My Secret

I have a secret to share. Don’t get TOO excited, but it’s still a big deal to me. I was inspired to talk about this by my friend Kenzie and her blog. Most people would never guess this about me, as I’ve become an expert at hiding it from everyone except those closest to me. Well, here it is: I have OCD. I’ve struggled with it as long as I can remember, and it’s ruled my life for just as long. Every decision, every worry, every thought…OCD has always been lurking in the background. Whether in big ways or small, it’s affected me and the people around me.

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? A part of me wants to say “Don’t ask”. It’s one of the worst kind of tortures imaginable. Basically you worry about anything and everything. You second-guess every decision you ever make, and try to meet unimaginable codes of conduct (ex. never tell a lie (ever), worry about getting other people sick if you have a cold, worry about someone misinterpreting something you said, and so much more). I replay events in my head because I am so worried that I might have done something wrong. I replay them to the point where I convince myself I DID something wrong, or had the wrong motivation for an action even when deep down I know I didn’t. Random thoughts pop into your head and you spend a total of hours trying to figure out why you thought that. I’m not the only one with OCD. Check out some celebrities who you would never have guessed have it too!

Why am I posting this? Because recently I have become painfully (but also refreshingly) aware that this is something for me to confront, not hide. That I can’t do this on my own.  I want people to know me for ME, not the me that I show people and who pretends he’s got everything together. I’ve recently also taken the important step of seeing a counsellor, and working on strategies to overcome my OCD. Will it ever be completely gone? No. But can I manage it so that it no longer controls my life and affects me and everyone around me? Yep. And that starts with me being open and vulnerable, and sharing my secret.

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Rule #8: Men Can Grieve Too

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Life is full of laughs, and it is full of good memories. But loss is a part of life that must be accepted alongside the rest. Loss hurts! As much as you wish you could, you can’t simply wish the pain away. Some losses you might regain. But there is one I can’t, no matter what the future brings: My grandpa.

Over the Christmas break, I lost my Jedo (that’s Serbian for Grandpa). After a long and painful battle with cancer, he passed away in Juravinski Hospital. I loved him so incredibly much, we all did. He had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known, and was loyal to a fault. He loved his wife with all his heart, and was always there for his family.

When he passed away I felt numb. To have him torn out of our lives, and only absence left in his wake… it is an indescribable feeling. This site talks about how men grieve differently. Our culture discourages men from grieving. But grieving is NOT something to be suppressed, or a feminine trait. It is a sign that you actually care!

Grieving is healthy! Men feel emotions the same as women do. We aren’t meant to be robots, and I would argue that a man who can cry is one capable of feeling not only the greatest pain, but the greatest joy as well! Grieving is not forgetting your losses, but rather accepting that loss has occurred. Not letting pain cripple you is NOT the same as not feeling it. Emotions are what makes us human, and our emotions are also what make us men. Don’t ignore them!  Without grieving, you cannot heal. Wouldn’t you like to heal?

Rule #7: (Re)define Yourself

Who are you? What drives you? What defines you?

Asking yourself who you are is an old question, one that has plagued man (and woman) from the dawn of time. No matter what stage of life you are in, the question can ambush us from the shadowy recesses of our minds. Psychotherapist Mel Schwartz argues that identity is in constant flux, and that we should be excited at being able to redefine ourselves along the way. He also argues that instead of asking who we are, we should rather ask how we would like to engage with our lives.

I constantly find myself reassessing who I am. Our morals, values, skills and opinions change. Not all of them, but many. It’s part of growing as a person. If we are to reach our fullest potential, and be the kind of man (or woman) we want to be, it means asking ourselves the hard questions. Asking ourselves how we want to live, how we want to engage with others and life in general. Identify in what areas we are less than we want to be, and how we can become more? This blog provides a pretty expansive list on ways to grow as a person, and challenge yourselves.

Every time I think I know who I am, my perception or mental picture is proven to be lacking. But we need to embrace that! Embrace the opportunities to re-define yourself! Who do you want to be tomorrow that you aren’t today? Your future, and who you are, is up to you. Learn from your mistakes. Use both your greatest triumphs and your greatest losses as motivation to better yourself. Your limits are the ones you set for yourself. Don’t constrain yourself, re-define yourself!

Rule #6: Accept That You’re Not As Smart As You Think

Ouch. Not the most comfortable thing to do, eh? But we’ve all had those moments, where we think we know more than we actually do, or look like an idiot. This article talks about how science has proven that we aren’t quite as rational-thinking as we would like to believe. That means making a LOT of mistakes, no matter how hard you try not to. But the fact that you will make mistakes isn’t the problem I’m talking about here.

