Day 307 and Cortisol

I had a couple nights of bad sleep. Because I’m the sort of dork who tracks, well, everything, I knew I had a crash coming my way. Naturally I took to Twitter to meet my biohacking needs and asked for tips on how to lower the stress hormone cortisol. And wow people must be stressed as hell as I got hundreds of responses.

Cortisol pumping constantly is what happens when you are in fight or flight stress mode. Being in a parasympathetic state is good sometimes because you can’t be stressed all the time. It will kill you.

Using a tracking app called Welltory that incorporates manual HRV readings and my Apple Watch this is what I looked like this morning. The red and choppy fluids are supposed to signify that I’m not doing well and losing energy.

So I started taking as many pieces of advice on the thread.

  • Meditated
  • Went outside for sun
  • Took extra vitamin C
  • Took ashwagandha
  • Sang to reset my cranial vagus nerve into parasympathetic
  • Used a Theragun to massage everything
  • Went for a walk in the woods
  • Took a cold shower
  • And then said fuck it and took a benzo because it’s not all holistic

All that effort seems to have paid off because a few hours later Welltory was telling me maybe I could use a little more stress in my life. I’d like to think it was the meditating and herbs but sometimes also pharmaceuticals.


Day 303 and App Pressure

I refused to give in to peer pressure as a kid. I was way too much of a handful to ever let anyone else tell me what to do. Sadly this led to being constantly on the shit end of the girls in my classes because I didn’t like to play their games. I was terrible at respecting authority, and this included any kind of peer power structure.

Thankfully we moved every two years so I never had the suffer the consequences of being headstrong. Probably why I was so eager to thumb my nose at power. I didn’t think it was going to last for very long. So I never had to solve for it.

It turns out I should have learned to cope with peer pressure when I was younger. Instead of reflexively being against all kinds of authority, I should have learned when to accept (and when not) the input of people and systems who have power over me.

Why? Because now I don’t know when to say no. As an adult I am extremely susceptible to pressure from my applications. I opted into letting them have power over me and I have no idea how to say no to them. I’ve got a problem with application pressure because I didn’t learn how to deal with it as a kid. Ooops!

As part of my quest to regain my health I have become an avid biohacker. I track tons of metrics. I wear both an Apple Watch and a Whoop. I’ve use half a dozen different applications daily. But what I didn’t appreciate until recently is that the nudging state of my wellness apps is functionally just peer pressure.

My “Health” folder on my iPhone

And I give in to it every damn time. Welltory says I need to be active 10 hours today? I better go walk around the house. Apple Watch trends say I have fewer active minutes? Fuck I must be lazy. Gyroscope is reminding me I didn’t meditate? Oh no I am not zen enough! My applications are bullies and because I opted into it I feel like I’m a failure if I don’t say yes to everything. I guess it turns out you cannot escape life lessons.


Day 302 and Lights Out

I’ve been a proponent of napping and mid day resting throughout the course of my recovery from chronic illness. Sometimes the only thing that stops inflammation is stopping your entire system. Rest and recovery is part of peak performance. But I was not expecting the sheer force of my desire for sleep to overcome me today. I was absolutely lights out.

I had a busy week with two major deadlines for portfolio companies along with a project for a friend who is a fellow investor. I’ve also been slowly restarting weight lifting again as I miss it as a hobby. Mix in a little frantic appointment frenzy and I’ve been busier than I’ve been since the before times. And by before times I mean before I crashed and burned with my ankylosing spondylitis not before times like before the pandemic.

Around 11am I went out for a hike to stretch my legs after my morning meetings. I only made it about halfway through when I realized I was tired. I came home and practically inhaled my lunch. I had planned to run errands and take calls but I could barely keep my eyes open. I got into bed at 12:45pm and I didn’t wake up again till around 4pm.

I’ve had this idea that wellness means I’ll never be tired again. I find myself incredibly indignant when I realize that healthy people get tired too. My fantasy that I’ll be able to work long hours and not pay any price for it remains a fantasy. Which makes me wonder if the rest of the world is exhausted all the time and I’m just unrealistic. Perhaps the norm is being on the brink of lights out all the time.


Day 297 and Day of Rest

October has been a whirlwind for me. Or maybe it just feels busy getting back to a normal pace of life. I had a shitty end of summer as part of an effort to decide if and then when to take me off my immunosuppressive medications to get me vaccinated so I could develop antibodies. Maybe anything would feel busy after that.

