Tag: weight loss

Surfacing From Stomach “Bug” Hell

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Weight on Monday 5/9/16: 270 (Heaviest in life)

Weight on Saturday 5/14/16: 263 (Did not intend to lose 8 lbs)

I started counting calories and getting more exercise. I rode my bicycle to work and back (also rode to the cafe during break) one day, the next day I rode my bicycle to Safeway for a few things we needed. Wednesday I took a break from exercise but still counted my calories and at that point had lost 4lbs. Who knows why so much, normally it happens in smaller increments. I don’t really care. I was just happy to see the scale drop below my heaviest weight ever down to my previous heaviest weight.

Then at 5am on Thursday morning I woke up feeling sick to my stomach and a little dizzy and needing to throw up. I did not throw up because I held that feeling DOWN – also held down whatever wanted to come up. I couldn’t go to work. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. Couldn’t sit up for long or lay down for long or stand up much at all.

Gastroenteritis is my idea of the deep pits of hell. The only thing worse than gastroenteritis is having influenza. I never did throw up but all day yesterday my body revolted and did the only other thing it can do in that situation. It continues today, however I feel a lot better in spite of that. I weighed myself and discovered that in two days with the stomach flu I lost an additional 4 lbs. This was not intentional, obviously.

Ted Cruz was in my dream this morning. We were learning French while trying to get some other business done. I was impatient and also angry that that whiny chauvinist creepy son of a bitch was in my dream. The teacher pointed to her necklace of bachelor buttons and told me to tell her how to make such a necklace of her own. So I faffed around with the sentence “Vous achetez …” but couldn’t find the French word for bachelor button plants and I was running out of time. There were also chickens and kittens getting in an out of blankets and cages they shouldn’t have been and a kitten spraying some bedding. As usual there were also very dark themes going on but I can’t remember what they were.

My first batch of kittens for the year is already at the adoption center this weekend. Hopefully having a great time and hopefully about to find great loving homes to live in.

I’m not sure how much longer I can sit here at my desk. I think I need to lay down for a while again. On the couch. Perhaps to watch a garden show. If I can find a good one to watch.

Later I’d like to put in some more time with my survey data compiling. I’d like to get out into the garden. Not sure if I can do any of that. This 48 hour stomach bullshit is exhausting. You do nothing and get worn out by it.

So I’m off for now. Going to get as inspired as I can via the recovery couch and perhaps inch outside to plant a few squash seeds.

 

Round Two Starts Now

the insect eating

Round two starts today.

This time the goal isn’t months but pounds. I’m not drinking alcohol again until I’ve lost another 46 pounds.

The first three months of the year I didn’t drink and lost 34 lbs. The last three months I’ve been drinking and gained 6 lbs back and have discovered I am not able to drink moderately still. This may end up being the way it IS for the rest of my life but I’m still not willing to give up my idea that I can get back to being a moderate drinker.

In the mean time I want to lose weight more than I want to drink and if I can’t drink moderately then I have to not drink at all. I’m hoping I can do this by November, but if not, I’ll just have to have the most depressing unfestive holiday season ever since the only thing I like about the holidays is all the booze which is necessary for deflecting all the aggressive “cheer” people throw around like poop in a monkey zoo.

In the first round of sobriety I didn’t do a lot of exercise. This time I will be doing a lot. But first I have to make myself an appointment with the podiatrist to find out what the hell is wrong with my foot that it’s making it hard for me to do much walking. If it’s not something I can fix with orthopedics then I’ll just have to do a lot of bicycling. Bicycling is fine but my favorite exercise is walking.

So I’m going to not drink, exercise a lot, and I’m going to cut down on cheese again. We are now in the best season for produce and I intend to take full advantage of it.

And I will be working on that first book I wrote. The one I keep thinking about. That won’t quit my head. That kind of scares me both because of how personal the theme of the story is to me and what a huge mess I made of it before. I have come back to it again and again hoping to untangle the plot and then I give up. I had a revelation recently that will amaze you – in that you will be amazed a writer has to have a revelation about this:

I can change any details I want to and I don’t have to stick with the first chapter that was the short story that gave me the idea for the whole novel in the first place. I’m the boss. I get to take this story where I want to take it.

So I’ve started sketching out scenes – the ones that haunt me – that will become my outline. I’m doing character analysis’ for all the main characters. I’m thinking about and working on the structure of the book. I’m sorting out the POV and taking my time with it all.

I stopped working on Cricket and Grey because this book two has not been coming together. I got some good writing done but I just keep feeling like it’s not what I’m supposed to be working on. It just hasn’t felt right. So I’m setting it aside for a while. Maybe a long while. I don’t know and I’m not going to plague myself for answers or decisions. Instead I’m going to get the first one fixed and rewritten so it can get out of my head.

So, here I am again.

I’m going outside to cut and string some calendula flower heads for drying.

