Categories
Emotional Work

Day 641 and Recovery

This might sound a little shocking but I sleep at least 9 hours a night. Sleep is one of the obsessions of the biohacker. If I’m lucky I might be able to get to ten. It’s always a sign of me doing poorly if I am not sleeping a TON.

It’s usually the first sign I am not adequately reserving time to bring down my central nervous system into rest and digest. I’ll stay up till 11pm and then it’s a hop skip and a jump to only sleeping seven hours.

The best combination of effort and exertion for me is only adding in specific necessary stressors during the day and give ample time to recovery. Much of my work requires focus and information processing and synthesis. And that isn’t improved by overwork and exhaustion.

Nevertheless I am still carting around a lot of lessons from my childhood about the value of hard work. More is better. More hours is best. And this is a fine and noble thing if you do work intelligently with your goals in mind. Simple exertion is sometimes the best option. But not always.

Categories
Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 636 and Waves

Yesterday I was on top of a wave of positivity, so naturally this means today I was prepared for that wave to crash. The rhythms of both life, and my body, must accommodate the full range of highs and lows. After several intense days of work and activity I spent my day reading and absorbing news and financial reports in bed.

I am becoming modestly less indignant about having to monitor and meter my energy carefully. This is a new development in some ways as I’ve struggled quite publicly with mixed feelings about accounting for fatigue and pain in my workflows. I have in the past easily fallen into envy and jealousy when I see how much able bodied friends give little thought to their physical realities.

I have slowly let go of negativity around around around my body and come to embrace the rhythms of requiring rest. I’ve even come to see it as a strength as being forced into mitigating stress loads and cortisol spikes means I have more control over my sympathetic nervous system. Rather than give in to fight or flight, I am able now to able to choose how I respond.

Categories
Medical Preparedness

Day 630 and Sympathetic Nervous Response

One of the downsides of having any kind of medical bullshit is having to keep an eye on yourself. If you over do shit you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

I’ve been doing a wilderness medical incident first responder course this week. I initially went into it slightly concerned with my ability to physically keep up given my ankylosis. I was easily the odd duck out in a group of former military folks, paramedics and wild land firefighters. If I’m honest I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showing too much frailty. I was already the only woman in the class. I didn’t need to be the cripple on top of that.

But over four days I’ve managed just fine. I did wound packing and splints. I did a number of incident scenario responses ranging from anaphylactic shock to heart attacks. I even did multiple mass casualty response drills. Today I managed one as a triage incident deputy and comported myself quite well.

I was feeling pretty cocky about how well I’d managed through the week. I was enjoying that sense of accomplishment right up until 5pm or so today when we had our last assignment of the day. We’d just finished up a drill with five patients who had been caught in a tornado. It was an hour of field work and triage outside. I was thinking alright maybe I’m getting the hang of thing. But no I was about to embarrass myself on one of the easiest tasks in the course.

It was time to pack up our own medical kits. We got a big baggie with all the supplies we could possibly need for our our first aid kits and dumped it out on the desk. Our instructor began going over all the items and how to pack them up into the bright orange brick that serves as your kit bag. I was doing my best to follow along but my brain was just not having it. I kept trying to figure out what items went where and how it was meant to go. And I was not remotely keeping up with the class or the instructions.

I’m starting to feel overheated and I’m struggling to concentrate. And it’s then I realize “oh shit I’m in a bunch of pain” and I realize I haven’t taken my pain medication for hours and it is starting to show. I just ran around in a big field doing triage for an hour. So I think to myself well I’m having a sympathetic nervous system spazz out. The pain and fatigue is sending me into fight or flight and I’m losing decent coordination and fine motor skills. I am becoming one of my own patients.

I didn’t finish packing out my kit. I had to excuse myself. I briefly considered if it would be funny to have a medical incident in a first responder course. But I was fully capable of treating my own acute stress response. I was getting worked up by an inflammatory response from my ankylosis and low and behold the pain in my spine was going to spike.

The end of the story is that I’m in bed and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have kicked in. My pulse and respiration are fine. I’m no longer in fight or flight. And yes I’m a little embarrassed that packing a bag is what did me in. But on the other hand, that’s a very “Julie” way to learn a lesson.

Categories
Politics

Day 617 and Overnight

I plowed through a bunch of choring yesterday. Which apparently tuckered me out. I took maybe an hour nap before dinner. I had a little extra CBD beforehand and found myself drowsy as hell. I passed out sometime around 8:30pm.

Alas the napping and the early bedtime, if you can call just utterly losing consciousness “bedtime,” had consequences. I came to around 1am and found myself wide awake. Oops.

At first I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this unexpected moment of being lucid and energetic in the middle of the night. I toddled over to the bathroom to pee. I crawled back into bed. I debated if I should try to force the issue with an Ambien. But I didn’t have anything in the morning so I thought maybe I should take those sleep hygiene folks seriously and just do something till I get tired.

