World Mental Health Day: My Journey with Anxiety


Lost in all the “World Food/Beer/Hobby Days” are days that actually have quite a bit of significance. Today is “World Mental Health Day” and I’m not sure when that started or who came up with it, but according to the chatter on Twitter, today is that day.

Mental health is something most people immediately associate with somebody who talks to themselves or an unstable individual who can’t function. That’s the vision we, for some reason, grow up with. It isn’t until we go through some life experiences or are exposed to somebody close who deals with something like anxiety or depression that we understand Mental Health is not synonymous with “mental patient”.

The mental health community is such a loving community. My experience comes on the anxiety side of things. In 2006 I jumped on a plane and headed out to Sugar Land, Texas to scope out potential neighborhoods to raise my budding family. At that time my wife and I had been married for two years and our oldest daughter was only six months old. While touring around with the realtor I felt a sudden rush of heat, I guess you’d call it a hot flash. I don’t recall my heart racing, just a real uncomfortable feeling like I couldn’t escape but I needed to get out. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve ever had a panic attack before then you know exactly how I felt.

Internally I was freaking out, but somehow I managed to get through that moment. I was out there in Texas for two or three days and each day was worse than the last. Anxiety, for the first time, had all my attention and even going to a baseball game couldn’t take that impending doom feeling that I had. The only thing that helped me was sleep.

I couldn’t wait to jump back on the plane to come home. I remember telling myself that as soon as I get home I’m going to feel normal again, I’m going to be just fine. I woke up the next day, went to work and I was feeling on edge the whole time. It wasn’t like being amped on caffeine type of “on edge” but rather that there was something wrong and I was nervous about something, but there was nothing to be nervous about. Finally, after dealing with being uncomfortable for a couple weeks I made an appointment to see my doctor.

You can guess what the doctor did. He listened to my story and prescribed me some variation of Xanax. I’m definitely not adverse to medication nor to I admire anybody less for needing medication to ease the symptoms and exhaustion that generalized anxiety can cause. For many, it’s the only way they are able to feel like themselves and stay on top of things like their job and home life. For me, I needed to understand what was happening. For the first time I realized how powerful words could be when I read “Self Help for Your Nerves” by Claire Weekes. The way she explained what happens during a panic attack was as if she took my experience and wrote about me. I could relate to everything she was saying and just by reading her book made me feel at ease. I don’t think I ever took a dose of Xanax during that time, the book was enough. It didn’t happen over night, but over the course of a year or so anxiety was no longer what I thought about from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed.

Years went by and I faced anxiety just like anybody else would. I’d get stressed, anxious, sad, angry and carry on just fine. Panic attacks were gone and I had a clear mind…until October 2014.

It should be noted that from about 2011 to the incident I’m about to mention in October 2014, I had picked up a pretty bad habit of drinking a Monster Energy Drink every morning. I’ve never liked the smell of coffee, so it was never my thing, but I really enjoyed my jolt of caffeine from the Monster’s. It was a pretty hot day and I had lunch with my wife and kids at some burger place. Mowed down the burger and had a large coke with it. On my way back to the office I got that hot flash and “can’t escape feeling” that I thought would never come back. This time, however, it was all accompanied by my heart beating out of control. I immediately freaked out. This was beyond anything Claire Weekes wrote about, beyond any coping skills I had, I was dying. Images of my family being in tears because I died started flooding my mind…this was it. I called my wife, shaking, “Babe, my heart is racing, I think I’m having a heart attack”, as I fought back tears. My heart continued to race, I hung up on my wife, called 911 and pulled over into a parking lot.

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“I think I’m having a heart attack, please send help!”

Paramedics showed up within a few minutes, I saw them rushing to me in my rear view mirror. They hooked me up to an EKG, check my pulse and ask me some questions. Have you taken any drugs? No. Any pain in your chest? No. Shortness of breath? No. They huddle of a bit and one of the paramedics says, “You know what your problem is? You’re a Chargers fan”. I have a Chargers bolt decal on the back of my car. I gave a courtesy laugh, didn’t sense any concern in their demeanor and after a few more moments I thanked them and they drove away. They did offer to take me to the hospital for a check up, but I said I’d just take myself. As they drove away I started to feel it all come back again and I headed straight to my doctor’s office which was also an urgent care facility.

Just like 2006, this doctor (different than my last one) listened to my story and prescribed me a Xanax knockoff.

Each year I get my physical and everything checks out good, that goes a long way when it comes to attacking your anxiety. At least it was nothing physical, but when the attacks happen it feels as physical as it can get!

