Categories
Chronicle

Day 335 and Ankle

I was going for a walk and misjudged coming down a stair. We’ve got tiny stairs of rock and wood and hand poured concrete in the courtyard of our complex. They aren’t the most even. I don’t know how I came down so hard but Alex said he heard something as I came down. I tried to get back up and put weight on my foot and immediately collapsed. I must have screened loudly as everyone came running.

I couldn’t make it up the stairs to get back into the house. I had to scoot myself up the stairs using my arms to lift me and shimmying my ass. I kept trying to test if could manage any pressure on it. I had tears running down my face and my iPhone giving me tachycardia warnings.

I initially crawled myself upstairs to get in bed so I could elevate and ice. We weren’t sure if it was a sprain or an actual broken bone or ligament. We called around to see if anyone had doctors who made house calls. The last thing I wanted was a four hour emergency room visit while I was in excruciating pain. But eventually the feedback from a virtual visit was I needed X-rays as it’s not a good sign that I can’t apply any pressure to it.

The urgent care center got me a boot and crutches and I’m waiting on the X-ray results. I am so angry as I don’t want a random health thing requiring surgery and physical therapy and months off my feet. I feel like I just got to a great place with my health recently. To have a set back with my existing issues would have been more of the same. To have something new feels profoundly unfair.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 318 & Boring Health

The word wellness has become so comically performative that I cannot use it with a straight face. It would require so many disclaimers and apologies and contextual additions to move it beyond the associations with wealthy white women (thanks Gwyneth) it’s not worth the bother. But it’s also equally true most people do not feel well. The feeling of being healthy eludes us.

Our health degrades more quickly than we’d imagined, as if planned obsolescence wasn’t a term for software, but rather a term that describes our bodies as we move beyond our twenties. It feels intimidating to try to staunch the flow of time.

We acquiesce to our obligations, our stresses, our weaknesses and our limits. And our health degrades further. And with each turn of the wheel it seems even more impossible that we could feel any other way. But I promise you this does not have to be your life. You can feel well. I’ve come back from the brink of chronic disease. It is possible. It’s just all extremely boring and time consuming.

It’s hard work and it’s boring and repetitive and frankly your work won’t show results for months or even years. But you are not doomed to lose your health to outside forces simply as a consequence of time, stress or overwork. I’ve written a beginner’s guide to biohacking as well as an introduction to supplements. Anyone can pick up the basics and begin to improve how they feel. Just don’t expect miracles. And yes it’s a position of privilege to pursue most of it. But there are ways.

If you look at one of my typical days I split a third of my life into some type of preventive work. Just in case anyone ever wondered why I don’t socialize much. I put most of that time into my body.

I sleep a full eight hours. I meditate. I go to therapy and group every single week. I do full body compound lifting three times a week. I do steady state cardiovascular work an hour every day. Ok that’s just a fancy way of saying I talk long walks. I take my vitamins. I eat protein and vegetables. I stretch. None of that is privileged or even interesting. It is just slow boring work that builds over time.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 317 Walk Without Rhythm

I struggle with accepting the reality that humans have natural rhythms. I struggle even more with the idea that living by them is to my benefit. Circadian rhythms and seasonal rhythms control our days and nights. The body craves the repetition that rhythm brings even as the mind rejects the idea that we are behold to it.

Call it a Calvinism of the body. We are predestined to our rhythms. We’ve got freedom to chose how we live, so even though rhythms bring strength to our bodies, our mind strains against the constraints. We must have free choice we say. Except what good does it bring us to reject our natural physical rhythms?

There are many types of rhythms. Our world is built out of them. Regular, random, progressive, alternating and flowing rhythms give shape and order to everything around us. All of our art forms leverage the beauty of rhythms freedom and constraints. Nothing is new under the sun but the combinatorial possibilities are infinite.

I’d do well to retain that sense of wonder at the infinite as I fight against the sense of indignation that I am limited by rhythms. We are all limited by the forms in which we exist. Until I get to discover what is beyond the veil of physical existence I’m stuck. Maybe beyond that I’ll find the formless freedom of pure comprehension. Or maybe I can learn that freedom always comes with the constraints of its medium. That doesn’t mean I’m not free to be creative within the form I have.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 314 and Circadian Psych

I’ve been off since Daylight Savings on Sunday and I’m a little grumpy about it. All of my sleep metrics have been down by about 15%, which you wouldn’t think would make a dent in your day but somehow absolutely does. I’ve always been a winter person so I tell myself I don’t mind that it’s getting dark at 5pm but the adjustment is always brutal. Clearly my body minds.

I figure this will all pass in a few days but I resent the feeling of having my body not quite understand the rhythms of the day. It’s like having mild jet lag for no discernible reason. It messes with everything. The sun sets and I think oh it must be dinner time. Except it’s only 5pm and I just ate lunch a few hours ago.

It’s been combined with a few other changes in my routine which has probably compounded the issue. I tell myself I shouldn’t let it get to me. I keep trying to slide myself back to proper regimens. I am getting up at the same time even though it’s an hour earlier. I’m going to bed at the same time. And I’m sure it will pass. But god damn am I in a fucking foul mood. Your body really does keep the score.

Categories
Biohacking

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.

Categories
Biohacking

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.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 272 and Small Steps

I talk a lot about pacing and routines and rhythms but it’s mostly because I struggle with it so much. As soon as I notice something is going in a direction I dislike, rather than course correct a little bit, I love to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. Why be steady when chaos begets creativity?

