Sup y’all? =) In an attempt to actually keep my interview column the monthly affair it’s supposed to be, I return to you with the latest edition of Hoodie Highlights! As with last month’s edition, the primary talking point is once again mental health, a topic that’s likely going to be my focus for a good while now. If for no other reason that I want to keep talking about it, and think that maybe we should!
Today’s guest thinks similarly, so much so that he’s returning as an interviewee here for a second time! The poor soul…
Everyone, once again, welcome Grant “Stemage” Henry to the blog!
Hoodie: Hey Grant! Welcome back to the blog!
Stemage: Hey there Mr. President! It’s been a while! You’ve done great things with the place. I love the new decor, and I’m glad to see that Chip Mom is still making my mouth water.
Hoodie: Why thank you! We do try. ^_^
And yes, she does *indeed* pick some pretty fabulous recipes to share. In fact, that *LAST* one was originally a tip from you I believe!
Stemage: You just reminded me of what I need to make for our Halloween party this year. Thank you! Thank me!
Hoodie: Ice cream bread for all! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee~
Stemage: It’s an easy win!
Hoodie: Indeed. Can’t believe it works so well tbh!
At any rate, for those who didn’t catch our chat last time, could you give us a quick summary of who you are and what you’re about?
Stemage: Certainly! I’m a song writer and engineer from the west coast. I dabble in arrangements of video game stuff, write my own music, help people with audio stuff on the regular, and have been spending a lot more time recently trying my hand at pro work. If that doesn’t work, I can always get a real job, right Grandpa?
I’ve also enjoyed doing a lot for the chip community these last few years. I have little interest in learning a new instrument, so trackers elude me. But helping to polish a list of releases from others in the community has been rewarding. And FM is my jam.
Hoodie: It should be everyone’s jam to be honest. #FMSoGood
As we discussed earlier, today’s primary talking point is mental health. Not your typical interview topic, but (1) we covered a lot of the regular ol’ Stemage bases last go-round & (2) who are we to give a damn about “typical” anyway, amiright? haha
Stemage: Typical is so typical! I’ve always just started saying.
Hoodie: That was terrible. But I agree.
Stemage: I’m really glad you are making well being a part of your conversations these days. At a time when everyone’s heads seem to be swimming, it feels extra important. I really enjoyed reading Alexander Brandon’s insight last round.
Hoodie: Thank you. And I really enjoyed that chat as well.
Although frankly, I was (fittingly lol…) rather anxious about that first one with Alex. It was my first time around making mental health a focal point. He was more than happy to agree to it, though, and we just kinda ran with it organically in chat. It felt good. It’s a weird topic to talk about to a point. There’s a stigma about it. Which, of course, is part of why I *am* trying to talk about it more.
Thanks for agreeing to give it a shot with me!
For starters, you’re one of the folk that recommended I look into getting a therapist when I began my own personal mental health journey earlier this year. That’s been more useful than I can begin to say.
Tough, but in a good way.
Stemage: With everyone toting an online persona these days and doing their best to stay afloat in a sea of conversations in different places, I think the stigma can feel even more intense. People seem extra concerned about how they appear and not wanting to show signs of weakness.
And yeah, the therapist thing probably carries the biggest stigma of them all. And that sucks. I remember my Aunt telling me years ago that she went to one regularly. And I found that curious since she never seemed to show any sign of weakness to me.
My first therapy experience came after a pretty intense long term relationship, and to be honest, it wasn’t a very worthwhile experience. I did my geeky research – making an excel doc of all the people in my area and making notes on who I should pick. It was a bit of a fail. It seemed like everything I threw at the therapist was received like a curve ball, and I left a bit confused.
I kept with it and went to two more. Number three was gold. I still keep in touch with him on occasion, and that was years ago.
Hoodie: That was actually the primary thing you “warned” me about in my search: may take time to find someone who “clicks”. I got lucky and the first one who kept an appointment (first one I tried to book didn’t lol) fit really well. I see him every couple weeks now.
That said, for someone with a chronic anxiety issue venturing into this realm for the first time, it’s a potentially terrifying experience. Especially considering that someone might not work for you. You’re really putting yourself out there. I think that’s one thing that turns people off. Or they go to one that doesn’t jive with ’em and write the whole thing off entirely.
Stemage: It sucks! You finally get the gumption to go talk with someone, and it ends up being all awkward and weird. And feeling awkward and weird is one of the reasons you ended up there to begin with.
Stemage: I think it really boils down to motivation. If you can decide that something has to be done and stick with finding a solution, you can find a solution. That might be the hardest part.
It’s funny, turns out that we’re built to be healthy. Can ya believe it?