I had another setback in February 2015 when the hot flash, impending doom and rapid heart rate came back while driving. I pulled over, took the Xanax and carried on with my day. I’ve had three prescriptions of Xanax over the last 10 years, and have taken it just twice. I do get it refilled once they expire because knowing you have something that is there to help you in case you need extra help to fend off an attack is a great reassurance.

This year has been tremendously successful for me. Anxiety is still there, but I don’t fear it as much. When you fear anxiety and the sensations that come along with it, you throw yourself into a vicious cycle that you won’t break free from.

I came across a program written by Barry McDonagh called Panic Away and immediately bought it. I figured it was as much as a video game, so why not try and help myself out. This led me to a book he wrote called DARE and it falls under an entire DARE program. I got the DARE book for free through Amazon (every now and then the digital copy will show up as free) and regularly chat with other “DAREing” people through their Facebook community. There have been so many things I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, and I can honestly say it all ties in somehow to DARE.

Essentially, the whole point behind DARE is to push through the fear. When you feel the anxious symptoms, ask for more, don’t fear it. It’s uncomfortable as all hell, but eventually you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I don’t want this post to be about plugging a product, program, or book, because there is lots of help and communities out there that will work for YOU. What I will say is that once I fully understood that all the scary things I felt (heart racing, adrenaline rush, etc) was simply my body trying to keep me safe and that I am never really in danger, it made it a little easier for me to push through and not run from the fear.

I have way more good days than bad now. I had a really bad day a couple months ago when I was playing softball, sprinted around the bases and I felt that warm adrenaline rush and my heart started racing. For the second time in 10 years I called 911 and just like last time I started to calm down once the paramedics arrived.

It takes a while to get going good again after a setback, but you need to expect setbacks and get back on the horse and keep pushing forward. It’s easy to want to avoid a situation where you’ve had a panic attack or where you normally feel anxious, but that’s when your world will start closing up. That’s how people become agoraphobic. They never want to leave their perceived safe place, which is generally their house. You’d be amazed at how many people can’t drive, can’t fly, never eat out, don’t go to the grocery store and avoid all social settings because they are afraid of having an anxiety attack. I talk to these people on a weekly basis, listen to their journey with anxiety and ultimately we all share our success stories.

I have so much more I could write, but I see I’m already over 1,600 words and don’t want to ramble on much longer. I just wanted to take a moment to recognize World Mental Health Day, especially those who are on that journey with anxiety and panic. Don’t let your world close up, keep pushing forward. Some days are going to be better than others, but eventually we can all get to a point where the good days outweigh the bad, and even the bad days will just be a little less than good.

Where Did Summer Go?

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The kids are back to school and it’s a time of the year where there are definitely mixed emotions. I already reflect on where the last 2 1/2 months have gone and try to relive the fun memories of the summer that was.

Growing up, summer had a great feel to it. As a kid I’d either be at the beach, water slide park, or just kicking back with my Sega Genesis (man, I’m getting old). I remember how carefree it was and that’s kind of how I like to make it for my girls. I don’t overdue it with the camps or commitments because I know that for the other 9 months of the year they are pretty much set to a schedule. I just want them to relax, recharge, and get ready for the next year.

After we dropped off our kids at school, I hugged my wife and said, “we gave them a good summer” and that’s really all we can try to do. We’ll never be the family that goes on exotic vacations, but we do what we can.

The highlights of this summer:

  • San Diego (Sea World and Chargers Facility Tour)
  • Riding Jet Ski’s at Lake Elsinore
  • Camping at Cachuma Lake
  • Camping at Lopez Lake

It feels like yesterday I was trying to map out the summer, and boom, it’s done. Now we turn the page and head into another year. As parents, the start of the school year is really the official “new year”, regardless of what the calendar states.

It’s my hope that you and your family had a great summer and here’s to our kids having a great year at school!

We Are Self-Destructing


I’m not really sure why I feel the need to write this. I guess I’m just sick of the finger pointing, social media posts, and most of all…the lack of compassion we no longer seem to feel towards victims.

There was a time when a tragic event would occur and you’d walk around your neighborhood or city and see the look of sadness in people’s faces. I’ll never forget working at a grocery store in 1999 when the Columbine Shooting occurred. As the news fed us the number of victims on the television screen, the customers I saw throughout the day became more and more saddened and wanted to show support for the families who lost loved ones. We weren’t consumed by the politics of gun control, who was to blame, etc. We, as a nation, had one thing on our minds — the well being of that community and their families.

