Matt With MS

I am uninspiring, fairly lazy, living in denial, and think I'm having the time of my life 90% of the time. Let's change that.

Whole 365?

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So I finished Whole30 on Feb 4th.  I felt great.  I was actually scared to start reintroducing foods that I used to eat every day back into my diet.  Then I drank alcohol.

The first night after I started eating gluten-free grains, I decided to have a whiskey.  Then I had a second.  It was a blast, and I was just hanging out with my roommates in Alameda.

Nothing too fun, nothing too bad for me, and a great time.  I woke up the next day a little more tired than I have been, but all in all, felt great.

Then the weekend hit.  It was just Super Bowl 50 week in San Francisco, and the town was bumping.  I had a great time at my work happy hour, and then rolled to a few parties at clubs and what not, and ended up getting back to Alameda at like 4 in the morning.

After sleeping, horribly for about 5-6 hours, I ventured into North Beach for a Mardi Gras celebration, and decided to see Metallica at ATT Park that night.

I felt horrible showing up, like I’d forgotten what hangovers felt like.  I also utilized the age old recovery method of having another drink to get going.  I will say I had “fun,” but I’m not even sure that I totally did.

It was great to see all of the people I haven’t seen since I was a mainstay at these same bars, and Metallica absolutely destroyed.

But, the next day, waking up, I didn’t really remember most things, and I couldn’t find anything to be happy about.  I struggled through my day, went to a super bowl party and went to sleep early, figuring I needed to recover for Monday.

Reading all of this just feels weird now, where just two months ago that was my usual weekend routine.

The problem was, I didn’t recover how I remembered.  The last two days have been anxiety filled, lethargic, and just plain depressing.

Things I looked at a week ago and came away happy now bring worry, fear, and hopelessness.  When I looked at myself I say “yeah, you lost weight, but you’re still fat.”

Within hours of my work happy hour, I had bought cigarettes, and I spent yesterday coughing up shit, and fighting the urge to buy them again.

I’ve sat here all day on Tuesday, working from home, and trying to keep a focus that I’ve mostly had for the past month without really putting too much pressure on myself.  I am starting to feel like I miss home again, time to time, and wondering if I’d want to stay in the same bay area, that 3 weeks ago I remember saying, “is the only place I can see myself feeling at home now.”

So what does this mean?  I’m sure there are a good amount of people that know me, that would say “stop drinking, stay eating healthy and keep this going” without thinking, and where I’d usually make a case against that here, I think I agree.

I am going to go to Mexico in a week, and I’m going to probably party a bit in Puerto Vallarta with my company after doing some exploring in Mexico City for the first few days.   After that, I’m going to cut out meaningless drinking entirely until March (and only if I go to the first weekend of March games).

Then, I’m going to go full Whole30 again, and push with that until I’m in New Orleans in late April/early May.

I may realize that this is hard, and have to just stop drinking.  I personally believe that there are different levels on a spectrum of all types of addiction, and I think the way I react when cutting something addicting out of my life is a sign that I’m not one of those people who would need a drink every day, or someone who even struggles saying goodbye.

My problem, as with anything in my life, comes from my view of myself, my self confidence, and my feeling of missing out on something exciting.  I drink to get the confidence to do things that I would be scared to do, mostly with women.  I feel bad, and realize that I can have fun soon as I break down my inhibitions, so I mend the pain with some alcohol.  I keep pushing, thinking that if I stay out a little later, I’ll meet that one girl, or get that one text that leads to something else in my night.

All of this, I’ve known for some time.  The thing that a month of whole30, a month of focusing on me and making myself feel good, has changed in me, is that I’m realizing how this cycle exists in me.  The after effects are almost unbearable, and last night I sat here in my apartment, knowing that if I drank a few drinks I would feel better, the anxiety in my chest would calm down.  The running thoughts in my head may keep going, but they’d slow and I could find myself distracted by a tv show or movie.  I’d wake up today, and feel better, to an extent.

But this didn’t feel right.  And this felt like the saddest way to live I could imagine.  I think what I liked most of the last month, is that the happy times felt more sincere.  The best times I had and the conversations I had (which I have a lot of) were deep and thought out.  I didn’t just say things to placate or to make others happy as much, because I was more skilled and smooth about disagreeing.  Sobriety made my mind clear, and made me not feel like jumping from moment to moment to get away from bad thoughts.

This is something I liked.  This is something I already miss.   My health is a big deal.  My life is a big deal to me.  I feel like in the last three years I’ve changed more than anyone I know, and tried to stay the same in ways that are unhealthy.  Something as simple as realizing a lot of people love drunk me, because I’m fun, makes me feel like I owe it to them to give them that.  I think I’m getting closer to realizing that the people who truly cared about me are the ones that were over the top telling me how proud they were to find out I was doing this healthy change, and they are the same ones who would look at this weekend, and say, “it’s ok, just keep going.  If you need anything, I’m here.”  Which many have.

I feel like I’m finally ready to start joining that team and really focusing on moderation.

 

 

Moving Forward

After 15 days of Whole 30 and no cigarettes I feel like a different person.  Not internally, and not emotionally, but just physically.

Waking up, used to hurt.  My fatigue, I realize now, was pretty bad.  MS wasn’t the only culprit, but aided by a shitty diet, I think it was to blame for some of it.

I can’t take the last two weeks and just go back to what I was doing before.  I can’t.

I can’t let the urge to give up for a bit take over.  Even when I get frustrated with work, lonely, or feel bad about relationship/dating events.

That’s easier said than done.  I’ve sort of isolated myself during the last two weeks, and haven’t been in public much.  I’ve shied away from anything that resembles a party or a bar, and I think I needed to.

I, also, have really missed socializing.  I’ve put too much stock in my close relationships with a few people, and spent all of my time with 4-5 of them.  I want to get back into meeting more and new people, and I want to get out there.  I just am so afraid of smoking.

I know it’s only been 15 days, but the urge has been strong, time to time, and if I had ANY alcohol in my system, I’m pretty sure I would’ve slipped up.

Two nights ago, I was feeling pretty low, and stopped at 7-11 to get ice tea.  Well, I told myself that.  I bought a pack of Camel Crush cigarettes and walked outside.  After packing it a huge feeling of guilt overwhelmed me.  The feeling I would usually get the next day, after I’d smoked 3-4 that night.  I’ve done that before, and have thrown out the pack with 14-5 cigarettes left (usually after smoking one more).   Then, two days later I’m giving a homeless person in SF 9 cigs left in the next pack.  Then the next day, I’m buying the third.  Then I’m smoking again.

I thought about all of this standing in front of the RedBox DVD rental and just took the open pack, and set it on top of the machine and got in my car.  I drove home, played some Xbox, watched some Netflix, and went to sleep.

This didn’t make me feel proud.  It made me question my resolve.  It made me question everything I wrote in the last post.  Was this all about doing this to impress a girl?  Was it for my friends and family that are dying to see me healthy?  Was I able to do it, and was the first glimpse of sadness in weeks enough to push me right off track?  Was me stopping and not falling off a sign that I am stronger already?

