Day 652 and Startled Awake

There are few things more disorienting than waking up without realizing where, or even when, you’ve fallen asleep.

The first few moments of regaining consciousness are the stuff of genuine terror. As your senses do their best to bring their data to your brain, there are a few agonizingly slow beats where you genuinely have no idea what the fuck is going on.

I imagine this phenomenon is where our vocabulary of phrases like “startled awake” get their origin. Perhaps you weren’t awoken by anything surprising, or particularly startling, but the small gap in processing between sense and mind is such a chasm in that singular moment that it all feels startling.

I had lay down to wait for a Midol to kick in to ease my first day of menstruation cramps at around 1:30pm. I remember asking my husband if he could find a heating blanket. I don’t remember much past that except a few hazy details of wrapping my entire lower torso with a heating blanket.

I had not turned off any lights. Nor had I thought to put on a sleeping mask. I thought I was simply waiting for the sweet relief of caffeine, Tylenol and diuretics. I had even told my girlfriend Ellie who had been expecting me to come up upstairs to hang out that I just needed a quick lie down. Turns out the lie part was true. It was not quick however. Which is some fun wordplay.

When I regained consciousness I had no sense of how much time had passed. As I fumbled about for my cell phone I swear I felt my neurons firing off rapidly in an attempt to gain data points for my poor addled mind to do some damned interpreting.

I was wrapped in something hot with a cord. Did that mean I wasn’t in my own bed? I didn’t generally sleep with anything electronic. I briefly panicked as I felt trapped in what was previously providing my body with comfort. I’d forgotten about the electric heating blanket, leaving the cord with no other function but to panic my hind brain with a fear of being strangled.

As all my lights were on, the various lamps were washing out any indication of the hour. I could hear noises above me so perhaps someone was awake. Did that mean it was the afternoon? What was with all the stomping above. It felt like it must be day.

I simply wasn’t getting enough orientation information from my initial position and I couldn’t seem to find my phone. I doubt more than a second or two has passed as I went through my startled awake process.

As I attempted to make sense of all these inputs I finally realized that I had passed out on top of my phone and I’d let it slip under my pillow. It was a bit past 3pm. I texted Ellie to let her know I’d accidentally passed out. The brief pumping of adrenaline and cortisol was easing back. I was at home in bed quite safe and a bit overly warm. But I certainly felt a new appreciation for the limits and frailty of my human mind.

Medical Travel

Day 529 and Close My Body Now

Menstruation is mostly an exercise in pressure changes. Cramping and bloating make for a good reminder that we are ugly bags of mostly water. Or if you prefer meet popsicles. But I don’t recommend flying while menstruating as the pressure changes, aka jet belly, that wreck havoc on your lower intestines don’t really need the extra help.

I’ve got a theory that shorter flights are worse for jet belly because all the fluids and gases that are rumbling about inside you have less time to adjust. If you’ve never noticed that your lower half is bloated and rumbling after a flight, well, lucky for you. But I’m pretty sure you are also lying.

Our flight got put in a holding pattern over Denver as we waited for a thunderstorm to clear out. I could not have asked for a better metaphor as my cramps kicked into high gear. My chatty seat mate kept trying to engage in conversation and all I could think was I’ve got to shut my body down.

And then as if being crampy and bloody wasn’t embarrassing enough I started humming a twenty year old techno tune from Madonna. Yes, I remember the lyrics to her James Bond song.

I’m gonna destroy my ego

I’m gonna close my body now

This turned into a mantra as the pain and discomfort threatened to kick my stress responses into a cortisol spiral. I began a series of breathing exercises and kicked myself into a meditation so deep my poor husband couldn’t reach me. Madonna might have had a point. Ego destruction and closing down your body has a place during intense pain and discomfort. It only has to hurt if you let it.