Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

A fine line between well-informed and overwhelmed

overwhelming anxiety.
SO stressed!

I was a reluctant adapter to social media, but now am a heavy user. I have written before how I’ve cut back on my social media intake by not checking on Wednesdays and Saturdays (unless there are very special circumstances). I’m considering cutting out Mondays as well because I still feel as if I’m ingesting it too much.

I get my news from Twitter, then I check it at other venues to verify that what I’m seeing on Twitter is legit. The downside to social media is that anyone can post anything, and there are many people who are gullible and prone to falling for everything they read. I’m rigorous about checking my sources, but I’ve fallen for the ‘satire’ pieces once or twice myself. I haven’t posted anything fake in years, but it’s always hovering at the back of my mind. I remember the last time I fell for a fake piece of news. I carefully checked the website, and it looked legit. It was MSNBC or NBC or something like that, but it ended in .de rather than .com, and my eyes had glossed over that part. I distinctly remember that one because I had checked it so carefully I thought. Now, I make sure to cross-check before I post/tweet anything, and I wish other people would do the same.

Side note: I really hate all the ‘satire’ sites that have cropped up lately. They seemed to have died down somewhat, but there was a time when it seemed as if every other piece of news was from a fake website. Yes, there’s The Onion, but everyone* knows it’s satire. In addition, it’s not just satire to make up a crazy story about someone without any social context to it. I remember getting caught right after marriage equality was passed by a story that Michele Bachmann’s husband had left her to live his very gay life. That was on me because I was too eager to believe that story, but at the same time, what was the point? Just to say, “Hur-de-dur, he’s closeted!”? Even if that were true, there’s no bigger picture to that joke, no social context jab that they were making. “He’s closeted” isn’t satire–it’s either a lie or the truth.

I do feel a twinge of sympathy for The Onion because it’s really hard to lampoon this current administration. Anything that sounds too outre, they’ve done. In addition, I would hesitate to spoof something even worse in case they decide it’s a blueprint and not satire. However, all those other sites can go straight to hell–they’re only doing it for the clicks.

Anyway, my mom called the other night, and she said, “So, about that president of yours.” I immediately said, “I don’t want to talk about him. It’s too depressing.” I have to think about him and his dreadful administration way more than I want to, and it’s the last thing I want to talk about in a casual chat with my mother.

I’m an empath, and it’s tough in these times. All my life, I’ve been able to feel the negative feelings of others around me, and it’s taken me decades to erect a decent shield around me so it’s not constantly bombarding me. It’s one of the reasons I suffered such deep depression. Not only did I have to deal with my own shit, I had to feel every bit of anger, sadness, depression, and pain around me. It was one reason I isolated myself so much–I couldn’t deal with the constant negative sensation input that I was feeling.

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Patience is a virtue–just not mine

taiwanese tai chi sculpture!
I don’t want to be made of stone.

When I was learning Dvorak, I forgot QWERTY within days because it never felt natural to me. At the same time, I wasn’t anywhere near proficient in Dvorak yet, which meant I had to muddle alone typing roughly 30 wpm. Before that, I typed closer to 80 wpm, so it was agony to be able to do less than half of that. It took a few months for me to feel comfortable with Dvorak, but now I type roughly 100 wpm.

I think of this often now because of all the changes in taiji. My teacher, my classmate, and I had a candid talk about it yesterday in class, and it felt good to get some of the frustration off my chest. I told my teacher while I knew rationally that things were going to be better in the long run, and I trust that because I trust her, emotionally, it’s difficult not to get frustrated by all the changes. One, I don’t deal well with changes in general. It’s part of my PTSD and obsessive nature, and while I’ve gotten better at it with age, it’s still something I struggle with. Two, it’s hard not to be resentful of the newer people because they’re learning all this for the first time rather than having to unlearn an old form in order to learn a new one.

A part of me feels like all the stuff I’ve learned before is wasted now that so much of the Single Form has been changed. Intellectually, I know it’s not a waste because the core of it is still there, and the fact that I know the old way means that I can understand the newer concepts more easily. The problem is, I learned the old form fairly easily, so it doesn’t seem as if there’s much added benefit in the speed of learning the new form. That really isn’t a humblebrag, though it sounds as if it is. It just underscores the fact that I’m grumpy about all the changes. There was a time when it seemed as if the changes were happening every week, even though it was more like once a month. Still, after doing the same thing over and over for years, it can be overwhelming at time.

