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Journey’s End: My Final Demon

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost


I’ve had many demons throughout my life. None tougher than coming to terms with the fact that my father is an alcoholic. I have never been OK with this fact and never will be. And it’s not so much the drinking I’ve had issues with (which is bad on it’s own) as it is the lies, the manipulation, and blame games that come along with it.

Why write about this?

Ultimately, it comes down to timing. I can either write my story or have it written for me. It is a demon that will haunt me my entire life and unless I summon the courage to fight it now, it will become all consuming. I thought I had dealt with my issues, in truth, I hadn’t. 5 years of work and I find myself exactly where I didn’t want to be.

Relationships are built on openness, trust, and vulnerability. If I can’t allow myself to be open, then my demon will manifest in other forms. Most likely in the forms of rage, sadness, and shame. And perhaps even fear. And I can’t have that. I want to be better.

Why not Journal?

I have, my journal is littered with my thoughts. However, there is a certain liberty in telling others. Over the years I have slowly gotten better at telling my story. It was hard when I truly opened up in private. In fact, I had a bit of a meltdown. It was a little argument over nothing and for no reason at all I brought up my Father. I thought my friends would shun me, but they didn’t.

And if I have so much trouble, even after working through most of my issues, imagine how many are out there who think they are alone, much like I did. It’s not fair and I say enough is enough. Children of Alcoholics deserve better, Families of Alcoholics deserve better… So it might not count for much but I’d like to at least try to provide some comfort for you and myself.

Children of Alcoholics

Perhaps those who suffer the most from a parents drinking. Children aren’t born independent, however, in most families they become independent. In families with alcoholics however, they remain dependent. They try so hard to please a parent who is unresponsive at best and at worst, responsive in all the wrong ways. They begin to blame themselves for problems they can’t control and feel guilty should they try to help the parent who is struggling. They are the ones who have to watch an alcoholic stumble home every night and slowly die. Alcoholism does not kill quickly. More likely than not, an alcoholic can live well into their 70’s or 80’s. And this is a lifetime of torment. What was once love for the parent turns into frustration, then resentment, and then bitterness. And because the alcoholic seemingly does not care, these emotions cause the child to hate themselves. They search for answers and find none.

Why does one become an alcoholic?

There can be numerous reasons as to why one starts drinking and it can be both situational and genetic (aka compulsive and addictive personalities). People drink more during depressions (or recessions), when they lose a job, or simply if they’ve had a stressful week (deadlines to meet, people to please, etc). The reason I believe however, is the simple reason they convince themselves they are unworthy of being loved and in doing so, it becomes prophecy. They believe so much that they don’t deserve love, that they are pitied, that eventually it becomes true even if it was untrue before; it is extremely heartbreaking to see.

It creates a cycle. And instead of receiving help, they play victim. They try to argue the opposite and flip the victim card unto you. Alcoholics have a tough time being vulnerable (don’t we all?) and are often too proud (or afraid) to truly open up. It is them against the world and they will use anything at their disposal to justify their habit.

If you’re wondering what emotion alcoholics feel the most, it’s shame and to the highest degree. Behind the Anger, behind the sadness, behind the fear, there is shame. If there wasn’t, I wouldn’t have seen a pattern in my own Father’s drinking. My Father sought treatment and has been going off and on. And every time I see him I have to wonder if he’s been drinking. However, there are days he is guaranteed to drink. More recently, his birthday. Most recently, Mothers Day. The next day I can almost guarantee will be Father’s Day. Days of celebration turn into days of torment for an alcoholic. Most tend to reflect on these days, whether they realize it or not. And unfortunately, most can’t see past the darkness they create.

The Alcoholism Paradox

It took me years to realize this and as far as I know, this term doesn’t exist. But there is a paradox that comes with drinking and it is this; the more an alcoholic drinks, the less they will remember. So, when one argues with an alcoholic, it becomes almost impossible to reason with them. Why? Because an alcoholic will oftentimes blackout and not remember the evening. And thus creates the paradox. For an alcoholic to truly heal they need to acknowledge and be open with their behavior, however, when confronted, the alcoholic oftentimes thinks the confrontation is an attempt to make them look bad and that they possibly couldn’t have done all the things one claims they have done.

Is Alcoholism a Disease?

In the end, it doesn’t matter so much whether or not alcoholism is classified as a disease. In my personal opinion, it is not. To put alcoholism (also referred to as alcohol abuse) on the same level as someone diagnosed as cancer is less than tasteful. And in the end, it makes no difference. Behavior is behavior. Actions are actions. Alcohol inhibits judgement and simply makes someone more of what they already are (or who they see themselves to be). It is not an excuse for lashing out at others even if it makes it easier to do so.

Is Alcoholism a Moral Failing?

