The word of the week is anxiety.
NOTE: it took me all of Sunday, off and on, to write this week's blog entry.
Jan 16 – Not again?
I'm really not trying to add to Blue Monday, which is today.
I woke up this morning( at 3am, seems to be the Time Of Troubles )with sharp chest pains, on the left... I'll admit: I was scared today, and for most of the rest of the week.
But, I quickly got to thinking: what can I do to turn this around?
I'm not getting answers that make sense( yet )like an abnormal EKG or even simple gas, so I have to dig back: what might have been the root cause?
Stress. Latent stress, mostly, that I've carried so damn long...
Stress damaged my chest( maybe my heart? )back in 2012, as avid blog readers will recall, when I was under such a load that I ended up going to the hospital with( you guessed it )these exact SAME chest pains: something had given way. A nasty bout of pneumonia a year later also knocked something loose inside, which I thought was unrelated - who knows?
After giving THAT job the boot a few months later, the pains went away... for good, or so I thought. Apparently the damage was more long-term, and my recent Year of Anxiety has tweaked that same soreness back into life, with interest.
So I'm left with: change and live, or continue on blindly and... who knows.
I'll go with change.
So I've cut out a few foods this week and last, to see if they're triggers including gluten and dairy, of which I know dairy's a problem in other ways. It's a challenge to find some solid protein to eat, but turkey broth mixed with quinoa is going to carry me for a while to see if I can eliminate any sort of recurring internal inflammation: good first step.
Next up is getting answers about my tendons( hopefully in early February, when I see a specialist )so I can ease my way back into exercising, which I believe is KEY to a return to good health. I never had ANY chest pains the entire time I was cycling to my previous job daily, working on my feet all day and moving constantly. Not once, despite the still-mysterious physical stress injury I’d experienced.
So there's that to keep in mind: symptoms vs. causation, and finding which is the root.
Jan 17 – Positive 2017
Awright, let's forget all about 2016... or should we?
Most people( in the next few years, at least )will remember 2016 as the awful year that So Many Famous People Died... and they'd be right, except for two things:
One, there's still many famous people from the same age group left to go and
Two: 2016 had a ton of good things going for it.
Former astronaut Chris Hadfield posted a wonderful list on New Year's Eve of just how many things we were privileged to experience in 2016, and now a few weeks later someone's made a great video summary of most of those great things:
I wish I could have posted the ACTUAL video, but there seems to be a tech trend towards not releasing postings on YouTube, and to be honest it was too much trouble to try and capture the video just to post it on my blog, though I did try.
Bottom line: while 2017 looks to be a turbulent year, 2016 was actually pretty good, apart from losing people like Carrie Fisher and David Bowie, among others.
Jan 18 – Peter Verin
Here in Victoria, we have many homeless folks.
Unlike some of the bigger cities across the country, they're here year-round, because of the climate. So most folks ignore them, even though most are unfailingly polite when asking for change, because the actions of a few colour the perceptions of all, as with any group that's marginalized by society.
This week, a homeless man named Peter Verin passed.
I never met the man, but there was an outpouring of emotion from those who did, as he was said to be unique among Victoria's homeless: well-read and homeless by choice for over 40 years, often seen on the campus of UVic debating students.
What caught my eye from the article in the TimesColonist this week was that Peter made reading books a part of his daily routine, to the point where he was more knowledgeable than almost anyone he encountered. He fit it into his free spirit lifestyle, and my guess is that it molded him into the man that touched the lives of thousands in many positive ways, so that hundreds gathered to mourn him.
Among his writings, Peter had this to say about passing on:
I think it's one of the loveliest things I've read about endings, and to have it come from the mind of a well-read man who could have been a scholar had he chosen that path but instead chose to spend his life apart from the river most of us swim in, is something I find remarkable.
Jan 19 – Obama's secret? Books.
Being the POTUS is probably one of the most stressful jobs there is.
How does one survive it?
There's many memoirs about the job from former POTUS, but although the most recent - President Obama - hasn't written his own memoirs yet of his time in office, he did recently share a secret about how he stayed balanced day to day:
The New York Times ran an article this week detailing how books are an integral part of Obama's life, and my respect for the man, no longer POTUS as of tomorrow, skyrocketed even more when I read this excerpt:
While I'm Canadian, I can appreciate those in power who use it wisely and justly to promote the greater good... and I reserve a special place for those people to whom books are what they know to be the best tools to lift up those they serve.
Farewell, President Obama: the world was a better place after you served.
Jan 20 – Balance
I was on edge all day at work, with my heart beating too fast, despite a non-oatmeal breakfast( which apparently, being harder to digest, works the heart harder )I’d had.
By mid-afternoon, I was having to take small breaks every 15 minutes, just to get my breathing and heart under control. Fortunately, it wasn't a busy day, and my team was so supportive, it brought tears to my eyes... I'm a lucky man to work there!
This evening, I made an appointment right after work for acupuncture, at a local spot right next to where I used to live on May Street. I took the bus there, focusing on my breathing, and settled into a comfy chair among a dozen others to explain my situation to the nice acupuncturist who was running the show tonight.