Hoodie: In our current culture? Naaaaaaaaaah!
And yeah, I think that was the hardest part for me. I’d thought about it for years to be honest. Even attempted looking up folk in the past and considering making appointments. Never followed through, though, because it was simply terrifying. And I was afraid of what people would think.
Really, really, really, really, really wish I had sooner.
No matter, though. Just glad that I am now.
Honestly, that is a big part of what is pushing me to talk about it now. I waited so long to really start dealing with this stuff.
DON’T DO THAT, PEOPLE. JUST DON’T.
Like you said, we should listen to our body and mind telling us to seek health. It’s quite good for us after all. haha
Stemage: I don’t know about you, but I’m a people pleaser in the truest sense. I don’t help people and work to make people happy because I’m supposed to or I wanna look cool. I do it because it really does make me happy! I’ve learned that this mindset comes with some baggage though. The inability to fix things, the pressure I put on myself to perform, and the general anxiety of not communicating well eats at my brain. I think a lot of people in our community are in the same boat.
Between that and always trying to stay busy, blank spots in my schedule really freak me out. That sort of kicked in a new round of experiments last year.
Hoodie: I can definitely relate. Please go on about the experiments.
Stemage: Being in a transitional period in my career compounded things. I’ve never not had a job. Going from a 40hr week to the off-putting schedule of freelance is a nightmare if all your life, you’ve always worked – every day. You start to feel bad for attempting to enjoy yourself. It’s one of the stranger feelings I’ve ever had, and I ended up getting more stressed out because of it.
It’s really strange. I got the point where I would berate myself for playing a video game for any length of time. I didn’t have anything I owed anyone. My lady was ok with it. There was no reason to not enjoy myself, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something I was supposed to be doing that had some meaning.
As an example, I would still play my video game, but I would treat it like a notch in my schedule. “OK, I can play this for one more hour – then it’s off to the next thing.” Rocket League is not nearly as fun that way.
For whatever reason and given my personality type, I was not having a good time. Let’s just pace around the house, stop in that one room, and realize there was actually no reason that you went in there.
It was then that I realized something was SERIOUSLY wrong – like, logically wrong. Here I was with some extra time in my life, and I was more stressed out than I had been in years.
And then figured out my problem: Nothing.
Doing “nothing” wasn’t an option for me. Stillness was terrifying. Not doing something wouldn’t do. I remember my grandfather told me that one of the keys of marriage was that you had to be able to be comfortable doing absolutely nothing together. How was I going to pull that off if I couldn’t do “nothing” with myself? Realizing this was a bit groundbreaking for me personally.
This is of course the closed case study of my life, but that kind of stress and anxiety is something that can happen to anyone due to other circumstances.
Hoodie: Absolutely. I’m just glad you were able to realize something was up and attack it. I mean, that was quite the buttload of big life changes! Even though it’s all good stuff, I think there’s gonna be an adjustment phase no matter what.
And I can relate to a lot of that personally. I’m also a “doer” if you will. I also get a thrill out of doing awesome things with awesome folk. That’s living to me.
But it’s still WORK. It still takes a lot out of you. Maybe even moreso, because you’re working extra hard on something that you really love doing. Even so, you still need to allow yourself time to chill and play No Man’s Sky or grill and beer with the wife or whatever it is you need to do to RECOUP, yanno?
It’s a damn hard lesson to learn. Thanks to it, I’d nearly let myself get into legit burn out (a really nasty place I’ve been once before…) late last year. It’s why I sought help. Or certainly a big part of why I did.
Stemage: I’m sure it makes an even bigger difference when you’re working in what is essentially a creative industry. With creative projects, creation or cultivation, there is the looming idea that they might never be done unless you put the ribbon on it. You can work on a creative project for what is essentially forever, revising, tweaking, changing. It’s not a math problem. It’s an art problem.
Hoodie: This is where I embed “The mix is almost perfect!” meme with the cobwebbed skeleton, ain’t it?
Stemage: THAT’S IT. Art makes us crazy. Case closed. Problem solved.
Hoodie: hahaha It’s funny you mention that, as I believe Alex and I discussed this very same thing to a point. The creative mind often comes with some pretty odd quirks to go with the perks that is naturally has.
Although on some level, I think it’s applicable of us all. None of our brains are perfect. Due to nature and nurture, something’s gonna be wonky. Just up to us to actually address it vs. ignoring it in fear of looking “weak” or such as you mentioned. Generally ends up makes us a lot weaker if we refuse to face the problem vs choosing to confront it and punching it in the nuts. Repeatably. With spikes. Ouch.
But again, when you’re constantly just told to “Deal with it,” and/or “Get over it” that’s kinda hard to do just that.