Today, it’s a non-stop bitch fest about who’s to blame, who was offended, what ethnicity was slighted and what movement can we create. As soon as a shooting occurs, or a police officer uses force, or even a damn alligator snatches a child, what do we see? Everyone jumps on their keyboard and starts blaming groups, occupations, an ethnicity or gender, parents, politicians, etc. We’re so wrapped up in trying to pin blame on somebody that we lose that genuine compassion for the victims.

Last night there were at least five families who lost a member of their family due to the senseless acts in Dallas. Think about that for a second. Think of how it would be if you didn’t return home tonight. Think of the anguish your kids, your spouse, your parents would have to go through. What can we do to help those families, what can we do to help shoulder some of that burden of grief? That’s what we used to be about, or at least, that’s what it felt like we were about as a society.

Social media is great, it allows us to stay connected, see photos of vacations, kids losing their first tooth, hitting their first home run, and all that good stuff. It also displays some of the most ugly things about people you can imagine. It shows how divided we really are. Nowadays I have to scroll through 80% of political crap just to get to a great family photo. The ugliness is never more apparent than after an awful event such as what occurred last night. We have people blaming the President, we have those blaming Black Lives Matter, we have others saying it’s because we need tighter gun control laws. Guess what, it’s not the fault of either of those, it’s the fault of the murderer who pulled the trigger and shot those officers.

I stay away from discussing politics mainly because I don’t have the answers myself. How can you go and say something is being done incorrectly if you don’t have a plan on how to fix it yourself? Plus, I never have all the facts and most of the BS debates we read about are between people who only have their perception of facts instead of what actually is.

I guess this is just a plea (that will undoubtedly go unnoticed) for our society to stop being consumed with trying to find blame or fault somewhere. Try to be compassionate and mourn for the victims’ families, and understand that all of your bickering about who’s to blame doesn’t do a damn bit of good and only divides us even more.

Bolt Up, Now and Forever

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I’ve got to be the only person who stays awake at night trying to figure out his NFL loyalties. As you can see from my previous post a little less than two months ago, I was excited the Rams were coming back to Los Angeles. My childhood team, the Rams. Immediately I made some rash decisions like have my five-year-old take off the Bolt sticker from my car, throw on a Rams shirt, and try to explain to my family that we were now going to be Rams fans.

First of all, they don’t care. My wife is from the South, she’ll always pull for the New Orleans Saints. And while it’s true that I’ve raised my kids to be Chargers fans, I just think they are sick and tired of me asking them to pick between the Bolt and the Ram. It’s almost like I’m looking for an excuse to not pull for a team from Los Angeles.

I reflected back on what I wrote in January about those memories I had with my Dad, and I started to realize that I’ve already started to create those memories for my family. My five-year-old daughter grabbing her Chargers foam finger (in the shape of a lightning bolt) and saying “Go Chargers”. My oldest daughter making a wallet for me for Christmas out of Chargers duct tape. I have pictures of my youngest daughter tailgating at Qualcomm Stadium with her feet barely reaching the ground. And let’s not forget all the Chargers stuff my wife bought me for Christmas just a few months ago. I’ve played catch in the parking lot after games with my girls and they’ve seen me jump out of my seat and fall to the ground with the ups and downs of a typical Chargers season.

Most people say just pull for both the Chargers and Rams, I just can’t do it. I don’t have the time, money, energy, etc, to be passionate about two NFL teams. When the two teams play each other down the road, I want to be entrenched in one of their corners. That corner will be that of the San Diego Chargers.

I look forward to firing up the grill in G3 this season, and I’ll always be a supporter of keeping the Chargers in San Diego. If the only way to keep them there is to build a stadium downtown, then that’s what I’ll rally for and support as well.

Bolt Up, Now and Forever.


What Will 2016 Bring?


Well, here we go with another year on the horizon. It’s usually around this time where I, and many others, start to get excited about a clean slate and create a list of 100 things that we are going to accomplish. Did we accomplish those goals in 2015? Well, who knows, because by the middle of January our heads are already spinning and we’ve forgotten what we’ve set out to do.

2015 turned out to be one of the years where I can say I grew a lot. No, 35-year-old guys don’t have growth spurts (did you know that between the ages of 30 and 70 we actually shrink one inch — oye!), but I feel like as a person I’ve grown. From my job, to coaching, to parenting and my marriage, I’m proud of how I’ve not only overcome adversities, but truly believe I’ve become a stronger person from the challenges I’ve faced. That perseverance gives me so much confidence heading into 2016 and I’m excited to see what kind of challenges await me.

The biggest advice I’m going to pass on to others is something I credit most of my progression to in the last year. Do things that are out of your comfort zone. There were so many instances in which I was faced with a decision and instead of choosing the safe way out, I challenged myself to take the uncomfortable road and it’s by far the best character trait I’ve changed within myself. It has led to more opportunities and allowed me to be more of an asset on a daily basis.

