It’s been a rough week. Nothing big, but just little things over and over. A few nights ago, I dropped a bowl and shattered it in the wee hours of the morning. Totally my fault. I was trying to carry too many things as I normally do because I’d rather make one trip than two.
Back it up a bit. I’ve been feeling sick for nearly a week. Not ‘rona virus sick, but my usual bad cold/allergies/sinus/change of seasons sick. It’s worse than usual, though, because I’ve been getting the chills. That’s when I know I’m really sick. My sleep is for shit which is par the course when I’m sick as well. I mean, it’s normal for me in general to have disordered sleep, but it’s been slightly better since I started taiji. Still. I get six to seven hours of sleep a night, which is better than the four I used to get, but still not enough. I’m constantly exhausted, but I’ve learned to cope with it. Sort of. Basically, I’m resigned to my fate.
One of the symptoms of me getting sick is when I sleep for eight hours or more. It’s one of the few things I actually like about being sick. Ok, the only thing. It doesn’t make me feel more rested when I’m awake, though. The benefit is strictly that it knocks me out for a few hours more.
So, when I get sick, it can last anywhere from weeks to months. I haven’t been really sick since the pandemic started (one of the few benefits of never leaving the house), and I was naively hoping that I would be able to skip the colds this year. Nope.
Anyway, so that’s the background for the rest of what I’m going to write about. I dropped that bowl in the wee hours of the night a few nights ago right before I was going to bed. I was not happy about it, obviously, and I had to lock up Shadow in the guest room so he wouldn’t step on the ceramic pieces. I used treats to lure him there while I took care of the shattered pieces. When I went back to let him out, I fully expected him to yell at me for locking him up. Instead, he was cozied up on the bed and snoozing. When I opened the door, he opened one eye to blearily stare at me, but otherwise stayed put.
I’ve been having a rough time lately with, well, lots of things. The low grade depression I’ve been experiencing for over a year–it might be two at this point–is more noticeable and yet….It’s hard to explain. I’m not outwardly depressed, but my body has been wrecked for a while now. The last week, I’ve been sleeping seven to nine hours a night except for two nights, and that’s a lot of sleep for me if I’m not sick. Am I? I don’t know. My nose is a bit prickly and my throat is a bit gummy, but nothing more than that. Oh, and I’m exhausted, but that’s par the course for me.
In addition, we’re renovating the house, which means I have to clean the bedrooms. I’m a slob. This is not an easy task. Well, one of the three rooms is clean, so that one is fine. My bedroom is a disaster area, and my computer room is worse. I’ve been working on my bedroom employing different strategies. The first was to do something every time I got up to do something else. Throw the clothes on the floor down the chute. Pick up papers from the floor. Or, in the case of my computer room, gather up all the stuffed animals. Then, I started to be more specific and take on larger chunks. Fill up this storage box with books from the bookshelf in my room. It’s a small bookshelf, but it’s already filled two medium-ish size storage containers. Today, I’m going to focus on cleaning out the top row and making sure everything is off the floor. Tomorrow, I’m going to tackled my desk. Which means getting more storage containers. Which means going to Target. I also need to get masks because there is a lot of dust I’m stirring around. A LOT.
I’ve heard of the Pomodoro method which is setting a timer for fifteen minutes and then doing whatever for that amount of time. The theory being that once you start, you’ll keep going. Or, if you don’t, at least you got fifteen minutes done. It’s a good method, but it still felt overwhelming enough that I chose to do it my own way. The bottom line is that if I put any kind of stricture on it, I wouldn’t have done anything. Now, I’m nearly done with my bedroom, and it’s more work than I’ve done on that room in over a year. The trouble is that I can only do so much in a given day, and it’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because of all my health issues. Which I’m still having a difficult time grasping as ok. Or rather, I’m having a hard time not thinking it’s all in my mind.
My family is very pro-work yourself into a grave. Both my parents work way more than they should, and when my father was forced to retire, he withered until he started an association into which he pours all his time, energy, and heart. My mom will never retire and if she does, she’ll volunteer most of the time, anyway. My brother works fifty to sixty hours a week and seems to have all his spare time crammed with interesting activities. Me, on the other hand, spends most of my time plunked on my couch. The work I’ve been doing on my rooms has been difficult, and it doesn’t help that I’m chastising myself for not doing more.
In part one, I talked about my frustrations with things that do not change over time. In this post, I want to talk about the things that have changed without notice from me. I’ve mentioned some of them in the past such as my sleep. To summarize briefly, when I was in college, I rarely slept more than three hours a night. Then, when I went home on breaks, I slept for fifteen hours the first night. Partly because it was my sleep deprivation catching up to me and partly I would get sick, but fight it off until I got home. In my late twenties, I slept maybe four hours a night. I will say I have thyroid issues, but at that point of my life, I had hypothyroidism and not hyper, so insomnia should not have been a problem. If anything, it should have been the opposite. I got my thyroid destroyed when I was fourteen (radiation), so any insomnia before hand could be attributed to hyperthyroidism (well, at least partly), but afterwards, it should have course-corrected.
