The Importance of Self-Care

I think my anxiety is getting worse.

As a self-described introvert, I avoid crowds, the parties, large gatherings, and most people. I’ve made some strides with my FOMO (fear of missing out) experience, pushing myself to go out more, date more, try new things, do the whole gym thing. And for the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it.

However, lately, something else has manifested. At first, I dismissed it as the post-workout high, adrenaline. Maybe it’s just the rush after a good workout. Maybe it’s that pesky testosterone. Maybe… it’s something else.

The FOMO experience, as I’ve written before, has certainly pushed me to try new things. I’ve learned about the importance of self-care. As someone with a family history of diabetes and renal failure, I advocate yearly health checks and exercise. Man-up, men, and suck it up. I often tease, “This is the only body you get. No warranties. No refunds. No manuals. It’s the only thing you’ll ever truly own.”

My roommate introduced me to massages when he purchased a gift card for me. It’s something I’m truly grateful for as I never thought I’d find myself enjoying one. The experience was eye-opening, sort of like a mechanic pointing out all the things broken with your car. In my case, I was the broken car and the masseur was the mechanic. By the end of my first experience I wanted to marry my masseur. Massages are now part of my self-care, not only alleviate the fatigue of an aging body, but helping ease tired muscles from intense workouts.

A year ago I did some exfoliating and microderm treatments for my back. Youth left me with terrible acne scars. The results left me awe-struck, in a way that made me realize I didn’t have to be a slave to my past… in a way.

And here’s where we get a bit more personal and detailed.

Earlier this year I got circumcised.

It wasn’t a cosmetic decision, though I’ve always been somewhat self-conscience about it. Taboo and cultural differences aside, it was a medical reason, not vanity. Performance issues made some encounters physically uncomfortable or painful. Things were too tight.

“I’m glad you got the treatment you needed.. […]… I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself.”

It was this comment by a friend that really allowed me to self-analyze and see the importance of self-care. It’s in that comment that the creeping anxiety is taking center stage.

I discovered two things recently. When my dad visited a few months ago, in some of the photos (rare I know), I noticed terrible sweat stains. Sure, it was summer, but this seemed excessive. I’ve always been one to sweat excessively, even during workouts it was bad but heck everyone was sweating so it wasn’t a big deal. But, I was also sweating during other odd moments like driving, presentations/meetings, or really anything else with anxiety.

On morning drives to work I’d build up a terrible sweat stain. During the first hour of work–catching up on emails and reviewing the agenda for the day–I noticed a considerable amount of sweating. It didn’t help that most mornings there is a barrage of people messaging me or approaching my desk for help/bad news. “Fix this! Fix that!” At first, I dismissed it as that post-workout high. However, something wasn’t adding up. Visiting a dermatologist, I got diagnosed with hypohidrosis. A couple prescriptions later and what a world of difference. This entire time I had dismissed this excessive sweating as normal. Holy shit!

But then… enter the other side of this… the extreme.

The excessive sweating made way for the anxiety. Sort of how clearing the flood in your basement exposes the leak in your plumbing. You see, the blushing would occur, the hot flashes sans sweat. Given enough time though, even the medication had its limits and the sweat came like a deluge.

There’s something else going on.

I’m not sure what the triggers are. I don’t know how this manifested, or if it’s always been there. Sure, I’m a self-described introvert. I’m terribly shy around men I find attractive. Yet, this is all sort of new.

“This is the only body we get…” I remind myself. It may not come with a manual, but I have to make an effort to figure this out. There can’t be any shame in self-help, and in this case, I may have to talk to someone to figure this out. It’s beginning to impact my confidence at work, and my ability to focus to get things done.

This body is the only thing I’ll truly ever own. Here’s to self-care.

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Twas Summer

Summer is wrapping up.

I had originally set off to do a bunch of outdoor stuff, primarily state park visits. That didn’t happen. I got wrapped up in long work days, small weekend trips to Portland, random day hikes, downtown strolls, and coming out to my dad…

The relationship with my dad has been a strained one, to say the least. Sadly, the only real memories that stick out in my mind are, his infidelity, hardly ever being home (see prior item), not showing up for my school events, arguing, and having to take my little brother to the E.R. twice… and he wasn’t there.

Add to all that almost ten years of not talking to him, and yeah… he hasn’t been that big a part in my life. And yet, I felt a need to reach out. His stroke and mild heart attack really made me rethink our relationship. I’m not exactly trying to make up for lost time, but I don’t want to lose an opportunity to make amends, to get to know my father before he passes. If you’ve been following my posts you’ll come to understand how much I hate regret. I don’t want to utter “I wish I had seen him one last time… I wish had that beer with my dad.”