Far from done, but now I have a hammer.

bad intentionsI never do anything because of Jesus or for Jesus but I like to think that as far as icons of belief go – a Jewish carpenter who consorts with prostitutes and people losing limbs to disease while spouting messages of love and acceptance and nonviolence – he seems like a pretty cool drinking partner.  I just can’t figure out how American conservatives and the people leading the Inquisition got themselves hooked up with a guy who wouldn’t let you stone a whore without stoning him with her?  I consider this the ninth wonder of the world.

I said I was going to be sober for 90 days and lose at least 20lbs during that time and I did both of those things.  I didn’t drink a drop of alcohol for 3 months and I lost 31lbs.  I didn’t overeat during that time or crave cigarettes as the chemical dependency counselor suggested I might.  She should have listened to me.  I also didn’t ever actually crave alcohol the way I craved cigarettes when I quit smoking.  I was über-cranky for the first week and then most Fridays.  I discovered that life without alcohol isn’t bad – it’s just BORING.

Last night I had a few beers in celebration and answered a question I didn’t know I had: yes, your tolerance level goes way down after 3 months of not drinking.  People, I can’t drink very much without getting tipsy now.  And that’s fine because even though I don’t regret partying last night (I did, after all, accomplish something amazing) I am now going to discover how to have alcohol in my life in a moderate fashion.

Except for at parties or events where there are a lot of human beings I don’t know and have to interact with.  All bets are off when I must interact with GROUPS.  Even small groups.  ANY GROUPS.

Socializing, period.  Shut up.  Just because your nervous system is shiny and solid and mine has the tensile strength as wet tissue unless held up with old sticks and booze is no measure of superiority.

I want to thank all of you who did this challenge with me – in whatever way you participated – and for all of the support you’ve all given me for months now.  It made a big difference to me. !!

What now?

I’m so far from done.  I have set new goals for the next 3 months:

Lose at least another 20lbs – as of right now I still have 82lbs to lose to get to where I want to be physically.  I want to get most of the way there by my 45th birthday.

Drink only moderately on the weekends (see above exception) I want to be able to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine at home or a couple of beers out – but not both on the same night.  I want Saturday to be the same.  “Moderate” for me would be somewhere between 1-3 drinks a night.

Don’t drink at all 4 days a week* – I need to keep up this lower tolerance and I need to remember how easy it is to not drink most of the time.  When I forget this my liver cries.

Eat more whole foods and fruits, less cheese – already happening but I want to continue working on this.  Aside from being a vegetarian I refuse to do any exclusionary diets.  (All kinds of opinions on stupid-ass diets that will NOT be names are being held  back that would otherwise be filling this space)

Exercise 20 minutes a day at least 5 days a week – walking, bicycling, whatever.  I’ll lunge across the house in tight pants if I feel like it.  I’d have to get tight pants first, obviously.  You fitness nuts can hold your tongues right now.  For me, just 20 minutes a day on a regular basis will be a great improvement.  Don’t give me your statistics on how much more I should be doing or what kind of movement I should be doing.  It’s none of your fucking business to school me on your religion.  Fitness isn’t my faith.  Getting back to my usual level of physical activity is what I want and need at this part of my physical recalibration.  I was always a really active person and the only thing that’s held me back in the last few years is all the physical pain and injury that results from being active and also obese.

That’s enough for the next 3 months and it starts tomorrow: April 9th and will end July 9th**.  Anyone who doesn’t believe I can lose another 20lbs in three months or that I can’t learn to drink more moderately can get off my boat.  I don’t need anyone around who doesn’t trust me to meet goals that are this important to me.

This is not three years ago.  Three years ago I was waking up wishing I wasn’t.  You can’t look at failed goals back then and hold them up to my face now.  I succeeded in surviving my secret suicidal ideation and getting myself out of purgatory.  I kept saying I was going to lose weight but then not dealing with the bigger crisis in front of me.  I was trying to run a race from inside a locked cell.  I was trying to knock down a wall with my bare hands.

Now I have a hammer.

*As before, I will not count bitters in mineral water as an alcoholic beverage.  My goals, my rules.

**Not counting precise days now – just months.

20 Days of Sobriety Left

field flowers

I have 20 days of sobriety left.  I have lost 26lbs in 70 days.  I have 87lbs left to lose.  If I lose 10lbs a month for the rest of the year I will have lost over 100lbs in one year.  I intend to try to do it.  I am aware of all the wisdom of setting realistic goals and taking things gradually.  I am also aware that losing 10lbs a month will get harder and harder every month.  The last 20lbs will probably be as hard as the first 20lbs to lose.  Just because something is hard doesn’t make it impossible.  If I end up only losing half of my complete weight loss goal in a year I’ll feel like a success.

I feel like a success right now.  Today.

But the thought of ending this year over 100lbs lighter than I started it is powerful.  To feel that much more in control of my body, my health, and my self esteem is well worth the effort to push myself hard.

