Running With, Not Away From, Emotion

11 May

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The past few moths have been riddled with high emotions and life challenges. I knew going into this race that I had a lot on my mind and a heavy heart. I could have just not run the race and avoided facing my deep thoughts; however, that would be weak. I could have turned to substances to “numb” the pain, but that is not an option. Instead, I chose to take off into the woods all day and allow myself to process some deep, deep thought and emotion. 

Sitting on a rock about 30 yards off the trail on top of a mountain I found myself on my knees in thought and prayer. About 13 miles into the Quad Rock 50 tears began to fill my eyes and they could not stop. I did not want other runners to worry for me, as ultra runners care about one another and surely would check in on me. Thus, I wandered off course and spent a painful 20 minutes allowing the anguish to run its course. The emotion was strong. However, I could not be hypocritical and try to avoid emotion. After all, I teach people every day the importance of sitting with feelings. There is no such thing as negative emotion. It might be painful but it’s not negative. 

After a good 20 minutes passed I felt more calm and ready to keep running. I thoroughly enjoyed the summit of Horsetooth Mtn. and the steep trails. I found myself experiencing drastic shifts of emotion. I didn’t try to tune out anything.  I wasn’t there to win the race. I was there for training and to finish…and enjoy running in such a gorgeous environment.About every hour I found myself wandering off to a rock sometimes sitting and sometimes kneeling. As the race went on I noticed more energy and good physical strength. I felt, and feel, great physically. 

I’ve never won an ultra marathon; in fact,  the best I’ve done is 3rd on a 12-hour race. I’ve never been last in an ultra marathon either. Usually, I finish in a reasonable time, and if it’s not reasonable I at least finish :) Nonetheless, I woke up this morning feeling so positive and a much stronger man for allowing myself to experience and not avoid and to finish hard things! 

 

 

The Truth about Running a 100 Mile Race: A Psychologists Take

3 Apr

I hear it all. “You’re crazy.” “You’re killing your body.” “You’re going to die.” “You’re an inspiration.” ….and the list goes on! Realistically, the majority of people inquisitively ask questions with the intent to learn and support. I would imagine you are reading this because you have your own questions. Let me answer questions that I hear all the time… and I’ll do so while wearing my psychologist and endurance runner hats! 

Why do people run for 100 Miles? Are you just addicted to running?

It is possible I’m addicted. In fact, let’s say I am? How bad of an addiction is it if I am home from my training runs in time so that my kids have no idea that I just ran 30+ miles? After all, the rule is no matter how far I train in the morning I cannot be grumpy during the day. So, if it’s an addiction I am going to be grateful I am addicted to this! 

I run 100 miles because…. um…. because why the heck would I not? My candid response to such a question is why aren’t you running 100 miles? 100 mile races are ran typically (well the one’s I most prefer) on dirt trails in the middle of the most beautiful mountains surrounded by incredible landscape and animals of different kinds. Running 100 miles is like hiking on steroids. You get to see soooo much in a short amount of time! 

From a psychologists perspective… I run 100 miles because when I run I feel freedom and control. Control??? You might ask if I am a control freak? Um, nope! In life, control is what we are ALL searching for. We all want to at least feel like something is in control. We get depressed or anxious and it is because we feel like things are out of our control (sure, there is a lot more to it than that but control is a huge part). So, how does running  100 miles give me control? It actually makes you give away most all control in the process but when finished I feel like I can be faced with any challenge and overcome whatever is thrown at me in life. Thus, feeling like I can face life challenges in a more confident and competent manner gives me a sense of control in life. Isn’t it interesting how letting go completely of control and being vulnerable can lead to a greater sense of control? 

Doesn’t it Hurt?

Yes. It hurts. And your point is? It doesn’t injure me though. In fact, I have not missed a scheduled day of running over the past 4 years due to a running induced injury. 

From a psychologists perspective… learning to not avoid pain is key to working with physical pain in life. So, experiencing some pain while running far actually helps me not avoid pain when it comes in other areas of life. Instead, I fully accept whatever pain as an indicator that something is going on and not the end of the world. 

 

Running that Far Ruins Your Knees, Don’t You Know That?