Counting down the days for my dad’s visit, I got anxious. Not only was I going to see him for the first time in a long time, but I decided it was more than time to tell him I was gay. It was going to be one hell of a reunion. In fact, I put him in a hotel just because it felt so strange at the idea of having him around.

I picked him up from the airport and was taken aback by his greeting; a strong hug and a small kiss on the cheek. I can’t remember the last time my dad ever displayed that sort of affection toward me. “It’s good to see you, mijo,” he said.

“You too, dad,” I replied, uneasily.

His three-day visit went quick. I wasn’t exactly eager, or set on telling him I was gay early on in the visit. I wanted to delay it, partly afraid, but also not wanting to distract from the visit. I didn’t know my dad well enough–not who he currently was anyway. I knew him as the absentee father, the hard-ass of my youth, but I had no real way to gauge how he’d react to my coming out. So, I played it by moment, by conversation, by day.

On the first day we strolled through downtown Seattle, the Seattle center, space needle, monorail, and Pike Place. We had a few drinks and caught up on family affairs–mostly his side, my uncles and the like. I learned of his mild heart attack, his shoulder surgery, and how my uncles have been ravaged by health issues. (A thought I keep in the back of my mind as I continue to make working out my routine from now on).

I tell him what I’ve done since I left California. What I do for a living. My likes, dislikes, and general interests. It’s like getting to know a stranger. Sure, he’s my father and he knows me, as a child… as the child I was. But now, we’re getting to know each other as adults.

There’s a hint of sadness behind his smile as I list out all the things I’ve done without him. He talks about my siblings, what they’re up to and how involved he’s in their lives. I can’t help but say “I didn’t have that growing up.” Sure tt’s something that could have gone without saying (or could it?), but a part of me did miss out on all the things my siblings and half siblings experience. It’s not entirely without understanding…

“I get it, dad,” I say. “You guys were kids” Referring to my parents. “Seventeen, when you had me. What did you guys know about having kids and raising them? Kids having kids.” I lay back in my seat and take a sip of my beer. “I was the first… I was the burnt pancake.”

My dad let’s out a laugh. “That’s funny. I’ve never heard that, but it’s true. We were kids having kids.”

The old wounds have scabbed, but not entirely healed. The hard rough edges of our past have mostly calloused over. I understand the situation my parents were in, foreign and naive in their youth. It’s not entirely forgivable, but I understand. The only thing we can change about the past is how we look at it.

I took my dad wine, ale, and whiskey tasting in the local area; in moderation. He held his own and I didn’t even see him tipsy. Though he was certainly more chatty.

“I’m not used to having my kid pay for me,” he says.

“Well, that’s cuz you got your oldest who is all grown up,” I say.

We end that day with dinner and I drive him back to his hotel. He’s about to get out of the car when I say, “I need to tell you something dad…”

“What?” He asks with a smile.

“I’m gay, dad.” The worlds fly out–pushed past all the fears of his possible reactions.

He nods and continues to smile. “Why did you wait until today to tell me?”

“I dunno. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, I don’t know you anymore. I had no idea how you’d react.”

“I knew. Your sister told me.”

I’m somewhat disheartened that my sister said something; not really her place to share the news. And yet, perhaps she told him to “soften the blow” so I let it go.

“Look,” he continues. “I love you. You’re my son. It doesn’t matter. I don’t understand it, but i love you. I’m very proud of you and who you’ve become.”

There’s a slight burden lifted, a tinge of emotion flowing through me that I can’t quite place. I’m not entirely sure what it is that I feel and as quickly as it comes, it goes. Many would ask what I felt and while most expect this jubilant explosion of joy and relief… I almost felt nothing. And THAT, if anything, is sad and just further drives just how strained our relationship is. This isn’t to say I’m ungrateful at the outcome, or unappreciative of my time with my father. But fuck, people, give me a break. Allow me to feel how I feel and stop dictating what emotion this mind is supposed to feel.

“Thanks, dad,” I say. “Means a lot.”

“Thank you for all of this–this has been a dream come true!”

His last words before closing the door bring a smile to my face. I’m glad I spent the time that I did with my dad. He enjoyed his trip, all the while understanding–like my mother when she visited–why Seattle is home.

“I kept telling your mother that you weren’t coming back after you moved to Seattle,” dad says.

“Yeah, I’m not coming back.” I look out into the sound as we ride a ferry. “This is home. This is where I’m going to die.”

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