What do I have to do to get there?

  • For starters, in 20 days when I allow myself to drink alcohol again I need to account for every drink and keep it within healthy bounds.  I have the inspiration now and I’ve been building will power and this will be a test.  I want my body back and I want to stay home to write and garden and cook – which I can’t do if I spend a lot of money on alcohol.
  • More whole foods.  I eat a diet with a good amount of produce but I can absolutely increase it.  I’ve been eating a lot more fruit lately.  Having more meals that consist of steamed vegetables and rice or couscous is an easy thing to do.  Less cheese, obviously.
  • Pretty soon I’m going to have to pay attention to and count how many cups of black tea with cream and sugar I consume.  I will have to consume less.  I better start developing a taste for mineral water with a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice again.
  • Exercise.  I quit the YMCA.  I have zero desire to be in a gym.  I like being mobile and I like my exercise to be accomplishing something or giving pleasure.  This is why I love walking (I’m a really fast walker) because I can look at people’s gardens and homes and a million rich details that feed my imagination and my creativity.  I don’t love riding my bicycle for endurance or racing or any athletic prowess.  I also don’t particularly love tooling around on it.  I like running errands on it.  I used to love riding it down to the Saturday Market in McMinnville to get my weekly produce.  I liked riding it to Kung Fu and to Winco and other grocery stores.  I like my bicycle riding to help me accomplish other errands.  I want to do more of that.  And gardening.  There is much yard work to do around here and often a couple of hours of gardening is enough to wear you out like a good jog.

Here’s something for me to be excited about: even if I don’t lose a hundred pounds this year – if I can just lose 60lbs I will be able to wear more regular clothes and dress more in my own style.  This would do absolute wonders for my self esteem and my motivation to keep going.  It’s been so long since I have been able to wear any clothes I didn’t make myself* and it’s been ages since I could wear anything but knits for comfort.  I CAN’T WAIT TO WEAR SOME REGULAR CLOTHES.

*I make better clothes than I can generally buy (at any weight) and I do have some nice things I’ve made that I’ll be able to wear again once I get myself down to a normal weight but I’m tired of having to make my own clothes because nothing fits well off the rack that isn’t garishly splashed with bright swirly colors and plastered with rhinestones and beads and glitter.  Not all fat girls want to look like a tacky drag queen.

It’s Only My Feet Keepin’ Me Here on the Ground

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I haven’t had an alcoholic beverage in 42 days and I’ve lost 14lbs in that time which is 1lb every 3 days.  I have 48 more days of sobriety left and if I can keep up this momentum I could lose another 16lbs by then.  As of today I have *only* 99lbs to lose!  I was afraid to set any goals beyond this one but today I need to decide on the next one to reach for.  I can’t concentrate on the end game because it’s too overwhelming.

I want to thank all of you who have been supporting me and cheering for me – every time I tell you about my tiny accomplishments and you’re all there smiling and high-fiving me – it makes me feel stronger and it keeps me moving forward.  More than at any other time in my life I’m feeling the collective strength and presence of all of my friends.  If ever you’re feeling down and worrying that you’re not making any difference in other people’s lives – I can promise you that you are.  I’ve needed you all and you’ve 100% been there for me.  It almost makes me want to start dotting all my “i”s with little hearts!

The other day an acquaintance mentioned signing up for a week long bicycle ride.  He’s done it before and really loves it.  He mentioned needing to train for it.  I joked that he and his wife (who is a serious runner) are really fit, but I like them anyway.  He totally got the bantering nature of my comment and joked back that I need not worry because he’s only fit in fits.  But then his wife made this comment to me:

“Joyful movement is the secret of health.  Find Yours.”

This comment feels like a judgement.  It feels like a judgement that I’m not an active person, that I dislike exercise, that I’m lazy and that is probably why I’m obese.  “Find Yours” is a directive, an order, a comment that suggests I haven’t ever found joyous movement.  But maybe I just took it the wrong way?  Maybe she was trying to banter too.  Maybe she was just lightly joking around.  I started to take her up on it but the thought of even trying to explain how awfully judgy that comment felt to me was exhausting.  Probably because obese people like me get tired so easily?

She is one of the people who has suggested in posts and links she’s shared that diet and exercise are all anyone needs to be healthy and to discover that you never had mental illness, you just had a lack of proper exercise.

Why should I care?  Why should I let that get to me?  That comment makes assumptions about me that are either based on the fact that I’m fat or the fact that I implied I’m inactive in a joke and she took it seriously.  I care because it’s sanctimonious and judgmental and bossy.  Fuck that.  FUCK THAT SHIT.