Silicon Valley success myths are tied heavily to people that go their own way. We’ve coined terms like contrarian and narrative violation to add a high gloss to the basic truth that we just don’t like having our hands forced. Not even by ourselves. We like being able to pick and chose our direction.

This isn’t just truth of institutions or common knowledge. I get pissed when I’m forced into something by my own body. Heck, I especially dislike having my hand forced by my own biology. There is no authority more unforgiving than my own flesh.

Which has sometimes meant if I can overcome a biological reality my ego finds painful I’m inclined to do it. I love imposing brute force on myself. Naturally this habit isn’t the sort of thing that makes for a comfortable or pleasant life. But it’s a huge comfort to know that if you simply apply a little willpower you can undo the sins you’ve spent too much time accumulating.

Just look at some of the habits that have gained popularity in startup culture from intermittent fasting to overnight work sprints. Those techniques work. Some are arguably even sustainable for people. But it’s important to remember no matter how much we like to make things happen quickly, decisively or in new directions that sometimes the reality of being human cannot be ignored. On those days remember it’s ok to take small steps.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 269 and Pacing

I’m very defensive of my time. While I work at curtailing reactivity in my emotional growth, it’s still easy for me to feel invaded by obligations to others. Taking video or meeting in person was among my least favorite activities even before the pandemic. That’s one reason I’ve written extensively on how to communicate with me asynchronously. But another deeper reason is my fear of misusing my time. And tempting as it may be to project it onto others, I know that this fear is entirely about me.

I am very fearful of anyone needing things from me. I don’t mean things like money, favors or advice; though it is harder to say no than you’d think. My fear is deeper. I’m afraid friends and family will start to count on me for their emotional needs when I’m still figuring out how to be present for my own. I’ll deliberately put distance between myself and others to avoid feeling needed.

So what does this have to do with pacing? I’m not very good at giving myself enough space to be challenged and recovery. And when every encounter with another person is an emotional challenge, I need to be careful about pacing myself.

Maybe there is some latent autistic spectrum issues or maybe I have more trauma than I can consciously dig up but it’s a rare human that doesn’t make me anxious about the energy required for maintaining my own boundaries. It’s not about other people to be clear. It’s about me and my fears of being emotionally invaded.

As I build up more systems and accommodations to allow me to work effectively I need to figure out better pacing. How do I connect with others without emotional fear while still respecting my needs for down time and rest? Giving myself enough recovery has been an ongoing challenge that I write about extensively. But putting it into writing also serves as a valuable reminder to course correct before a crisis emerges.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 248 and Trusting Nothing

I am learning to appreciate the value of doing nothing. I have always struggled with the human “being” part of the equation. I would prefer if we had been called human doings. But I’m slowly being convinced that’s just ego talking.

I feel terrific if I do nothing. I don’t even mean doing things you might consider recreation. I mean I don’t do a damn thing but still in bed flat on my back. I let my mind wander. I’ve learned that leisure isn’t my style. I can’t do something and experience it as nothing.

Maybe I’ve got some kind of struggle with getting and staying in a parasympathetic state. Maybe I prefer the fight or flight. But it is in the rest and digest state of laying down that I finally feel at ease. It’s from where I bring myself back. It would be nice if I fully relaxed when doing my nails or hanging out with other people.

But as the only thing that truly gets me into parasympathetic is stillness I will trust that nothing. I’ll remind myself I need to do it. Maybe I’ll even be on of those people that calendar it. Sorry I’m out of office as I need to lay flat for the day. Come back tomorrow!

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 224 and Wanting a Break

I don’t want to write today. I feel foggy, unfocused and anxious. I had to have a medical procedure last week whose preparation was destabilizing. I felt pretty good coming out of it but a few days on I guess recovery has its own logic.

I don’t want to feel like this. In order to have the procedure done we had to remove me from all of my medications. Not normally something you do unless you have no other choice. Which in the end I didn’t feel I had. And I’m struggling. Modern medicine works pretty well. Some of science is neat.

I don’t want to be writing about any of it though. I’m scared, tired, sad and angry about all of it. I want to be alone. But my mind is so fatigued I cannot come up with any other topics. I tried to focus on fun things like the PR DAO I’m working on and some investments I’m excited about.

But I just can’t seem to make sense without a lot of energy and focus. And the doctors would prefer I keep the energy for my recovery.

So I’m stuck writing baleful takes about sleeping and migraines. I’d rather crawl into a hole and lick my wounds in private but I promised myself I’d write every single day.

And it seems I’m unable to write anything remotely intellectual. It’s all emotions and physical ailments. No wonder I’ve been watching so many BBC period dramas. Their leading ladies seem so relatable at the moment. Which is why I’m stuck writing about life as if I were some talentless version of Virginia Woolf. I’m incapable of writing about anything else but the consuming nature of feeling like shit. Write what you know is all fine and well until the thing you know most intimately is physical frailty.

On the bright side I did learn today that Herman Melville and I share the same diagnosis; ankylosing spondylitis.

Herman Melville endured chronic pains in his joints, back and eyes, symptoms consistent with ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease.

Maybe pain relief was his white whale too. Of course, he didn’t have the benefit of biologic injections like IL inhibitors. Maybe that’s why he wrote the great American novel and I’ve got a daily writing habit. I know glorifying and romanticizing suffering is a habit I’ve got to kick.