These questions have been running through my head for two days.  It goes back to the fear with a disease like MS.  It goes back to that fear of the unknown.  That fear that you can’t predict the future, that you can’t avoid the bad in life.  It goes back to that fear I’ve had all along, “Am I just fucked up?”

Through my half-hearted search for mindfulness and inner peace, I’ve learned a bit about myself.  But I’ve also ran into the same questions.  The questions are usually my inner voice talking, thus ruining the quest for actual mindfulness when I constantly listen to them and address them, one by one.

That leads me back here, to this blog again.  And that leads me to another one of my inner feelings towards myself.  I’m still writing time to time, but it doesn’t feel as meaningful, because no one reads it now.  I could easily post again to Facebook and Twitter, and then I would probably have my 100-300 person audience back.  The attention would be there, the accountability that I had been seeking would be back.

But that wouldn’t change the bad things that I bring into my life.  The NEED for attention, the constant desire to be recognized when I’m doing good stuff, to need to–not so much, account for the bad, but to throw it out there because of my guilt would be back as well.

This is what I’ve been trying to avoid.  And this is not the point of this.  A pat on the back from friends and family is great and all, but one from myself is probably the most important.

I’ve gone two weeks with monumental changes to my health and lifestyle.  I feel better, and while still a bit dark, the depression and anxiety is no where near where it was when I would counter it with alcohol and tobacco and poisonous foods and worse.   The outlook for my future is still bright.  In fact it’s more akin to a bright light in the distance, than a dark cloud.  You can’t decide what either signifies, but the light does seem a lot more fun to travel to.

Healthy?

Can I say that I’ve ever been healthy?  I didn’t drink much in high school.  I didn’t smoke or chew tobacco either, until the end of my senior year.

I grew up with a step mother, who was educated thoroughly and personally invested heavily in health and wellness.  I listened to her at times.

But, in reality, I ate shit.  I worked out horribly.  I was obsessed with losing weight and “looking good.”  So even in the 2 year period that is now decades ago, when I was in the best shape I’ve ever been, I was literally starving myself and compulsively exercising, not healthy.

Last year I followed up 3 months of the healthiest I’ve been in over a decade with the worst reaction ever, to the freak infection in my surgically repaired ankle.   I got out of the hospital and just didn’t care for a year.  When I did care, it would be out of depression and just trying to grasp on to the fading life I could trick myself into believing I had.

This lead to, possibly, the least healthy year I’ve had in my life.  And this lead to where I am now; two days into not smoking, not drinking, and following Whole 30’s strict dietary rules to start off 2016.

First off, fuck resolutions.  They never work, just like diets.  I want to do this month to a) prove to myself that I can, b) prove to those around me that I can, and most importantly c) quit fucking smoking.

Smoking will kill me and lately I’ve come to the realization that it already is.  In December I would wake up coughing twice a night and every morning.  Sometimes I’d cough so hard that I’d almost pass out.  One time I did, luckily I was with work friends, annihilated, at our unofficial end of the year party and I came right to.  Another time, I coughed so hard I got a bloody nose.

Instead of terror, and a realization that I need to change, now, I started to feel the familiar pull towards “fuck it.”  The pull towards the feeling that this isn’t going to get better, and there’s not anything I could actually do to change it.

For the first time in a while, I see a future that I want to experience.  I realize that I have a lot to experience.  I realize that I may not be able to handle moderation.  I have to do this drastic approach to see if I can slowly inch back in some of my “bad” habits, and not all of them as soon as this month is over.

I am literally shocked how much better I feel 2 days into this.  My lungs are basically thanking me like they just won a championship and me not smoking is their higher power.  My head hurts less and less, and while I am still “expelling the demons,” I don’t feel like I’m going to shit my pants every 20 minutes.

I have an urge to get exercise, as opposed to an urge to sleep all day.   I have a positive outlook.  One where I look at my particular MS and realize that I probably have a great shot at not getting worse.   I understand that people won’t totally get the times i feel horrible, and I understand how horrible it feels to be called lazy when you can’t control it.  But, I also know that I use this as an excuse a lot.  And that I could do more and want to.

I look at the person who triggered most of this, and instead of hoping something works out with me and them, I realize that just that being a possibility is what’s exciting.

An in shape, financially responsible and mostly sober Matt Walker, is a person that is highly date-able.  I’ve looked at most of the people I dated more than just semi-seriously as a “last chance.”  Right now, the possibilities are endless in my head.  I still don’t totally know what I want in life, but for the first time in a long time, being alone isn’t terrifying.

I know that a lot of my thoughts and genuine feelings are, a lot of time, genuinely fleeting.  I know that I cycle, hence the last time I wrote in October.  I know that MS cycles too.  I know that I have a long, long road.

But, it’s just different.  In 2014, when this blog started, it was mostly because I just went through hell with my long time ex, and then dated an incredible girl, that didn’t work out.  I felt like shit about myself, and wanted to make myself the type of person who could work with this girl, and who could move on from my ex.  I wanted to do it to show myself, but really to show her, that I was awesome, that I was desirable.

That’s just not the case right now.  I want to show my friends and family who I am.  I want to look in the mirror and not think about how good I look or about how “fuckable” I am.  I want to look deep into myself and figure out exactly who I am.  The big realization is that if I’m constantly being someone I’m not proud of, and mixing that in with exuberance from my periods or drive and accomplishments, I never will find who I actually am.

I’m not scared.  I’m not anxious  I know this all may change, and I know that it’s shortsighted to act like this didn’t start because of a girl, just like last time.  But, it’s different.  Instead of doing it to be with that person, I truly understand that I get chances to date great people right now even.  What will happen when I’m the me I should be?

That’s a huge change from 2014, and a huge change from even a few weeks ago.

Let’s climb some more mountains.

Cycling

I started trying to write because I figured that MS and it’s effects on me would be the biggest hurdle I’d have to overcome.  I wanted to get out my comfort zone, and put my internal struggles out there online, so that I could a) hold myself accountable, and b) provide a look into the way people’s lives change and evolve after a diagnosis like this.

I thought I’d write a lot about bettering myself, about the things I did to turn positive and stay there.  I knew I’d write about the downturns and how I was affected by them.  I knew I’d have moments where things are bad.  I just didn’t know how much this would evolve into a blog about depression and those downturns.

Is it because I turn to writing when I have nothing else left?  Is it because I’ve been more and more depressed since this journey started?  Or is it because this struggle with depression is me, and will always be me?

I don’t totally know when this outlook started.  Did it manifest itself in 2005 when I left Penn State the first time, a failure in my own mind?  Or did it start earlier in life?  As far as I can remember my childhood and teenage years were pretty great, but I forget about the constant feeling of missing out, as I didn’t really party too hard, and constantly hung around a few girls that I thought I was “in love” with, although I was just a horny teenager who was conflicted towards who I was, and what I wanted.  I never hooked up with any of the people I’m talking about, and constantly made myself a little miserable thinking about it.