What she doesn’t seem to know about me is pretty much EVERYTHING.  I’m not fat because I’m inactive.  I have been incredibly active most of the time I was getting fat.  I’ve been incredibly active my entire life.  But I do not LOVE exercise for its own sake and I never will.  Ever.  Sports are the most stupid thing I’ve ever wasted time on.  Dancing doesn’t speak to me in the least – except to say how it hates me as much as I hate it.  Bicycling in races or for endurance testing or for the sake of exercise is awful to me.  What a waste of my time.  Cross training?  YAWN.  Also – why do that to your body?  Why push it to its limits?  Also – I don’t want muscles that pop out of my limbs.  It’s okay with me if other people seek that hard muscle definition – I believe there’s beauty in all shapes and sizes of bodies.  But I don’t personally ever want that for myself.

You don’t need exercise to be a religious experience for it to keep your heart healthy and your muscles toned and your metabolism working.  I like to ride my bicycle to get places.  To run errands.  But more than that I like walking.  Before I broke my hip I liked jogging.  Running a marathon would ruin jogging for me forever.  I like doing my own thing.  I liked Kung Fu but it became too much for me after two years.  But what I was doing while I was getting obese was a ton of Kung Fu, riding my bicycle all over town, and walking my dog.  Anyone who thinks I arrived at this level of fat because I sat around on a couch eating junk food can shove their sanctimonious ignorance up their own asses.

Strong words?  Yeah.  What I’ve learned from being obese is that people make a lot of assumptions about you.  Maybe sometimes they’re true but I’ve learned not to make assumptions about how people end up with the bodies they have.  60lbs of my obesity I got while not drinking too much or eating too much cheese or being inactive – I got it from upping my Paxil doses to deal with an ever increasing level of anxiety.

Anxiety that a ton of exercise DIDN’T FIX OR RELIEVE IN ANY WAY.  That’s right.  To deal with my anxiety that was making it impossible to meet my son’s needs and my husband’s needs and my own needs I had to up my Paxil dose every year by 10 milligrams.  With each dose increase I gained 20lbs.

But the rest of my excessive weight was certainly from beer and there was a period of many months of forced inactivity after breaking my hip that accounted for 30lbs.  Let’s see, the original 30lbs from inactivity and increase in beer and cheese, 60lbs of Paxil weight, and then another 23 lbs from inactivity caused by constantly getting injured and re-injured when walking and bicycling, plus last summer’s increase in beer and cheese while my mom was in the hospital and my mom’s sister was forcing us to sell the house – that accounts for every pound I gained.  Almost none of those pounds were gained because I’m an inactive couch potato who hates movement.  If ever I suggest I am a lazy-ass it’s me joking at my own expense but it isn’t the truth and if you’re unwise enough to make assumptions about me I will jump down your throat.  And maybe sometimes I’m jumping the gun and  being unfair to others.  But at least I am willing to admit that my mental illness makes me very protective of myself and no matter how much good food I eat and how much exercise I get or how many psychiatric medications I take – at the end of the day I’m still mentally ill and dealing with how that makes me react to other people, how I interact with the world, and how I perceive things.

So maybe I am wrong and maybe that acquaintance wasn’t at all suggesting I haven’t already found my own “joyful movement” and maybe I’m just reacting to how much I loathe that floaty way movement-obsessed people make love to their ideals with words like “JOYOUS”.  Ugh.

I am reminded of one of the many times I was in Kung Fu class and fighting demons that no one else could see.  This one time we were supposed to improvise some imaginary fight with an opponent and make up moves and the teacher (a completely KUHRAYZAY person himself) told the class to let go of our self consciousness, to get out of the box that adulthood has imposed on us and just play like we used to do when we were kids.

I told him that adulthood didn’t impose a box on me, being born and exposed to human beings did that.

He didn’t understand.  No one in the class understood.  I wanted to cry.  What he was asking me to do is to be completely unsafe.  Kung Fu was really hard on me emotionally because it forced me to be IN my body all the time in a way I carefully avoid because being in my body completely is unsafe and leaves me open to being violated by others and having to actually FEEL the violation completely.  He was asking me to be IN my body around a bunch of sweaty strangers and trust that none of them were going to do anything unsafe or unsanctioned.  I don’t trust human beings.

I love some of them, I try to love all of them, but I don’t trust any of them completely.

The people I know who are in love with dance and sports are people in love with their own bodies and I don’t know if they just never had their bodies abused or if they did but they managed somehow to get over it?

I don’t know if I was in my body before I was seven years old but I do know that I’ve never let my spirit completely inhabit it afterwards.  When I was seven I was once held up off the ground by my hair and repeatedly punched in the stomach and body for complaining about being made to do laundry like Cinderella.  I keep thinking I’m done reliving that in my nightmares.  Nothing else bad that happened to my body afterwards ever mattered half as much.  From that moment on I was terrified to be in my own skin.  I remember one time crawling up our stairs on my hands and knees so afraid of the adult screaming at me and threatening me from behind while my mom watched.  The memory is a detached one, I watched myself crawling up those stairs in avid terror but my spirit was not in my body because it was waiting for the blows that never came.  It was waiting for whatever violence was coming to pass over my skin and be done.  It’s how I think I ended up seeing myself from a distance in general and later when I was having a psychotic break I didn’t recognize myself at all.