For example, there is a posture–movement–called Parry and Punch (well, the actual name is longer than that, but that’s the short name for it). There are four of them, and in the old form, they were all the same. In the new form, they’re all different. In the old one, they were all Parry Outward (I think) and Punch. Now, they’re Parry Inward and Punch, Parry Upward and Punch, Parry Outward and Punch, and Parry Downward and Punch. They’re all slightly different, and they’re giving me one hell of a fight. I have the first one on lock, and I’m slowly getting better at the second, but the third and fourth are kicking my ass. It’s doubly frustrating because I’m used to learning things quickly (at least the basics) so not being able to do so with the Parries and Punches is making me irritated. I will say it’s partly because I practice the first section more than the second and third, and the first Parry and Punch is in the first section. The second and third are in the second section, and the last is in the third section.

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Feeling under the weather

too damn hot!
Saunas are not my friend.

We’ve been experiencing a heat wave in Minnesota this week, and to make matters worse, my a/c is busted. This is my own damn fault. It broke at the end of last summer, and when I called the repair guy, he said it would be better to wait until this spring to fix it so I would have more time on the warranty. That made sense as last summer was fairly cool, so I agreed. Then, as you probably guessed, I forgot. To be fair, we had a 15 inch blizzard on April 14th. The last thing I was thinking about was air conditioning. So, yeah, my fault, but I’m ruing it now.

We hit 97 degrees on Saturday and 101 degrees on Sunday. It hit 90 before it was even noon. Now, if you know me, you know that I cannot stand the heat. 60 is about my level of comfortableness, and anything over that ratchets up my irritability. When we hit 70, I want to throat-punch somebody. If it hits 80, I start to lose the little bit of energy I have. 90 makes me incapacitated, and 100? Forget about it. I was outside in it for a few minutes at a time, and it was incredibly draining.

How am I dealing with the heat with no a/c? Poorly. I have three iced drinks with me at all times, which helps. I’m in as little clothes as possible (usually a tank top and boxer shorts) with my hair up. I have an old big box fan that only works on high that I have blowing on my face. When it gets really bad, I go into the basement because it’s so much cooler. It’s not great, but if I make like a slug and don’t move, it’s barely tolerable. I blasted the air when I was in the car, though, I’ll tell you that much for free.

My sleep, which is shit, anyway, is even more erratic now. As I said in a recent post, my sleep goes nuts when I’m sick–which I was in the near past. Currently, I’m going to bed by midnight and getting up around six. I used to go to bed around four or five in the morning and get up around ten or eleven. Before that, it was even worse. I went to bed at six or seven in the morning and got up four hours later. Now, it’s an average of six hours a night. I can’t get used to getting up at the crack of dawn, even though it’s been more than a month.

I’ve been exhausted since the heat wave had started, and I’m pretty sure it’s heat-related. No matter how much I sleep, I’m dead tired when I wake up. Not just sleepy, but drop-dead exhausted. I literally can’t keep my eyes open at times. It’s disconcerting because even when I was sleeping four hours a night, I wasn’t this tired. I’m blaming the heat, but I’m thinking it might also be my sleep deficit catching up with me. Also, still not completely 100% (about 93%), and I’m nervous about a relapse. I’ve been coughing a bit in the past few days, which isn’t good. Plus, my left ear is all crusty again. These are both signs that maybe I’m coming down with the sickness again.
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How to be (mentally) healthy, wealthy, and wise

burnt to a crisp!
Sleep is hell.

I was listening to NPR or MPR yesterday on my way to taiji, and the topic was mental health. Funnily enough, when I talked about it with my taiji teacher, I called it ‘mental hellness’, which I think is often apt. Anyway, the topic more specifically was how can we talk about mental health and being proactive about it in the same way we now talk about, say, how to prevent a heart attack (the example given by the host). One of the guests was a psychiatrist, and he said there was one thing that was most important above all else. I immediately shouted, “Sleep!” I knew one-hundred percent that was what he was going to say, and I was right. He went on to say that after thirty years of practicing psychiatry, he had three linchpins of good mental health. Sleep was one of them, followed by self-compassion and a deep connection with someone else.

There was also another guest who was the director of a cultural wellness center (I gathered it was a mental health center for minorities, specifically black people), and she said it was important to tell the truth to yourself, especially right before you go to bed. If someone wrongs you, you acknowledge it and ask what you’re going to do about it. If you did something wrong, you acknowledge it, too.

