Wellness Wednesday – Insomnia

Insomnia is a word that gets batted around casually, but real insomnia is nothing short of a paralyzing disease. With real insomnia, we’re not talking about a night of crap sleep that you can make up for in a night or two. We’re not even talking about a few nights of crap sleep. We’re talking years and years of no-sleep nights added up together, when even the minimal sleep you do get is worse than unrestorative. It’s day after day of your body trying to pull energy from somewhere, anywhere, just to continue with basic functions like breathing or listening or moving your limbs. It isn’t a question of willpower – when you suffer chronic insomnia, your body takes over. You no longer have any choices. Want to exercise? Nope, sorry. That energy is needed to digest food. Want to eat moderately? Too bad! The body needs massive amounts of food to get the minimum energy it requires in a day, storing the rest away for later because it’s terrified that these no-sleep nights will just continue and continue and continue. Which they will.

Years ago, I had a “friend” who tried to tell me that I didn’t suffer from insomnia because I didn’t have an official diagnosis. This was one of those “friends” who was always trying to one-up everyone. Oh, you have a twin? So do I, only we’re identical, and we had a psychic bond when we were little, only it broke when she ran away and I haven’t seen her in years and I have no photos of her because I destroyed them all as they were too painful. Oh, your husband is looking for a job and you might move out of state? Well, my husband was already looking for a job and already found one so we’ll be moving out of state before you have a chance. You’ve all met that person, right? Anyway, setting this girl’s toxic a$$ aside (like I did not long after meeting her), one of the things I remember most was the lecture she gave to me about insomnia and how my condition wasn’t “real.” She told me that I was making it up and complaining just to get attention, wanting to have an affliction, minimizing the real struggles of everyone else (like her). And all I could think (besides that it was time to dump her) was why the hell would I want an affliction like this one?

Real insomnia is a nightmare. You go through day after day with your thoughts watery and vague, because your brain is literally trying to get in some low-grade REM sleep in order to repair itself. You eat twice as much as you’d normally need, often made up of crap carbs, because your body can’t function properly without ready food energy. You can’t drive or exercise or hold onto full conversations. You think back on the worst days and can’t remember what parts of them were real and which parts were actually dreams. You resort to complex self-medicating habits in order to get even the tiniest bit of sleep, combinations you should never, ever mix (like Ambien, benedryl, and wine), because the doctors look at your condition, can’t find anything wrong with you, and simply shrug you off and push you out the door.

Before September 2011, my insomnia was inconsistent, a handful of weeks on end several times a year. It began my first year in college, and kept to that pattern for 14 years. In Sept 2011, something changed in my body, and the handful of weeks grew into a constant. In the seven years since, there have been so few times without constant insomnia that they stand out like beacons. A week in spring 2012 while I ate nothing but unprocessed foods, not even foods like canned tomatoes or beans. Two months in the summer of 2014 when I actually slept just by taking magnesium citrate supplements daily. Last month, when for most of July, I didn’t need more than just melatonin to sleep through the night. Aaaaand that’s it. Just over three months of real sleep in the last seven years.

Right from the beginning of August, like clockwork, the insomnia reared back up again. Whatever good things in July that had been happening in my body disappeared. You know that metaphor about certain diseases and having a limited number of spoons to use each day? With severe insomnia, on the worst days, you wake up with zero spoons. You have literally nothing to work with. And knowing that this is forever, and nobody knows why, and there’s nothing anyone can do to help or fix the situation, is the very definition of hell.

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Kimono and Cross-body Crochet Bags

I mentioned in my July wrap-up that I’d gone backwards in my goal to get rid of all my yarn by starting a new project with new yarn. Well, I just finished said project! Welcome the Genesis Kimono into my closet:

I got the pattern free from Hooked on Tilly, though she has since removed the pattern from her blog and the only version you can get is for money. The pattern had modifications for small, medium, and large, and I used the large size for myself (though the medium would’ve been fine, as it turns out). For the most part, the pattern was easy to follow and it got into a good rhythm. The only problem I had was with the adaptation for the large. At the end, when you sew the side panels to the back, there’s supposed to be a gap between the two sides (otherwise they’d connect behind your neck). The large adaptation has the side panels wide enough that they actually overlap. Instead of overlapping them (which would’ve made the kimono unwearable), I left several inches unsewn and later flipped them back with a button to make lapels. It’s a good thing I know how to improvise! It’s possible this has been corrected in the paid version of the pattern, but I don’t know. Yarn used: Lion Brand Mandala in Centaur (body); Deborah Norville Everyday in Heather (edging/fringe).