That is a cop out. Seriously, don’t ever ask me that. This kind of a question makes me want to vomit. That’s my answer. :) Frankly, there is no research that I’ve seen that says we weren’t built, as humans, to run and move. So if that is so then why would it be bad to do what we were built to do. 

I hear from my friends who are medical doctors and surgeons that they see people with knee problems and its because of running. Yeah, they don’t have me convinced. There is a thing called “extraneous variables.” If you can cut out all other reasons (i.e. bad running form, arthritis, stupid shoes, torn ligaments, and so much more) and there is still a knee issue then maybe I’ll believe you. But if it’s so bad then why do I see see 60 and 70 year old running friends out on the trails. Maybe you’re running on the wrong surface… dirt won’t hurt! Most of my friends who have been running for years and actually have a good medical doc who knows what they’re saying will tell them their running has strengthened their knees. 

From a psychologists perspective… we all look for excuses. Instead, look for excuses as to why something might be good for you before throwing in the towel. 

Do You Sleep?

Not that I know of. :) Seriously, I am sure I drift in and out of 1st stages of sleep. However, some of my friends will actually lay down and sleep for a bit. 

From a psychologist perspective…. Um… yeah I don’t know that I sleep. My honest thought is that we are a people full of all kinds of sleep problems. I sleep like a rock several nights a week and I figure it won’t harm me to miss a night of sleep a few times a year. The only side effect I really experience while not sleeping for the night of a race is temporary psychosis. Sure, I have seen turtles in the mountains and gnomes in the forest. But I don’t find that as a problem. It makes for an odd experience is all. 

 

 

 

 

 

Testosterone: ManPression Tip#4

15 Oct

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As I mentioned in the first post of this series, low testosterone can lead to depressive symptoms. If the levels are not normalized, you likely will not overcome these symptoms. 

You are not doomed forever because you have low testosterone (low-T)! There are so many forms of treatment for low-T. You are not being dishonest nor doing something illegal by low-T. That being said, treatment for low-T should not be willy nilly going into some vitamin store and grabbing something off of the shelf. PLEASE, talk with your med doc. Your doc will likely refer you to another medical professional who specializes in low-T. ASK QUESTIONS!!! Learn about alternatives. If you and the professional feel injections is your best option then go with what you two decide… but push the issue to discuss all possible options. 

Some research does state that Low-T can be increased by effective psychotherapy. Frankly, I believe you should get your testosterone checked and monitored by your med doc while engaging in therapy. That would be best case scenario. 

Losing weight (if you have weight to lose) can be helpful with increasing low-T. Belly fat uses more testosterone and can lead to lower levels. So, now might be a good time to start looking at how you can drop a few pounds and let that supplement your efforts!

A couple words of caution… talk with the specialty doc about testosterone and fertility. If you are planning to have more children you will want to make sure that is discussed with your med doc. Also, do not ever entertain the idea of exceeding normal levels of testosterone. Low-T treatment is only intended to restore you to normal levels. 

Here’s to some good testosterone!!! 

Dr. Drew Brazier

 

*If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a mental health emergency please go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911. These tips are not to be used in times of crisis.

Stop it at the 1st Layer: ManPression Tip #3

14 Oct

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Would you think I am off my rocker if I recommended that you might be better off if you just allow yourself to be depressed? Yeah, that could be pretty messed up of me to say! So, hear me out…

Women tend to actually feel the emotions, sensations, and thoughts associated with depressive symptoms. In contrast, us men try to completely avoid the emotions. We avoid the emotions with drinking a few too many cold ones, engaging in reckless behavior, gambling, and by simply pretending that we don’t have emotions. You see the problem here is that we are creating a second layer of depression, which leads to more shame, guilt, and even embarrassment about feeling depressive symptoms.

Boys are taught from a young age to hide emotions. A little girl falls while playing and we typically are quick to console her and accept crying. A little boy falls and we tell him to get up and be tough. This is not because we are just all horrible parents. This is because society trains us to allow women to feel and men should not express what they feel.  I think we should look at some data to see if this is helping… for every 1 women who commits suicide there are 5 men committing suicide. This could tell us that women can express when they feel awful and men cannot express it and just take care of the problem by ending everything.

