My Story

IF YOU REMOVE the honest needs and feelings from intimacy what are you left with? Nothing but robotic skin-on-skin friction. And nothing screams romance like;

"Hey babe, wanna friction tonight?"

It's the awareness of your needs and emotions that make it truly worthwhile. Pretty obvious with Love. But what would it look like if we applied those same principles to the rest of our needs like Myself, & Growth? Even better, what if we could pin-point our honest feelings in real time? Imagine the empowerment of being able to navigate towards Feel Goods and away from Feel Bads as they are happening.

In 2005 I was rushed to a California hospital for what I was certain was a heart attack while traveling around the country with my wife Brittney just weeks after celebrating our first anniversary. I was thirty-one years old and the two of us had been performing free acoustic concerts for the previous year. One morning after breakfast I found myself unable to catch my breathe and soon thereafter on my way to the nearest ER courtesy of a ten-thousand dollar two-mile ambulance ride.

After a thorough examination the doctor explained that I hadn't had a heart attack but instead probably just suffered from a major panic attack. She recommended I see a local physician as soon as possible, which I did, and was prescribed a thirty-day supply of a popular anti-anxiety medicine, or benzodiazepine for those in the know. I'd go into more detail here about the dangers of those little benzo pills, but you know life is stressful enough nowadays without worrying about a billion dollar drug company stopping by to give me an Epstein style neck massage.

Anyway, I took the medicine as instructed and to tell you the truth I couldn't tell if it made me feel better or not, but all was good until it came time to refill that prescription thirty days later.

We were in Texas at this point visiting my folks—still traveling around doing concerts—and by either luck, timing, or the grace of a true feel-good expert, I found myself face to face with my childhood pharmacist George.

George took one look at that little bottle and spoke as seriously as I've ever been talked to. First he couldn't refill the prescription without me seeing another doctor because it was originally written in another state. Next, he explained that I should probably get to the nearest doctor's office immediately because there was a good chance I would begin suffering from withdrawal symptoms if I didn't get more medicine soon.

So I did what any other rational thirty-one year old who values good feelings over potentially bad ones. Absolutely nothing. I drove back to my folks house and simply chalked up the whole encounter to an overly concerned pharmacist.

After helping a elderly friend with some yard work the following morning, I noticed I was having trouble breathing and that my heart was racing for no apparent reason. It took only moments to conclude that this might be the withdrawal symptoms George had warned me of. Remembering his advice to get to a doctor, I drove straight to the nearest emergency room clinic.

Once there, however, the doctors explained that there was little they could do for me—that is, unless I would take more pills to postpone the onset of withdrawal. My resting heart rate went from 62 bpm to 180 and my blood pressure more than doubled from normal. Despite the onset of sheer panic, and with my body obviously wigging out, I concluded that—no matter what—I wasn’t going to take any more pills.

The doctor explained that unless I gradually reduced my dosage, the current symptoms I was having were probably only going to get much worse in the coming days and weeks.

“How long will it take to wean myself off?” I asked. I was now so dizzy from my heart racing that I could barely speak and almost blacked out in the office several times.

“Every person is different in how they handle this kind of detox. But it could take anywhere from a few months to several years,” he explained. “Due to the unusually high dosage you’ve taken, and therefore the potential for a nasty withdrawal, I wouldn’t recommend stopping cold. In fact, I’ve never heard of someone taking that high of a dose in a month’s time." He concluded that what I had been prescribed was probably an accidental error from the original doctor I visited while still touring in California.

Barely walking out of the clinic, I somehow made it across the parking lot and flopped into my truck. While driving back to my parents house I again decided that I wasn’t going to take any more of the medicine no matter what suffering was headed my way. Riding out the next painful feel-bad lesson in life seemed like as good an idea as any and that is exactly what I did.


Within about twelve hours of the last doctor’s visit, my nervous system began to shut down without the chemical to stimulate it.


I did not sleep for the next eight days straight. Blood vessels burst in both my eyes, causing blurred vision and severe delusions while also developing Akathisia; a common symptom with benzodiazepine withdrawals. Akathisia—or "Hell's Cattle Prod" as I renamed it—is an inability to sit still and a constant urge to move. It's like an inner restlessness coupled with fidgeting, pacing, rocking while standing or sitting, crossing and uncrossing legs, and constant movement of the feet.