Stemage: True, and when there are so many things that offer us little dopamine squirts throughout the days/weeks, it’s easy to try and fill that hole with good feelings or cover the issues up. Vices and instant gratification are easy to come by these days.
That was one of the first things I did was take steps to reduce the noise in my life. Shit be noisy these days.
Hoodie: SUPER noisy. What’d you do to reduce the noise?
Stemage: It’s all tech noise! The first thing I did was turn off all notifications on my phone other then what I needed to survive. The only things that ding me now are things that actually involve me – like messages, etc.
Even though I don’t really post to Facebook, it’s easy to accidentally get caught up in the feed when checking groups and messages. So I installed News Feed Eradicator on my desktop to replace my feed with inspirational quotes. That way, I can still work in groups and messages without getting distracted.
I naturally ended up spending less time on Twitter, which is too bad sometimes, but during especially controversial days at least I don’t get caught up in the heat.
Also, if I’m with someone and have a reason to pull out my phone, I always say, “Will you excuse me for a moment?” and tell them why I’m checking it. It may sound douchey, but it keeps me aware of why I’m leaving reality for a minute, admits to people around me why as well, and makes me feel a little better. :)
Those were small things, but they made a big difference. Unfortunately (and fortunately), once you do that it also makes you acutely aware of what moments you’re looking for a dopamine squirt. And then you’re left in that head space of, “What now?”
Side note: add “Dopamine Squirt” to the band name list.
Stemage: Dope Squirt Manifesto – coming 2017
Hoodie: I’m sorry. I really couldn’t help myself. The “band name recognizer” portion of my brainmeats is *ALWAYS* on.
Stemage: As it should be!
Dope Squirt Manifesto – Brainmeats – coming 2017
Hoodie: Stop (or don’t), or this will become a legit thing. You know how this works, Grant…
I mean, this is how people end up making Mario acapella tracks. This is that road. This is that path.
Stemage: I have books of band names thanks to our antics.
Hoodie: At least one of us does! Mine are all filed away deep within the recesses of my mind. Need to put that on a Gdoc so I’ll actually keep record. lol
Moving back to your sentiment of, “What now?”, where did you go from there?
Stemage: I actually stumbled into this book by Dan Harris called “10% Happier“. I’ve never been big on self-help books, but I was listening to the Giant Bomb podcast, and Dan Ryckert mentioned this book as an aside regarding meditation and his anxieties. He’s one of those guys you just don’t associate with anxiety, so that was neat. I took a meditation class in college and remember loving it. I also though it was neat that some gaming personalities decided to bring up the concept of meditation. Meditation is all about “stillness” and that was my problem, so HEY WHY NOT?
Being that Dan Harris is a news anchor TV personality, I thought it might be a good read, so I gave it a shot. It was a fun read but also scary how his personality deficiencies and ways of coping were similar to mine – vices and overthinking and all.
Funny, apparently lots of gamers were drawn to that book – to the point that Dan Harris decided to have Dan Ryckert on HIS podcast. Harris’ Twitter feed blew up thanks to many a thankful gamer.
His book was great, but I still felt like I needed guidance. Like, literal guidance. So I got this app called Headspace and dove in. You’ve had a bit of experience with that app haven’t you?
Hoodie: Have experience with both actually! And again, thanks to your recommendations! haha
Not sure which came first, but I got into Headspace and then started reading Harris’ book fairly early into the program. The book was cool, but that app is AMAZING.
I’d tried meditation before here and there, but never really managed to pull it off. Always “tried too hard”. Headspace finally sold it to me.
Stemage: It’s hard! It’s a serious mental workout. Taking your brain to the gym.
But in a different way than something like Brain Age.
There’s a huge stigma around meditation much like therapy. And believe me, living in Santa Cruz, I roll my eyes at a lot of the same stuff.
Hoodie: Yeah, most definitely. I was pretty skeptical myself to be honest.
Stemage: I always thought that the main focus of meditation was to calm yourself the hell down. I didn’t realize that over time, you train yourself to realize what’s actually happening in your mind at all times, not just in the session. That was huge for me once I started seeing the progress. And as you know, it’s all about seeing progress with anything we do.
Hoodie: Agreed wholeheartedly. I think seeing fairly quick progress is what sold me on sticking with it. Small, subtle progress, but measurable all the same. Once I got over the, “OH MAN I SUCK AT THIS” bit anyways. Which the program actually addresses. haha
Stemage: Yeah the program is really good at calling you out with impeccable timing. ;)
Hoodie: It’s like dude knows what he’s doing or something.
Also, THE most British name ever: Andy Puddicombe. Accent is delightful as well.
