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Personal Update: The Summer That Kicked My Ass
What's Been Up With Me In My Personal Life These Last Three Months And The Future Of 'The Mendez Movie Report'
“I'm on the edge of a knife.
Nobody cares if I'm dead or alive.
Oh, what a wonderful life.”
- Bring Me The Horizon; ‘Wonderful Life’
Just a few months back on March 12th, 2023 you would have thought I was living my best life. It was my 34th birthday weekend, I had a great birthday dinner the night before with family and friends attending, and my favorite film from the 2022 movie season, Everything Everywhere All At Once, won the Best Picture prize at the Oscars which is like a cinephile’s version of their team winning that year’s Super Bowl.
Furthermore it capped off an awards season that saw me join two critics organizations and begin to make appearances on some podcasts. My evolution as a film critic seemed like it could only go up from here, and I was excited to see what the future held. But as we all know too well, there’s always other stuff beneath the surface, and while it seemed like I was on my way up the truth is I was harboring many demons, some self-inflicted and others not, that were bound to be impossible to ignore any longer.
I was weighing at almost 220 pounds after a decade-plus issue with comfort eating my way to constant credit card debt. My Doctor had told me I had high cholesterol and was at risk for diabetes with a high blood pressure that concerned her. I was stressed out beyond belief to the point that I had to start taking medication, and while it helped it wasn’t an overnight fix or cure-all either. My wife and I were trying to have a child, but my horrible health on top of other complications I can’t get into here seemed to be in the way of that and I started to get into a very toxic self-loathing cycle where I started to tell myself I didn’t deserve a family.
I started cropping pictures of me on social media, I felt very insecure about my appearance. I’m not fatphobic and so I only speak for myself here and more power to any plus-size folks who read this that are comfortable with their body, but I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror or when I looked at the picture that just got taken. But more importantly I didn’t just feel ugly, I felt unhealthy. I was bloated all the time, I felt slower with each passing day, I started to lose my breath if I just walked the block, I even started to experience ED. I was eating bad and I knew it, and I felt like I was a heart attack waiting to happen if diabetes didn’t get to me first. Oh and did I mention I drank so much soda my teeth are a mess? Forget the vanity, my health was at an all-time low.
I also became so wrapped up in my own world thinking I should carry all the heavy loads in my marriage, and staying up late stuck in my little man cave and work desk to the point the wife and I weren’t seeing each other save for a good morning kiss when she woke up and a “hey there, hun!” kiss when she got back from work (I work from home for my day job). By April I knew something wasn’t right. We’ve left each other to do our own thing before but things had gotten to the point we were just roommates who barely talked much more so than life partners who were a team going up against all life had to throw at them.
My relationship with my family was at an all-time low. Not because I held any animosity against them, but because I figured I just didn’t have the time to make a simple weekly call to the parents. Even my twin brother who at one point I use to call every week before didn’t hear from me for months at a time. “You hate your family?” the wife asked me at one point when I came up with excuses not to see them.
This pattern of folding into myself was compounded after stressful events littered my personal life the last few years. My best friend and sister-in-law each went through rough divorces. My dog of ten years started to waste away and after six months of having to convince the wife we had to help her pass at the vets’ office we went through that painful event. My nephew and niece’s father died in a car crash. My sister went through a very tough custody battle for her two kids after that which would lead to revelations of traumatic events the kids had to deal with that I can’t go into detail about here. One of my father-in-laws had a close call with the widow maker. And that’s on top of COVID, the stressful 2020 Presidential election, and my ongoing health issues - both mentally and physically.
There was a time I thought I had started to get everything together. Before I had survived a rough period of unemployment, paid off a big debt, and started to get certain emotional outbursts out of my system when I tackled what was causing them. I also went through therapy, but unfortunately that was closed off from me earlier than I would have liked.
I don’t mean to say that because I thought I was ugly, because I was unhealthy, because I was going through some self-loathing, because I was dealing with stressful events out of my control, because I was having issues connecting with loved ones around me, that I deserved the events that lead me to have a mental health breakdown back in mid-May. I didn’t. No matter what I could look back on and wish I had handled better or addressed sooner, no one deserves to go through some of the things I’ve gone through the last few months. Things I won’t go into the details here on, but which I wouldn’t wish on my own worst enemy.
“Oh, I've done it again.
Dug a little deep, and it's all caved in.
Now I free fall in a black hole.
I know I'm getting warm cause I feel so cold.”