I also knew that I was popular, that I was smart, and that for my small town, I was also fairly athletic.  I knew that my parents had worked hard, and that I didn’t have too many worries.  I knew that even though they were split up, I was lucky because my mom and dad don’t match, at all.  I knew that I could hook up with certain girls, but I was afraid to do it with most, even if I wasn’t into them.  Yet it’s all I wanted, just with a select few.  It was like I had a horrible self image and low self esteem mixed with unreasonable standards, not so much high, but more very locked in and particular.

This lead to every hook up I had being meaningless, and the use of attention from girls I knew had a crush on me, just to boost my ego.  But, I was a “nice guy,” so I’d be polite and not ever mean to anyone, those staying friendly (and probably making it worse) for the people I was tied in with.  It lead to constantly shying away from taking a chance with someone I actually liked, until it was too late.  It lead to me not totally valuing all of the great stuff I had going for me outside of this part of my life.

This probably continues to this day.  Aside from one really long, and really chaotic relationship, most of my romantic experience stems from hook ups and either people I stop calling and “ghost” or people that do the same with me.  That one relationship probably only “worked” because we understood each other’s lack of self worth, and it gave both of us an outlet to realize that there was some good in us.

Are all of my problems tied to relationships?  I don’t think so.  I think this is the facade that I use to cover up all of my real issues.  I think that I have a lot of hard inner work to do, so that I don’t let this destroy me.  And buoying my feelings and emotions by throwing my happiness on other people is only going to end in destruction.

MS didn’t create this dark cloud, it was just the high pressure system that expedited it.  Where my life in my twenties was defined by the initial fuck ups, and the climb out of them, with constant battles to overcome dark moments  in time, a diagnosis of MS at 30 has made the periods of happiness and light more infrequent, shorter, and also more high pitched.

When things are good, I’m sky high.  I’m proud of myself that I overcame my failures, that I am succeeding while dealing with these health problems and that I can still be sharp even though just thinking it so much harder than it has ever been in my life.   I drive to work glancing at the Golgen Gate bridge in the distance.  “I made it,” I say internally.  I feel like I can do anything and the future is exciting.  I’m going to travel, and I’m going to do great things.  All of my worries slide away, and I’ll get to the things that are wrong eventually.

The problem is they don’t slide away.  Bills get forgotten and go to collections.  My health gets better than gets put on the back burner as jubilation turns to celebration and celebration leads to life hang overs of despair.  “Fuck it, let’s just have a good time.  LIfe’s too short” turns to “fuck it.”   My future is muddled.  The girl I’m seeing shouldn’t want to be with me because of who I can become, when I’m at my worst, and what I will be in the future.  My friends are all doing better than me, which has never lead to jealousy, just the feeling that they are all just dealing with me, and constantly keeping me around because they feel bad for me, and that they all wish I was that fun person I am when I’m at my best.  My family goes from proud of me in for coming back at life, to distraught that I’ll never be like them, or be a stable adult.  My work goes from something I’m immensely proud of, my company something I feel like an integral part of growing, to a life getting privileged developers jobs at companies financed by overpaid billionaires, with the mission of making the world a better place, all while we destroy it from our thrones in Silicon Valley.

This constant cycle feels like something that’s been a part of my life forever.  It’s always been “if ___ happens, I’ll finally be happy.”   Then I do ____, get happy, and things start to slide.  Now it’s ramped up, maybe because of actual damage from MS, maybe because of the damage I’ve done to myself over the years, or maybe because I’m just getting older and realizing that one of the most popular people I know, doesn’t really have anyone.

The ones that are there for me, family and close close friends, get written off.  Never consciously, but it happens.  I  know they’re there and I only draw positive thoughts about myself from them when I’m at my lowest.

I know that I need to do something for myself, not something selfish or extravagant, like I always do, but something that will actually help me be happy with me.  Something that can help me get purpose.  Something that will give me a reason to wan to live a mostly healthy life and want to be around in 50 years.  I need to figure out a way to keep making healhy choices.  Not smoking for a month, or eating healthy 70% of the week doesn’t do anything if you keep cycling back.

What scares me is that I may have to make an acknowledgement and come to grips with the idea that I am flawed, that I have made horrible choices, and that I can’t keep going as is.  I won’t make it through the next ten years if I keep progressing the way I have the past few years.  I won’t want to either.

I need to remember that I love life, that I love a lot of people, and that I love experiencing new things.  That I love reading, even though I fall asleep every time I try to now, that I love sports, beaches and water front views.  I need to realize that I can still experience these things, and not just as a distraction (which is what I’ve made all of this in the last few years).  I need to realize that mindfullness is something I have to reach for, that Matt Walker is going to die, and that while you’re ok with that, it isn’t something to make you throw away the time you have here.  It isn’t something that erases the experiences you could be having if Matt Walker actually loved himself.

No relationship, job, party, car, or vacation is going to make me happy if I don’t do something about my decision making and depression.  It’s terrifying to start this part of the journey because there’s a point where you will have to admit that there’s something else “wrong” with you.  There are people that you see in your life that will deny it, or will say they understand but shy away.  There will be people that project their own feelings onto you, and it will make you feel like they don’t get it.  There will be women that will write you off, as a long term prospect.  All of this doesn’t matter, at least not yet.  Worrying about how others view you, and fear of being alone is what dicates your life.  Make a change and do something to get over that and move forward.

Now, about that change…..

Continuing Life

This blog was set up to be a place where I discuss MS.  It became a place where I dove in head first and went all out last year.   It became a place where I answered and thought through questions I had on my own.  And it’s become a good analogy for what happens to you mentally after being diagnosed with a disease like MS.

The future gets sped up, scary, unknown, and less meaningful all at once.  Your beliefs are challenged, and the things you wanted down the line in your life change rapidly.  Relationships you have change and the way you think about them change.

Things that would have floored you a few years ago, just roll off your shoulder.  Things that you wouldn’t have a spent a minute worrying about keep you in bed all day with depression.

I’ve been struggling to figure out what I want for a long long time.  I still don’t really know.  I don’t believe that I ever will.   When things are good, that isn’t a bit scary.  A life of discovery and searching isn’t something that I’m against.  It’s this curiosity that I pride myself on.  It’s what makes me want to keep learning, makes me want to keep experiencing new things.

Things get bad, sporadically, for everyone.  Since diagnoses for myself, it feels like it’s something I can schedule every few weeks.   I get the feeling that I have no idea what I’m looking for, that I never will be steadily happy.  That nothing we do in life truly matters.  That no one really cares about your diagnoses and your health, and that you are on an island in life by yourself.

When your mind drifts to these thoughts, you try to center in on the great stuff going on in your life.  You also black out the bad, and can fall behind on things you need to do.

You wonder to yourself, why care about anything?  Why worry about eating healthy or drinking less, or not smoking cigarettes, because you have no future to stick around for.  Not necessarily because of the affects of MS, but because your philosophy is so shitty that there’s nothing to be excited about.

You look at romantic interests like unobtainable interests for a hopeless romantic, and not as someone that could be a great part of your life.  You think about anyone that likes you in terms of “too good for you” or “not good enough” with no finesse or actual thought.