The problem that us guys face is pride. We often have puffed-up ideas of our intelligence and skills, and are loathe to recognize our faults and learn from someone else. Why? Because trying to learn from someone else means accepting that they know more than we do.

You might have accepted someone’s superior ability at math, hockey, writing, or their mad CoD skills; but did you ask them if they had any tips? Did you ask them for help, or to show you some of what they know? Or did you let your pride stop you from trying to learn from them and better yourself?

No matter what point we are at in our life, there are still things we don’t know. Skills we can learn, tips we should listen to, and advice we need to hear. Some men argue that this is why we need a mentor. Someone to advise, teach, and remind us what really matters. How about you? We aren’t infallible, guys. And the best way to better ourselves is to challenge ourselves to swallow that pride, and ask someone else for help or to share some of their wisdom. It might be humbling, but I promise you will be happy you did. Just like Luke needed Yoda, we need a mentor too.

Rule #5: Take A Stand

You don’t have to be a superhero to take a stand. You don’t need special powers or to inherit a family fortune, you just need the will to act. Every day we are surrounded by injustice: whispered insults and jokes about people we know, lack of common courtesy, ill treatment of loved ones. Those are only a few examples. But what marks a gentleman apart from other men is that he takes a stand for what is right, no matter the danger to himself (whether it be danger to his esteem, how he is viewed by peers, or even his life).

Take the example of Oskar Schindler, who you may know better as the star character in the movie Schindler’s List. Although a member of the Nazi Party during WWII, Schindler became disenfranchised with the regime by its treatment of the Jewish people, and took action to rescue more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in Nazi death camps. Now this is an extreme example, one of a man who risked death and torture by taking a stand for what was right.

But when I say a gentleman should take a stand, I mean for the little things as well. The things that happen on a daily basis. When you hear a friend saying something unfair about another, say something. When you see a cashier being treated rudely, step forward. There are times for silence, but there are also times for a voice to be heard. A gentleman’s duty is to take a stand and make his voice heard even when it’s uncomfortable or scary. To act in spite of fear, and for what is right – that marks a true gentleman.

Rule #4: Don’t Practice Convenient Loyalty

How many people do you trust? I mean, REALLY trust? As in to have your back no matter what, to support you in the toughest times imaginable, to fight beside you or trust in you when no one else would?

Now what kind of loyalty do YOU practice?  We all mess up a fair amount when it comes to loyalty. And I don’t mean you have to betray someone on a big scale, like these folks did. I’m talking about the little things, like ditching one friend to hang with another, or not supporting your sibling by going to their playoff game because you want to stay home and sleep.

There’s psychology behind it too! Counsellor and hypnotherapist Susan Leigh argues that “Loyalty is an important part of our commitment to each other. It oils the wheels of daily life and enables us to respect those close to us and trust that we will treat each other with regard.”

Now here’s the challenge… Don’t be loyal only when it’s convenient for you. Loyalty can be painful! If a friend or family member makes a lot of stupid choices and gets into trouble, it can be incredibly trying and painful to be there for them all the time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it (and remember, we ALL do a lot of stupid things, and people are there for us too)! Obviously there are limits to helping someone who makes stupid choices again and again, but you get my drift. Challenge yourselves (as I definitely need to challenge myself) to be there for your friends and family when it hurts. THAT is the true meaning of loyalty.

And loyalty isn’t just a human thing! Check this out:

Rule #3: The 4 Second Rule

Think before you speak. Seems pretty basic. But then why is it so hard?! I’m horrible at it, at taking that extra second before I say what’s on my mind or before deciding what I am going to do. I have a pretty dry sense of humor, so tend to blurt out sarcastic comments like they are going out of style. ! But it’s crucial for us guys to not just immediately say what comes to our mind, or else we are going to be in a WORLD of trouble.And this isn’t just common sense, it’s backed up by psychologists who claim that “Your speech shapes your life.”

How do we prevent that, and make sure what we are saying is the right thing? My suggestion is take 4 seconds before you act or respond. Now obviously this is a rule that will change a bit depending on the situation. If your neighbour’s house is on fire and they ask you to call the fire station, then you’re not going to wait 4 seconds to respond. I’m talking about those situations where you have something you want to say, or someone asks you for advice. Or the times when you’re excited, angry, over-caffeinated, or tired. In those moments, count to 4 before you say something. Evaluate whether what you’re saying is the right thing to say, or if you would be proud to have said in in a week from now. THEN make the choice of what you will say. 4 seconds isn’t too much to ask, is it?
There are countless real life scenarios of people who have thought before they’ve spoken or acted in order to avoid catastrophe. Take John F. Kennedy with the Cuban Missile Crisis! Russia and the US barely avoided nuclear disaster thanks to taking time to think things through. Let’s try and learn from the examples out there, and take those 4 seconds!