Push-ups before you realize…

I was hanging with some old friends of mine and having a local area network (LAN) party; we played Starcraft in teams, or playing against the CPU since my one friend hadn’t played in 20 years or so. To sum up, we had a blast. It was like a return to the old days when we used to shoot the breeze, talk video games, and tell jokes or other offhand comments after classes in Junior high and High school.

While leaving for the night, my friend made a comment of the difficulty of waking up in the morning, and joked, “Ideally, you don’t want to wake up at all after sleep.” An agreeable comment, and a true one perhaps (sleep is great, who doesn’t like it?). I felt like throwing a piece of advice out there, so I said that I usually jump out of bed and bang out a few push-ups without thinking about it, and suddenly I am up and at it.

Another friend responded quickly and said, “That reminds me of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, he did the same thing in the movie.” I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the book (brilliant, yet horrifying), and I was instantly hit with a pang of insecurity. I felt my mind drift into a sort of lull like chant of “You’re worthless,” or “You are the psychopath here,” and so on. I took the comment as a sort of attack on my character.

I tried to regain a sense of composure by saying that I don’t recall that in the book, to which another friend said that the scene was only in the movie. We then talked about the book as he was the one that recommended American Psycho to me, and I felt a calm wash over as we talked. But still, I was taken a back, and had a tough time recalling anything from the book, or keeping a gaze while we talked.

The next day, after all my classes and any homework I had, I did some mobility work. I tried to meditate a little to calm my mind, and I tuned into some relaxing, calming music as well. After a walk through my neighborhood that night, it hit me that I was still suffering from my insecurities, and I essentially “relapsed” into my old ways. Well, not completely, but nearly.

Whenever I hear the word relapse, I think of drug addicts and alcoholics that go back to old habits. I never imagined relapsing could mean returning to behaviours we would do to cope or to protect ourselves. But like any tightness in our body, we tighten to protect ourselves, and if we are unsure how to handle a particular moment in our lives, that relapse is like the tightening of our muscles when they are trying to protect a vulnerable part of our body. Once we learn to strengthen that part of our body, or learn how to relax that muscle so as to let it move freely, that tightness – that subconscious act to protect our body – becomes replaced with those better practices.

Relapsing isn’t a “bad” thing perse and can, in fact, be a helpful part in our growth and learning. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and their “Stages of change,” relapsing is a part of the diagram, and is defined as:

Falling back into old patterns, actions and behaviours. Each action is met with new insights and knowledge, leading to less frequent setbacks.

From the CMHA peer support student guide, Module 2

The reflection of that moment, but also the insecurities of my past that have haunted me, are clearer to me now, especially after that moment when I had time to process it. In the past, I think I would of reacted with a brash attitude and push that aside, or worse, think it an insult to me and my character (I very nearly did).

I think these times with political division, the COVID-19 pandemic, and following lockdown; and the feelings many people have in our province have led to quick assumptions and perhaps a sensitivity of the soul. Maybe it stems from that anxiety of staying in for the most part, but I am no doctor or psychoanalyst (though an interest of mine). It is so very easy to cling to those simple solutions in our mind, but like boxing and throwing punches in the ring, there is a good chance the person you are interacting with or that you think is attacking you is most likely feeling the same way as you. And if not, well, that might call for some self-reflection.

I’ve said in another piece that Patrick Bateman is a relatable character in how he relies on his basal instincts and hedonistic tendencies, along with caring for only the superficial image of himself and everyone else. But, as the story goes, it hurts him far more than he cares to admit. It’s all good to take a second to look in, lest you become a monster of your former self, or stuck in the child-like abuse of power (rich and spoiled).

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