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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