- Bring Me The Horizon; ‘In The Dark’
Back in mid-May I attended a critics screening of Fast X. The movie was such an over-the-top fun popcorn flick that it actually helped me forget for a few hours about that last weekend and the sinking feeling I was getting that something wasn’t right. Something had gone terribly wrong. The very next day my world went through a cataclysmic event.
What happened to me isn’t the worst thing that can happen to anyone. I’m well aware others have survived worse. I can still count certain blessings. I didn’t get news I had a terminal disease. I didn’t lose someone to soon to the grim reaper. I didn’t have to file for bankruptcy. I can’t go into too many details, I think in my grief and frustration I overshared with a few people in private though I trust their confidence, but I learned my marriage was basically fucked, likely over.
Again, I can’t get into the weeds too much in public but just like that I went from having my own home with a wife and pets and my own grill to cook on to being a guy in his mid-30s having to temporarily move in with his parents until God knows when I’ll get back on my feet. I was for all intents and purposes walking backwards. I had practically lost everything in life I had worked so hard on to have.
I instantly had to take time off from social media. I couldn’t attend screenings because my parents live a little too far for me to make it on time coming from my day job. My mental health took a nosedive and I was dealing with a full blown depression that seemed to be the worst in the evenings. My film reviews that I did when I got the time on here may have been affected in terms of prose and how I felt about certain films. I think it likely affected my dim view of Barbie and my better than the majority view on The Haunted Mansion. It may have been why I loved the brooding Oppenheimer though that film is just great period if we’re being honest.
I had lost my wife. The same wife I was so proud to introduce to people. The same wife who I had supported during rough times in her life, and she the same when I was going through my own. The same wife I had taken care of when she was sick and she did the same for me. The same wife I had sheltered once when she had a falling out with family and I was the messenger who had to bridge the gap. The same wife I had gotten into debt for once to help her pay off her student loans quicker. The same wife who at one point seemed like my best friend in the entire world, the one person I could have the conversations I liked having with. The same wife who shared certain movies with me as our all-time favorites to watch together. The same wife I had known for a decade and a half and had shared so many experiences with.
Just like that she was gone. And I’m not talking about just physically, but emotionally as well. Even with everything that has gone wrong to lead the marriage to this point, the scariest part of all was seeing her become a completely different person. It all happened very fast and yet with hindsight one could count all the long-running cracks that lead to the splinter. Frankly some of them cracks I made, others her. But just like that a decade and a half - gone.
Its funny how you grow up telling yourself you’re not going to be one of those guys who deals with separation and likely divorce. Especially a hopeless romantic like me whose favorite stories involve romance. “That happens to other people, not me.” But as they say, “Man plans, God laughs.”
The reverberations of such a life event are staggering. Suddenly all the people you know through that person are gone. Suddenly you’re telling family or friends who want to have your back not to say or do anything stupid in their exuberance to show their loyalty to me as you hear from them they un-followed and blocked so-and-so. Suddenly your day routine has changed more than you could have expected. Suddenly there is no one there to tell about your day or vent to. Suddenly your all-time favorite movie that you watched with her all the time might not be easy to watch again.
Your entire world is turned upside down. Its the closest thing to a death without an actual passing. We’re not talking about something that happened for a year or two, we’re talking about nearly fifteen years of a lot of history and life events along the way.
“So you can throw me to the wolves.
Tomorrow I will come back,
leader of the whole pack.
Beat me black and blue.
Every wound will shape me.
Every scar will build my throne.”
- Bring Me The Horizon; ‘Throne’
It would have been very easy to just sink into the depression that overcame me. To just lay down in bed all day and get by with work. To only double-down on the comfort eating and let the stress of it all give me excuses to not care about my health anymore. And don’t get me wrong I have had my bad days, those of you who saw my random and now deleted Facebook post a month ago can attest to that. Its not like all that pain goes away so easily. Its not like your life getting rocked suddenly means everything is all for the better just three months later.
But you see I wasn’t just depressed, I was mad - hell I’m still mad to some extent. I was mad at life, I was mad at God, I was mad at myself, I was mad at the estranged wife, I was mad at the (very few) family members who didn’t want to show me support, I was mad when I heard word that some in-laws were basically trying to put all the blame on me, and I was mad that I had regressed to being a grown man living with parents and unable to go to screenings I had worked hard to get the privilege to go to. And the thing is when I get mad I start really wanting to prove people wrong - even if that means proving my own self wrong if I have to.