Another fun benefit: Matching the Mandala yarn for the edging/fringe was very difficult, and I ended up with several extra skeins that didn’t quite match. I got to make a few small cross-body purses for my upcoming cruise. No pattern on either of them, I was just making it up as I went along from pictures on the internet. They aren’t terribly professional, but they’ll do!

Yarn: Lion Brand Jeans yarn in “Brand New.” This project took about two hours total, including all the squinting at the small internet photo to figure out what to do next. It also only used about half the skein, but I gave the rest away to a friend who likes to make collage pieces out of leftover skeins.

[PS – After finishing this project, I suddenly found the pattern. Only it’s in Danish. Heh.]

Yarn: Lion Brand Heartland in Badlands. Again, took about two hours total, and used about half the skein. This pattern was pretty much made up from scratch, and it came out okay.

Now I only have a single skein of yarn left to use to finish my goal of zeroing out my stock this year. Woohoo!

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Sunday Coffee – Another House Update

When your house is ripped apart and coming back together slowly, your world eventually sharpens until that work, the last stages of it, becomes all you can do and think about. You just want it to be over and done with. I’ve talked about this before, somewhere in this blog, the last stages of any major project from writing a manuscript to undergoing a weight loss journey – something I’ve called the “Nine of Wands” mentality. Anyway, I’ve gotten to that point on this construction project. I haven’t had a whole house since Mother’s Day, and I can’t think of anything else besides please please let me have a whole real house again. So here’s how construction went this week:

First, our contractor decided to cancel the event he was leaving for on the 9th since this project wasn’t going to be done, especially as he wasn’t able to come over to work last weekend like planned. Then, work didn’t really resume until Wednesday afternoon due to a major problem of a mutual friend. At that point, he said he was going to work straight through the end of today, since his new deadline is tomorrow, but he ended up sick again yesterday. I imagine we have at least a week’s worth of stuff left to do, and it’s definitely not all going to get done today. On my list of tasks (broken into each component part), there are still 40 more items left. Fingers crossed it’ll be done by next Sunday, but as each day passes and things keep going wrong, I’m betting more on my original guess of the 25th.

Things done this week on our very shortened 2.5-day work schedule: downstairs trim up and caulked; subfloor and the beginnings of tile laid in the boys’ bathroom; repair tile laid (but not grouted yet) in the kitchen; about 75% of the wall mudding and texturing done in the kitchen, dining, and living rooms. Wish us luck that five times this much will get done before next Sunday’s update!!

Note: Our contractor is a friend of ours. We’ve had him do work for us several times over the last few years, and we know that the trade-off of having top-quality work done (and done right) is that he juggles a lot of time-management problems and personal issues. He’s great at his work but not as good at paperwork, timing, efficient work flow, etc. So this path is one we chose. We could have had a company come in and do this all in a few days, but the quality of work likely would have been a bunch of cut corners and crap workmanship. Back in February, with our roof in critical condition, we chose not to go with our contractor but instead with a “guaranteed quality company” through USAA’s contractor connection, because time was of the essence. And look how well that turned out. This whole $20k summer nightmare is due to their negligence, and that whole “guarantee” bit wasn’t so guaranteed. So while I complain about it here, a bit of extra time and chaos is totally worth hiring someone who we know will do the work right.

As San Antonio homeowners since 2006 (with two years spent away in that time), we’ve had to do many house repairs. In our first house (2006-2014): replacing all windows, replacing the roof, siding repair, deep plumbing (above), flooring, duct work, a/c issues, fence repair/rebuild, rebuilding walls after window leaks, replacing exterior doors. Second house (one year between Boston and Wisconsin): replacing the entire kitchen, dealing with black mold, plumbing, flooring, roof, repairing chimney mortar, replacing two walls of the house including new stud work throughout (left), electrical issues, a/c and duct issues, deck repair. Current house (one year now): landscaping for major erosion, roof x 2, dealing with the fallout from the roof being repaired incorrectly (not going to list all that out again), pipe flooding, and replacing the entire kitchen, living room, dining room, upstairs bathroom, and master bathroom.