I became so sensitive to all physical and verbal stimulation that if someone touched me, spoke to me, or even turned on the light, I would immediately begin vomiting uncontrollably. This lasted for several months and I would eventually drop over forty pounds during my ordeal, going from a moderately fit six foot 185 pounds to just under 140 pounds.



My joints and limbs became nearly frozen with stiffness and within three days of cold-turkey’n it I began having seizures, bouts of psychosis as well as extreme hallucinations.

Horrific nightmares came when I was eventually able to sleep, a few minutes here and there, which caused my mood swings to alternate from extreme anger to uncontrollable sorrow.



The tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, was so bad that I would bury my head in my pillow and just scream to make it go away.



I lost nearly all sense of taste and smell, and my body was in a near constant state of delirium tremens; which is nearly identical to a very extreme alcoholic withdrawal.



A few of the milder symptoms included irritable bowel syndrome, blurred vision, numbness and tingling in my limbs, as well as dizzy spells and near perpetual tachycardia: that is, a resting heart rate of over one hundred. You should try relaxing with a resting heart rate over one hundred.



I fought with every ounce of will power during this time, trying to hang in there, calling on doctors from around the world, constantly searching the internet for information, asking friends and family for advice, and even begging God to take away my suffering.

Every night, when I attempted sleep, I kept hoping that tomorrow would be the day of healing. 

But the days passed and the withdrawals were still there.



Days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, and that is when I decided I'd had enough. 



So, one morning—while Mom, Dad, and my wife were working—I decided to give up and commit suicide via my Father's shotgun which he kept locked under his bed.



Dying this slow death became too much to bear so I phoned my dad and asked him to come home.



He rushed to my side where he found me in the backyard. I was pacing back and forth—still suffering from Hell's Cattle Prod—confused, and at my wit’s end with this unjustified, cruel, and agonizingly existence.

He sat with me on a bench, and it is there that I explained my plan to end my life.



I wanted him to know that I loved Mom and him so very much. With tears pouring down my face, I apologized for what this would put them through but explained that I couldn’t continue if this nightmare didn’t start improving soon. Finishing up what might have been our last talk, I asked if he would tell my wife Brittney how much I loved her and how sorry I was for all she had gone through during our first year of marriage.



He held me for as long as I would let him and simply asked that I wait another few days to see if there was any improvement in my condition. I reluctantly agreed then pulled away sensing another round of tremors coming on. I then went into the house to take a bath, hoping the warm water might help. 



I filled up the tub, crawled in, and closed my eyes while a hundred memories of the past and better days flashed through my mind. I tried my best to relax, trying not to splash too much water on the floor.

It was at this moment that I realized there was only one thing in this world I wanted if I actually survived this horrific situation; which was actually a departure from my normal hyper-ambitious go-go-go nature.

I wanted the simple yet often overlooked wonderful gift of just feeling good again. It was also in that tub when I realized what had probably sent me to the original emergency room in the first place. My life was a complete imbalanced mess. I was so obsessed with chasing my music dreams that I hadn't paid any attention to the other areas of need in my life. I hadn't been taking care of myself, either physically and emotionally. I wasn't taking time to connect with loved ones or friends. And I certainly hadn't considered the power of personal growth which quite possibly may have prevented my ER trip in the first place. So I promised myself if I actually survived this ordeal I'd take some serious time and space and see how I could find a more balanced approach to living. 

MY HEALING

The next morning I woke up and by accident happened to notice the most microscopic of differences. I could hear birds chirping outside my window. Nothing else seemed different but it didn't take long to realize why I could now hear birds whereas before I hadn't noticed them the last few months. My ears weren't ringing anymore. As a further test I even searched ringing sounds on the internet just to see if I could hear the difference; and I could. Next I turned on the light to see how it would affect me. The sudden transition of stimulation from dark to light sent my head and equilibrium spinning so bad that I barely made it to the bathroom to begin my morning vomit routine. So not healed but better than the day before. Though had I slept in even thirty minutes later I might have missed the birds chirping, which could have been tragic.

"Time to unload the shotgun," I thought. Which was now under my bed instead of my Father's.

Later that day I called the doctor to explain the positive shift with the tinnitus. He said that more than likely my nervous system was just beginning to function on it's own without the benzodiazepine to stimulate it. No small thing, but he also explained that it was impossible to say when my health would fully return to normal. So there I was, a hundred and forty-pound shell of my former self who could barely brush his teeth, but still I felt somewhat encouraged.