All of these things are then rumbled around in your mind and you are left wondering, “am I crazy, am I depressed?”  You sit there wondering if all of these things come directly from the way your handling MS, or are they things that you would think no matter what you went through.

You’re left working from home one day, and not being able to focus on anything, because fuck your job, you don’t really help people.  Fuck San Francisco because it’s too expensive, an over-indulgent city where you’ll never feel at home unless you are embellishing in vices and over doing it.  Fuck you because you are creating a life long self fulfilling prophecy about you being alone and pathetic later in life when you don’t connect with anyone and your health diminishes.

You are left typing into a blog that you only type in when things are shitty but not when they’re the shittiest because you don’t have the energy when it gets there.  When you’re happy, you just go live life.

That’s normal.  People express themselves freely when they are in a bad place and want to get back to a good place.  But, what may not be “normal” is that you can’t think of a time when you believed things were going to be good.  When you’re in a good mood you try to pinpoint the source of that mood, and for you, that leads two things.  One’s to a girl that you like and the way you think they feel about you.   The other is usually success, and money.  With the first you sabotage yourself with any relationship because you can’t be looking for someone to save you and make you whole.  With the second savings fly out the window and needless purchases are made.  You travel 10 times in a year instead of doing it 7 and saving some money.  You buy sunglasses that go with one outfit, or new snearkers for a Friday night to look good when you probably should pay for your medical bills.

It almost feels like as soon as you don’t have to keep climbing, you take a jump to see how much fun the fall can be.  That leaves you constantly free falling and then climbing mountains.  It’s a relentless life and one that doesn’t feel like you want to keep going.

The possible worst effect of the mental anguish that comes with a lifelong chronic disease, is the constant comparing, the constant feelings of being lucky or feeling guilty because of “how bad/good you have it.”  When something horrible happens in  someone’s life you almost don’t know how you will react anymore.  Sometimes it hits you really really hard when it doesn’t even affect you, as empathy has built up inside you as you dealt with your problem.

Some other times, you have to almost fake having any feelings whatsoever.  You feel like a sociopath that doesn’t truly care for others as you know that you should feel sympathy but for some reason there’s nothing there today.

You watch a movie or TV show and where you used to enjoy something, you just don’t anymore.  It’s a like an emotional crapshoot.

Every morning when I wake up I feel like I’m rolling the dice on how I’m going to feel.  Am I going to actually have energy today?  Am I going to fly through all of my tasks with vigor or at least competence?  Am I going to lay staring at the ceiling dreading going outside, with numb legs and fear that this is only going to get worse.

What’s Next

What’s next is a scary question.  It’s more terrifying when the decision isn’t totally yours.  I feel like I need a plan, and something to get excited about, other than my plans for next weekend, my next vacation, or an upcoming date.

I want something big.  I want something that most would consider reckless.  I want to do something that I never thought I would do.

Before I get to the ideas, and before I even think about it, it’s time for me to fully accept my diagnoses, fully accept who I am as a person, and fully accept that I need to change who I am internally.

I’ve had multiple people that love me and care about me tell me that if I was as nice to myself as I am to others, I would be amazing and a whole different person.  I’ve had multiple girls seem to really like being around me, but be scared about being with me for a long time.  I’ve had multiple friends, look at me with a look in their eye that I was never used to seeing, probably because I was always looking for them to look down on me, and never notice — Worry.

It’s all justified.  I’ve tried to be healthy in a way that isn’t really trying at all.  I’ve done minor things to better myself, and continued with major things that are just hurting me.  I act like small concessions that make me feel like I’m giving something up, are justification to do more unhealthy and risky things around them.

I’ve sat scared that the slight changes in me are from getting older, and not from MS, but in reality, they are probably from a combination of – how I live… and MS.  I can’t keep going like I am, and can’t keep living like I am and make any positive changes.  I needs to address my health head on.  Diet, needs to change.  Drinking, needs to go down.  Smoking, needs to stop and stop for good.  Exercise, has to happen.  I need to get over not being who I was before, and not being decent or able to even play basketball, baseball, and football.  I need to find something that can get around my excuses about balance, my ankle, and my fatigue.  I need to find something that is fun for me, the way playing pick up ball used to be on the basketball court.

I need to stop saying “need to” and “hope I do” and go out there and make things happen.  I need to do all of this, or I will die young.  It’s that simple.

On top of health, it’s time to confront myself internally.  Living in the moment is something I’ve striven to do for months now.  It’s something that when done right helps me realize that the thoughts in my head are manifestations of my biggest worries and of my biggest fears.  Or of delusions of grandeur and cockiness, when they’re really good.  This keeps me grounded and gives me the ability to not fall quickly into depression and anxiety.  It’s something that when done wrong, leads to me making reckless choices and taking chances that are not in any way healthy.  “Fuck it, we will all be dead one day” is not the choice.

Not caring about money and possessions is a good mentality, but not when you make 3 times as much money as you ever have, yet have just as small of a savings and spend it all.  And I can’t blame it on medical bills and travel, yes that costs a bunch, but there’s still so much more money that I just through away and run through with no purpose.  That needs to stop to.  If you want to reach your goals you have to be realistic and grounded in your approach.

It’s time to realize that Matt Walker is a good person.  That I am someone that can be there for others, but needs to be there for himself.  I need to realize that I like myself and to start to care about how I feel.  No more rolling over for “friends” or girls, or anything.  Stand up for what’s right, and realize that any real friends or real relationship material, won’t find that attractive or fun to be around anyway.  You know this because your real friends don’t get that side of you, and you’ve been bluntly told that by woman that cared.

It’s time to stop worrying about who I am going to be and just be it.  I need to accept my flaws, and accept my qualities, btu not let that lead to feelings of guilt or despair, or pride and over the top boastfulness.  It’s time to get my feeling about who I am from myself, and not from how others feel about me.

It’s time to confrom MS.  To realize that I do have something that can kill me.  I do have a disease that could take my legs, and take my cognitive abilities.  I do have to think in relation to multiple sclerosis when I think about any life changes I want to make.  I do have to think about medical bills, health insurance, and pure mobility when I think about what I want to do with my life.  It’s time to not get scared, and forget this.  It’s time to stick with it, to be strong and power through it.

It’s time to inspire yourself, and not just in the moment like you always do.  It’s time to just start changing things in your life that you don’t like.  It’s time to find out who you really are.  You know now more than you ever have, who you can be, but you still don’t have it in you; who you truly are now.

So the plan.  In the next two years I’m going to travel more again.  I’m going to see more areas, and I’m going to figure out where I want to be.  Right now, I’m 90% sure it’s in the Bay Area, but let’s get that to 100%.  I do find value in the growth that could happen living in a new country, even if it’s for a year or two.  I do find value in facing the unknown, and knowing you can come out of it better.  In that time, I’m going to start slowly this time, to better myself.