Of course, the thing I decided to do was read on my phone. I cleared a few back logged essays from my collections on my favorite reader app Matter. I logged into Bloomberg to check pre-market sentiment. I opened up the New York Times and read Queen Elizabeth’s obituary.

Around 2am it seemed clear I wasn’t sleepy at all. Whether from the back lighting of my phone or the five hours of sleep I’d logged earlier. So I said fuck it and opened Twitter. I dig deep into the feuding discourses of “God Save the Queen” versus the survivors of British empire. Monarchists loved their kindly grandmother and the Irish did their best to be polite about the genocide of it all.

If the sun never sets on the British Empire the doom scrolling through the celebration of the end of the longest reigning monarch seemed like the way to go out. But unsurprisingly there was a lot of darkness to be found in the pre-dawn sentiment. I tweeted a reminder to myself to explore how enclosure movements and anti-colonial “fuck the federales this is our land” historical context plays into the American political moment.

Eventually I got drowsy. I feel asleep around 5am just as the rest of the country was waking up. I slept till 9am or so.

Categories
Biohacking

Day 606 and Recovery

As you might know, biohacking is more than just a hobby for me. It’s the way I keep on top of any remaining chronic health challenges. In particular, I love how my Whoop helps me pinpoint where I am between strain and recovery.

I had absolutely stellar recovery scores last week even as I pushed my strain significantly. I was “in the green” which meant I was getting enough rest to recover from all my activity. But I’ve had a few days of yellow “warning” recovery scores that suggest I may need extra sleep and less activity strain.

I felt it this morning when I had some anxiety hit me hard as made a run to the grocery store. If I am feeling particularly tired I can easily let myself get anxious and overwhelmed if I don’t feel I’ve got the space and time to recover myself physically. I was racing against the clock to get lunch for everyone (both Alex and our house guest) hoping I’d be home within enough time for making meal and taking shower before my usual Monday therapy power hours.

I was thus quite relieved to find that therapy was canceled. A little end of summer reprieve. All the rushing to get things done went poof as did any remaining anxiety. I didn’t need to push. I could pay attention to my recovery. I was now free to heed the edicts of the Whoop. I hope this bit of good luck puts me into the green tomorrow.

Categories
Biohacking Chronic Disease

Day 601 and New Limits

The past couple of days have been super intense. Heck, the past month has been a lot. I passed out last night with my phone in my hand a bit after 9pm and woke up well after 8am this morning. My Whoop indicated I had high strain for the past two days and needed more recovery.

Still I went about my usual routines but soon found myself yawning and struggling to keep my eyes open after eating lunch. I felt lucky I hadn’t scheduled much today. I got back into bed figuring I would read a little bit. I kept drifting off. So much for being productive this afternoon.

One of my biggest fears is doing too much. Because I’ve been a workaholic in the past, I have a lingering sense of unease anytime I can tell I’ve been pushing myself for a few days. It used to be that my body would simply crash if I applied too much pressure, but as my health is at about 80% improved from my initial diagnosis I can no longer rely on such direct feedback.

I say that like it’s a bad thing but it’s a huge relief that I can modestly over do things and not immediately find my body crashing into a rest period. But it also means I have to be much more conscious of my own needs for rest and recovery as it’s no longer quite so obvious when I’ve done too much. This represents both a huge achievement for me and also a transitional moment in which I must find new boundaries.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 596 and Easy Does It

Nice and easy does it every time. Or so says Frank Sinatra. Who I’ve got to be honest doesn’t seem like a dude who isn’t pushy. I’m extremely pushy so I get it. Taking things slow isn’t my vibe. But if he can take it slow maybe so can I.

I’m getting the urge to rush again as my body settles into Montana. The better I feel the more I test my boundaries. Today I stupidly sat in an uncomfortable chair when I fell into focus fugue on something I was rushing to get done.

The problem now of course is
To simply hold your horses
To rush would be a crime
‘Cause nice and easy does it every time

Frank Sinatra

I should have taken an extra beat and settled myself somewhere comfortable to work but I didn’t. I was rushing by all the stops along the way to finish my task. I still got it done but I wish I’d followed Sinatra’s good advice. Rushing was indeed a crime against my spine. Perhaps for the rest of the week I’ll just play on repeat in my head “nice and easy does it every time.”

Categories
Chronic Disease

Day 591 and Normal Sunday

Having a modest disability like chronic pain (I have a form of arthritis in my spine) means I can’t always be physically active for an entire day. I need to lay down flat sometimes to relieve pressure on my spine and I can be fatigued from the persistent pain. It’s something I have to work around even if it’s not completely debilitating.

I’ve worked hard to control the disease. But it has meant a lot of days where normal activity had a poor return on the energy invested. If had a day where I was on my feet for hours at a time I’d probably pay for it the next day with extra time laying down. So I try to limit unnecessary activities.