Of those jobs, we’ve done half the work ourselves or by hiring this same contractor. No trouble with them. Of the other jobs, half involved companies/individuals that we knew through family or personal connection. None of those gave us trouble, because they were all people who were good at their very specialized jobs (in other words, none of them could have dealt with the massive current project alone). However, with a quarter of all the total above jobs – or all the jobs we hired strangers to do – all but one of them caused major problems/issues on our houses, and the companies had to redo their jobs after we got very noisy in our complaints. One company literally installed a window so crooked that there was an inch-thick gap between it and the wall on one corner, and told us that was just because Texas houses shift so much that this happened in the hours after installation. No, dude. No. He said the same thing about the sliding glass door that wouldn’t slide open immediately after he installed it.

TL;DR: So yes, with all the trouble we’ve had in the past by having strangers’ companies do these jobs for us – and all the trouble that everyone we know in town has also had with strangers’ companies doing jobs for them – we feel far more comfortable hiring someone we know will do the work well, even if for many reasons he might be slower than someone else.

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The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang

When Frances follows her client’s wishes instead of her boss’, she is both fired from her job as a seamstress and hired by a mysterious new client in the palace. She meets Sebastian, the Belgian prince, in need of her unique services. Frances accepts Sebastian for who he is, and helps him to create the clothing needed for his Lady Crystallia half.

A love story involving a genderqueer character and the person who accepts him and cares for him regardless? What’s not to love?? This is one of the sweetest things I’ve read in quite some time. I wanted to hug the book. I probably did hug the book. Um, more than once. Definitely need my own copy!

I’m very picky about graphic novels, but the artwork and story were both fabulous in this one. I loved every second and highly recommend it!

Posted in 2018, Visual, Young Adult | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Wellness Wednesday – Filling Time

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been binging on fluff audiobooks, not really listening half the time, just to have something playing while I do other things. Out of the blue, a line popped up in one of them: “You’re filling your time so you don’t have to face how much you’re hurting.” The line struck home. I feel like most of the last four years have been an exercise in this exact activity. It’s easier to read too much, exercise too much, watch too much TV, listen to too much music, crochet too much, do too many puzzles, etc etc etc than to actually sit down in the silence and face all the things that I feel and all the things that I’ve struggled through since April 2014.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to do about this. Back in early 2011, the time when I really got serious during my first weight loss journey, I made a plan to yes, lose weight, but also do so with balance. I cut my reading from 200 books a year to 50 or so, a much better pace for me. I signed up for classes in activities I’d wanted to try (like making stained glass). I taught myself other things, like calligraphy and henna-painting. My health goals were divided – not just eating the right kind of food, but drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, starting new good habits, exercising moderately, etc. It was the perfect storm to help me to fill my time but in a meaningful way, in a way that really brought me forward to become what I wanted to become. It’s not the same as binge-watching SVU and playing phone games and listening to a dozen fluff audiobooks.

The difference is, when I started 2011, I was in a mentally stable and healthy place. I’d been working for a month to dig myself out of a pit of shame (regarding my body), and I wanted to create a journey that would be longterm sustainable. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to find that balance again. Some of it is external (between lack of schedule, chaos at home, and emotional blows), and some of it is my own lack of strength at the moment. But I don’t want to just fill my time anymore. I want all my steps to be leading me forward.

In writing, there’s a common piece of advice that says you should cut anything that doesn’t move the story or characters forward. Setting aside the finer points of this advice, this seems to be a valid way to live as well. Walking toward something, not just wading in place or trying to go backwards. Unfortunately, about 75% of my time is the deadweight of a manuscript that would get cut in editing. And I don’t know how to fix or address the internal mess that keeps me from fully living. But it’s about time for me to figure this out.

