some point I can be loved (that’d be really swell) and love myself. I’d like to eventually try to get through an evening with someone I like without wanting to bellow out the anxiety fueled rambling that often creeps up. Better yet, it’d be nice to go on a date or two without my anxiety running wild like Hulkamania and making me want to toss a smoke bomb to get away.
Right now though, I feel like it’s probably a good idea to give up on this for now.
The last thing – again, there are numerous things eating away at me – that continues to eat away at me is my dad’s health. It’s been just over a full calendar year since his diagnosis. From prostate cancer to bone cancer to kidney cancer in that time is a lot for him and my family. In August he had a procedure to hopefully kill off the tumor on his kidney that seems to have worked.
It’s now the lingering slow death march from the bone cancer that is crippling him. I think I’ve talked about how difficult it is seeing your parents age. I didn’t notice it, really, at all when I lived at home. I noticed it immediately in college and I notice it even if I see my parents every second weekend. It just doesn’t get any easier and it’s been a huge source of anxiety for me .
I can accept that I will likely bury my parents. I know that it’s really like I’ll bury my dad before my mom too. It’s hard not to think about their mortality – specifically my father’s – with how things are going. I try to remain positive even though it’s an extremely futile task to do so. A lot of the positive moments are overshadowed by a lot of grief that I hide or that manifests physically.
It’s just another layer of pressures to worry about that cause anxiety that I feel like I won’t be able to make it through. I just want my dad to get better and the chances of that aren’t exactly in his favor. It’s really taking it’s toll on my mom and my sister which magnifies all of this ten-fold. Honestly watching loved ones slowly waste away might be the most torturous experience next to sitting through a New Jersey Devils game.
Seriously, the Devils are so fucking boring. How has this team continued to exist for this long?
I’ve had some really dark thoughts but I’m getting help. I have a good support network for those I’ve let in and trust. I just want to be as close to mentally healthy as possible and manage my anxiety. I don’t want to be controlled by it anymore. I want to control it and live a fulfilling life.
I just want to love myself and accomplish good things one day.