Why I Need to Make a Change — The Mental Challenge

TAGS: energy level, CNS recovery, life balance, training intensity, mental health, sleep, chad aichs

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In parts one and two of this article series I wrote about what triggered this need for change and what I thought needed to be changed. I wrote about the goals I was hoping to meet by making this change. I covered the more straightforward physical aspects of change like training and nutrition, but there are a lot of mental aspects I will need to work on also. In part three I will cover those mental parts and give some updates on how the first month has gone.

The initial start to this whole process was based on my central nervous system. It was more about the physical things I could change in order to give it a chance to normalize some and help it recover better. It did not take me long to realize there was going to be an ever-growing mental aspect I would need to move up the priority list of this project. I have for a long time felt being a Type A personality and having narcolepsy is a bit of a curse. Not only do I have horrible narcoleptic sleep, which leaves me with horrible recovery and tired a lot of the time, but I also have a personality that finds it very hard to not push everything to the limit. I want to do so many things and strive to be the best at all of them.


Part 1: Why I Need to Make a Change


Very simply, this has been a major cause of so many of my ups and downs. My Mr. Type A would push to the limit then right over the edge, never listening to my body. I would be the usual spiral of worse sleep, then depression, then even worse sleep, change in personality, change in attitude, and eventually being a zombie. Over the years I have been working on recognizing it and catching it sooner and sooner but it still happens, just to a lesser extreme. Then as I would improve and start feeling better, my Type A personality would kick right in again. He would want to make up for lost time of being down and make headway in life. Get shit accomplished.

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I began to feel better and have higher energy levels very quickly at the start of this process. That was the point when it really hit me that this was going to be a mental thing. It is easy to relax or rest when you are exhausted or depressed, but when you’re that Type A person it is hard, even with just a little energy. It is so hard to control that urge to meet goals and get things done. I had to take a step back to remember my goal is to feel better and keep myself stable. These changes will never stick if I keep letting that Type A personality rule my life. Even with changing my training to make it less stressful on my CNS, there are still so many ways I can run myself down. At first I just thought, “Okay, this is something I have to pay attention to and control.” I was actually doing good controlling it. I caught myself numerous times and reigned myself back in. Then another relationship-based issue came up and I realized controlling it wasn’t enough. I need to get the root of the problem and better understand where it comes from.


Part 2: Why I Need to Make a Change — The Plan 


Leave it to me to take a long bloody journey deep into my own psyche. I have never steered away from a challenge — the harder the better. Well, this one is right up there with the hardest I have done. I have never known another man as willing as I to go so deep into himself. Not just go to the marrow but to be willing to take a jackhammer, and when that's done go to work healing it to make it stronger. I have done a lot of this in my past, always trying to understand myself the best I can and be a better person because of it. This time was more intense and it was strange to get a clearer understanding of how everything is so intertwined. I even ended up stumbling on some things I thought I had worked out but realized they were not fully done because of how intertwined it all is. So far it has been an interesting and exhausting journey.

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I had to take a trip back into my past with a different perspective then I ever have. I do not have any horrible childhood stories, and for me it just seems liked a normal midwest upbringing. When we are young we can interpret things very differently than when we are adults, though. There were some hard times and some very good times growing up. We were raised to work hard and be tough. It was pretty old school in terms of discipline and what was expected of us.

I am actually a pretty sensitive person and was also a very sensitive child. This was rare in my family, and I think this had a huge effect on how I saw things. I hated disappointing anyone I loved and when I did wrong I was harder on myself than anyone else was on me, to the point of mentally beating the crap out of myself when I got in trouble. Hearing anything about how I had disappointed them or they expected more from me absolutely tore me up. I was not very good at forgiving myself either. On top of that, I think it is in my nature to take everything to the extreme, blast or dust.