I’m going to eat better.  Diet affects MS greatly, that has almost been proven at this point (scientific studies have been done but they don’t have the backing to run multi-million dollar tests, unless the outcome is a huge pharma contract.  On top of MS, I need to just eat better.  I live in fucking San Francisco, the easiest place to eat healthy in America.   No excuses here, time to lose some weight and get rid of all shit that I eat.

I’m going find physical activities that I love:  I was never an athlete by definition, but i was pretty good at sports.  That’s out now.  Unless major medical breakthroughs come, I will never be able to play basketball the same way again, or hit a softball.  My eyesight is changed, and my balance is off.  So what.  Swim, row, go canoeing, hike, do things that you like and bring peacefulness to your chaotic life.  Lift a bit, ride the bike, do anything to get moving.  I know that I feel better the instant I sweat a bit.

I’m going to cut back on partying.  I may have to go a month or two again not drinking at all, to be able to handle not smoking and actually quitting.  I may have to keep doing that longer.  I can’t drink as much as I do now, because I’ll die of something way before MS paralyzes me.  I need to do this, and I know that I can.  When things get ugly, it’s usually out of self-hate and loneliness, and needed alcohol to make me be social or forget about something.  That’s not healthy and not why I enjoy life.  Just stop.

I’m going accept that there will be multiple hiccups, but I’m not going to let them become excuses.  Saying, “well, you have to not kill yourself over setbacks” and then having a new setback each week is unacceptable.  That’s 2 steps back 1 step forward, which was definitely not a hit in the 80’s.

I’m going try to post this here, and follow along with my own journey.  Not for acknowledgement or to show off, but just for me and whoever stumbles onto the blog.

I’m going to struggle.  I’m going to bitch and complain.  I’m going to do it though.  I’m going to just make the most out of this life… as I learned in “When I Walk” a great documentary about a horrific case of MS… “because you only get one.”

1 Year In

Muckfest MS: after

Muckfest MS: After

What have I learned in 1 year?  Let’s see….

My life started 1 year ago today.  My new life, or so to speak; my life of trying to figure out who I really am, and trying to fight MS heads on. Funny, thing is, it looks a lot like my old life in my tinted view right now.

A year ago I was reeling and alone.  Although I had tons of friends, I was in a place where I didn’t know what to do.  I talked to my friend, Jennifer, and expressed my intention to write a blog and to start to take control of myself.   I wanted to get it out there publicly and see what happens.  I wanted to truly start my journey.

I wrote out what I wanted to say, sent it to Jenn, my sister Taylor, and a few of my best friends in my life.  I made a video on Youtube to post simultaneously, at the request of my friend,  Steve Gerben, who talked me up with confidence to be able to do it.

I was scared no one would like it, and that no one would read it, and more so, that no one would take me seriously.  On June 25th,  I posted the blog, and went to the bar with Jenn to have a drink and calm myself down.  I went home early and went to sleep with 2 likes on the Facebook post and a nervous feeling of “what did I just do.”

The next day I got about 150-200 messages.  It was overwhelming, reassuring, and awe inspiring all at once.  The blog and my challenges became my life, and the summer of  ’14 became all about that.  I fell behind a little bit of work, sort of righted myself for a bit, and struggled to find the balance I was looking for.

I’ve made so many friends; I’ve made so many strides at work.  I’ve actually taken medication for MS and went to the doctor’s routinely.

I, also, am still the same person I’ve always been.  I still have issues, I still have the same fears, and I still have the same douche mentality that posts 9 million things online.  I still love attention, and I still love just going with the flow and having non-stop fun.  I still feel out of shape, I still feel like I didn’t deal with my MS, and I still feel like I can always do more, even though I’m tired as hell.

I’ve gone through things that I will never experience again, and I’ve done things that I’ve never done before.  I’ve walked 2 5k’s and “ran” a 5k mud run in October.  I’ve climbed a mountain I couldn’t in 2013.  I’ve held fundraisers.  I’ve done dumb things.  I’ve done healthy things.  I’ve traveled more than I ever have.

I’ve become more cynical, all the while looking for a sort of boundless optimism.

I’ve grown up mentally, and understand what anxiety feels like, when you think it’s justified (as opposed to before when I hated myself for feeling this way, because everything was “great” and I was unjustified to feel bad).

But, in reality, I’ve gone up, up, up, down, down, up, down, up, DOWN, UP, down over and over again.  I’ve done some good, and those that know me, know that I’ve done some bad.

I’ve been away from family and home for a while, and I’m still here, still kicking and still fighting.  I’ve fallen for people, got over it, fallen again.  I’ve ignored friends that I shouldn’t, all in the name of being busy.  I’ve had some people that I thought would be fixtures in my life, leave, and I’ve had some people that I didn’t know become new fixtures.  I’ve realized that some are going to come and go, but an inordinate amount of friends I have will always be there.

I’ve been to the hospital about 10 times in a year, spending 12 agonizing days in the Alameda hospital in November.  I’ve lost money gambling that I shouldn’t, I’ve made decisions to not gamble that I’ve never made before.

I’ve quit smoking and started smoking about 35 times.  Only 2 times significantly.

I’ve read my first 10 books in over 2 years.  Just saying that sounds insane for me, and embarrassing.   I’ve come to accept that I’m not 20 anymore, although, I wouldn’t say I have accepted it and moved on.

I’m at a point where I don’t regret some of the things that I’ve talked about on here internally any more.     I don’t regret my past; I just judge why I can be so fucked up in the present at times.

I’ve tried therapy; I’ve talked the ears off of friends.  I’ve learned to be there, truly for some friends, and I’ve learned when to stop just looking for everyone to be there for you, as you need to give something to be someone’s friend.

I’ve given up on any form of online dating working, and decided I’m living in real life.  I’ve decided it’s not a game and it’s not a fixture in my life.  Anti-social people need to gear up for meeting women, social ones can just go make friends and see what happens.  When I’m at my best, I’m the latter, Tinder, and all that bullshit, makes me the former.   I’ve learned how long someone can stay with your thoughts, no matter how much you have moved on, after spending years with them.

I’ve joined a gym, went a few times, and then basically have a membership that acts like a subscription service I don’t use, a once a month charge on my credit card that sits there staring at me.  I’ve planned to go back.  I am this week as long as the ankle holds up.

I’ve paid back every human being that I owed money to, albeit with some leniency from my parents for my early 20’s.  I’ve missed payments because I don’t check my mail, and I’ve paid more fees than any human being should.  I am horrible at paperwork (or just lazy) and I am getting that stuff straightened out.  Maybe I’ll hire an assistant.  Just kidding.

I’ve come to love NorCal, and I’ve experienced more of the bay and the surrounding areas.  I’ve come to appreciate that we live in such an awesome place, while learning to truly miss New Jersey.  I’ll say that again, I truly miss New Jersey.

I’ve travelled, and know that I want to do that more.  I want to live somewhere new, if I ever leave here.  Having the professional ability to choose wherever I want to go, and feeling 100% happy where I am is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I want to take chances, but healthy ones.

I’ve learned more about myself as a person, than I ever have; yet I still have no control over myself at times.  I’ve learned that I can scare the shit out of myself when I let my mind roam.