No. Alcoholism is neither good nor evil. It’s easy to paint an alcoholic as a villain, as some being devoid of a soul. However, they are not. If anything alcoholism represents an exaggeration of the human struggle. However, in most cases, most alcoholics never reach redemption. There is no hero’s return and all that could’ve been never was. That’s not to say these statistics can’t change, however, it would take a complete societal overhaul to do so.

Can alcohol abuse be cured?

Yes. The simple answer is yes. How do I know? I’ve seen it and I’ve heard stories. However, it is not how we imagine. Instead of never drinking again, the once alcoholic might have a drink a night (or not at all). They learn to moderate their consumption. It would be great if they never touched a drink again, however, in most cases this is far from realistic.

Ideally, the system would be set up professionally. Instead of going into rehab, an alcoholic should first be diagnosed by a professional (in the field of medicine). Not necessarily for their drinking but rather any underlying conditions they might have, such as depression. Then one might introduce the alcoholic to individual counseling and later on they should gradually reduce the amount they drink through a detox center. Afterwards, they should be introduced to rehab in addition to support groups (groups such as AA, although I wish there were more). The key word being “should”.

Does Rehab work?

No. At least, not in the United States. Rehab in the U.S. has a hefty price tag and does absolutely nothing. It’s a business and everyone suffers for this fact. A lot of programs don’t monitor the patients and try to offer a quick fix for a cure. They take advantage of those who want to get better and it’s a damn shame. Patients get shuffled from clinic to clinic and the only ones who benefit are those who own the clinic. If you’re curious as to how rehab works in the United States, here is some of the limited research I was able to find on the subject:

VICE DOCUMENTARY

JON OLIVER SEGMENT

My Story

How long have I known? Since Elementary School, so well over 15 years. The first instance I can remember is when I wandered upstairs one morning, entered the bathroom, and found about 5 empty wine glasses on the counter. And growing up I remember my Father slept a lot. He worked 12 to 16 hour days (5 in the morning till 5 in the evening) and when the evenings rolled around, he would either be sailing or asleep by 6. On the weekends? Yard-work or sleeping. It was exciting when we would go out as a family, however, excitement eventually turned into disappointment and embarrassment…

In Middle School, I was part of a bowling league. Every Saturday I’d go, and while it was fun, I always felt uncomfortable when my Father would place bets on whether or not I could make tricky shots. More uncomfortable was how he could never let anyone else pay for a meal (we always got breakfast before league) as though he was doing the other parents a favor. In Boy Scouts, he was always involved, however, it always felt like he cared more about the other children than his own. He would constantly be helping out and we were left to our own devices (so long as we didn’t wander too far). If we wanted to walk around our neighborhood? We had walkie talkies.

In High School, the economy crashed and while he had always drunk, it was far more noticeable at this point. And while our financial situation had changed, his spending habits did not. He still sailed and he still had a loving family, so there was very little reason to change. At this point in time, I believe my brother had just graduated High School and was enrolled in College. Also during this period, my Father bought a tractor (that was the day my brother and I stopped mowing the lawn) and as if that weren’t bad enough, drove it down the street to offer his help in mowing our neighbors lawns. As much as I wish I could make this up or add spice to the story, this is literally what happened. I chuckle now but it was quite embarrassing at the time. Anyways, fast forward to my senior year and my brother was forced to drop out of College due to “costs”. I was worried but looked past the situation as I had just been accepted to university. My Father had “promised” I would be taken care of and at this point I still trusted him, despite years of broken promises. During this period we had been to family counseling. My High School counselor was able to identify that something was wrong and while I saw the school psychologist for a bit, it was eventually recommended that we see counseling as a family. I was excited to go. And then my Father turned it into a joke… He truly believed he didn’t need counseling, that there was nothing wrong with him. And then I was off to College.

As a Freshman it was extremely difficult. I tried coming home on the weekends, however, my Father would always be drinking. And once my dog died, I stopped going home altogether. I was angry, ashamed, afraid, and sad. So many times I wanted to give up, yet I kept going. Eventually, after another argument at home over finances, I knew student loans were my only option. My Father made enough to support his family, however, due to his drinking and gambling addictions, we barely had enough money to buy bread. People would see our 3 car garage and think my family was well off when in reality we barely had enough money to keep the electricity going (and not even). When I started taking control of my finances, a miracle happened. I no longer had to join a class 2 or 3 weeks late (classes were 10 weeks for perspective) and when I got a job, I had just enough to get by. And my roommates? They were beyond understanding even if they didn’t know the details. I would not have graduated if it weren’t for great roommates, plain and simple. And my Mom. She worked while I was in College and that extra bit made all the difference. My Father would sporadically help, however, that would only be after arguing with my Mom for God knows how many hours. And I went into extreme budgeting, literally surviving off of eggs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Rent was as cheap as it could get and I never bought textbooks unless I absolutely had to.