There also seemed to be more focus on how to improve or what needed to be fixed, not so much what was done good or correctly. The combination of this and growing up with very intense feelings I think propelled my insane drive. It also led me to have unrealistic goals and expectations of perfection. For example, I quit celebrating my birthday a long time ago because I figured it was no big deal, millions of people make it to their next birthday every year. I hated getting gifts on Christmas because, in my mind, I did not see how I did anything special to receive them. When I would break a world record I would celebrate for about 10 seconds before realizing I could do better, so why should I have celebrated less than my best?

This also transferred over to my personality. When people would compliment me for anything my standard answer has been, “I am just Chad. Nobody special!” I have always expected myself to be even better than I was. I have never hated myself or anything like that. I was proud of who I am or was and what I have accomplished. It was just that I knew I could still do better, so I was just okay. My standards have never been based on anyone or anything else, just me and my abilities.

I've realized so many different things about my personality and why I am the way I am. Realizing it is only one part of the process, though. A twist to all this is that, in my case, these traits have caused me to do great things and at the same time hurt me. It was my insane drive, focus, and expectations that helped me become one of the best powerlifters of my day. But it was also these things that pushed me over the edge to spiral me down into my worst depression I have ever gone through. It is that same drive that also pushes me so hard to put myself through this process, but at the same time I've actually realized it could easily drag me down to where I become lost in it.

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The last few years of my life it seems the idea of balance just keeps popping up. The last two weeks or so have been very exhausting emotionally for me. This is tough work. I have spent a lot of time thinking about myself and who I am, and a lot of time remembering the things the people I love have said about me. I've been actually listening, hearing them with my heart open. This is a very difficult thing for someone like me but it must be done if I want to be a better man. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I expect of myself and how unrealistic I can be, getting myself to realize we are all human and we all make mistakes. What is important is the ability to recognize that mistake and work to make sure it does not happen again.

Some mistakes may take a couple tries, too. I have been working on realizing that not everything has to be the greatest thing to be celebrated. It is okay to have fun and just enjoy life sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of mediocrity and I think everyone should strive for great things. But it is okay to enjoy some of the smaller, less exceptional things too. I have been working very hard on being okay with relaxing even when I do have energy. I'm learning to just enjoy “being” sometimes. I know this kind of change does not happen overnight and I still can improve on it, but for now I am very happy with my progress in these areas. Maybe it is not the most exceptional thing in the world, but few people are actually willing to do anything like this and I am proud to say I am willing to.

I am four weeks into this project now, plus two weeks of messing around with it. The best way to describe it is to say it has been extremely strange and awesome.

Let's start with sleep, which was sketchy, with every third or four day being complete shit for the first couple weeks. Since then it has seemed to level out but I do find I sleep better when I go to bed and wake up early. I used to be able to sleep in late and that is rare now. It is almost like my body gets a little sleep and doesn’t know what to do with it. I know I still need more sleep so I do try my best to fall back asleep when this happens.

The biggest changes have been in my personality and I am definitely changing into the person I know I am. This, again, was weird because I am doing things I have not done since my twenties. I was going to American Iron and not having any issues being around so many people and wasn't going nuts seeing things training wise that irritate the hell out of me. I was even doing some coaching and having a blast with it. I was talking and catching up with people, actually enjoying it.

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At work I was talking in the morning and feeling better through the whole day. I even caught myself singing out loud in the office a few times. There have been days where I am moving and singing to the music while making my dinner — something very few people will ever get to see. I was actually calling people and asking if they wanted to go grab some food or do something. I have not done that since I was in my twenties. I'm just being way more social and having fun with it. So far I am really happy with my changes, but at the same time I know I am still on the cusp. I still have a lot of work ahead of me and right now I have to be careful because it would still be easy to fall. This is just the beginning but the end is going to be amazing.

As I have said, this project is an ongoing experiment and I am committing six months to it. In just a month it has evolved so much and I know it will keep evolving. It is an exciting challenge for me and I can’t wait to see what I can learn. Look for more updates on Instagram: @chadaichs.

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