The next several weeks were incredibly difficult. Almost like my world was spinning in slow motion compared to everyone around me. I would try and walk around the block and end up sitting trembling under an oak tree until someone came to pick me up. Then one day the tremors went away and I could walk again. Next to go were the seizures. However the Akithisia (hell's cattle prod), vomiting, and numbness in my limbs were still there but slowly getting better day by day. I was determined not to let my remaining symptoms ruin my spirits, but it was hard not to feel a certain sense of hopelessness at times with my near round-the-clock condition.

A few months later I was reminded just how sick I still was when I agreed to take on the general manager position at a local fine dining restaurant. Having no idea I was in poor health, some friends of my family caught wind that I was in town and thought I would be a natural fit to help them out. The offer made sense due to the fact that I had grown up in the restaurant business and was even on my way to becoming a Sommelier before the music bug took hold. So, against my better judgement, I took the job thinking it might provide a healthy distraction during my ongoing recovery.

I wasn't one-hour into my first shift when I realized I had probably jumped the gun in returning to the workplace. Especially one as stressful to the nervous system as running a fine dining restaurant. The shifts were painful in nearly every way. A server would complain about their schedule and I would run to the bathroom to vomit. A customer would want to discuss what old-world-style Pinot Noir we carried, forcing me to lock my legs and tense up all my muscles just to keep my tremors from being noticeable. To this day I can vividly remember every detail of that restaurant's bathroom as I think I spent much of my time in there.

Six-months later and feeling well enough to travel, my wife and I moved out west to the Central Coast of California after another restaurant offer came in. This beautiful area is where we first met and a change of scenery seemed as good an idea as any for us.

Despite the excitement of travel and starting new jobs, I found the ordeal much more taxing on my system than helpful. Two steps forward, one step back. But mercifully the real turning point in my health, and a few other surprising areas, would gradually take shape over the next two years.

In 2008, and almost exactly three years after first being rushed to the emergency room, I celebrated my healing by completing an Ironman length triathalon in our local gym that was raising money for cancer awareness. I swam for 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and finished with a  26.2 mile marathon run, completing the fundraiser in just under 18 hours. Definitely no record breaker, but I finished it and it felt great.

A few weeks later I was offered a job as the marketing director for a young French Restaurant in Cambria, CA called Madeline's. It was a fun little place in the quaintest of towns with an extremely savvy yet  fun-as-hell goofball owner David. We instantly connected and I knew from day one that something about this restaurant and it's potential was very rare and equally special. It was also where I would finally stumble into a bit of luck which would graciously buy me some time and space to start playing around with what a balanced feel-good life might look like.

FEEL GOOD? FEEL BAD?

Accepting the position at Madeline's was one of the best decisions of my life. I introduced some creative marketing ideas that helped double the sales in less than a year which secured myself a percentage of the restaurant and what would eventually become a sweat-equity partnership.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't my dream job of traveling around the country performing concerts. But now that I was mostly healed, it allowed me some time and space to contemplate what I wanted most out of life moving forward. I knew above all that I wanted to feel good more often than feel bad. I also began to see my day through a new set of eyes. A more truthful set of eyes. I began analyzing my needs, routines, and habits in an honest light which gave me a new and fun way to navigate my day. Soon I was starting to enjoy the attainable journey of life instead of the often elusive destination way. The changes I made were tiny and completely disorganized at first, but even so they soon had me believing that an honest approach to my daily needs was not only possible but dare I say feel-good enjoyable. Two years after starting at Madeline's the sales doubled once again.

By year four we had grown around three-hundred percent from when I started, which allowed David to purchase the little wine shop next door. Soon I was picking up extra marketing clients here and there as well as helping a few friends and family members to better organize their businesses and personal lives. We weren't rich by any means, but I was making a living with something that made me feel good more often than feel bad. However, it wasn't until 2015 where my new approach to living a balanced life would be put through one of life's ultimate tests.

Ten years after deciding that a shotgun's best use is not as an q-tip, my wife Brittney and I welcomed our first child, Cayden, into the world. It was the most magical and scariest moments all at the same time. But overall life was manageable nonetheless considering all we had going on. The restaurant and wine shop were the most popular in town. My wife had a fantastic client base as a sought after stylist in town. And I had somehow stumbled upon an honest approach to life which allowed just enough balance for myself and everyone else.