Then my Father totaled our jeep… Another drunken escapade. He was forced into rehab and that was the only time I had ever truly seen (actually, more like heard) him sober. He wasn’t happy that his drinking had finally caught up to him and that, after all those years, his license was finally suspended. I took this chance to severe my relationship with my Father. At this point he was an obsession and I knew for myself to survive, I could only focus on myself. The conversation was less than pretty but I said what I needed to say. And from there I began to thrive. I became the person that no one would believe had trust issues and I was happy that I was finally able to break free from co-dependence. I had no one to blame for my actions but myself and I was finally free. If I’m not mistaken, it was around this time I stopped playing victim with my life and began to truly live it.

So come graduation, I decided to be the better man. I invited my Father to graduation and decided to give him one last chance. It was awkward but I felt it was the right thing to do. I wanted to see if we could reconcile, so after graduation I took a break. And for a while my Father was sober. He was going to AA meetings (I had always wanted him to go growing up) and we were having family dinners! It was wonderful and everything I could’ve ever wanted. And given a few more years, we might’ve resembled a family. However, nothing gold can stay. As soon as my Father got his license back, it was like a switch. He was mobile again and went for the nearest bar or liquor store… Did he resist the temptation? I can’t really say. Regardless of his thought process, the outcome remains the same; he is drinking again and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Where does our relationship stand?

There is no relationship left, there hasn’t been in years. I am proud of myself for giving my Father another chance and while it is my hope that he does stop drinking, I won’t be around to witness the day. I hope he learns to open up about his past and learn to truly trust others, even if they might hurt him. I hope he can be vulnerable, to allow himself to cry and not think himself weak. And I hope he continues to seek help and it saddens me that this is the bridge I must cross, but cross it I must.

A relationship cannot exist without trust. And after a lifetime of broken promises, lies told, and feeling like I didn’t matter, the trust is gone. I can run from reality or I can face it. This is not easy to say let alone hear. However, it is important that I acknowledge the fact.

I will be fine. The goals I’ve set for myself I’ve accomplished and the pain has become bearable. I am independent and it’s time to step forward into the world once more…


And with that, my mental health awareness series comes to a close. A month of writing and many hours spent researching the various topics as well as reflecting on my own life. It feels as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders; I’m glad I was finally able to talk about this difficult subject after so many years. When I wrote my “Journey’s End” series on vulnerability, I mentioned one demon I could not yet tackle and I thought I never would… However, today and here on after I can proudly say I have. Thanks for reading and I hope you’ve found some benefit from my mental health series.

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Our Darkest Shadows: A tale in wellness

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

Depression. The darkness that lurks in every corner not lit. We all carry our little flames, shielding them with our hands in an effort to keep them from going out. And I’ve found in life, as long as there are still embers, the fire can be lit again. We may not see the embers, but they are there nonetheless.

And this is what depression is. It is stumbling our way through the dark, not knowing if the direction we’re headed in is the right one. It is the fear that the flame we carry will burn out, never to be lit again.


For the longest time I’ve had depression and I had to watch my once bright flame slowly dwindle until it was but embers. The best way to describe depression for those who have never experienced it is that of a rain cloud constantly hovering over someones head. When I was younger, I would take every word said and distort it to my reality. You gave me a compliment? I would tell you why you were wrong. You offered to help? I would take personal offense. As you can imagine, that can be quite exhausting for someone to deal with. The best part? We know what we’re saying is wrong, yet we can’t see past our own delusion.

If you suffer from depression, you know this. There are thousands of articles written on the darkness and how there’s no escape. And if you’re depressed, it is nice for a bit. To know you are not alone in your struggle, that others suffer just as you do. However, then you come to the realization that these articles have no solutions and you dive further down the rabbit hole. And eventually? The lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur and you have to watch your world melt away until you can’t tell what’s up and what’s down. Absolutely terrifying.

This is not one of those articles. This is an attempt to offer some guidance based on my experience.  It’s been a long road, sure, but I can look back and smile. Every struggle has made me stronger and once I learned to cope with my depression, I could see my life in a new light. If this is all you read, just know this: You are worthy of love. You may not feel you deserve it, but you do. Be the person you want to be. And take it one day at a time. It may be hard to put one foot in front of the other but you must.


“And when you needed people the most, it felt like there was no one to be found.”

When I arrived at College, I never imagined graduation. I struggled my first year. My Spring term I found the mental health services. A few years of counseling and then I set out on my own; I would occasionally see a counselor for emergencies, however, not once a week like I used to. At the end of my counseling, I bought a journal and then I set out to bury my past, one day at a time.