I lost about six or seven weeks to the whole vaccine situation. Thankfully nobody cared since it was August. But I cared. I didn’t do anything for weeks from all the side effects and management of the process. I only bring this up (and I should write a full post about getting vaccinated as I wrote one about the decision and its risk management) because it’s been a while I needed to actively rest.

I had nearly two months where I didn’t couldn’t pursue any strain like weightlifting or even hiking because I was under enough strain from my own body. And I know this because I used a Whoop to track recovery and strain. Biohacking is a bit of a hobby. I had low strain scores and virtually no activity. I spent all my time in what Whoop calls recovery. But not this week. This week I had strain. And then I learned what a poor recovery from too much strain looks like.

A Whoop recovery score of 32% based on a terrible HRV of 13. Plus I’ve got tachycardia.

This week in addition to a significant workload (ask me about my rolling fund if you are into that sort of thing) I decided to pick back up my powerlifting hobby. I changed up my diet to eat enough protein and calculated out new one rep maximums for a basic starting strength routine.

It felt awesome. Squats are the best. And my overhead presses were better than I imagined. I had this moment of hope that maybe I was well enough to train again after several years of health trouble. I felt empowered. I was working through the delayed onset muscle soreness with a Theragum (something I normally cannot tolerate with my past inflammation levels). I was doing range of motion restoration work. I thought I had it all under control. And then on Friday I saw my resting heart rate variably or HRV start to drop.

I thought oh shit I must be getting sick. Normally a dip in HRV is a hint that my inflammation in my spine will kick back up and all the exciting secondary health stuff like fatigue (from pain) and migraines (from the shitty circulation from the inflammation) will go in circles.

But it turns out that I’m not getting sick. My symptoms didn’t flare. Instead I was tired.

Honestly I’m a little pissed. Normally I only take rest days when I feel sick. I only feel tired when I am sick. This being tired and having my heart be strained because I was overworked physically is bullshit. Normally if I am tired it is because I am fatigued. I mean that feeling you have when you are sick because your system is going haywire. It’s not the same thing as tired. Being tired isn’t debating. Being tired is actually great. I just need to take it easy today because I did too much. Not because I’m sick. Thank god it is Sunday so that day of rest is well timed.

Emotional Work Startups

Day 296 and Under Budget

One reason I’ve been comfortable working in startups my whole life is I’ve never been a big spender. My biggest expense is probably takeout, as I find cooking to be a waste of time. As long as I can afford medical insurance (I’d get a job somewhere with socialized medicine if it came to that) I’m pretty happy with a one bedroom and Chipotle for dinner. Some people get used to their lifestyle as they make more money. I just haven’t yet.

If I go bankrupt (and sadly I lived through that emotional roller coaster as a teenager with my family) I could find a way to live within new means again. I don’t have to be in the top 10% to have a good life. I only need that for health care costs and sorry America but there are other options. I’ve got skills that could earn me stability if I wanted to make that choice. Hear that Canada I’m recruitable!

But I do need to learn to live comfortably with my current means. It’s alright to live within your budget. Sometimes budgets bigger and you can easily spend more on disposable income. And this was a year where my means finally got comfortable. And I’m still sort of afraid to use it. I had to really talk myself into a chair that that was functionally a workplace accommodation. Instead of just jumping at a chair that lets me work comfortably for longer hours I spent several years just not working as many hours.

This tendency to live under budget comes everywhere. I wanted something I considered fairly lavish for dinner. But I thought how ridiculous to spend an extra $15 on dinner. I got a little worked up trying to think of other options that I wanted as much and my husband said “fifteen bucks isn’t going to make a difference get the damn thing.” And so I did and it was fantastic. I’m super happy about my evening and the spending will have no impact on my total budget. Anyone who tells you that money or privilege can’t buy you happiness are lying. Happiness is a choice and it’s an easier choice when you can make the choices you want.

I had mental upper bounds on what I think it is responsible to spend for years. I ran an Airbnb side hustle out of an underpriced two bedroom in Chintatown while I had a six figure salary, because I wanted to live so far under my means I could take risks if I wanted. That under budget mentality let me save up 70,000. It’s also how I met my husband but that’s a different story.