So, stopping it at the 1st layer might sound overwhelming. It is not a simple task. I am asking you to do more noticing of your emotions and thoughts. In order to do more work on being aware of what is actually going on, you are being asked to stop avoiding, stop pretending :) So, what to do instead? Start exercising. Lets face it… exercise is just as, if not more, effective than antidepressants. That is not just my opinion… that is actual reputable research! My opinion is exercise is much more effective than antidepressant medication!!! Start small. The trick is to exercise before you allow yourself to choose if you want to exercise or not. This means go early in the morning or during lunch. You won’t become motivated to do it until you have been out doing it for 5-10 minutes. Just start with walking each day for 20 minutes.

I would also invite you to start taking a couple of notes. I know… journaling is so lame and only for women, or so they say. Don’t look at it as journaling. I just want you to take some notes :) Each day just write down what you are experiencing physically. Did you have headaches, body aches, stiffness, racing heart, fatigue, etc… Don’t start with your emotions and thoughts. Start with noticing how your body is feeling each day. Just check in a little bit and notice what you are experiencing! Not too hard, right?

Make it a great week!

Dr Drew Brazier

*If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a mental health emergency please go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911. These tips are not to be used in times of crisis.

Is Depression Really More Common in Women? Stop Blaming Others: ManPression Tip #2

12 Oct

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As I continue forward with this cutting edge information on ManPression I want to remind you that I am in no way trying to convince everyone that they are depressed. That is ridiculous and reckless. Instead, I really want to help break down the barriers and guide men to really be tough. Being tough is not avoiding pain… being tough is working through it! Researchers used to say that the women to men ratio with depression was 2:1. The more I dig into the most current research I see the statistics pointing closer to a 1:1 ratio. If we recognize it for what it is and do something about it then we can take control and enjoy life a little more.

So, why is the ratio becoming more even between women and men with depression? The truth is that the diagnostic criteria for depression has been formulated based mostly on experiences of females, thus making it harder to really understand what it looks like in males. However, clinicians have become savvy diagnosticians who have learned that men rarely show up with classical depressive symptoms (i.e. sadness), which has led to better identification of what is really going on.

Historically, men have compounded depression with shame. This shame is usually caused by negative perceptions about feeling depressed. Men are likely to think they are weak and faulted. When we, as men, start to feel some of this shame we sometimes start blaming others. Externalizing distress is very common in ManPression, which is opposite of the internalization behavior in women with depression.

If you notice that you are starting to blame others and criticize more, this could be a warning sign. Blaming others is typically an honest effort to not feel depressed by inflating our own personal value. The problem is this actually does not rid us of feeling down. It only temporarily allows a man to feel OK and then return to being back in the same spot.

If you are noticing that you are experiencing more urges to blame others and criticize, I invite you to start doing a simple task. First, you must be aware you are doing it. Let a good friend or spouse know you are working on it and give them permission to point it out when you are doing it. You will want to set a rule that you cannot react negatively to them pointing it out. This might be enough work for you initially. Second, if you are able to not get upset when  someone close to you brings it to your attention then you can proceed to the next step of this task. I invite you to simply turn your attention towards your physical body, emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations (eg. tightness in chest). Notice what you’re are experiencing in these domains and accept it as something going on within you versus something being wrong with others. This does not mean you turn it inwards and get all mad at yourself for feeling a certain way. It only means that you notice that you are actually experiencing something bothersome in your own thoughts, emotions, or body.

This exercise is imperative in noticing what is actually going on versus falling into the trap of believing that people around you are at fault and the world is a bad place with distrustful people.

Just Notice!!

Dr. Brazier

*If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a mental health emergency please go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911. These tips are not to be used in times of crisis. 

“I’m Just Tired”: ManPression Tip #1

12 Oct

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Have you ever just felt tired for multiple consecutive days… like 5 or more days in a row? No, returning from a family trip to Disney World does not count :) I am talking more about just feeling tired during regular work weeks. For some it could just be subtle and others it could be overtly falling asleep during meetings or important tasks. You might also notice it is just really hard to wake up in the morning. Or, some could possibly just be sitting down on the couch each night and falling sleep earlier than normal. 

This could be happening for several reasons! Nonetheless, it does not mean you have a clinical diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. It just means you NEED TO PAY ATTENTION if you start feeling this lethargy and fatigue hanging around for an extended time. 