I have friends but I feel so alone… I’m sure this feeling will pass but for now I’m in complete despair. I worry too much about what others think of me; I have spent a lifetime trying to find myself when I should’ve been spending a lifetime creating myself. It’s never too late, but I feel as though I have a lot of catch up to do… I wish I had someone in my life I could go to for advice, someone close that could come to my aid in a heartbeat. Mr. E has been the biggest positive influence in my life and the only person I have truly felt has believed in me. I need a break and soon, otherwise I worry that the weight of the world might finally crush me into dust…

I almost didn’t write this article. For research I was reading stories written by others and I could feel the struggle, the conflict. The desire to be better but the not knowing how. Looking for a candle in the dark and finding only darkness… And then I reached for my own journal. Nowadays, I dust it off from time to time. If I’ve had a bad day, I like to write. There was a point in my life I was writing every day and when I reread my journal, I can feel the pen hit the paper and when I was at my worst, the frantic scratches as I sat gasping for air.  To be honest, a part of me wants to snap my fingers and erase this part of my life. However, I wanted to be able to tell my story. And as much as I can try, the past never stays buried.

The Journal

The entry above is from the first day I started my journal. I had nowhere to go and was taking it one day at a time. This was a time where I was fully wrapped in my delusions. My flame was embers and all I could do was pass my hand close to feel what little warmth was left.

It is hard to imagine a time I hated myself and where every step I took was like trudging through wet cement. To simply go through the motions and to have every emotion felt (anger, shame, sadness, and fear) except happiness? A living nightmare. To actively avoid the mirror because I hated what I saw? Pure torture.

But I held on. Why? I didn’t know.  I wanted life to be better and thought “what do I have to lose?” And I supposed, if all else failed, I thought at least I could say “I tried.” and then, “I tried again.” So I used my Cross Country coach as a base. I said “if just one person can believe in me, then I could believe in myself.” I asked myself what he saw in me and remembered that I was encouraged to be at my best. He knew I could be better and that I was more than what I was. He was the one who called me out on making excuses and while it took 5 years, I learned how to take accountability and say “no” (which I still suck at). More importantly, he imposed an idea. A thought in passing that I took to heart, he asked if I really wanted to be “mediocre kid.” And you know what I said? I said “Yes.” Mediocrity was comfortable and darkness? A blanket. For better or worse, it was what I knew. Like Batman, the shadows were my friend.

Victim Mentality

Depression is both behavioral and situational. It is something that can compound over time and is living proof that the little things do add up. Or in other instances, proof that nobody is perfect and all it can take is one moment to break even the strongest of individuals. Depression is complex and must be approached on an individual basis and then, involve a community. People want to be heard and feel valued. The further down the rabbit hole you are, the less likely you are to believe people actually care.

For the longest time I played victim, it was always someone else’s fault or if you know me personally, I would say “society’s fault.” I would blame everyone but myself and then, laying in bed or staring at the mirror, I would do exactly that. Typical “I’m a hideous monster”, “I’m stupid”, etc. You know, all the “positive” reinforcement stuff they talk about in books. And as much as I’d love to share another journal entry, i’ll save you the horrors of the blame game. When I’d go to counseling, I’d sound like a broken record. It was the same story over and over again and while it felt good to talk about, it changed nothing. It eventually led to frustration and then, anti-depressants. I took the lowest dose and tried two different types and while they worked, I eventually stopped.

Regardless, what I learned (and this has been the most helpful in life) was to be proactive vs. reactive. Being proactive is the idea that you are in control and it has three degrees of variance. What you do (control), what other people do (indirect control), and our past or situational realities (no control). Basically all this means is you’re not Doctor Who and can’t change your timeline. All you can really control is yourself and to an extent how you interact with others.

The easiest way to get started is to shift your dialogue. Instead of saying “but”, try saying “and” more. Instead of “I”, try saying “we”, “our”, etc. Instead of “I can’t”, say “I can.”

Acknowledge the past but don’t let it define you. It’s easy to spiral if you’ve had a bad day and focus on that.

Don’t deal with “What If’s.” You will literally spend all day thinking of what could be rather than making it a reality. And the more you do this, the more miserable you become.

And perhaps most important, don’t make assumptions. This was my saving grace. It took forever to realize but a lot of issues I was having with my perception had to do with my assumptions. I would constantly say “Those people are so successful, I’ll never be like that.” and “I bet that person thinks I’m a loser.” or “I don’t think they liked what I said.” Then I started asking people what they thought of me and it wasn’t further from the truth.

Environment Changes Everything

Our innate response when we’re in trouble (or not) is to find like minded individuals. My advice? Don’t. I tried multiple groups before I settled on a strategy that led to my success and while it might not work for everyone, it’s a theory worth writing. If you want success, you must go where success is. In College, I had access to opportunity and resources. I had the luxury of choice. So I joined student organizations and for my first few terms, literally just sat in a corner and said nothing. People were most likely thinking “wow, that Mike guy seems a little off” How do I know this? Friends have told me their first impressions of me. However, I was sitting in admiration (and dismay). I hoped one day I’d be able to get in front of a group and eventually I did. And then the “impossible” happened. people believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I became a leader and was forced out of the shadows. Did I fail? Yes, many times. However, I always got back up. And through doing and pure association, I became. You can’t see what’s not right in front of you, so it’s best to artificially create a new lens through which to see the world (aka surround yourself with the people you strive to be). And nobody is perfect. It takes time and effort. If change were easy, everyone would do it.