 

Sorry for the momentary resume boast. In fact, as I look back there was nothing really all that exceptional about what I did for the restaurant, myself, or family and friends. We haven't franchised the restaurant, created a national line of lobster bisque, nor have I won the noble feel-good-balanced life prize—Yet ;)

However, at forty-one years old I had the revelation that at the root or foundation of every one of my goals, desires, habits, dreams and routines were two powerful things.

A Unique Need and a Honest Emotion. I then began researching to see if there was any scientific proof to back what I had stumbled upon and I was amazed at what I discovered.

I first learned that each of us have a basic set of six universal human needs. These were first discovered by the psychologist Abraham Maslow and later made popular by several life coaches including Tony Robbins.

These include 1.Certainty, 2.Variety, 3.Recognition, 4.Love & Connections, 5.Growth 6.Contribution.

Next through CBT Cognitive Behavior Therapy and NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming I learned that our thoughts effect our emotions and our emotions effect our behaviors. In other words, in order to have lasting and enjoyable behaviors, habits, goals, and overall lives we need to be able to recognize the powerful emotional space between our desired needs and behaviors in order to more easily navigate our daily routines.

In Feel Good? Feel Bad? I have put my own twist on our unique needs with Myself, Love, & Growth as well as make tracking your honest emotions throughout the day as simple as Feel Good? Or Feel Bad? Of course you are  free to expand on your emotions, which I highly recommend, but I have found that feeling good or feeling bad is a simple and great place to begin.

So could attaching honest emotions to our human needs be helpful in shifting goals, habits, and desires into routines that would not only last but be enjoyable? Absolutely. All you have to do is look at the inverse of this theory to see why. What entity has no desire for needs, emotions, thoughts, or cares about behaviors? A lifeless pre-programmed robot. And I don't believe for a second that there is any short or long term benefit to our overall well being, or those around us, by attempting to live day-to-day as a robot. We just aren't built that way. We are emotional beings at our core and therefore our reasons for doing or not doing should include our honest needs and emotions.

In fact, I believe suppressing our human needs and honest emotions can not only negatively impact our day-to-day life's goals but can have catastrophic emotional as well as physical results if left unchecked.

Feel Good? Feel Bad? has helped me to . . .

1.  Accomplish more goals based on my own unique needs

2.  Adjust my routine with real-time honest feedback    

3.  Enjoy the journey with lasting results and fewer setbacks

FG? FB? has helped me manage my day, life, and overall well being in ways that are not only enjoyable but sustainable and with consistent results. Why? Because they fit within my natural needs and emotions.

If you're anything like me, you have probably tried all kinds of apps, planners, and self-help tools to improve your productivity to achieve your goals and desires in life.

But I promise you this . . . Feel Good? Feel Bad? will work for you if you take the time to pinpoint your own unique needs. Then combine them with your real-time honest emotions which will naturally produce lasting and enjoyable results that Feel Good more often than not.

This simple approach to achieving goals, habits, and a better life has helped many others just as it will soon be helping you build the best version of your own unique self.

Feel Good? Feel Bad? will give you the clarity, understanding, and motivation that will help you approach your life through a new set of  eyes. An honest set of eyes. For as they say, “They truth will set you free.”

There is only one thing left to do. You just need to begin!

Disclaimer and final thoughts: If, heaven forbid, you are one of the few who believe that kicking dogs and pulling the wings off butterflies actually makes you feel good, or perhaps helping the misfortunate or children in need makes you feel bad. To you I say, "Unfortunately, this wasn't written for you." But then again, maybe it was. . . . Sometimes those of us who haven't had our needs and emotions met in a very long time will do and say the unimaginable to just feel anything at all. 
I know I have at times.

Look, I completely understand If you have doubts that the seriousness of your life can be entrusted with phrases like “your needs,” “honest emotions,” and “Feel Good or Feel Bad.” Perhaps a part of you still believes that robotic behavior is more your style. I can assure you it is not long term. Believe me, I've tried. Modern psychology as well as neuroscience backs up the fact that your unique needs are ingrained in you for a reason and that your honest emotions are one of your most powerful tools for navigating those needs in real time during life's guaranteed ups and downs.

Building a life upon the uniqueness of your needs as-well-as emotional truth is where the real adventure begins and where the lasting results of your custom story will thrive.

Thank you for becoming a part of the Feel Good? Feel Bad? community and I can't wait to hear how it is helping you change your habits,  achieve your goals, and better navigate your life.

Sincerely, 
Grady Pope – Creator of  Feel Good? Feel Bad?

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