That kind of thinking let me enjoy startup failures for the priceless learning that they are. But now I realize I’m afraid to live on my budget. Unless I’m living massively under budget I’m a little uncomfortable. So I’m going to try to let that one go. I can just live on budget.

Emotional Work Politics

Day 294 and Allowing Help

I’m extremely uncomfortable having help with my home life. I’d say this is the surest sign that I wasn’t raised in the upper class, but I did have a nanny when the first tech boom hit so I can’t claim it’s a new experience. It’s not as if I’m adapting to having the money to hire help for things like cleaning, cooking or household help. Twelve year old Julie had a lot of privilege.

In fact, I think it’s a great use of resources to have someone who is adept at these tasks do them instead of me. Everyone has different skills and abilities and mine are not logistics. People should absolutely trade their time in the ways that they prefer. Capitalism gave us labor specialization and I love the benefits. You wouldn’t want me running operations for anything.

No, the thing that troubles me about hiring out for help in the home is that I’m uncomfortable around other human beings for long hours. I know this sounds like some sensitive white lady shit. You can peg me for that. But it’s more than just being a soft bitch. I’m genuinely nervous around people in a way that I don’t think I’d normal.

Too much time socializing stresses me out. If I have to smile, make small talk, and be conscious of my interactions I find it draining. You’ll see it in my biometrics too. On a day where I go to a doctor or have an extended period where I am one-on-one with another person my resting heart rate goes up and my HRV goes down. My Whoop records a higher strain score. I want to blame this on the rational concern for physical health as I have an autoimmune condition that puts me at higher risk. But I think I’m just less capable with people than others.

This has made me reconsider the calculus of whether it’s always logical to outsource tasks to make time for work whose time value is dramatically better. That logic makes it clear that all activities can arbitraged for more value. But what if some things you suck at make you happy? What if some things you are bad at are less stressful than things you are good at. Some people move to cook but have no talent. Some people are amazing at jobs they hate. If I really find that people around people is using up valuable energy maybe I should do it myself.

I think it’s possible we might have so thoroughly skewed our human values to economic gain we aren’t even sure where to spend time for joy. Which I realize is a really ponderous way to look at paying someone to clean the kitchen. But aren’t we all reconsidering what valuable in our lives?

Biohacking Emotional Work

290 and Self Care

I’ve feel like I should have an entire category on the blog dedicated to “maintenance” as I’ve got loads of posts on my struggles to balance the activities of staying alive with well, the rest of my life.

All of the activities that go into keeping a human alive and functional are so damn time consuming. How does anyone ever get anything done when so much of life is dedicated to keeping our meat sacks from spiraling out? I’m pretty sure these are the things that actually make up life and I’m supposed to treasure this time in my body. But until I become as enlightened as the Buddha, I feel like this whole embodiment thing is just getting in the way of what I should be doing. My therapist likes to call this “human doing” instead of “human being” and I don’t love the joke.

I had a terrific day of doing things this Sunday. I woke up at 7am and didn’t finish all of the various routines and self care activities till 1pm. I went for an hour long walk (which is pleasurable since sunshine and mountain air but also low impact cardiovascular activity) I lifted weights (alright fine, I love squats). I meditated (mindfulness doesn’t count when you quantify it). I showered, shaved & washed my hair. I did the grocery shopping and meal planning for the week. I did three loads of laundry. I made lunch. I cleaned up. I juggled supplements (I’ve got a spreadsheet to track them all with 8am, 10am & 11am slots) which are completely separate from my medications (I have 7am and noon spots for those). And only then at 1pm did I finally get a chance to settle into work. There was so much work just to get to work.

And while I know all of those things that keep me balanced and healthy are the stuff of life, I also resent their necessity. I have elaborate fantasies about what other people get done with their time. Other people don’t need to exercise, meditate, take vitamins, or watch their nutrition right? Well alright I said it was a fantasy. If you also spent your Sunday doing chores and self care it would make me feel better to know that.

Internet Culture Politics Preparedness

289 and Apocalyptic Aging

Millennials are aging, but that doesn’t seem to have kicked off the midlife crisis handwringing of popular culture yesteryears. The first millennial are edging towards 40 but it feels like no one is a day over thirty on social media. Maybe because it’s hard to feel like you’ve hit midlife when the traditional markers of stability like children and mortgages feel more like luxury status symbols.