Another note I want to make is when I was finally ready to open up. I was extremely fortunate to have great roommates in College. They, as well as my organizations, have made me a better person. They are some of the best friends I’ve ever had. When I would say something wrong, they would call me out. They taught me to cook, clean, and be an overall decent human being. If I was upset, they’d ask what was wrong. I thought for the longest time, if they knew the real me, they’d run the other direction. However, when I had my tipping point, they stayed. They listened. And when I pushed, they pushed back. And that’s the thing, my case is not uncommon. We may not realize it at the time but looking back we have the support we need even if it may not seem like it at the time. Some leave, sure, but most stay. And those who leave you didn’t need in your life anyway.

If you’re struggling to meet people you strive to be, TED talks, podcasts, books, movies, TV, and video games (story driven) make a great substitute until you can find “your tribe.”

I wanted to start this the other day, but today works just as well. I want to record at least one awesome thing a day as a means of changing my outlook on life. Hopefully this will make me love myself so others can love me as well. So, without further ado, what was awesome yesterday? Free food at the library, yum! Soup, Smoothies, Sandwiches, Snacks, you name it, they had it. Completely unexpected but totally awesome! Roommates made cookies yesterday! So many in fact, that it was impossible to fit them all in containers, awesome!

It Takes Time

“I can no longer settle for second best as I myself have become second best, no where close to where I should be. I have friends, I am not alone. I must break this loop of self-destruction I’ve created for myself and I have to do it now; not soon, not later, now…”

You will not see immediate results. You will get a taste of happiness here and there only to spiral back into depression. This is normal. It’s only when looking back are we able to see the gardens planted in fields that once looked barren. And I’m not perfect. I suffer from depressive states from time to time. The key difference is it has become manageable. Where once I would spend all day in bed, now it’s writing, ASMR, meditation, and my trusty stress ball. Other days it’s flipping through a book or watching a show to remind me of the good in the world. Where once my emotions would run wild, I now wield them as I would a sword. If I am angry, I use my anger to focus and channel my passion. If I’m sad, I let myself cry. If I’m afraid, I put one foot in front of the other; sometimes slowly, but still moving nonetheless. And if I’m happy, I cherish the moment and simply allow myself to be, knowing all too well that tomorrow could bring another storm.

In parting, I want you to know that I believe in you. I am not going to sit here and tell you everything will be alright, but I will tell you that it does get better. When you’re ready to give up and your world comes crashing down, don’t. Keep going. You might stumble and you might fall, but you are worth the fight. Hold your little flame close and don’t let go, for one day it will lead you through the dark.


Thanks for reading! This was perhaps the toughest article I’ve ever written. That’s part of the Mental health awareness project. Each week a little deeper and now here we are at the end! It’s been more of an undertaking than was expected but definitely worth it. Next week I will be talking about what I have deemed as “my final demon” and with that article my mental health awareness month series will conclude. I’m both excited and terrified to finally be writing about it. Regardless, feel free to discuss any personal stories related to depression in the comments below (only if you want). If you liked what I wrote but feel self-conscious, I now have a contact me page and can officially receive emails! I read each and every comment and love hearing from all of you lovely people, so feel free to reach out.

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vulnerability: What remains unseen

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” – Brene Brown


This month will either break or make me. In my never ending quest to step outside my comfort zone, this might be my greatest challenge yet. The goal with this series is to one, reduce the stigma around mental health and two, create an opportunity for myself to talk openly. Every week will get a little deeper and like Neo, once I climb down the rabbit hole there’s no clawing my way out. Luckily, I’m an expert communicator nowadays, so people no longer run away in horror when they see me (yay).

How am I qualified?

Some might argue I am not [no one has argued that but it sounds poetic so I’m leaving it in.] Some might say I’ve gone mad, however, nay says I. Why? Because over the last five years I have diligently studied every technique I could find for mental wellness. Hell, I chose my major (Business Management) just so I could learn how to develop meaningful relationships in my life. And I did. I came, I conquered and I destroyed. The unintended consequence of my actions is when I open up now, it’s hard to believe how I possibly could relate. Little known fact is I spent the first two years of College in a counselors office and the year after taking antidepressants. I am imperfect and so is everyone else.

Why Write about this?

The first reason is that I am in a position to. I have spent years developing my writing talent so that I would have a voice and with that voice, the power to speak when others might not.

We as a society run from our emotions. We are scared shitless and we choke on our own pain. This is not unique and our pain begins to manifest into unhealthy behavior and habits. We look at Facebook and begin to loathe our own lives even if they’re going well. We see a Snap and feel as though we’re missing out. We write inspirational posts just for the sake of being noticed, feeling heard, and getting likes. And we are miserable.

We as a society hate vulnerability. And not so much being vulnerable but the risk that we might be misunderstood. Vulnerability itself is beautiful and to be heard? Even more so.  To be vulnerable is to be human, so why have we designed society around developing personas?