I think all this is important, but I immediately thought of a few questions. With the latter woman, I wondered if this worked for people who continually blame themselves for everything, anyway. Like me. What I actually had to do was learn how to NOT blame myself for things that I didn’t actually do wrong. I will admit there was a side helping of resistance when someone else pointed out I did something wrong because I was already so self-critical, and it miffed me that I had to think of something else that I might be doing wrong. However, I also have to admit that part of the reason I blamed myself for everything was the ‘do it to myself before someone else does it to me’ mentality. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. If I was already being hard on myself, then other people weren’t as apt to come down on me. Then, I didn’t really have to do anything because, hey, I acknowledged I did something wrong! That’s enough, right?

My other question was for both guests. How do you help people get to the point where they can do these things? People are notoriously bad about recognizing their own flaws (and strong points much of the time), and we are not known for our self-reflection. So, yes, it’s good to tell the truth, but what if you don’t know what the truth is? I see many people walking around in denial, and it’s exceedingly difficult to get someone to see something they can’t–or won’t–see. In addition, what if someone is in a position where doing something about the truth is extremely difficult? Say, for example, an abusive relationship. I’ve learned that the time someone tries to leave is the time when an abusive partner is most likely to be deadly. So, it’s not as easy as, “I’m being abused. I must leave.” You have to plan it out very carefully and still recognize that it’s going to be hard. On the other hand, though, maybe just being able to acknowledge the truth of the abusive relationship and have others validate what you’re saying may be empowering in and of itself. I don’t know, and I would not dare profess that I have any kind of expert knowledge.

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Sleep, summer, and SAD; three of my least favorite things

Soooo sleepy!Today, I’d like to talk about sleep and summer, two things I really dislike. Or rather, one I hate with the heat of a thousand suns (the latter, which is ironic, don’t you think?), and one that hates me (the former). Let’s start with sleep with a quick primer on my sleep background. I never went to bed before midnight, not even a tiny person. I tricked my parents by stuffing the crack under the door with a towel/t-shirt, then reading for hours. In college, I had a 7:45 a.m. class, and I could never fall asleep before 3 or 4 in the morning. Needless to say. I wasn’t at my best for that semester. My favorite story is how I was looking for my alarm clock one morning (small, purple traveling alarm clock), but it wasn’t where I kept it. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it. I shrugged and opened my mini-fridge to grab my morning Diet Pepsi and guess what was in it? You got it, the alarm clock. I put it on the sink across the room from my bed, which kept me from putting it in the fridge again. Any time I would go home from college for a vacation or break, I would sleep fifteen hours the first day I was home and get sick.

In my sophomore year, I spent an entire semester falling asleep all the time. During classes, while talking to other people, and while driving*.  It was embarrassing to wake up in class with a line of drool slithering down my chin and nothing but scribbles in my notebook (literal notebook. This was pre-phone/computer to take notes days). It was jarring to be talking to someone and then ‘wake up’ ten minutes later and have no idea what we had talked about. The other person never knew I was gone, which I’ll talk about more in a bit. As for the last, that was terrifying. ‘Waking up’ to be driving 70 mph is not a joyous thing, I’ll tell you that much.

Many many years later, I figured out that while I was falling asleep during the first instance (and still got As/A-s for all my classes that semester), I was actually experiencing dissociative episodes. This is self-diagnosed, and I hesitate to say I actually had multiple personality disorder (in part because it no longer exists as a diagnosis and is notoriously hard to prove), but I’m pretty comfortable in saying that I had someone else talking for me while I was ‘sleeping’ inside. I would posit the same for the third situation because I didn’t crash, and this happened more than once or ten times. How did it stop? I don’t know. It just…did. Luckily.

Fast-forward to after college. I slept roughly four hours a night. It was barely enough to keep me functioning, and I have done a million things to try to alleviate the problem. It’s legend, actually. Valerian root (made me suicidal), sleeping pills (couldn’t wake up), lavender (allergic to it), chamomile tea (did nothing), exercise (nothing), sleep deprivation (temporary boost, then nothing), melatonin (jack and shit), hot milk (nada), and other such remedies. None of it worked. Honestly, the only thing that helped me at all was–sex. A rousing bout of sex had me sleeping like a baby and for a bit longer. Not much, but some.

You want to know when I get the most sleep? When I’m sick. It’s the only time my body says, “Hey, you know what? We’ll let you sleep a little more than usual, but don’t get used to it.” It’s how I gauge when I’m getting better after being sick–when I start sleeping less. It’s frustrating as hell, but it’s a good gauge of my road to recovery. The problem is, right now, this is not happening. I’ve been sick, but I’m pretty much over it. However, my sleep is being stubborn in that after I’ve been up for fourteen hours, I’m dead tired. This is not usual for me. At all. So, I’ve been going to bed anywhere from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. and getting up anywhere from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. Last night, however, I went to bed at 3:30 a.m. and got up at 8:30 a.m. My cat, Shadow, who has gotten used to me getting up at the crack of dawn, was not pleased at having to wait two whole hours for his breakfast. You would think he’d be used to being fed at weird times because I sleep at such odd times, but cats are creatures of habit.

