It’s the end of the year, so inevitably, thoughts turn to the next year and how I’m going to do things differently. Even though I am not a bit believer in holidays or ritualistic endeavors, there is something about the end of the year that makes me somber about time passing. Not as somber as my birthday, but somber nonetheless. This year has kinda sucked for me, mostly because of my own depression. There are external factors as well, but I do not want to go into those for this post. For now, I want to focus on my health, especially since it’s been so bad this year. A couple months sick, a few weeks not sick, then back to being sick. All of it lasting the past four months or so.
I have come to the conclusion that much of it is probably allergies. From my research, I have learned that allergy symptoms can seem a lot like cold symptoms. In addition, when one has as bad allergies as I do, it exhausts the immune system, thereby making it easier to catch colds. Right now, I’m still coughing and my nose is alternating between stuffy and runny. My ears are crusted over, and my throat is scratchy from time to time. I also have gobs of goo in my throat that make it hard to swallow.
This post is about the ways I’m going to try to better my health in the new year. First, a doctor’s appointment to get everything tested. Allergies because I haven’t had it done in a while (because the testing is so unpleasant. All those pricks swelling up and me feeling as if I can’t breathe. It is no fun at all). If that doesn’t bring up anything, then other testing. Maybe a sleep test because, yeah, me and sleep still aren’t friends.
I was listening to NPR, and they had Matthew Walker on again. He is a sleep scientist and a professor in neurology and psychology. He’s an enthusiastic proponent of sleep (and he has a lovely British accent. He talks about the negatives of sleep deprivation and the positives of getting enough sleep (at least eight hours a night). Which is fine and dandy, but what he doesn’t say is how to get eight hours of sleep a night. It’s frustrating as hell because I have tried almost everything under the sun, and the only time I’m able to get eight hours a night is when I’m sick.
I’ve written before how I existed on four hours of sleep a night for many years. Decades, even. And, yeah, I know that driving while sleep-deprived is worse than driving while drunk, but if I only drove when I was fully rested, I wouldn’t drive at all. With the help of taiji, I am currently up to six/six-and-a-half hours of sleep a night. Sometimes five, but mostly six. I would love for the dear doctor to tell me how the hell I’m supposed to get the other two to three hours.
Except, I’m not a furry alien, I don’t have a box of tissues or hideous pajamas, and I forgot to pick up cough syrup/cough drops when I was at the grocery store yesterday.
Speaking of, they’ve started the Christmas music this last weekend, and hearing it immediately sets my teeth on edge. It didn’t help that they played ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ while I was there because I’m sick of the controversy. Is it a rape song? Is it a girl-power song? I don’t know, nor do I particularly care. It’s a BAD song is my main issue. It’s fucking insipid, and even without the controversy, it’s worthy of being banned on triteness alone. Yes, yes, yes, different time, different context, blah, blah, blah. I don’t give a shit. It’s an irritatingly syrupy song, and I would be too happy never to hear it again.
Let’s be real, though. I would be happy not to hear any Christmas song ever again, except, of course, ‘O Holy Night’, and even for that, I don’t have much enthusiasm this year. But! I will include a glorious version by Mariah Carey.
Her voice gives me chills. I know it’s fashionable to slag on her for her diva ways and her crazy life, but she can flat-out sing. Also, I don’t like the fact that I think some of the criticism of her is gendered in a ‘bitches be cray’ sort of way. At any rate, I could listen to this version of ‘O Holy Night’ twenty times in a row and not get sick of it.
So. I’m back to bronchial shit this time (with a dash of sinus thrown in). My nose is alternating between runny and stuffy. My throat is sore. I’m coughing, which doesn’t help the sore throat. I get the chills, which just makes me angry. I don’t get cold, so having that as an indication of sickness feels like a kick to the face. I’m also getting hot flashes (not that kind, though those, too). I’m not getting more sleep, though, which is how I know it’s not the flu-like crap I’ve been getting recently. My ears are crusted over (first one then the other), and I’m parked on my couch with Shadow warming my legs.