For Society to Succeed, Men must be vulnerable.

I could be wrong, however, I’m willing to take this risk; I think society would be better if men knew how to express themselves. And while I can’t speak for women, I think most of you would agree. All too often I see men being real dicks (pun almost not intended). And instead of pointing the finger, I think the real question we should be asking is “why?” My working theory is because men aren’t taught to manage their emotions, those emotions begin to manage them. Early on in life it might not be as noticeable, however, over time the issue compounds. And we as people, have emotions that are stronger than others. When we’re sad we cry and if we can’t cry, we get angry. What are men told from an early age? That we can’t cry! And with anger, comes aggression. Anger is only ever healthy if properly managed. Channeled well, anger becomes passion, determination, and immense focus. Handled improperly? You get men who can’t take no for an answer.  And when this happens, the more we push, the more we are pushed back. While not impossible to break through, it’s easier if men are taught that we are imperfect from the start. That we will have our ups and downs, and it’s not so much about weathering the storm as it is to feel the rain and hear the thunder.

And if you’re curious as to why there is an emphasis on men, here it is. While women are imperfect (just like men), my observation has been that women seem to be better equipped to form support groups and networks that encourage openness. Men, however, do the opposite. Instead of open up, we distract ourselves. We grunt at the T.V. when watching football and we drink beer in a feeble attempt to self medicate. When we are backed into a corner we kick and scream rather than let ourselves be vulnerable; we want to be loved yet we don’t know how.

Why are we afraid?

Next week, I will be talking about my struggle with chronic depression. In most situations, people wouldn’t know how to react. Why? Because it’s not something we’re taught. Instead of a hug, most of the time a reveal such as mine would be met with awkward silence. And worst case? Your friends who you thought you could trust, decide they don’t need the added stress and decide to leave. That is why we don’t talk and feel the need to say “I’m fine” rather than “I’m not ok and that’s ok.”

We fear one day if we reveal who we really are, people will not see beauty but rather destruction. And to an extent, those fears are justified. Emotions are messy and if not handled properly, they can cause more harm than they can ever do good. And that is why we need to practice. To tell others how we really feel rather than how we want them to think we feel. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we risk losing everything that makes life worth living.

How does this feel?

The simple act of writing without limits feels wonderful. Yes, I have my filters, however, they’ve been refined to the point where I can weave stories with the snap of my finger. Instead of watching my story unfold, I can tell how my story will unfold. I am in full control. That’s the thing. We create our own reality, for better or worse. For me, it’s been the drive to be better and that started with a blog post five years ago. It was an act as simple as sharing my love of poetry over on IGN. I chuckle now, but it was a big deal at the time.

What does it mean to be Vulnerable?

This is a question I have found myself asking. This article has taken months of planning and reflection. And unlike most, I’ve been dreading hitting publish. There always seems to be more to refine, more left to write, and words that simply don’t sound right. The closer I get to finishing, the further away I feel. And I think that encompasses vulnerability best. It’s not so much the act of sharing as it is the fear that my words will be ill received. We can plan for all the possibilities in the world, however we won’t know until we choose to speak up. These articles are not what I would call “safe”. If I’m wrong, the greater the fall and the fear that there will be no one to extend a hand when I hit the bottom. However, these fears are ill-founded. The best moments of my life have been when I’ve chosen to allow myself to be vulnerable. I thought I would lose everything, however, it was in these moments that I could grow and allow myself to feel. As difficult as it is, would you rather be able to say in the end “I’m glad I said” or “I never got the chance to say”…


Thanks for reading! This was an extremely difficult article to write. Next week is the tipping point for this month. The content will delve into my mind and the vulnerability discussed in this article will be ever present. Be prepared and while the topics in the next few weeks will be handled with grace as always, they might make some uncomfortable. Feel free to discuss in the comments; I read each and every comment and always love hearing from you!

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A tale in wellness: ASMR

Story Time!

Let me set the scene. The year was 2017 and I had recently graduated College. To Celebrate I took a break and during this break I rekindled my love for watching streamers on Twitch. If you want to watch a great streamer, I recommend DizzyKitten. Regardless, the unexpected happened. She decided one day to do “ASMR”. Years ago my friend had mentioned how “ASMR” had helped him with his anxiety when I asked him if he knew of ways to cope with stress. I said “interesting” and thought nothing more of it. So when Dizzy started, I said, “Why not”? And my God, I’m glad I stayed.

What is it?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) coined in 2010, is the term used to describe a sensation of tingles triggered throughout the brain when listening to certain sounds. Done in a whisper, it can be very off-putting at first. Everyone experiences tingles a little differently and some, not at all. For me, it’s as if I can feel the neurons firing in different spots of my brain and it creates a sensation that feels as if my brain is being wrapped in a blanket. That sensation slowly trickles down my spine and creates an intense sense of calm. It’s cozy and intimate.