She worked wonders.
I spent over an hour just relaxing, with the tiny bits of sharp metal working their medical magic, and I could feel everything in my body relaxing bit by bit. I listened to a calming selection of tunes on my Zik headphones, tuning out the world completely.
By the time I left after 7pm, I felt completely relaxed.
My heartrate felt like a metronome: slow and steady, no matter if I was standing or walking or sitting. I rode the bus home with a smile, and boggled at the difference I felt in myself from what I was experiencing only a few hours ago.
After I got home, I had a little more to eat and watched The Great Muppet Caper, which I've never actually seen... and I laughed the whole way though. Perfect!
I slept very well tonight, calm and easy and a believer in acupuncture all over again... no 3am wakeup here.
Jan 21 – Flypaper
What a sham...
Look, I know that I'm in Canada, and that the recent election of Strumpet to the POTUS isn't any of my business... but what he represents is.
You don't have to Google for long before you find a list of all the things that the newest( as of today )POTUS is, as well as isn't... and none of them are good things.
There's an old saying: "When the US catches a cold, the world sneezes" and I think that's being mild in this case. The USA now has the worse head cold in its history, and there's going to be more needed than tissues and chicken soup to remedy the problems that have already cropped up.
I'm not going to list every fear, every stupid act( and there's been many already today, the second day of the new administration! )but to simply say that the people of the USA have to somehow take a stand against the idiots that have taken over the top positions... and to hold the line.
Most likely, I predict, those who voted against Strumpet will be joined sooner rather than later by all those who did, who also possess a brain, or even common human decency.
Let's hope that the new POTUS impeaches himself before that has to happen.
On the anxiety front, today was pretty good. I got some things done around the house, and went in for another acupuncture treatment, which as it was administered by another lady, I didn't feel was nearly as effective. Still, I managed to relax for about 1.5 hours in a comfy chair with my music, with no other cares pressing on me, so that was a good thing.
The evening was spent again relaxing, when I watched The Muppets Most Wanted, again which I haven't ever seen. It was again exactly what I needed, as I have always loved Jim Henson's work and The Muppets in particular have a special place in my life.
Pretty dang good.
Jan 22 – As Douglas Adams said...
Wow. That sucked.
A few hours after waking up this morning, I started feeling odd, like my body was humming somehow. I didn't know what to make of it, and spent about 30 minutes just breathing while listening to Marconi Union's Weightless to calm myself.
But it didn't help.
Fortunately, my sister was home, and around 9am I asked her help as my head started spinning and the humming got worse: I was having a panic attack, one of only a few I've experienced in my life but far worse than anything I'd imagined. The humming feeling made me feel like I was buzzing with electricity, my hands and feet went cold and sweaty, and of course my heart was racing – textbook panic attack, though I did manage to breathe properly, as I’d been practicing for a few weeks now.
Thanks to my sister, I got through it.
She was there for me, to talk to and laugh with about things we remembered, about dreams I have still to see completed, and to just encourage me with all the accomplishments I've made in my life. All the challenges I’ve overcome, the strength that I’ve displayed in doing so, and the wonderful life I have ahead of me now that a job, a lady, and a secure family situation have all been attained here and now.
After an hour, I was feeling somewhat normalized.
I think what triggered the panic attack was my searching for things to eat online: being off gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, salt and alcohol( meh on that last one )has meant that my meal choices have been rather limited for the last few weeks, and I wasn't finding anything that worked online, so I think my subconscious went "We're gonna starve!" and everything avalanched from there into full-panic mode.
That's my best guess, looking back on it 12 hours later.
I spent the next 3-4 hours in Super Relax mode, watching comedies, reading calming books, and generally NOT thinking in ANY way about trigger words like Stress, Heartrate, Panic or anything similar: I even refrained from checking my heartrate to 'see how I was doing' like I had during the week - nope. I also tried out some Passionflower tea I'd picked up on Friday, which seemed to help, and I found an amazing website that really spoke to my fears of anxiety without trying to push solutions that cost a ton of cash.
By the time evening had rolled around, I'd arisen from the couch determined to do my best to just GET ON with my day, and my life: I wasn't going to give in to whatever tiny minute-by-minute demands my anxiety was making of me. I've beaten worse problems in my past through determination, positive willpower and perseverance, so this is no different: I can either spend the next long while jumping every time there's a pain in my chest( which there were only grumbles earlier today, even during the attack )or I can move forward with the idea that I'm doing all I can to find the CAUSE of those pains, and they're not heart-related unless I MAKE them into that by panicking at every little twinge or slightly elevated heartrate. As long as I just focus on breathing and sitting properly of a day, I can go from there to working towards putting this behind me… and writing about it today really has helped, though I couldn’t use the voice dictation software, as talking out loud made me uncomfortable – seeing the words appear as I typed was normal enough.
That's it, in a nutshell: it's all up to me to determine how I face this newest challenge, and I'm looking it in the eye as of tonight to call it's bluff.
See you all next week!
There's not much more to say, apart from my determination to live my life as usual this week: work, relax, and give worrying a swift kick in the rear if it rears its hoary head!