I’ve learned that you can do a lot of good, and will if you try.  I’ve learned that you can do a lot of bad, and you will if you let yourself.  I’ve learned that who you are as a person, can’t be defined by your weakest and worst moments, just as it can’t be defined by your best and strongest.  I’ve also learned that you have a way better chance of establishing others’ lasting views with a few of the weakest than with many of the strongest.

I’ve learned that I don’t want to post this blog any more on Facebook and Twitter, looking for likes, comments, and attention any more.  I feel better when I write consistently, but I feel worse about myself when I think about who’s reading it.

I wish I did more of this in the last year, and I wish I posted more frequently.   But, I’m going to stop putting things up publically to everyone I know, to stop trying to reach that 1 to 10 people I’m thinking about when I write, almost subconsciously.   I may keep the WordPress site going; even if literally 5 people read every one I write.   I may just keep a journal. I may try to write stories.  I may do none of these things.  I may write emails for work and go home and not read or write anything.

I will continue to succeed at work, while making myself healthier, and happier, and I may start to be able to make friends and start new relationships healthily and from a good place.

I have not learned enough yet, and I may keep making mistakes in these areas and only going crazy over things I can’t change.   I may keep friends around me that take and take, and feed into my own demons, and I may invite old ones back into my life from before.   I may take too much from those that care about me, unintentionally.

Anything is possible.  It’s all on the table.  I know that this blog and Facebook became what most everyone from home knows about me, and it was almost a running story of what I was doing out in California.

In all honesty, its not close to covering that, and I’m going to use writing to get my feelings and thoughts out, not to make myself feel better, or make myself feel like I’m impressing people.

I’m going to continue to laugh, to smile, to say sarcastic shit, to bitch about traffic and the way Californians drive, to wish I could get good hoagies and pizza, to enjoy the food I’ve never tried before, and to meet new people.  I’m going to keep having fun, and I’m going to probably keep being annoying at times, and a little bit of a attention whore.  But, overall, I’m going to keep trying to find my life, and what I want, no matter what I have to do.  Thank you for everything, that anyone I know, has given me this year.  I appreciate it more than you all know.

Be kind, be caring, have fun.  Simple and efficient.   Don’t stop looking for greatness, and don’t accept sadness.  Experience it and learn.   Happiness is really all that matters.   If you don’t like something, change it.  Never stop growing, and never stop learning.

“Hey, hey, hey.  A life.  A LIFE, Jimmy.  You know what that is?  It’s the shit that happens while you’re waiting for the moments that never come.”

Lester Freamon, The Wire.

Back At It.

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As I wait to board my flight back to San Francisco I got the itch. The itch to jot something down. To jump back into telling a story, the story of me. The story of who I want to be, and who I feel like I am.

I stopped writing at the end of last year because of many reasons, but aside from not having time around travel, work, and losing my mind then regaining it, there were two main reasons.  One, the pressure of putting so much of my personal life out there was getting to me. Two, I wasn’t being totally honest with everyone.

I didn’t want people to worry about me, and I didn’t want family and friends to know that things were really fucking depressing at times, or that I was doing wreckless shit to avoid worrying about it all the time. Or that I made a huge mistake staying in SF for the holidays and was on the brink of losing my mind at all times.

I didn’t want to tell anyone about it, and I was hating myself for pandering to make people feel better when I wrote the few times I did in the end of last year.

In the summer of 2014, it was easy to write. It wasn’t easy to live, but it was easy to write, because I was doing everything I can to go over the top to be healthier, and to beat back MS and all my other demons every day.

You want the honest part? I hated it. I hated not doing things that I wanted to do, when I had free time to do it. I hated living every day in my own head, and I hated using every waking moment to walk, or write to just quiet the screaming inside my brain.

It’s a weird feeling to explain; when you actively wonder to yourself if you are insane.   When you take apart every idea that is thrown at you, because you have taught yourself to apply critical thinking, but it ends up with you wondering if anyone else lives inside his or her head like you do. I’m sure some of you will understand, and it may be more than I know, but after my last 3 years of life and self exploration, I ‘m not sure whether I’m just like everyone else, or completely different when it comes down to the things I internalize. I basically don’t know if most people have the internal conflicts and communications, as I do constantly.

I know I’m sane, I know that I care, deeply, about others at times, and that I sort of hate that moving to SF has killed a little of that part of me off, and that I’ve become a more selfish person from my diagnoses and from shooting for the stars with my goals in my career and seeing that pay off. I know that I never want to hurt others and I know that I want other people to like me, to a fault.

I also know that I have it in me to hurt the ones that care about me most, through my own actions that I see only as affecting me.   I know that I don’t think about circumstances in the moment and love to just live life on a whim. I know that I think different and don’t usually take hard sides on an argument, leaving room to be convinced of something I haven’t thought of. Well, unless it’s something huge like LeBron vs Kobe (Witness, baby).

I know that I don’t care about the things that I used to care deepy about. I still love watching sports, and I still love arguing politics but I’m more about picking apart daily life and arguing over ways that we could be better as a society and as a people.

I don’t intend this blog post to be all about me, so this seems like a good time to talk about something I’ve noticed in myself and in friends and acquaintances.   We’ve lost the ability to truly care about others to a small extent.   Now, to be clear, I feel like society is fine, better than ever even. We are kinder to each other and more and more of the world is at peace as time moves on.   News travels fast, so we see all the horrible things that happen quicker, but in reality the % of problems is getting lower and lower.

But, how about just being nice to each other, and caring for the ones that need it. My big realization came to me while venting about friends that I have and about colleagues and people that I meet at work.

Even though these instances are about people that I care about, and actually like, I was still complaining a bit to make myself feel better about me.   When I have a weekend bender I look at my friend that’s still partying on Sunday and talk about them like I’m doing better. When I see someone miss something at work or leave out details I bitch about it to someone to make me feel better for my own laziness at work.

Why do we do this? Why do we feign care, and sling judgment to others when we really should do the uncomfortable thing, reach out, and try to make those that know us better?

Probably, because life is fucking hard. It’s not easy to go through death, heartbreak, sickness, and failures without looking around to realize that you’re still ok. It’s not easy to care about people that are not in the interest of helping themselves without judging them. It’s not easy to live life in the moment without judging every situation so that we can make better informed decisions. While that seems like a productive strategy, I’ve found that it can make you cold and overly critical.

I’m going to try and apply this all to my life starting now.   I’m about as happy as I’ve ever been, and I know I’ve said this before, and I usually meant it, only to find out wasn’t totally true when one thing turned. To guard against this I’ve thought about things like “what if I lost my job” or “what if I went through another breakup with someone I really like?”

Gasp, even the big one: “What if my health took a turn?”   “What if I woke up and couldn’t see or walk the same one day this year?”

How in the hell would I deal with this? I don’t know. I don’t truly know if I’m dealing with anything in my life. I know I’m trying. I’m trying to figure out what I want in my life for future goals. I’m coming to grip with the idea that I’m actually as successful as I imagined back in high school, when I was a cocky kid that could test well, never had to try, thought life was magical and easy to figure out; but really didn’t know shit.   I know what I want in dating, and in relationships.