Types of ASMR

ASMR is both an audio and visual experience. ASMR cannot exist without sound. However, visuals can be used to enhance the overall experience. As such, many ASMR artists choose to do role-plays to create a certain atmosphere. This can be anywhere from getting your ears cleaned to getting a haircut. On the surface, it seems beyond bizarre. However, when you watch the videos, you realize it’s no different than if you were to go to the barber yourself. Most ASMR, however, is simply experimentation with different sounds. Some artists choose to create a spectacle while others do not. Another form is to have a stage and have an audience in real life. These experiences are similar to a play. The performances start with sound and visuals, then dive in for what cannot be experienced through video; touch. While not as common and definitely not for everyone, I still thought they were worth mentioning.

How does ASMR compare?

There are many ways to cope with anxiety and stress. Journaling, writing, meditation, exercise, and tension relief (i.e. Stressballs) just to name a few. The closest ASMR comes to these techniques is meditation. Meditation alters the mind by creating a sense of calm through deep breathing and tension management. Meditation is a way to hit the reset button and can overwhelm at times (managing thoughts can be tricky). ASMR is different in the sense that someone else is in the driver’s seat. The mindfulness ever so present from meditation dissipates and you are left to feel. There’s no work involved and you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Why does ASMR work?

There are differing thoughts as to why ASMR creates the sensations it does. One explanation is that the whispering stimulates an innate response similar to that of a parent nurturing a child. The whispering and eye contact fulfill the role of the caretaker, creating the intense feelings one experiences through ASMR.

Another Theory is that ASMR fulfills the innate need to connect with one another. ASMR plays with our senses in a way that leaves us vulnerable. This could explain why some are so uncomfortable with ASMR at first.  The whispering creates intimacy and because it is often a stranger, the brain might be sending signals to approach with caution.

Personally, I think we are simply hardwired to enjoy sound. Human beings are empathetic and caring creatures. If sound didn’t matter to us, there would be no use in creating music let alone knowing how. I think ASMR triggers receptors in our brain that are linked to joy (dopamine) and reaffirm our natural rhythm.

Benefits of ASMR

At the time of writing this article, the benefits of ASMR are anecdotal. ASMR has only just recently started gaining traction as a legitimate form of mental health management. It has come a long way since 2008, going from being classified as a “pseudoscience” to something that might warrant further research. As such, all I can speak to is the benefits I have perceived.

I use ASMR primarily at night. Sometimes I watch and other times I simply listen. It’s been about 4 or 5 months of listening almost every night. And I’ve noticed myself falling asleep faster and feeling better rested. While I am under a lot of stress at the moment, ASMR has seemingly an instantaneous effect to quell my anxiety, which is fascinating as I use every other technique at my disposal.  Only recently have I started listening to ASMR during the day and it appears to have the same effect. If you want a quick fix to anxiety that requires no effort on your part, ASMR works like a miracle.

An unintended benefit of ASMR is it has made me more aware of every day sounds. The trickle of water seems more intense, birds singing, the wind blowing, etc. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Another benefit I’m experimenting with is that of listening in a foreign language. As such, I mostly listen to ASMR in Spanish. I’m curious as to if the accents and foreign language will make me more accepting overtime. I’m already as progressive as they come, so it’d be interesting to see the effect on individuals a tad more closed minded than myself (trying not to say that in a condescending way).

Getting Started With ASMR

If this article has peaked your interest, feel free to click on the links I’ve selected below. The first two links are my favorite ASMR videos and the third is the artist I listen to on a regular basis. A quick note before you dive in: ASMR is best experienced with headphones and I wouldn’t recommend listening without them. That is all, enjoy!

#Triggered – First Link

Sound God – Second Link

Tu hablas Español? – Third Link

Research

Information on ASMR is scarce and therefore most of my research was done through experience. However, the podcast “Twenty Thousand Hertz” had a great segment on ASMR and a NYtimes article referenced the “WhisperLodge” which is where I found the information on the Live ASMR performances.


This was an extremely fun topic to research. It also took quite a while to get right. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a cup of coffee! Your donation will help me keep afloat and ensure that I can keep producing great content on a consistent basis. For just $3 a post you can help save a Mike Cole in need and ensure he lives a happy and fulfilling life.

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Worth A Read: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A beautifully tragic tale of a Father and Son as they journey South towards the coast of an America laid to waste. So with that said, is it worth a read?

Prevailing themes and a story archetype that works

The premise of The Road is simple. The Road represents a journey. It is a path that must be followed at all costs. Always in sight, always in mind. With all other devices striped away, it allows the reader to focus on the relationship between Father and Son and begs the question, how far would you go to survive? The vivid descriptions of each encounter paint a beautifully realized world shrouded in eternal darkness, a world familiar yet a dream all the same. My favorite theme of the book is the idea that “we carry the fire”. That after the world ends (and perhaps before), who carries the last light of humanity? When adversity comes, will we rise or will we fall?