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Health is fleeting and fragile

I think I’m mostly recovered from my recent bout of whatever, but one thing is giving me pause. Quick backstory: I don’t sleep well. I never have for a variety of reason, and it’s been something of a Thing for me for all of my life. I remember being six or seven and reading until midnight, stuffing a towel in the crack of my door so my mother wouldn’t realize I was still awake. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before midnight on a regular basis–when I wasn’t sick. When I am sick, all bets are off. I can sleep at any time for any amount of time (my normal sleep is six hours. Which is much better than the four hours I used to sleep a night/day on a regular basis.

This time around with my sickness, I started getting tired after being awake for twelve to fourteen hours of being awake. This made me sleep schedule go all wonky, and while I’m physically recovered from the illness, the twelve to fourteen hour thing is lingering hard. As a result, I’m going to bed anywhere from eight p.m. to midnight (with a rare two or three in the morning, very rare these days) and getting up at the crack of dawn or before. It’s really strange to wake up when it’s dark or barely bright. It’s been weeks since this pattern has been established, and I’m still thinking of it as temporary. I’m still freaking out when I start getting tired at eight in the evening, and I’m nervous that this will not change. Why nervous? I’m not really sure. I think it’s partly because so much of my identity has been wrapped up in how fucked up my sleep schedule was and how little I slept, and it’s difficult to do a mindset change about it.

It reminds me of all the changes in taiji. First of all, I hate change. Intellectually, I know it’s normal and healthy and whatnot, but emotionally, I don’t deal with it very well at all. I know all the changes the Solo Form is going through right now are probably for the better in the long run–it doesn’t mean I’m dealing well with it on a day-to-day basis. It’s not learning the Solo Form that is the problem–I’m good at rote learning. I know it really irritates my classmates from time to time, but it’s nothing I can take any pride in because I was just born that way. It’s not as if I’m a show-off, either. I just…learn quickly. It can be a detriment in the few cases when I don’t learn something quickly, but that is not the point of this post.

It’s the same with my sleep pattern. I don’t like it right now. Intellectually, I know going to bed at midnight and getting up at six is roughly the same as going to bed at four and getting up at ten, but it feels different. Let’s take Mondays, for example. My class is at 12:30 p.m., which means I usually get up around 11 a.m. and leave by 12:10 p.m. Now, I get up at 6:00 a.m., write my post and do some other work before I go to class. I might even do my fiction writing before class, which means I’m done for the day by the time I get home around 3 p.m. Normally, I wouldn’t have anything done by the time I went to taiji, and it all would be waiting for me when I got home. On the one hand, it’s nice to be done with everything by early afternoon. On the other hand, it’s just fucking weird.

Yes, I know I have to adjust to it in case this is just the way things are from now on. I know it’s not really a big deal and  that I’m making it bigger than it needs to be. That’s my M.O., though, and I’ve gotten better about it the older I get, but it’s still how I react to things. I’ve joked with my BFF that I may argue with her vociferously when she tells me something, but I’ll go away and think about it. That’s me in a nutshell, both the bad and the good. Stubborn as hell and apt to digging in my heels when pushed. Will think things over when not as heated and will change my mind if I see a point in what I’ve been told. It’s not ideal, but it’s how I deal with things. I know this about me, and I accept it begrudgingly.


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Adjusting to change

childish stamping of my feet.
Wah wah wah!

I hate change. I’ll out-and-out say it. I’m highly resistant to it, even when I know it’s good for me. No matter what I can tell myself about it, I still hate it. I’m slowly getting better at it, but it’s still something that can put me off-kilter for the rest of the day, even if it’s a small thing such as a change of an appointment. I bring this up because my sleep has been fucked up ever since I was sick. My normal sleep pattern is roughly go to bed at three/four in the morning and get up at nine or ten. It used to be go to bed at six or seven in the morning and get up in the early afternoon. In general, I slept through the morning because it’s my least favorite time of the day, and late night is my favorite. Since I’ve been sick, however, all bets are off. I’ll go to bed at any time, which means getting up at any time. I also sleep more when I’m sick–sometimes up to a whole eight hours! It’s one way I gauge whether I’m getting better or not–when I start sleeping less, I know I’m getting better.