I’m giving a lot of context that might not be necessary for regular readers of this daily chronicle that know me. But it’s not always easy for me to do what normal people take for granted. Imagine a day where you wake up, shower, cook and clean up after yourself, you go to work, you run some errands, you exercise, you come home to cook and clean some more, you care for your family and maybe you enjoy a hobby. A regular day.

I named ten activities you do without thinking. If I want to avoid hurting myself or using too much energy in one day, I have to pick two or three of those things. You might not be surprised to learn I pick showering, work and my health routines.

If I’m having a good day, I can add on additional activity or two. But it’s probably something I can do laying flat on my back. That’s how Twitter became a central nexus for socializing if you are curious.

So having given paragraphs of context I hope it allows you to understand my excitement about having an absolutely normal Sunday. This morning got up. I made food for myself. I went for a forty minute walk. I did my entire biohacking routine. I went to a nursery to see about some options for the orchard. Then I went to the grocery store with my husband and we did the shopping for the week. Then we did some chores on the new homestead. A truly astonishing about of activities for someone like me.

And even after all activity that I felt well enough for a long shower (often a painful activity as hot water swells my joints). It’s 5pm and I’ve been up and about since 8am and only laid down just now to write this post. And someone I feel totally fine.

Shortly I’ll be cooking mushroom risotto for Sunday dinner. My husband is the cook of the family but for some reason Arborio rice is his nemesis. He’s never made a decent risotto in all the time I’ve known him. Typically after a day with this much activity I’d never even consider cooking. But I’m having a normal Sunday and doesn’t it sound nice to make something a little more involved to eat?

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 585 and Rip Off the Trauma Bandaid

I hope I can capture even a fragment of my emotions as I am on the other side of several hours of post-moving therapy. And I am drained but also armed with more wisdom than when I started the effort.

Moving is obviously a traumatic experience for most people. Anyone who moved as a child has some memories of how the change revealed new aspects of who they are and what makes them feel safe. Parents worry about it a lot about moving and for good reason. I know my mother certainly did and she did her best to protect me.

But we know that life is chaotic. Any type of change is already in a dance with accelerating entropy. Expect your unfinished shit to get drawn into the accretion belt surrounding the event horizon of your fears. Black holes are scary because we know they will kill us unless we commit enough energy to the fight to escape.

Sometimes some parts of us don’t make it. They become lost to the nothing. The dark impenetrable inversion point where we are forced to face the powers of destruction within us. Of course, it’s natural to sacrifice some part of yourself to banish the demon we know to be who we are.

It’s actually shocking to realize that inside of you might be some kind of personal Kali ready to rend the apocalypse at your weak side. But then you try not to think of it too much right? You’d rather ignore your demons right. Don’t feed the wolf right? Feed the good they say.

I am here to tell you that the shadow exist even if it scares you. It’s pulling you in just like that black whole. You can fight it your whole life. And maybe you win. Maybe you have that kind of fuel.

But if you ignore that shadow you will be pulled in it no matter what. Wouldn’t you rather run the calculation on how to achieve escape velocity? It’s going to be expensive. But it’s better to know the costs of living.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 578 and Tactical Errors

I’ve moved somewhere in the area of forty times over my life. And you’d think this would make me excellent at it. But no matter how careful your planning, the execution will be filled with tactical errors. It’s the nature of the beast and you’ve just got to roll with it.

The first and most crucial tactical error we made was not buying backup air conditioning and fans. We’ve never lived in a house that was entirely without air conditioning. Apartments have been either small enough for a window unit or had central air. The town house has installed mini splits. But Montana has not traditionally required central air or mini-splits.

We arrived on the hottest day of the year. The upright air conditioner we bought simply died within five minutes of unboxing. We had multiple fans but those 2 fans are only enough to help with one room if it’s large. And of course, buying fans or air conditioning in a heatwave in a smaller town is impossible. So we are a bit stuck with it until they can arrive on Wednesday from Amazon.

Most of the other tactical errors are similarly environmental. Moving boxes are dusty. There is dust everywhere from everything including books, outerwear, crap you didn’t realize you were lax on cleaning regularly. We’ve got two air filters running full steam and my eyes are red and puffy despite that. I’ve got hives on my eyelids. Finding the appropriate antihistamines and attempting to fight the dust is a losing battle that nevertheless must be fought.

I am confident we will find plenty of other ways in which we’ve fucked up the basic tactics of the move. That it’s mostly dust and heat is a bit of a blessing in some ways. Murphy’s Law is strongly enforced during times of routine disruption.

What can go wrong will go wrong.

Moving is inherently a process of fighting entropy. A new place and a new house are ways humans fight against the decay of our lives. It is a losing battle. Physics is pretty clear on that one. But we fight on as overcoming tactical errors is just part of living.