Father and Son 

The relationship between Father and Son is more than a heartwarming tale of a Father’s love for his son and his willingness to do whatever it takes to keep him alive; it’s a lens through which to see the world. The Father has lost hope and left to his own devices, his actions would not be questioned. He does what he needs to do to survive and that’s that. The Son however, questions every moral decision made and every misdeed done. He is the lens that we lose throughout our lives. And some could argue he represents our younger selves, who is to say?

There is a stark contrast between Father and Son yet they are both the “good guys”. It’s a refreshing perspective that I’m surprised isn’t used more in storytelling.

Worth a Read?

Yes. It is one of the best books I have read in recent memory. This book is the definition of “it’s about the journey, not the destination” and it’s a beautiful message. Is it sad? Yes. Does it cause your face to crinkle in disgust at times? Yes. But it is so very human. When you remove the luxuries of society you can begin to see who we really are. If you want a look in the mirror, look no further than this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 potatoes: A must read before you die.


There it is, my review of “The Road”. If you like my content, consider buying me a cup of coffee. I appreciate the support and it helps fund my endeavors.

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A walk through the woods

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I -I took the one less traveled and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost


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The city has its moments yet it is a place of chaos. clock in, clock out, sleep, eat, work. We forget to breathe. We close our eyes and take a deep breath, we listen.

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At first we are met with silence, a gentle breeze rustling our hair. We hear the birds chirp merrily as they build their nests. We stop, kneel, and notice the moss growing on the rocks.

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We walk further and find a path. We follow the path, not knowing where it leads.

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We find a creek and listen to the trickle of water. The sun shines through the canopy of trees and we feel its warmth, a blanket of joy as we lose ourselves in the moment.

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Our steps begin to slow, our panic subsides. Time fades as we continue down our path. And for a moment, we see the world through another’s eyes.


Hope you found this relaxing. If you like my content, consider “buying me a cup of coffee”. Your contribution will help support my creative endeavors and help me achieve my dreams.

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Was it worth it: A reflection piece.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a reflection piece. I’m happy with my update post (I based the design off of developer patch notes) but it’s not enough. I’ve worked hard to free myself from my shackles and be a better person and for the most part I have. Yet I am still living dual lives. I thought over time the “Old Mike” and the “New Mike” would merge yet that hasn’t been the case. It turns out however far I run, life always seems to have different plans.

I find success only to have it ripped away from me over and over again. My world has and I suppose will always be in a state of chaos. It’s by no lack of effort on my part but rather always a series of unfortunate events. The straw that broke the camels back was when I had a contract with my dream company. Most of my life has built towards this moment, reaching the finish line. I saw the good in the business world and truly believed that I had finally made it, only to be cut down by the political nature of Corporate America. And I am at a loss. I pick myself up and have nowhere to go.

And here I am, split between being honest and being correct. My world has been a firm handshake, a quick smile, and language so polished that it’ll make your ears bleed. And I’m tired of it. With over 300 contacts on LinkedIn, it might be time to hang up the towel. What I’ve built has become ash and I feel nothing. The money is nice but at the end of the day, it’s an obsession not worth having. I am tired of being used as a tool, or worse, a weapon. I learned as much as I could so that I could help others yet that same intelligence has only ever brought misery. The more I learn, the more I wish I didn’t know. Americans bathe in ignorance and it’s tough to see.

During my search, someone I trusted introduced me to Amway disguised under the pretense of “Alticor”. I went through the process and saw how some choose to make their money. An honest answer is it made me feel dirty, so I walked away. Is this the right answer, I can’t really say. The business model is sound and works for those with enough motivation, yet the reverse pyramid is still a pyramid. And at the end of the day, I must follow my heart. Corny, yes, but the truth nonetheless.

I don’t know who to trust anymore and it’s a damn shame. I love my friends and I love myself and for me that’s enough. It’s when I’ve put my faith in my professional network is when I’ve been hurt. Interesting to say the least.

This said, I am done hiding. It’s time to find just what all I am capable of. I am finally doing what I want and while I sacrifice the security of Corporate America, I don’t want to die in a cubicle. I thought I could waltz into an organization and change the world, yet I realize that change starts at the grassroots. My whole goal with writing and now photography has been to give myself a voice. It’s liberating to talk and have others listen. Now that I have, I want to focus on what I care about and not worry so much about reputation. So, cheers. Let’s build something together, it’s time I finally got my priorities straight.


A late night musing and I have to say, it felt great. I’ve been feeling anxious since graduation trying to find my place in the world but I came to realize that it has always been the route of the entrepreneur. What that will look, God only knows but in my never-ending pursuit of happiness, this is worth pursuing. Thanks for all your support throughout the years, it has meant the world to me. As I continue to grow, may you grow along with me and if I can inspire just one person from the work I do, then I’ll have done my job.

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