I remember I just felt so bad for that little girl crawling up the stairs like an animal in her own house.

From my point of view – being so completely IN my body like these dancers and distance runners are is grossly unpleasant.  To be that obsessed with your muscles and bones and skin is something I can never relate to on a spiritual level.  Kung Fu helped me  understand just how deeply ingrained is this PTSD of self.

When I walk somewhere – like when I walk through San Francisco for miles and miles I am as much in my body as I can ever be without feeling too vulnerable.  I can feel the blood rushing through my heart and I can feel my muscles stretching and it feels so good!  But I’m not completely in my bones – I’m still seeing the world go by, I’m distracted enough from my own skin that if the devil rushes in I don’t have to feel the degradation.  I love the feel of the air separating to let me through.  I move and I’m moving with the world and I’m nobody so I can’t be hurt.  I smile at the beautiful people all around me and sometimes they smile back and it feels like the sky opening up to show us how we are all related to each other on a molecular level.  That tenuous connection with strangers is what filled me with joy.  That feeling of being connected to the ground with my feet and the world with my heart is what filled me with joy.  Not the movement.

When Max was a baby I rode all over town with him on my bicycle.  We did our shopping on my bicycle and we visited friends and neighbors on that bicycle.  My child filled me with joy, not the movement.  It was insanely stressful to me to be a parent and it continues to be something I can barely handle.  But riding that bicycle with him – seeing him watch the world whizzing past him and filling him with total excitement and laughter and to see those intense eyes of his take the world in in giant gulps just as I do when I’m walking or riding my bicycle by myself – it was the counterbalance to the stress of knowing that the only way this kid is leaving the earth is through death and I’m the one who put him in this predicament.  Those days with him on the bicycle kept me fit even before I actually lost the pregnancy weight I’d gained.  My heart was fit and my muscles were strong even when I was still wearing all that extra fat.

People are so much more judgmental of my body now than they were then.

This whole question of body is complex.  My relationship with MY body is complex.

“Joyous movement is the secret to health.”

Like fuck it is.  It is one small component to health.  There’s genetics you can’t control.  There’s what you feed your body.  And there’s also the mental place you inhabit that informs your health and movement, joyous or not, can only do so much for those of us who have been wired differently and then had that wiring further fucked with through abuse and negative reinforcement.

“Find Yours.”

What makes you so sure I haven’t?  Just because mine didn’t keep me thin.  Just because mine doesn’t look the same as yours?  Just because I don’t swoon or evangelize?

I found mine a long time ago, thank you, but I don’t use precious words for what works for me.  I don’t light candles to it or preach it to others.

If I haven’t asked for your advice on how to get fit, lose weight, or manage my mental illness then don’t give me any.  I know how to ask for help when I need it and I’ll do it humbly and I’ll listen and consider what you suggest if I have asked for it.

Speaking of “movement”*, I went on a long walk in Howarth Park with my friend Bobby yesterday.  I enjoyed the chance to hang out with a friend while people watching on the paths and getting a good long walk in all at the same time.  I think Bobby might be my long lost twin.  I realized that I can take myself over there any time I like and walk by myself if I want.  I’m quitting the YMCA because no power on earth can motivate me to get into a gym right now.  I found plantain all over the park so the next time I go I’ll be bringing a little pot to put some in to transplant into my own garden.

While writing this I have decided that getting to the 23lb mark is my next goal.  That’s only 9lbs away.  When I get there I will have lost all the weight I put on the year before we moved back to California and last summer’s pounds.  I’ll be stripped down to the next level of weight I gained over the years, I’ll start working on the Paxil weight until I get down to the 30 lbs I gained when I broke my hip.  That’s how I’m going to do this – working all the way back through the increments I gained at different points for different reasons.  I will slay them each individually.

All I can say right now, today, is that for the first time in years I’m not standing in my own damn way so if anyone else tries to stand in it – I will declare war on them.  Don’t let it be you.  I know what I’m doing.  I know how to do it.  I know my own body, I know my own mind, and I know what I need to achieve my goals.  There are some things I can’t fix about myself, there are some limitations that nothing has the power to lift or change.  Not you, not magic, not religion, not faith, not food, not exercise, not love.  Some things that have  been broken can’t be fixed.

For all of my broken parts and limitations – my greatest power lies in my self awareness and self acceptance.  My greatest power has always been knowing who I AM.  Ask my mom and she’ll tell you – I was born knowing who I am.  There’s a lot of power in knowing who you are and even more when you accept who you are.  I know which voices in my head come from the megaphone of my mental illness and which come from my heart and spirit.

Don’t get in my way or I’m going to get twice as tall as you thought I was.

Don’t get in my way or I’m going to have to educate you about how we can’t both occupy the same space at the same time and if it comes to a contest between us – I am going to be the one left standing here because this is MY path, not yours.