Maybe no one is craving red sports cars and the open road because no one has the security of a home life from which to break free. A midlife crisis seems like an almost comically indulgent thing that our boomer parents did. Imagine having kids and a home and thinking that you wanted to go back to the insecurity of your twenties? And boomers have the balls to call millennials spoiled. You had to have have stability to throw it away first.

I’m an elder millennial and a reasonably comfortable even wealthy one at that. But I don’t have kids or own a house. I frozen my eggs when it seemed like having kids wasn’t financially feasible. My husband and I lived in Manhattan at the time and we both had early stage startups. It seemed like a wise idea to put off the decision at the time. And we never even considered buying an apartment. Tying up all that wealth into a one bedroom apartment was for trust funders not the professional class.

Now it’s clear we can afford children and a mortgage on a house, but it seems crazy to commit to either. No one has a clue what life is going to be like in ten years so why would you anchor yourself and innocent progeny? It almost feels immoral to consider.

I don’t really understand how one can age gracefully when so much of life feels casually apocalyptic. Maybe millennials aren’t acknowledging aging because we live in the stasis of the long now. If there is no future then we aren’t moving into it. Each passing year is just a lucky bonus when nothing builds towards stability.

Not being able to afford children and houses is a blessing if you don’t believe in the future will be better. We’ve rationalized that the basics of the American are luxuries only for the wealthy. The wealthy can afford to live with rising tides and six figure college tuitions. Everyone else is thrilled to have enough cash to buy prepper supplies and pay their health insurance deductible.

And in some horrifying sense it is rational. I don’t trust the political system in America. Which means I don’t trust we can solve pressing issues like climate change or rising debt. So when new and exciting issues like the pandemic destabilize life even further it makes committing to a future even less appealing. There is absolutely a part of me that stopped believing in the future sometime in 2016. Everything went Hobbesian. Millennials are aging but we aren’t growing into a future.

Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 287 and Routines

I haven’t figured out how to incorporate my routines into my busier workdays. I feel like I’ve written this blogpost at least 3-4 times but somehow I never seem to find balance easily when I make big changes to how I spend my time.

All the self care efforts that has become comfortable rhythms go by the wayside as soon as I add in new obligations. And then my body gets pissed that I’m not taking care of it and I get into the same pattern of two steps forward and one step back.

You’d think after experiencing this issue multiple times I’d be better at ramping change slowly but I remain the sort of person that loves to dive into shit head first.

After much enthusiasm and progress I’m writing todays post from a physically mediocre places. My stomach is upset. I am fighting off a migraine. My muscles are tense. I’m anxious about all of these symptoms turning into a messy cascade. So I’m turning to my pharmaceuticals, taking a mess of prescriptions, and going to bed. Maybe tomorrow is another chance to find a better balance.

Chronic Disease Preparedness

Day 286 and Appointments

I’ve been going to a bunch of appointments in the past week or so. And I’ve got a bunch more lined up in the coming weeks. My calendar is a mess of obligations; optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, and the hair salon for starters. I feel like I’m drowning in appointments.

I made the mistake of not capitalizing on the last dip in case numbers in the late spring and early summer and missed the pandemic window before delta. I didn’t want to make that mistake again so I’ve been hustling to have the appointments that I’ve been putting off for the last 19 months. Check my eyes, check my teeth, check my fiddly bits. And yes cut my hair. God is my hair long.

There is so much maintenance work that has been piling up that I wonder how I’ve made it through the entire pandemic putting all of these life chores off. Has everyone been putting off their appointments? Was it just me? Or is it just people who are still trying to limit their exposure to infection?

I grant I’ve got a very different risk profile than the average American but I feel like it’s probably not unusual to put off stuff you are supposed to do but can probably live life without. But should you? So far no one has found anything wrong but maybe it’s just luck that I could go for two years without someone checking my tits or my teeth.

I didn’t put off any of my truly crucial health appointments over the pandemic but I am sure other people did. The eye doctor is something I tell myself I can put off for two years but maybe that’s a rationalization. Did others do that with annual physicals? With breast exams? What else have we been putting off in our appointments. It feels like I put off my entire life. And now I’m scrambling to fit it all in before something else has happens.