I’ve been doing my taiji morning routine, and it’s probably the only thing that’s keeping me from getting even sicker. I have to say that the stretches I’ve been including have worked miracles on my back, so I’m thankful for that. I have almost no back pain, and the pain in my right thigh (numbness alternating with flashes of searing pain) has slowly become ameliorated with my diligence. I’m trying not to rush through them just to do them, but it’s hard not to just do them by rote.
I’m also having menstrual frustrations. Quick backstory. I’m used to getting my period three or four times a year. Yes, I checked with my doctor, and as long as I get it twice a year, it’s fine. I get it for one light day, followed by one relatively heavy day, then one light day and maybe one day of spotting. I didn’t like never knowing when I was going to get my period, but other than that, I had no complaints. The only time I had a regular period was when I was consistently having sex (for obvious reasons). In the past year or so, as I near menopause (I’m in peri-menopause), my period has become more regular, in a sense. I started getting it more often (boo), but with the same heaviness (yay), and in the past six months or so, it’s gone from once every forty-five days to once every thirty days to once every twenty-five days. This month, however, it’s back to at least thirty-five days (still haven’t gotten it yet). When I’m sick, the last thing I need to do is worry about when I’m going to bleed.
You know the other sucky part about being sick? How much mind space it consumes. It’s hard not to think about it when I’m coughing up a lung until my chest hurts and my throat is raw, when my nose is bleeding from all the blowing, and when I’m fretfully picking at the scabs in my ears. It’s the worst when I’m out and about, and I start hacking. I want to reassure people I’m not contagious (though I don’t know for sure. I’m just assuming. My bronchial crap is never contagious). I’m pretty sure I look miserable and haggard as well. Though, funny story. I went to SA to buy a pack of cigs (and, yes, I’m aware of the irony), and the cashier said, “Bear with me, but I need to see your ID because of a recent policy change.” I asked what the policy change was, not in a nasty way, but just because I was curious. I’d never had to show ID for cigarettes before. She said that they were carding anyone who looked under forty, which tickled me. I looked like shit in my sweats and sweatshirt, hair pulled back in a sloppy bun, and she still subtracted nearly a decade from my age!
I don’t do NY’s resolutions, but I have three goals for next year.
One: not burn myself with tea in a particularly stupid way. I have a travel mug I love that by bestie gave to me one Christmas. It says, “YOU CAN NOT IMAGINE THE IMMENSITY OF THE FUCK I DO NOT GIVE’ on it in all caps, and she knows me too well. Anyway, I fill it with boiling tea, then I put it in the spot on my couch where the cushions all meet (there’s kind of a divot there), and for the most part, I secure it firmly. Three times this past year, however, it’s fallen over and spilled tea onto me. I’ve done this twice, and I’ve spilled it on my arm a third time (other arm) because I was trying to hold the traveling mug in the crook of my left arm. Since I drink boiling hot water, I got second-degree burns each time. NO, MINNA, NO! BAD MINNA!
Two: find out what the fuck is wrong with my immune system. I can’t do this much longer. I feel as if I’m sick more often than not, and while I would hate if this was me for the rest of my life, I would rather know than not. Then I could deal with it (or not) rather than just wondering what the fuck is wrong with me. There’s a healthy amount of shame involved as well because I keep thinking it’s probably in my head. I mean, it literally is in my head (sinus, bronchial issues), but I’m not making it up. The next time I go in for my annual checkup (have to do it for my thyroid issues), I’m going to ask for an allergy workup. I think some of this might be allergies since I’m allergic to everything.
Three: stop smoking. I smoke between 1 and 2 cigarettes a day (half a cig in the morning, a fourth of a cig every now and again throughout the day), and while my own doctor told me it was no big deal (this was two docs ago, and my current doc gave me the obligatory ‘you could quit easily, you know’), it’s definitely not something that is good for me or my bronchial system–which already sucks. I’ve been trying to cut down, but it’s been slow-going. It’s become such a habit for me. I think it might be easier for me to quit cold turkey because once I make a decision like that, I stick to it (as I’ve said, the plus side to OCD). We shall see. I’ll try cutting down for now, and if that doesn’t work–cutting it out completely. I’m already sick, cranky, irritable, and miserable, so why not just do it?