Stemage: I HAD NO IDEA HIS LAST NAME IS PUDDICOMBE. THAT IS ADORABLE.
Hoodie: RIGHT?!?!? Somehow makes it better, doesn’t it? hahaha
Stemage: I feel like this a Puddicombe advertisement, but he has been able to package the routine in a way that just works for me. There are a zillion ways of finding guided mediation if that is something people would be interested in at least trying.
I’ve always had a hard time sticking with exercise because I just don’t enjoy it, and I haven’t gotten to the point where I see results outside of the session. Luckily, I’ve been able to stick with this long enough to see results. I hope to take to this mindset back to exercise. I feel like that is the other tent pole that I’m missing. ;)
WILL REPORT BACK
Hoodie: Dude, I’ve honestly felt the same way every time I mention Headspace to a friend. Like I should get a paycheck at this point. lol
But yeah, it really works for me as well. And at very minimum, yes, it’s at least made me comfortable saying, “Meditation/mindfulness is good stuff. Worth looking into in.”
Regarding physical exercise: SAME PLACE SAME PLACE SAME PLACE
Stemage:We gotta get on that.
Stemage: I’ve heard people talk about meditation out here in Silicon Valley calling it the “new coffee”. I guess it makes sense. We live in a world of overstimulus, and humans are terrible at multitasking – our brains are rather.
Getting to a point where you can at least understand what your brain is doing is the first part of the battle – and in a lot of cases, it seems to be a lot of the battle. Or it has been for me.
Hoodie: Not surprised by this, especially after reading that book. Let it catch on! It’s good stuff for pretty much everyone in some way.
And yeah, that’s been a revelation: actually really looking at how my brainmeats work. This and talk therapy have been the biggest keys to unlocking that puzzle for me.
Stemage: Yeah, one part helps you watch your own brain work and see what’s happening. The other part becomes educational – to try and figure out what that means. And sometimes it just helps to just ramble on to someone and throw puzzle pieces at them – give them a chance to try and put the puzzle together. ;)
Hoodie: Getting feedback from a professional in the mental health field has been exceptional to me. Even though he’s saying/confirming/denying a lot of things I’ve either peripherally heard or actually considered before, it’s more believable coming from someone directing it at me who specializes in such.
Stemage: Yeah I think some people gravitate toward professionals, and other people don’t trust them. It’s all about what works for you and finding something that you click with. I have a local lady that I adore. It’s been a good while since I’ve been back to her. Having so many professional and casual resources available can add to the noise, and it means you have to try a little harder to find a solution, but a solution is absolutely out there.
If people are reading this blog, I’d imagine they are pretty steeped in technology. That’s a good reason to keep an even closer eye on yourself.
Hoodie: It really is. Tech can be great, but like you said, VERY NOISY. That’s a great analogy by the way. Definitely going to use that moving forward.
Oooh! Another handy “therapy” that’s been great for me awhile now:
No Man’s Sky.
The MOST zen game to me, regardless of most folks’ general reception of it. haha
Stemage: I’ve zenned out pretty hard with No Man’s Sky.
AND DIDN’T FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. HAHA. I guess that’s progress?
Stemage: Now I’m in Thumper-land. I tried to meditate after Thumper the other day, and my brain was running into walls and throwing shit around like a toddler in a new house. But at least I can see it happening now.
Hoodie: STILL NEED TO PLAY THAT.
…but maybe not right after meditation. hahaha
Stemage: It will make you tired and wake you up at the same time. Hey, overstimulation is great sometimes!! As long as you know it’s happening. ;)
On that note I think we’re at a pretty good wrap up place. Anything else you want to say about this topic before we do that?
Stemage: Well, we’ve all heard that quote about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. There’s a quote from Stanley Kubrick that I like way better.
“It’s crazy how you can get yourself in a mess sometimes and not even be able to think about it with any sense and yet not be able to think about anything else.”
I think that’s the true definition of crazy. Fortunately, most of us can deal with that kind of situation – takes some time and effort though. I just want all my friends and acquaintances to be happy and healthy. :)
If there’s one thing that I can recommend the most, it’s to pay attention to yourself. Ask yourself why you’re doing anything. If what you’re doing concerns you at all, it might be worth analyzing a bit more. That’s one thing people can do now without having to start a whole new routine. Just watch.
Take that for what it’s worth.
And if all else fails, put this on loop. It ALWAYS helps.
Hoodie: Perfect conclusion. And I mean the song just as much as your parting words.
Stemage: Maybe you should delete all this rambling and just post the video?
Hoodie: I would, but I’ve already copied all the text over and I’m lazy so…. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ♪~ ᕕ(ᐛ)ᕗ
Stemage: DANCE PARTY