*I’ve been trying to suppress jokes about “Joyous Bowel Movements” this entire post.

The Puritanical Versus the Diabolical Choices

I’m halfway to meeting my minimal weight loss goal of losing 9 pounds before August.  That wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.  4.5 lbs down and I don’t look any different and don’t feel any different except for the whole part about feeling capable and believing things are possible that I stopped believing possible.  It’s neither really hard nor really easy at this point.  I drank quite a bit of beer this weekend but actually did the math to figure out how much exercise I would have to do to earn the beer, and then I did the exercise.  But last night I didn’t drink as I’m trying to not do several days a week.  I didn’t sleep.  Whenever I don’t drink I don’t sleep.  In some ways I’m thinking that this is the real origin of my love of drinking, aside from the enjoyable taste.  Before I started drinking regularly I had persistent and very bad insomnia.  My insomnia seemed to range from light (trouble getting to sleep but once asleep I would mostly stay asleep and only wake up once or twice a night) to very bad (near hallucinating from lack of sleep) but it was always there.  Sleep = torture.  I hated sleep my whole life because it was a constant fight.

I also used to stay up super late (2 or 3am) often because that increased the chances that when I did finally crawl into bed I would crash asleep.  You learn, at some point, that if your body refuses to go to sleep when you’re feeling tired, laying in bed with your eyes closed but being completely awake for hours is seriously wasted time.  So I would stay up until my eyes felt like wool and my head felt heavy enough for me to fall asleep while reading or writing.  But slowly, over time, as I had more access to alcohol, spent time around more people who were drinking (not teenage drinking, this is in my twenties) I really enjoyed drinking.  I never, until now, thought about the benefits to drinking other than the pleasant social aspect (I really can’t be around groups of people unless alcohol is involved I was much more reclusive before I started drinking more around people) and how good it tastes.

alcohol makes it possible for me to sleep well.

alcohol makes it possible for me to be around groups of people without doing something antisocial like pulling on their hair or crawling under the appetizer table.

alcohol reduces my generalized anxiety (especially beer).

alcohol was an amazing pain killer for my broken hip.  I took no pain pills, just drank a six pack of beer a night.  NO PAIN PILLS.  If you can’t imagine how much it hurt you come over hear and I’ll show you.

On the flip side:

alcohol makes me fat.

alcohol is expensive.

alcohol is poisonous to the liver.

alcohol is not good for the heart in the quantity I drink it.

alcohol carries with it a heavy stigma if you are seen to be anything but a very light drinker.

Perhaps I’ll need to ask my doctor for some sleeping pills.  What’s weird is that, for me, there is a greater stigma attached to being addicted to sleeping pills than there is to being a lush.  I resisted medicating my mental illness long after I had access to health insurance because for some twisted reason I thought it was a weakness to get help.  Like I was somehow stronger and better if I didn’t get therapy and definitely never took pills for my brain.  I was so wrong.  I was so very misguided and wrong.  I have, forever after, been thankful that I got over myself.  Taking sleeping pills though, I have heard so many people over the course of my lifetime refer to people who take sleeping pills as somehow lesser than themselves and it has poisoned my consciousness.  Why should people with severe insomnia not get help for it?  Why should anyone think less of a person who values themselves enough to think they deserve some sleep?  Why do we have such a puritanical view of such things?  As though never medicating anything less than a severed head is noble, suffering is admirable.

There is a camp of people who insist that there are powerful natural ways of combating insomnia.  They are fairly aggressive in their adamant belief that modern medicine is evil.  Well, it has it’s negatives for sure.  I’m the last person to argue that.  The most annoying thing is that this group of people never believes me when I say that I have tried so many natural methods of addressing my insomnia and they have FAILED, all of them.  The only thing that ever might have helped – drinking hops tea with peppermint and honey I seem to recall helped a little.  So little I never could be sure of it.  Certainly it wasn’t effective against the worst insomnia.  I recently tried it again with zero success.

Meditation, let me tell you, did nothing for me.  First of all, a mind like mine has a very hard time meditating.  My head is full, all the time.  Every hour, every minute, of every day, it is full and buzzing with noise and voices, snippets of conversation I heard or had, scraps of thoughts or big dissertations of thought, mental footnotes, running commentaries on what the eye sees, and some laundry lint.  There is only one way I know of to silence my head and that’s to write.  Sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and listening to my breathing and emptying my – I said it’s impossible to empty it – ignoring the noise in my head… ?  I think only a dead person could ignore the noise in my head.  But, for the record, I have put hundreds of hours of my life into the effort of meditating myself to sleep or into a state of calm.

Writing is the only way.