So these last three months even through all the emotional and mental pain I’ve pushed through. From day one before I even knew what the hell I was in for, I started changing my lifestyle. I started walking a ton more, I started eating much healthier and giving up on the junk food, I started drinking more water than before, I invested in some weights and started strength training, I started getting into taking supplements, I taught myself to re-wire my brain to change some bad habits and my sleep cycle, I started binging a bunch of classic films that were blind spots of mine, I started reading books again after years without doing so, I started getting the creative juices flowing for the first time in ages to begin working on fictional work again, my relationship with family particularly with my youngest sibling improved, and I started some much needed personal therapy.
The result? I’ve lost a little over forty pounds in the last three months, I actually can see some muscle on me when I flex, I feel heathier and more energetic, slowly but surely my confidence has been growing, and I have family and friends ready to pick me up whenever I feel down. My mental health has improved as well, I don’t feel like Mister Rogers or anything like that, but I feel happier than I did months ago. I know I’m on my way to proving people wrong and only taking my interests with film criticism and writing in general to another level.
And the best part? I didn’t do any of this as some gambit to get anyone’s attention or beg them to come back. I did this for me regardless how things have or will turn out. This is my form of “self-love” that they teach you to chase whenever you go through things like this. If I have a bad day, I just remind myself that future Luis will thank me for the work I’ve put in these last few months.
I wish I could go a little further and give you guys an even happier ending. Tell you that it turns out that my marriage has been saved or that I met some hot blonde that is totally into me. The wife and I have been in contact more of late and we’re certainly in better terms versus mid-May, but this is still a separation with divorce very much an option. I have to keep myself forefront in my mind with no expectations for what the outcome will be. And I’ve dipped my toes into dating apps and was horrified by how much more awful online dating has become since I was last “on the market”. So I probably won’t be finding that blonde any time soon.
I wish I could tell you guys I’m now shredded like Dwayne Johnson. But no, even after dropping down from 218 to 177 I still have a pouch on my stomach that I’d like to see if I can burn off and I have more work to do to get more muscle mass. I also admittedly slip up on my diet on a weekend or two; I skip on a workout every now and then.
I wish I could tell you guys I feel like everything is right with the world twenty four-seven both mentally and physically. I still have to see a Doctor and get an update on my health outlook, I still have plenty Dentist visits in my future. I still have my bad days mentally. I still need my best friend or family to give me a mental pickup every now and then. Hell even my estranged wife has helped me out a few times.
I wish I could tell you that you’ll be seeing me attending critics screening this very week. Truth is I have no idea when I’ll be able to attend those again. Could easily be another year until, even as those invites keep showing up in my inbox.
But I can say that taking three months off from the social media sphere and just doing the odd film review on here has been very beneficial to getting me to a healthier place. I truly feel like I’m ready to return in the headspace I need to be, and that these next few weeks will see me basically get back to doing what I was doing before my world was shook.
So now that I’ve spilled my guts to you guys on what’s been up with me during what has been simultaneously a Summer of personal change and hell, what’s next for me and THE MENDEZ MOVIE REPORT?
Well the film reviews will become more frequent. Starting with My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 in two weeks, I’ll be trying my best to get a review for the newsletter released every weekend from there on. It’ll likely be whatever I deem to be the biggest release that weekend with my thoughts on other releases left for my Letterboxd account.
I’ll also be dropping some “Best Of” articles with (hopefully) some videos attached as I will FINALLY start to get some YouTube content up. And with that content comes the chance to do some collaborative works talking movies with any guests I can find. And yes the Oscars Projections will be returning the week after the end of the Toronto Film Festival. I’ll probably be showing up on HEARD TELL and GONE WITH THE WIN in due time.
My personal life is far from getting back to whatever semblance of normal I had months back, but my work in film observation will be churning back in the coming weeks and just in time for the start of a new awards season.
I have a lot of hot takes I have to catch up to in a year for movies that has frankly underwhelmed me more than not. I don’t know if my personal struggles has colored my view there, and granted after the embarrassment of riches that 2021 provided and the absolutely amazing 2022 that followed it was always going to be hard to follow that up. But I know so far I consider 2023 to be a pretty mediocre and forgettable year for film. So you can imagine how badly I need this awards season’s bait to actually live up to the hype.
From both a personal and cinephile standpoint, this is hopefully where the fun part starts.