This time, I’ve noticed that after twelve-fourteen hours of being awake, I’m exhausted. I’m mostly better (think 90%), but the exhaustion is the same. This has resulted in me going to bed between eight-thirty and nine-thirty at night, then getting up at four-thirty in the morning. I’m currently writing this at four-forty-five in the morning because I write my posts when I first get up, and it’s really strange. This is normally the time I go to bed, not the time I get up. Waking up to dark is messing with me more than it really should. I’m groggy, only half-awake, and grumpy. I have my thermos of ginger lemon honey tea at hand as well as my Diet Coke, and I’m still barely awake.

I think I’d rather get less sleep and feel more awake than get eight hours and feel as if I could sleep endlessly. I think my extreme tiredness of the last few days might be because of my dental work as well as it’s still a bit achy five days later. I’m so tired, I feel as if I could sleep for the rest of my life. It’s so weird that I my usual habit of getting less sleep makes me feel more rested. I still feel like shite (watching too many Brits on the YouTube), but it’s marginally better than I do now. Another frustrating thing is that I can be dropping from exhaustion when I finally go to bed, and then I lie there, wide awake. It’s as if my brain takes it as a challenge. “Oh, you’re going to sleep? I think not.” Everything I’ve pushed to the back of mind during the day comes flooding back, and all I can think about is how much everything sucks. That’s always been the case, but it’s even more annoying when I’m so fucking tired.

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Getting better takes work

I’m probably at 90% right now, and I haven’t felt this good physically in over a month. I went to taiji twice in three days, and while I’m a bit tired, I’m fine otherwise. Actually, I’m very tired. That’s the lingering thing about this whatever it is. My taiji teacher told me that this cold has been affecting people for up to six weeks, and I can attest it’s true. I’ve had it for six weeks, and only in the last week have started feeling human again.

The only thing concerning is that after approximately fourteen hours of being awake, I’m suddenly exhausted. If I don’t immediately try to sleep, I’m no good for anything. The problem is, when I try to sleep, I can’t. That’s normal for me, though. What’s not normal, though, is that I sleep hard and long when I actually do sleep. Like seven-and-a-half to eight hours long. I normally sleep six hours or so at a time, so I know I’m sick when I sleep more.

Anyway. I’m glad I’m finally on the road to recovery. The one thing I’ve done every day (physically) was my taiji routine, but it wore me out when I was sick. Less and less so as I get better, and two classes in three days was doable.

The other worrisome detail is that my ears cleared up for a bit, but they’re now all crusty and scabby again. I don’t know what I’ll do if I get sick again. I won’t deal with it well, though, I’ll tell you that much.

Here’s Ricky Martin singing in Spanish because that ALWAYS makes me feel better!

On the road to recovery

I am slowly, painfully, clawing my way out of sickness and hopefully on my way to recovery. This is by far the worst I’ve had it, and I’ve had my share of UGH in the past few years. I am thinking about seeing the doctor, even though I’m getting better because I want to know if there is something at the root of all my sickness. I also want to start cooking, even if it’s just simple things. To that end, I bought gluten-free pasta and gluten-free spaghetti sauce. Yeah, I know it’s not really cooking, but I have to start somewhere. I want to say, it’s not that I can’t cook, but that I don’t like cooking. At all. I don’t like the prep work. I don’t like having to watch everything. I don’t like cleaning up after myself. I don’t like how you get such limited output for such copious input.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have found that I own a slow cooker. It’s from the seventies by the drab olive green looks of it, but my brother reassures me that it should still work. I like the idea of just throwing a bunch of stuff into a pot, walking away, and letting it do its magic. I’d probably start with a simple stew and then work my way up from there. Once I actually make it to the co-op (on my way to taiji), I’ll buy whatever I need to make a gluten-free, dairy-free stew.

We’re supposed to get a few more inches of snow tomorrow, which is just the icing on the cake for me. We ended up getting over fifteen inches of snow, and I’m deliriously happy about it. Here’s a better of Prince singing, Sometimes It Snows in April.

Same song, same verse

I hereby declare that I am formally and officially SICK OF THIS SHIT. 

I’m not dying, but it’s incredibly tedious, frustrating, and exhausting. I have crud in my nose and throat, and my ears and scabby and burning. If I’m not better in a few days, it’s to the doctor for me. That’s a big deal! I hate going to the doctor (and I irrationally blame my sickness last year on my clinic visits), but I hate being sick more. Here is Shironeko and buddy enjoying spring. Here, we still have snow (which makes me happy, but no one else).