I also learned yesterday that having vivid dreams is a symptom of not getting deep REM sleep. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I used to have very graphic and disturbing dreams all the time when I was sleeping four hours a night. I woke up after two hours, usually in a cold sweat because of a weird and intense dream, and then I’d drift off into another uneasy, unsettling dream before waking up again. I knew I wasn’t getting REM sleep, so it was weirdly validating to read that I wasn’t just imaging things.
In the time I’ve been studying taiji–over ten years–I’ve slowly started sleeping more and more. I’m up to six hours on a good night, and I rarely remember my dreams any longer. If I do, they’re anxiety dreams. While not great, they’re much better than the murder dreams I used to have. Six hours is a huge leap for me, but it’s hard not to get fixated on the fact that I’m not getting the requisite eight hours unless I’m sick as I am now. Currently, I’m going from five hours in one night to nine hours the next. That’s how I know I’m sick. It’s actually one thing I like about being sick–I actually get a long chunk of sleep without disturbance. Other than that, though, it pretty much sucks.
I say this as if it’s news, but it’s not really. My sleep has been shit all my life for varying reasons. I had gotten into a semi-regular sleeping habit recently of going to bed by 2 am and getting up around 8:30*. Then, I got sick again as is my wont and my sleep schedule got all fucked up again. The sleep time started getting pushed back further and further until I found myself going to bed at 5 a.m. Then, two days ago, I could not stay up past 11:30 p.m. I crashed, but kept waking up every few hours. I finally got up at 6:30 a.m. or so, and I felt shittier than if I had gone to bed at my regular time.
If I could have one wish come true, it would be that I could get a solid eight hours of sleep a night. That I could sleep without tossing and turning for a half hour first. That I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding uncomfortably fast. That I wouldn’t have nightmares, or more recently, anxiety dreams. That Shadow wouldn’t be in my face howling when I woke up in the morning/afternoon. That I would feel actually rested when I woke up. That my immediate response wouldn’t be, “God, I wish I could sleep forever.”
Some of that has to do with depression, of course. I don’t want to be alive, and that makes it harder to get up and go about my day. There was a program on MPR (or perhaps NPR) about suicide and how to talk to someone with suicidal ideation. The doctor said you had to first find out why the person was feeling suicidal. She mentioned there was a difference between someone who coped with the thoughts on a daily basis and someone who might have those feelings in response to a bad situation. She said in the former, it doesn’t help to tell them it’s going to be ok or to look at the bright side. She said it made them feel more isolated and as if nobody understood them. I wanted to shout an ‘amen’ from the rafters because fuck that bullshit.
I’m tired. My sleep is fucked, which means at least I’m not sick. My sinuses are still all over the map, and I’m squarely blaming that on the weather. It’s been 50 to 89 and everywhere in between. I’m loving the former, but not the latter, and my body really doesn’t like the rapid changes. I’ve also become even more intolerant of heat, and my love of the cold is gradually diminishing as well. I used to be able to keep the car windows open until it was well in the sub-zero temps. Now, I close it when it’s zero.
I have said that the problem with getting old isn’t that I can’t do what I used to (though that is starting to be a problem), but that it takes much longer for me to recover. I used to be able to get by on four hours of sleep a night (barely); I could go out until the wee hours of the night and sleep it off the next day. Now, I could go out all night, but it would take a few days to recover.
I also have to admit that my depression is back and not going away any time soon. It’s low key, and it’s not paralyzing the way it has been in the past, but it definitely permeates my mood. There’s an ever-present feeling of ‘why bother’, which seeps into everything. It’s frustrating as hell, and I know the only thing I can do about it is to go to therapy.
I do Not want to go to therapy. Not because I think it’s worthless; I don’t. I am a big proponent of therapy, and I have been in it many times in my life. I have learned a lot from therapy, and I know I could learn more. However, the thought of finding a new therapist makes me want to curl up in a ball and never get up.
I’m better. I’m worse. I’m both at the same time. I don’t have a cold any longer. How do I know? Because I’m sleeping six hours a night again if that. When I’m sick, I sleep seven to eight hours, and when I’m really sick, nine. That’s extremely rare, however, and it’s not something I want. Why? Because when I sleep that much, I feel like absolute shit. Or rather, I sleep that much because I feel like absolute shit. It’s the bare minimum my body can do to remain somewhat upright. The fact that I’m back to six hours a night means that I’m no longer sick.