I did once get some codeine pills for soothing the great jagged pain of having gotten a root canal but instead of taking them after the first day I saved them.  I saved them because once, after three weeks of sleeping only one or two hours a night I was beginning to get seriously delirious and a concerned friend gave me extra strength codeine and it knocked me out of the dangerous cycle of no sleep and gave me the best dark undisturbed sleep of my life.  So when I got a few pills of my own, years later I saved them against the worst kind of insomnia, knowing that if it got really bad I had relief.  But I never took them, in spite of lots of bouts of bad insomnia.  They expired.  I was not brought up to treat maladies with anything but herbs.  I was not brought up to take even aspirin for headaches.  Relying on pills to get decent sleep seemed like a major failing to me.

I’ve changed though.  I’ve come to recognize that it’s easy to be puritanical when you aren’t afflicted with things that only modern medicine can aid or fix.  It’s easy to be puritanical about medications, about taking pills, if you don’t have mental illness that gets in the way of your life or your safety or your ability to leave the house.  It’s the easiest thing in the world to abstain from getting help for your pain or your broken brain or your inability to sleep if you thrive on pain, which is in itself a kind of indication of mental illness and a need for intervention.  If suffering is purifying to you then it’s a thrill to fight the insomnia with chamomile tea, it’s a thrill to feel that pounding head and know that you’re superior because you can handle the pain.

I joke about putting on the horsehair shirt to punish myself but it’s meant as a metaphorical expression of my personal shame or anger at myself and my knee-jerk reaction to punish myself.  A benefit of punishing myself is that then I don’t have to punish anyone else which is fraught with terrors for me and always comes with repercussions.  Saying what you really think to people, telling them they’ve disappointed or angered you always comes with a price and it is one I find hard to pay.  The other benefit is punishing myself before anyone else can.  But the hair shirt is all a mental exercise in punishment.  I don’t actually like pain and I see no value in suffering pain for extended periods of time, I don’t admire people more who are able to withstand great pain than those who need relief and aren’t afraid or too messed up in the head to get it.

I have come to find the middle ground on many things.  I grew up not taking aspirin or getting medicines for anything not qualified as an emergency.  I grew up thinking that it was a weakness to turn to western medicine yet I have come to be deeply thankful for it as well as concerned for what people like me will do if the medicines that make our lives so much better are no longer produced.  I don’t jump to take Advil for a headache but if it doesn’t go away on it’s own in an hour or so I take the pills because they work.  I don’t take cold medicine but I’ll take medicine for bronchitis.  I’m looking for the middle ground which may sound like a place of mediocrity but to me it represents balance.  I’m looking for balance in things.

I drink too much alcohol and I want to have a life where I can drink sometimes but don’t depend on it for my daily comfort.  I want to be always capable of choosing not to drink.  I want to find a balance so that I can have the pleasure but not poison myself or be fat or dependent because of it.  Last night it wasn’t difficult to not drink.  Once I really decide not to drink for a night or two or three it usually isn’t difficult, most nights I don’t sit around wishing I had some beer once I’ve committed to no beer.  I do it and feel like it’s fine to have a ginger beer or a tonic and lime without alcohol.  But then I pay with lack of sleep or crappy sleep.  So maybe the middle ground is to talk to my doctor and get a prescription for some sleeping pills.  Preferably not ones that cost $25 a pill.

This is a great time for seeking balance.  Balance for me would most likely be way off kilter to someone else.  We all have our own center and none of us can tell each other where to find it.  When you start to find it, you’ll feel it.  You’ll feel yourself getting closer to it.  What it feels like is: right.  What it feels like is: relief.  The more you feel the rightness of your center, of your balance, the more attracted to it you’ll become.  It’s self generating, just like pain, anger, and hopelessness can be.  It’s in the little details.  The small decisions you make every day that add up to a whole picture of the life you’re living.  Patience is the only way to the center.

A lack of patience has been my enemy.  My friend Robin recently had knee surgery and I’ve been following along in her recovery and feeling her impatience to heal, to get  back to doing what she’s used to be doing.  There have been setbacks and pain and frustration for her.  I understand all this because I went through it while healing my hip.  My impatience led to so many setbacks, but I didn’t see it back then.  I didn’t know how to control it or damp it down.  Three months of  being bedridden and I wanted to just get up and walk.  It took six months after breaking my hip to be able to actually walk without a cane.  On my own.  But it took a year to walk without pain.  Then it would hurt every time I tried to do any real exercise.  It would hurt for sometimes days afterwords.  I was impatient and got depressed and hopeless constantly.  I’d think I saw light and then it would just be dark again.  I had expectations and no patience.  Not a winning combination.  Now I understand what kind of patience you need.  I only understand because I’ve been developing it and now I feel it.  That the process of healing, healing of any kind, takes time and deliberation.  There are those superstars who get injured and “press through the pain” and heal fast and those people are your worst enemy because they believe deep in their bones that it can be like that for everyone if only they will it to be that way when the truth is, most people will hurt themselves worse if they “press through the pain”.  But if you listen to the rare people for whom that isn’t true, you will hate yourself for not healing fast enough, for every setback.  You will feel inferior, inadequate, and weak.  These feelings will feed off of themselves and grow stronger and more debilitating.