I know what I want from my friends, and that I what I want in my health is something I can control. I don’t want to never drink any alcohol, but I do want to never smoke cigarettes or do any drugs. I want to cut back and to be honest, I don’t even enjoy drinking for the sake of it, I enjoy having fun. This winter was a lot of weekends just spent doing dumb shit, and not being social, I know that I don’t want that.

I know that I want to exercise again. Until I hurt my back and the ankle got sore, I was hitting the bike at the gym and just that felt good. I want to get back to golfing once or twice a week, and to eating healthier.

Fuck kale, and you all can stop lying to yourself by saying it’s good. Lettuce is better. But I don’t want to eat bar food and fast food ever. You just feel like shit the next day and it’s not worth it. I can cook like a champ and I hadn’t made myself a meal in 2015 until about a month ago. Animals taste delicious, so I’m never going to be a vegan or anything like that, but fried crap and non-lean meats need to go.

I want to write more again. This helps. This is entertaining for me, and it’s a way for me to get my message out there. When I started writing I loved hearing that it helped people going through other diseases that read it. Then I started to pander and use this to make myself feel better. I don’t want that. I want to get back to just telling my story. Because I do like the idea of someone coming across this after being diagnosed and realizing that they aren’t alone. That they aren’t the only one that has a little part of them that hates people for being healthy. That they aren’t the only ones to actively think to themselves and ask, “Could you kill yourself if this gets worse?” That they aren’t insane to think, “no, too many people care about me, and I’m too big of a pansy to do it.” That they will have times when they don’t care about their health because who cares, MS will start to affect me later. EVEN THOUGH MEDICAL SCIENCE IS SCREAMING at them to be healthy because a cure is on the way.

I don’t usually name people on here, but a good friend of mine had a health scare last week. He was told he could have leukemia.  At my age we’re starting to see more and more people that have had to hear that horrible news. You know what I’m talking about. A scare for you, a death for a friend, or family member, a sickness in someone you love.   Once, you’ve truly dealt with that pain, and that fear, you get a bit better at being there for friends in the same situation. In an instant you have talks that people that don’t know, don’t have.

After the tests came back he didn’t have anything too serious, and I internally went from “worried out of my mind and empathetic” to “jealous and alone again as the one that has something wrong with them.”

I told him instantly and we laughed because we have horrible senses of humor, but then I started to feel really bad about it.

This prompted me to start to think about writing again. To start to deal with my health again, so the people I love and want to be with all my life, don’t have to worry and don’t get hurt 20 years down the line when I keep doing harm to my body. This thought prompted me to plead on here for people to stop arguing over everything all the time, and find common ground on issues so that we can learn and care for each other. It prompted me to just want to ask others to be kind, and to strive to make others around you better, because one day, you will need someone there to help you do the same, and hopefully you will have been great enough to have a few people there to pick up the slack for you.

RE-_____

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I didn’t want to have any part of an “end of 2014/New Year’s Resolution” type blog post. I also had planned on writing more than once since I was released from the hospital in November.

As I sat to push myself through this before moving on to some non-existent New Year’s Eve plans that will materialize and, knowing San Francisco, probably still be fun, I had no idea what I was going to write.

I feel like I try to inspire myself as much as others when I write here, but I wouldn’t be honest if I act like I’m always inspired.

As 2014 rolls to a close I have to say that inspiration only pushes you so far. Being inspired and working for a few weeks / months is why diets “work” then don’t. It’s why setting short-term goals works so much better than dealing with long-term prospects.

This year I have been inspired at times, I have made decisions based on that. I have also had moments where I lost all inspiration and felt lost, depressed, and never worse about myself as a person.

I have no interest in 900 word pat on the back from myself but looking at 2014, I have done so much. I can’t act like life is horrible. I have no interest in saying what I will do in 2015, because one of the only things I’ve learned this year, is that plans change and you have to adapt with them. One minute you’re gliding high, the next minute you’re in a hospital bed with your leg looking like a zombie infection.

My mentality and mood is determined by what’s going on in my life, and my hopes, dreams, and even memories are tinted by my mood.

With this in mind, I will try to give an assessment of where I am right now. An accurate idea of what I really feel about my life.

RE-build: I’m in the Rebuild trial. The trial is a double-blind, parallel group, placebo based trial that has a “cross-over.” Which means that I will get the medicine that is supposed to help regrow some of the myelin sheath surrounding my neurons, which MS eats away no matter what group I’m in. I have to get a first appointment set up for January, and the biggest problem I see is that I will have a few more doctor’s appointments scheduled in for the Spring. I’m excited to see if this helps, and it feels like I’m helping others by partaking in the study. I can’t see a downside to this, as the medicine has minimal or no side effects.

RE-evaluate: My life. I look at it at times and am ashamed that I’m not farther along the path I envisioned for myself when I was a teenager growing up in NJ. I live in the Bay Area, I have a great job. I had a great year at said job, while dealing with some major issues in my life. Every one of the problems in my life comes from something I create for myself. I’ve managed to stay out of my own way enough since 2008 to graduate from college, start a career, and move across the country. I have no idea where my life will take me, but I know I’ve done some stuff to be proud of. I’ve accomplished things and made my mark along the way. This is the extent of the back patting, but I have to have a lot to be proud of so that I can strive to keep rising.

RE-think: My decision to “save money” and not come home for the holidays. I had a blast out here, but I don’t feel like I ever had a Christmas. Being with my family and friends was like a reset button last year, and it got me leveled off and ready to take on 2014. I came back in January swinging and had about the best 6 months of my entire life, aside from one issue. I hope I didn’t miss out on that this year.

RE-charge: 2015, goals. My goals aren’t going to be set in stone, or any type of resolution, but I just want to get out of my own head and get back to being me. I am most of the time, and I would think only those that know me best would understand my level of anxiety and over-thinking, but I want to be done with that so that I can experience life to the fullest as I go forward. Work, friends, women, everything; worrying and planning for what I think is going to happen never really helps. Live in the moment and appreciate this quote that has been on my facebook wall for 7 years. “Never looking back or too far in front of me, the present is a gift and I just wanna be.”

RE-engage: Work. Dating. Friendships. Health. For the past two months I have sort of pulled back from a lot of these things. Part of this is being in hospital, and then stuck in my living room for a few weeks. Part of this is depression and anxiety. Part of this is the fact that it was easier to drink at my house and go to sleep. None of this is what I want for my life. Time to get out there and experience the world.

Re-act: When things arise in my life I tend to either procrastinate or pull away from anything unsettling or that could be a set back. Time to be productive and to create progress. This doesn’t just include new things that help, it means dealing with any issues head on as opposed to acting like it doesn’t matter until things pile up.