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Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy

Cousins Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a joint cruise vacation. Everything is lovely until a misadventure occurs while they’re on shore in Central America. Suddenly the kids are missing.

I’m not going to say more than that. To say more would give away major spoilers. The book is told from many different viewpoints, adults and kids alike. Readers watch how the disaster unfolds, with people blaming each other or themselves or both, relationships of all kinds strained. Lots of Bad Stuff happens.**

This novel was a book club selection from the library, and when I read the synopsis, I was immediately intrigued. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love books set on cruises. Though the cruise portion of this was only the beginning chapters, I was delighted. It was a perfect depiction. I also loved how close these families were, cousins that are practically sisters, second-cousins who are as close as regular cousins. It reminded me a lot of my family. While so many modern books with thriller or dangerous-edge stories in them start with a lot of unlikable characters, this one started with a cast that I loved wholeheartedly, good people who had flaws but who were generally likable. It was a good beginning.

The rest continued to be wonderful. Suspenseful, the kind of can’t-put-down book where you’re horrified and overwhelmed but also completely drawn in. There was enough hope to counter all the tragedy and fear. Meloy struck a good balance. She also did a great job with the psychology, everyone from adults to children and how they dealt with the situation, during and after.

I’ve never heard of the author before now, but I’m definitely inclined to read more of her books, especially if they end up being just as good as this one!

**Trigger warning (highlight to read, spoiler alert): rape

Posted in 2018, Adult, Prose | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Hello

Time for some general updates from the Gignacery!

We made it through Week 1 of Band Camp. Seriously, as I mentioned in my July wrap-up, band camp is insane here. It’s band camp with a capital BC. This week was just a bit over 40 hours of practice, including one day that involved three sessions between 8am and 8:30 pm, for a total of ten hours in a single day. Sheesh. And on top of all the hours, we had to go pay $350 in fees yesterday just for Morrigan to be in band. What happened to the concept of free public school? Not here. Here it’s all about Winning.

The other two boys finished up with summer school. So they at least get a few weeks off.

Construction went slow because our contractor was very sick for most of the week. He only got in one good work day. He still believes he’ll be able to finish by the 9th, but I have a feeling there’s going to be stuff left to do when he leaves. Since he’ll be gone for several weeks, we aren’t just going to wait until he can finish. We’ll just do the rest ourselves. There’s nothing else in this process that we can’t do. We have plenty of practice fixing up houses by now! Completed this week: drywall up; kitchen ceiling up; the rest of the kitchen demolition (pulling down the rest of the cabinets/countertops); upstairs bathroom demolition (toilet removal and the rest of the tile removal); bathroom floor sealed with waterproof sealant; kitchen cabinets about 75% installed; countertops ordered. [Note: a big chunk of this done by Jason and the boys.]

There was, of course, the incident yesterday when Jason was hanging cabinets and slipped off the stepladder. His knee went through the top of our glass-top stove. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, not even a scratch! Unfortunately, the stove didn’t fare so well, and we had to scramble to figure out what to do next. Sigh.

In my personal world, I’ve been a bit up and down this week. There was the funeral on Monday of course, and then fretting about the state of our house and me not being able to leave/run errands/pretty much anything during the day since I had to be home for whenever our contractor could come over. Also, still adjusting medication, so I was prone to bouts of depression or panic. In the second half of the week, I did manage to start exercising again, which helped. We’ve had a few highly unusual cool mornings (70 degrees instead of 80) and I took advantage of that with some long walks. That didn’t help the overall chaos and emotion-explosion, but at least I wasn’t antsy on top of it all, right? Unfortunately, after a month of respite, insomnia has reared its ugly head in the worst way again. And still no word from the sleep center people about a possible APAP.

Yesterday was a big day for us, too. We had a large family party to celebrate two things. First, my grandfather is turning 90! Second, my grandparents are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary. Despite everyone flying in for the funeral less than a week ago, we were all back for this grand celebration. A big giant family reunion to celebrate something lovely this time. It was really nice. There were some family members I hadn’t seen in almost a decade, and the decorations were lovely, and one guest (a professional photographer) set up an area to take group shots. It was a big whirlwind of a day, but lovely in every respect. A good note to end this week.

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 7 Comments