I slept for nine hours the other night, which makes me think I’m getting sick again. I don’t sleep for that long unless I’m sick. I slept nearly seven hours last night, which is still a bit much for me. When I saw my taiji teacher yesterday, she was like, “I hope your week is filled with shitty sleep.” That was her way of wishing me well, and while it made me laugh, it’s sadly apt. The best way for me to gauge how sick I am is to look at my sleep. The ratio for sickness is directly proportional–the more sleep I get, the sicker I am. It’s not something that makes me happy, obviously, but it’s handy to know.
I don’t know what it says about me that my body only allows me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m really sick, but it’s as frustrating as hell. Is it too much to ask that I sleep a full night when I’m not sick? When I’m not sick, I sleep maybe six hours a night, and I wake up at least once. That’s not very restful, as I bet you could guess. I can’t help but think it hearkens back to the days when sleeping through the night was dangerous, and my body hasn’t yet realized it’s not necessary.
Side Note: I don’t sleep in a bed. I’ve found that I sleep marginally better on the couch. I think that’s part of the reason my back is messed up, however, so I might try sleeping in a bed again.
I also wonder if my shenanigans in college contribute to my sleep woes. My first semester I was there, I had a class at 7:45 a.m. (or some such ungodly hour), and I wouldn’t go to bed until three in the morning at the earliest. That meant I got at best three hours of sleep a night on the days I had that class. I think it was a T/Th class, so twice a week. I probably got 4, maybe 5 hours. In other words, I was severely sleep-deprived for my first semester of college.
I’ve told this story before, but there was one time when I woke up and couldn’t find my portable alarm clock. I looked everywhere in my (small) dorm room to no avail. I opened my mini-fridge to grab a Diet Pepsi (the way I always started my day), and there was my alarm as pretty as you please. I had no recollection of putting it there, which was worrisome. I put it on the sink across the room, which meant no more stowing it in my mini-fridge, but didn’t change the fact that I was having serious sleep issues.
I used to get four hours of sleep a night on the regular. Now, I’m up to six, and I owe it all to taiji. Well, taiji and therapy, but mostly taiji. It’s frustrating that it’s not more (and, yes, I know eight hours a night is ideal), but it’s amazing I even get that much*.
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. Continue Reading
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.
Sleep is not my friend. It never has been, and I doubt it will be any time soon. Even as a young child, I never went to bed before midnight. I remember stuffing a towel in the crack under my door after my bedtime so I could read until I fell asleep. It’s partly a circadian thing, but it’s also that I know bad things happen in the darkness of the night, and I’d rather be awake when they happen so I can be prepared for them. Because of the trauma of my childhood and because of my thyroid issues, I never slept much or well. Back in college, I would go to bed around three in the morning and get up at six-thirty. Then, when I went home for vacations, I’d sleep for fifteen hours the first night I was back. I’d also inevitably get sick, which is a fun way to spend a vacation. I went through much of my college years addicted to Diet Pepsi and deprived of sleep, which isn’t that uncommon, I guess. That’s what college is for, right? To see how long you can go without sleep.
After college, it was even worse. I was sort of doing it to myself in college, but because of a traumatic event in my senior year, my sleep deteriorated even further. I was lucky if I got four hours at a time, and my sleep was always fraught with nightmares. I’ve had a recurring dream since I was a child (though I haven’t had it in several years) that I’m at a mall on the escalator going up. There are three life-sized kachina dolls at the bottom of the escalator, and they are looking for me because they want to kill me. I had it regularly for many years, and it made me shiver every time I had it. I also had a dream once in which I actually died. There was a dinosaur-like monster and it choked the life out of me . I also had a nightmare in which my alarm clock was throbbing, and I was freaking out (in the dream). I know it doesn’t sound very terrifying, but it was at the time. The worst part is that I woke up from that dream and felt a huge sense of relief, only to realize that I was in another dream. The same dream, actually, with the dread jacked up.