Side note: I fucking hate that being better means less sleep. There is so much evidence that getting at least seven hours of sleep a night is optimal, nay, necessary, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s taken me twenty years to build up my sleep from four hours a night to six hours, and I don’t know if I have twenty more years in me to add another two. In addition, there is some evidence that we sleep better in chunks rather than one full slate of eight hours. Much like eating. It’s better to eat several times throughout the day than to have three big meals. Sometimes, I think of how different my life would be if I could actually be refreshed upon waking up. Alas, it is not meant to be.
My left ear has cleared up as well, so that’s good. Just yesterday, I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to hear in my left ear again, and now I can. It’s not fully cleared, but it’s about 90%, which I’ll gladly take. Those are the two positives, which I’m recounting in part to remind myself that my health isn’t all shit. It’s just mostly shit.
Side note II: I had a hankering for a burger last week. There’s a Culver’s near me, and they have a gluten-free bun. It’s ten minutes away. It’s not difficult to go and grab a burger and fries. At least that’s what I told myself, but minutes passed by, and I wasn’t actually getting off the couch. I was just sitting there like a dumbass, bitching on Twitter about how I wanted a burger. This has been a problem for me since I was much younger. Even when I wanted to do something, the effort to actually get up and do it was immense. I knew I would enjoy the event once I got there (or enjoy the burger in this case), but it still seemed too much for my brain to force myself to do it without arguing for twenty minutes. I know it’s a part of my depression, but it’s one of the most irritating parts.
I finally hauled myself off the couch, changed into something presentable, and hopped in my car. Just as I was about two blocks from the Culver’s, the road was closed. Shit. I forgot it was construction season in Minnesota. I had to detour, and it’s not something I’m good at. Even though it’s my neighborhood, I never go on the side roads. I probably could have looked it up on my phone, but I adhere to the ‘keep driving around it with the destination in mind, and you’ll get there some day’ mentality, which probably isn’t helpful. Why? Because I have spatial issues, and I’m horrible at directions.
I’ve been experiencing a medium-grade depression for roughly six months, and it’s time to admit it isn’t going away on its own. I gutted it out the first few months because I thought it was temporary, but now, I fear it’s not true. I want to mention that I always have a low-grade depression. Always. Some days, it’s very minimal. Some days, it pushes the line between low and medium, but it never goes completely away. There is an argument to be had whether it’s depression or anxiety or a combination of both, but whatever it is, I’ve come to accept it in my life.
I do not want to accept the medium-grade depression, though, because it’s actively hindering me. When I have a low-grade depression, I can still go about my life and do what needs to be done with little problem. With medium-grade depression, the intrusive thoughts are more intrusive, and it’s harder to ignore them or brush them away. In addition, the depression knows me and my weaknesses very well, and it uses the knowledge against me. Once I catch on to its manipulations and become immune to them, it changes its tactics.
For example. When I used to be severely depressed, an entity I called The Dictator would tell me that I was toxic, worthless, and no one would care if I died. It told me that the people I thought were my friends weren’t really, that they were just being nice. Why would anyone want to be my friend? I didn’t have any redeeming qualities. I was fat, loutish, uninteresting, and unattractive. I firmly believed this, and no one could tell me anything to the contrary.
Now, I don’t believe any of that. Well, I am fat, but that’s just a descriptor and not a pejorative. I also think I’m boring, but I’m willing to believe that’s just me being hard on myself. I no longer think The Dictator is a part of me, but I haven’t gotten rid of the depression. It’s changed its attack, however, because it’s a sly and sneaky bastard. Now, instead of telling me the above, it tells me that I’m worthless because I’m not doing anything with my life. I don’t have an office job. I’m not moving up in the world. I don’t have many friends. I’m not putting out content in a way that is meaningful, and no one gives a shit about my writing. I’m never going to be published unless it’s self-published. Maybe ten people will actually give a shit if i die, and I’m not counting online people in that number. Not because they’re not real and not because I don’t care about some of them (and they probably care about me in return), but because it’s simply not the same.
All of this is true. Well, most of it is true. Some of it is more a feeling thing than an actual thing, but it leans on the side of being true. It’s hard to argue with any of it, except for the content part. That’s on me. I haven’t done what needs to be done to even have a chance of being a known content producer.
Side Note: I hate that phrase, ‘content producer’, because it’s simultaneously pretentious and antiseptic. But, it’s become an accepted phrase, especially for YouTube/Twitch.
I don’t like the term ‘creative’, either, for someone who produces artistic content, but it’s better than content producer. I like artist, but I understand that it’s not very inclusive. In general, I just like to say I’m a writer.
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*.