What does this mean and what can you do? First, make sure you have your labs done with your primary care doctor. Do not overlook the importance of getting your testosterone, thyroid, vitamin D, and few other important endocrine deficiencies that might be leading to your fatigue. I will discuss these in greater depth in the next few days. The important note is go get your blood work done asap! Don’t think you are tougher than an actual medical problem…. sorry you just aren’t! 

  • Make sure you don’t start compensating with more coffee and caffeine. This will only lead to bigger crashes and is only a band aide to what might be a bigger problem.
  • Instead, focus on your protein intake. Make sure you are getting adequate protein during the day.
  • You also will want to notice your hours at work. Have you slipped into a habit of working more than 50+ hours/ week? 
  • You might want to refer back to my previous posts from September  of this year about sleeping tips. Work on your sleep and improve your sleep quality! This can increase your energy when feeling fatigued. 
  • Notice if you have had any other significant changes in routine, diet, exercise, work, and family life. 
  • Track (i.e. take notes… you can even do it on your phone) times when you feel most fatigued and notice how the rest of your body is feeling. Also, take notes on what you were doing 1 hour before starting to feel fatigued. This can help you gain insight as to variables that might be leading to fatigue. On the flip side, pay attention to moments when you feel more energy and notice what you were doing during those times. 
  • Get on your feet and get outside! This might be one of the most important tips for fatigue. Our bodies follow the supply and demand principle. If we want more energy we must use energy! Start small… just go walk outside for 15-20 minutes. 

Again, fatigue alone does not mean you have depression. However, it does increase your chance by 2.6 times if you do not address the issue now. It is important to remember that if this is going on for multiple days then the best thing you can do it take care of it and not avoid it. Avoiding only makes us weaker! 

 

*If you, or someone you know, are experiencing a mental health emergency please go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911. These tips are not to be used in times of crisis. 

ManPression: A Series of Tips For Men To Overcome Anger/Depression

10 Oct

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I am a man, I think that is obvious. At times, I consider myself to be strong, tough, and resilient. I thoroughly enjoyed playing football in college and absolutely got kicks out of leveling a quarterback. Running through tons of pain is actually a hobby I truly enjoy. I do believe I can throw down if needed :) I am not afraid of human beings. I do not fear much. I enjoy bungee jumping and love that fast air blowing past my face while safely leaping off of a 170ft tower. See, I do have my moments of toughness! Does that mean I don’t have emotions? Does that mean I don’t feel down at times? NO!!! 

I do not consider myself as someone with an ongoing depressive disorder. However, I have experienced a couple of moments in life that I would classify as a true major depressive episode. Though it has not happened in several years, I have felt it. To me it was very physical and physiological. It was emptiness. I felt confused. I could not focus. Life seemed to be on top of me and I had little hope. Did thoughts of no longer living come to my mind? Yes. Did I entertain those thoughts and come up with a plan? No. But I did have serious questions. During these times I isolated myself from everyone. I could not listen to any music. These moments seemed to have caught me by surprise. However, looking back there were actual triggers. 

My goal of sharing this with you is not to convince you that everyone has experienced depression. Rather, I want depression in men to be more easily discussed. I want the facts to be out there. I am one happy dude. I love life. I experience each day as a true adventure…. but it still creeps up on me if I am not aware. 

Awareness is essential. Talking about the reality of what is going on for people who are experiencing symptoms is imperative. Avoiding the subject is quite frankly reckless. In fact, you want the truth… I’ll share it. I believe that avoiding the fact that we, as men, don’t experience depression is the actual weakness. Acknowledging that it happens and facing it head on is the toughness I have grown to respect and appreciate. 

I am going to spend the next 14 days focused specifically on what I call, “ManPression.” This is a term that has been used here and there but not in the way I will use it. This is more than being sad because your team lost. This is truly feeling real symptoms related to depression. Now wait, you might think you (or some man close to you) doesn’t cry a lot so this is not depression. Great thought… The truth is that depression can come in sooo many ways and is usually expressed through shortness, anger, and physical complaints in men. There is even more to it than that. 

The good news is that I am not just going to share some cutting edge info on the subject. I am going to share tips and innovative ideas to help you recognize it, do something about it, and heal from it!

 

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