You all get the picture. This year has been huge for me. Coming to grips with a degenerative disease that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, coming to grips with the end of the most significant relationship of my life, coming to grips with the West Coast actually being my home and not just a place I moved, and coming to grips with myself have all been a part of it. I feel good about most of those things. I like it here. I have made some friends will be with me for the rest of my life. I have gotten to know this city, and feel at home in my small bay town. I haven’t totally gotten a grip on relationships, but I don’t have any hate or blame left from before. I think that I’m ready to put myself out there again. I thought I was earlier this year, and I wish I was, but I wasn’t. 4 years isn’t something to laugh at, so I’m done blaming myself for everything there too.

Now the big one. MS. I still am not scared when I think about it. I still focus on other parts of my life when I am depressed or upset. I still feel better when I just ignore it, and then take a symptom such as not being able to catch keys when people toss them to me, or not being able to speak as fluently (and I do love talking) as I’d like hard. But, I think I’m getting there. It’s an exciting time for auto-immune diseases, and there’s actual cures coming. On top of that, I do realize that I have the opportunity to do some amazing things with my life, and I am going to do them.

Finally a big thank you to everyone in my life. I want to name everybody (never named people on the blog on purpose) but my main worry is that I’d forget someone important. Let’s just say that every phone conversation, every person that was there when I found out I may have MS 3 years ago, every person that’s picked me up from a hospital (unfortunately that’s multiple), every person that climbed my hike, every person that donated to the fundraiser, every person that’s listened to me bitch once or 9 million times, every person that ran in the muck at Muckfest, every person that’s commented, liked or just read my posts, every kid that payed attention to me when I spoke at South Hunterdon, every person in my life out here, every person from my life back home, every family member that checks on me, and worries about me (I wish they wouldn’t but I get it), and all the people that I meet on a daily basis. I have a life with so many important people in it, that I don’t know who to call sometimes. I focus on certain people that are there, and sometimes forget about ones that I shouldn’t leave out. I hope I’m a good friend, son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson, co-worker, date, ex-boyfriend, recruiter, adviser, conversationalist, etc, because you have all made me me on the other side of these relationships. Thank you for that.

I guess I did a 2014 recap after all. Let’s go do this 2015 thing, you guys.

Happy New Year,

– M

Luck

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For the last 3 weeks I have been in pain, feverish, and have spent 2 weeks confined to a hospital bed. Now, I’m stuck in my apartment, with a long-term IV line (PICC) in my arm to deliver antibiotics daily to fight the infection that invaded the hardware in my surgically repaired ankle. Aside from my roommates and a few friends, my most personal interactions in a city that I love, and want to experience, have been confined to Facebook and twitter. Some would say that I’ve had one hell of a string of bad luck.

Define luck. Some people would call it a form of karma. Some people would call it random chance. Others, myself included, would say that it’s a made up belief that we use to justify the circumstances we are dealt with. One that is highly subjective and enables us to find reason when unreasonable events occur in life.

To say that I’ve had a string of bad luck would not be looked down upon by many people. To say that I need something “good” to happen wouldn’t either. To say all of this would be easy, and is something I admit to doing when I’m at my lowest points.

But it wouldn’t be true to what I believe when I’m thinking crystal clear, unemotionally, and on point. I would be lying, and partly giving up to chalk things up to luck. As a recruiter, that is financially tied to other people’s decisions professionally, there’s a saying that I truly do buy in to. “You make your own luck.” Basically, there are going to be deals that fall through, people that get fired and aren’t a fit, and better job offers that trump your weeks of work.   It’s easy to say, “ahh, damn, that’s some bad luck.”   But, it’s way more beneficial to get 5 more candidates job offers so when 2 of 5 fall through, you still have 3 successful placements.

Life is the same.   It’s easy to sit around feeling sorry for myself right now. It’s easy to look at the scarring on my ankle and say that a “freak” infection almost took my foot, held me in a hospital for 2 weeks and robbed me of 2 months of my life. It’s easy to sit in my living room watching Walking Dead, or playing Xbox, and to look at my job, my social life, and my health through veiled, ugly glasses as they just melt away. It’s easy to explain all of these things and to do it knowing that no one would blame me if I fell into some sort of depression right now.

Luck is easy. You start chalking your successes up to random chance and you’ll lose some pride the same way you will lose accountability if you start chalking your losses up to “bad luck.” Personal accountability goes both ways.

I haven’t been the healthiest person over the last 10-15 years of my life. While, I haven’t been the unhealthiest either, I have drank too much, used way too much tobacco, and haven’t eaten the best.

I’m not saying I’ve deserved MS, the broken ankle, this infection, anything that’s happened in my personal life, or any of the other swings of the last few years. But, I am saying that they’re all explainable.

Some people I talk to have this hint of sadness and sympathy in their voice when they speak to me. I hear it over the phone and can see it in people’s eyes if they are in person. I don’t like it. I don’t need it. I totally understand that they are coming from a good place, and that they care about me. But, I don’t feel that way myself. This is a minor setback, in a series of minor setbacks. This is something that has me down, and believe me, mentally is the hardest part. But, it is also something that will not have me out.

I know what’s right when I consciously think things over. I have very few friends that have refused to throw me any sort of a pity party. They say things matter of factly, and to the point. They offer perspective and basically have told me to stop complaining, and to move forward.   When I’m feeling down, this feels appalling. How can they look at this and be so callous? But, making your own luck depends entirely on this mindset.

I’m not really down. I’m not someone that needs sympathy.   Using the term luck takes away from human accomplishment, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like it. But in terms of a reality where luck exists, I’ll say it now. I have been very lucky.

I was lucky to have a doctor step in after I was in the hospital 5 days and do something about my ankle. I was lucky to grow up near Philadelphia and move to San Francisco, so that I could be near two of the best Neurology departments for MS in the world. I was lucky to have friends and family that were there for me along the way. I was lucky to have enough friends out here that I have gotten by getting out of the hospital and just getting home (and not into a rehab/nursing home).   I was lucky to work for a great enough company that could keep me afloat during these times, and last year when I needed to recover from the broken ankle.

Take luck out of that last paragraph and you will see actions from others that have helped me keep going forward. The doctor’s skill saved my foot and made the MS Centers at UPenn and UCSF great. My friends effort picked me up from the hospital and visited me while I laid in that room for 2 weeks. My co-workers efforts and abilities kept my clients and candidates going at work.  My families actions enabled them to be there for me in times of need.

You make your own luck, but it’s a lot easier when you allow others to help it go forward.

Here’s my promise to myself. I’ll come out of this. I’ll come out of this better than I was before. 2015 is not just another year for me right now, it’s a goal.

I want it to be the year where I start to realize how far I’ve come and start to actually feel a little proud about what I went through to get there. To do that, I can’t just “get there.” I need to make my own luck going forward. I need to keep pushing toward better things in my life, and I need to take personal accountability to choose better things for myself.

The one thing that’s been in my head over and over for the last few months, since I made everything public is how shocking it is to see how many people care. It’s rewarding to a person that has long said that I believe in humanity, that I may not have many things I hold dear, but that out of all the bad in the world, I can feel pretty strongly about the good in people.

The last few weeks, months, years have seemed to conspire to make me believe in luck, mostly the bad kind, but all they have done is get me to believe, even more, in the greatness of humanity.