Cultivate patience.

*********************************

As if on cue I went downstairs to get more coffee and told my mother about my night of bad sleep and how I was considering asking my doctor for some pills.  She gasps in horror (literally, not theatrically) and says “Oh no!  Don’t do THAT.”  As though I’d just said I was thinking of amputating my head to get some sleep.  I asked why on earth I shouldn’t do that and she says “Well, you haven’t exhausted every other option yet.” as though sleeping pills are some evil thing that must be avoided at all costs and that only drug addicts take them and that somehow taking them will make me a lesser person.  It is easy to see where I came by my feelings about taking medications.  But when she says I haven’t “exhausted” every option I want to say that new “options” are being thought up by people constantly and at what point do I say “Hey, my sleeplessness may be part of my wiring just as my mental illness is and not be fixable with gentle herbs, and I deserve to have good sleep.”

I’ve already had 30 years experience of some pretty hardcore insomnia cycles and never had really good sleep until I got pregnant, and then the sleep was gone again when I had Max (which is normal), but then I started drinking more and getting better sleep.  In the last ten years the best sleep I’ve gotten is any night I drink beer.  No wonder I love it so much.  It also makes panic and general dread disappear.  30 years experience trying natural remedies and tricks for the brain and therapy – exactly how long do I need to go sleepless before I can take sleeping pills without a stigma?  How many natural remedies must I try before I can, with respectability, try what modern medicine has to offer?  How many times do I need to crack my skull against the brick wall that isn’t going away before I decide to stop trying what doesn’t work?  People will always be coming up with new natural remedies for insomnia, so how many more years of crappy sleep (or NO sleep) do I need to go through before considering my efforts at not turning to modern medicine honorable enough?

Meanwhile the cacophony of people saying really helpful stuff like “Getting good sleep is vital for losing weight” and “Sleep is important for brain function” and “the most effective beauty aid is plenty of sleep” is like a constant little needle in my side.  Yes, I know, I know sleep is one of the most important things I can do for my body but if the same people all think it’s a cop-out or wrong or evil to take sleeping pills and none of these other things work- I’m just stuck in a constant trap.

I haven’t decided to take or not taking sleeping pills.  I haven’t decided to try or not try more natural remedies.  What I have decided is that ignoring my mother’s shocked gasp or all the people pushing more natural remedies at me as though the magic one is still waiting for me and it’s my fault I don’t get sleep if I don’t try absolutely every single one of them.  People want to be helpful and I’m going to let them make their suggestions.  Maybe one of them really will turn out to be the magic solution I’ve been waiting for all my life.  But what I have decided is that I will not feel shame if I decide to take sleeping pills.  I will not let anyone besides myself drive this body of mine.  The best thing I ever did for myself was get medicated for my mental illness and I ignored a lot of negative input about that from people.  I have thanked myself every day that I’ve taken my medications.  Even the Paxil which eventually did so much damage by causing that enormous weight gain.  I still benefited so much from taking it.  I will not let anyone influence my decisions with value judgments about my options.

It’s like the contest between women who have their babies completely naturally, without any kind of pain killer, and the ones (like myself) who opt to benefit from the pain killers.  The ones who don’t use any modern intervention are often (NOT ALWAYS) self congratulatory and there is a general idea that they are superior to women who go for more comfort.  A lot of times they don’t mean to do it but they  believe they are better women for having endured the pain and done the whole thing without intervention and that belief leaks out and stabs other womens sense of worth.

I’m happy for any woman who does her birthing completely naturally, especially if it’s meaningful for her to do so.  But I don’t think they’re better than women who don’t go completely natural and certainly they are not superior to women who get C-sections.  I don’t believe I’ve ever felt defensive about my choices in giving birth but I have felt the need to defend others and angry at the arrogance I have experienced in some women over this issue.

Why should there be such value judgments attached to these personal decisions we make?  How can we know what is ultimately the best solution for another human being?  How can we judge whether being hooked on sleeping pills isn’t better than becoming an alcoholic?  Do YOU face that same scenario?  What would you choose?  What works for one person doesn’t work for another.  It’s the same with diet.  Nothing but protein might work really well for one body and be disastrous for another.  It is arrogant for any of us to assume that our personal experience of things is automatically universal.  That our answer is everyone’s answer.

I choose to follow my own path and make decisions specific to my needs and what I know of myself and many of my choices are between two evils.  Maybe the choices aren’t great, but I always have choices and they’re mine to make.  I don’t think people who take sleeping pills are inferior to those who either continue to suffer a life of little sleep nor do I think they are superior.  No value judgments at all.

Once again, I am cultivating patience.  My mother means well, but she doesn’t know what’s best for me.  She never has.

I reject the idea that patience is a “virtue” but embrace patience as a great tool.