Overall, I don’t have much to complain about. My family is healthy, I have a great job, and hey, Mrs. Chacon still appears to be excited to see me more often than not.

Those that know me understand I’m a very goal orientated person. I love to make goals, and it’s important that we always have something to strive for. It can be something on a large scale like finding a new job, or something stupid like watching more movies. Which, by the way, is one of my goals for 2016 (watch more movies). The point is, there has to be something worth waking up for in the morning — on a personal level. Of course nothing beats having your eyes pried open by your kids, or watching them head off to school with the promise of a great day ahead. Or that split second where you share a moment with your spouse that captures all the feelings you had from when you first met. Aside from that, what drives you?

That’s going to be my focus. Everything that I say I don’t have time for, I want to pursue because I’m tired of saying that about everything I don’t accomplish. I want to write more, I want to get back into video editing, I want to start surfing again, I want to tackle projects around the house, walk my dog, roll around on the floor more with the kids and be the fun and outgoing person that I have wrapped up in this body. Eat less junk food, drink less soda, be more confident in everything I do, read more books (let’s start with one book), and yes, watch more movies and play more than just sports video games (this is considered a low scale goal).

So why does the new year bring hope that I can take care of all this on a regular basis? Well, the best analogy I can give is the start of a new baseball season. Every team starts with a clean slate of zero wins and zeros losses, and they all have to play 162 games. Most teams will lose as much as they win, but they learn so much about themselves during the course of the season. The calendar year is our season, and we won’t accomplish everything we set out to do, but we will continue to learn so much more about ourselves and see more pieces come together in this great thing called life.

I intend to write so much more in 2016, but just in case you don’t hear from me, just assume that I’m out riding waves, editing videos, running on the beach, reading books, and watching Star Wars (I’ve never seen any of them!).

May the new year bring you good health, positive energy, love, and the motivation to accomplish the goals you’ve been putting off in years past.

When Good People Leave Us

A few years back I had the good fortune of meeting somebody who is one of those guys that you walk away from thinking, “I wish I could be more like him.” A god-loving, family first man who was positive in all facets of his life. When he spoke, you took the time to listen to every word because you could tell he was giving you 100% of his attention.

We played on a basketball team together, in an adult league a few years after we had passed our athletic prime, and I’ll never forget seeing him chase these players up and down the court who were about a decade younger than him. It was just a snapshot of who this man was, he put his all effort into everything that he did.

After the team fell apart due to life getting in the way for many, we went our separate ways and we’d exchange emails every few months. I remember him telling me years ago about how he was getting coffee one day and all of a sudden he woke up in an ambulance. All he knew at that time was he had a seizure. Time had passed and eventually it came to be that he had a cancerous tumor in his brain which had to be removed.

We would continue to email back and forth with the occasional conversation and even after the initial surgery to remove the tumor he was still upbeat as ever. Saying he looked forward to playing basketball again whenever we were able to get the guys together. In his voice and in his emails everything was on the up and up, and I was relieved that it appeared his health was restored and prayer had indeed worked yet again.

In November of 2012 my friend said he’d have to have chemotherapy for a year to help fight the cancer from returning. The last correspondence I had from him was July 2013 when he said he’d love to knock the rust off and play some ball. Thinking back on what his emotions must have been like as he wrote that email is heartbreaking. Especially considering it would only be a few months later in which he would be told by his doctor that he had four months to live.

As I write this, I don’t know my friend’s current condition or where he is resting. I’m always very sensitive in asking for information from a family going through something like this, because I know they will pass along information when the time is right.

It begs the question that we all ask from time to time. Why? This man who lived such a good life and is still so young, who believes in the power of prayer and did things the right way. Why is he being taken away from his wife and kids?

I’m sure you have asked the “Why?” question before as well. We’ve seen God work in so many awesome ways, and I’ve seen prayer work so many times. The only way I can wrap my mind around all of this is to assume prayer is working and understand that the family, while heartbroken, is feeling strength and comfort knowing their beloved husband and father may very well be leaving this earth, but will be watching over them until they too one day join him.

My head will be bowed, and I will be thinking of you this Thanksgiving, my friend.

A Decade of Marriage, A Lifetime of Love

Ten years ago tonight I fell asleep as an unmarried man, with an idea of what a marriage would be like, yet still not quite sure what to expect. I awoke the next morning and had what I consider to be the best day of my life, my wedding day. The woman I married, who I had only known for a year, has turned out to be everything I could have ever wanted in a wife.

Ten years down, and God willing…around sixty more to go.

Happy Anniversary, My Love.