Tag Archives: volunteering

Insomnia is a mental illness

8 Jun

11:40 am

And, actually, it IS! According to Medscape:

The DSM-5 defines insomnia as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms: Difficulty initiating sleep. Difficulty maintaining sleep, characterized by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings. Early-morning awakening with inability to return to sleep.

What I mean, however, is that insomnia causes mental illness (and that is part of its definition, too, in the DSM). For me, personally, that means anxiety, depression, and relatively speaking, “suicidal” thinking (i.e., what’s the point, everything sucks). I had one of my nights the night before last, and it took almost the entire day for me to rebound, to feel like myself again–to come out of the depths and to be able to think positively.

Honestly, it feels WAY too much like a night of blackout drinking and the next-day hangover from blackout drinking: you’re in and out of sleep, you’re having nightmares, you’re angry–oh, boy, does insomnia make me irrationally angry–and you’re delusional. It truly is horrifying, doubly so because it is like a replay of one of the MILLIONS of blackout-drunk/next-day hangovers I’ve had over the course of my drinking career (which gratefully ended when I started this blog eight years ago). It really does feel like I’m hungover the next day, too: intense anxiety, forcing myself to get out of bed, depression, this sense of darkness around my world and goals, the inability to think clearly, the list goes on and on.

Usually, I experience nights of insomnia caused by perimenopause–sometimes, I can’t fall asleep because I am burning up or otherwise wired wide awake; usually, I wake up after three or four hours sleep and can’t fall back to sleep. This time, however, it was because my stomach was cramping all night long (I have been toying with going on the keto diet; however, I am definitely crossing eggroll-in-a-bowl off my list of things that I can eat–LOL). I had some crazy nightmares, too: one was, the brother who wrote me off (after a bad blackout verbal assault!) was attacked by Trump supporters; the other was, our house, with floor-to ceiling windows looking out onto the ocean, was being flooded by HUGE waves that we could see come crashing down on our roof…and inside was a friend who ghosted me in 2017 (she just stopped emailing and texting, after 11 years of friendship, and I have never learned why). God, it was a dark night!

The next day, yesterday, I gave myself what turned out to be a gift: I went to our local Humane Society and spent the morning walking dogs! It felt really good to get out of my head, outside myself, and just help others, even if those others were fur-balls! Later in the evening, I went alone to our closest beach and took a sunset soak. It gave me the chance to remember how many times volunteering my time, helping others, actually saved me from myself. Getting outside myself has been what has saved me more than once from depression, anxiety, and everything that comes with too much self-focus.

It’s Monday, and while the protests are still going on and the COVID is still going on, I have to get on with my life. Which means, rebooting my (professional) writing portfolio and starting to send out ye olde resume. I don’t necessarily believe I won’t get my job back, but…it’s good to consider the possibility that I won’t.

I am eight weeks Facebook-free today, and I feel pretty much great about that. I do miss my actual friends’ posts, and I know that I am missing out on some events and “in the know” activities; however, for the most part, I believe I am not missing anything and I feel better about myself, calmer about the pace and progress of my days. I keep thinking of a few friends especially, wondering how they’re doing; otherwise, most people are simply not on my radar in that way (and, I would venture that most of anyone’s friends on Facebook are not really their friends, per se, people whose lives they’re actually interested in keeping up with). Anyway, I will keep going with it; I might not deactivate as I said I would, but I’ll probably stay off for a while longer, at least. The benefits are just too good!

Our dog is hanging in there; it was a bit sad to walk such fiesty pups at the Humane yesterday and come home to our “old” girl, barely able to hobble around for a few minutes outside. On the bright side, she IS still able to get herself up and down, and she IS still able to walk outside to pee–all good, right? I have come to accept her aging, the process of her aging, a wee bit more with every passing day. It’s part of life; I just wish it wasn’t part of HER life–haha.

Blessings, all, for a good week. Stay strong (or not); either way, you got this.

I’m back…I think

20 Jul

12:05 pm

Hi!

Just a very quick post to say, I finally came home from my month-long “volun-tour” adventure. I didn’t have much time to do any blogging, let alone drinking. And, there was, of course, a lot of drinking–but not on my part!

For many reasons, it was easy to not imbibe when it was a full-time party for some. One, I have lost my taste for it. I did “taste test” someone’s drink (always rum) three times, and all three times, I felt ill just smelling the fumes. Like, ZERO desire to go down that road. I also was never a hard booze type; I’ve mentioned before how I was strictly a wine girl (loved wine, in fact), but even when someone sat down next to me one night, slugging down her cup of wine, I could literally smell the fumes like a hound dog–and they made me cringe, from the pit of my stomach to the top of my head. It was white wine, to boot. I would drink white, but never in preference to red. I can feel my stomach getting sour just remembering an entire weekend I spent downing boxed white, never leaving my apartment except for once, on Sunday, at 3 pm, to get more wine. UGH.

Two, I surrounded myself with a group of non-drinkers, or light drinkers, and I felt like my old, dorky self. They know intuitively that drinking to get tanked is just not something one does, if one wants to get any shit done.

I’ve come so far, I realized. So very far.

Yes, I drank that beer–to end the obsession, as it were, which was becoming REALLY unhealthy (kind of also the reason I have been slow to check back in here–uber-focus on Sobriety with a capital “s” can be almost counterproductive to staying sober). YES, I taste-tested someone’s drink three times–once was because I was really quite curious how a pina colada made by a blender rigged to the back of a bicycle (it was a developing country, and there were a lot of “sustainable” types experimenting with alternative materials!) would taste; the other times were because I was taken off guard when someone shoved a drink up my nose, and because I had never tasted this somewhat-local drink everyone was talking about.

Even still, I wonder why I taste-tested. But, I let it go. I had zero desire to continue drinking because I really just have no taste for booze, especially hard stuff. But mainly, I had zero desire to be drunk–which comes with a huge price to pay, physically (hangover) and psychologically (depression, falling off my cloud, denting my force field of sober awesome). Probably mostly, I had NO TIME to be hungover. I literally had NO TIME to waste there, I was that busy with my volunteer writing and then, my trips, my own work here (gotta pay the bills!), and my general sense of, Wow, this place is different, but equally interesting, without the nonsense of drinking.

I am curious about wine, but, not enough to go trying it right now. I have an almost-irritating amount to do, and I also feel like drinking is Just Not The Answer to anything. Especially to continuing to move forward.

For me, IF I continue to make goals and set deadlines for my personal and professional lives, there is NEVER time for alcohol anymore. And, I’ve finally realized what a good thing this is. Am I doing it consciously? Almost. However, a large part of it is my heart, which keeps reining me in when I think about “trying wine again.” I don’t want this amazing sober ride to end, is all!

I can pretty much say that I would NEVER have gone back to where I went if I had not gotten sober. I found–I created, actually–my volunteer position of my own effort. I would never have had the follow-through, the long-term grit, to make it happen if I had not gotten sober. I am able to make much more long-term plans, but I’m also able to stare them down and see them through. (I had to get my picture taken at customs on the way back into the country, and really, my entire face has changed: my stare is so much more direct, cut-the-crap, kind, open, and calm–bring it on, Life. I know that the “sneaky, giggly” expression of my drunken yester-years is officially gone from my face now–once in a while, nostalgia has me wondering if this “new sober me” is TOO sober/serious, but the majority of the time, I marvel at how much more direct and at peace I look.)

I also know that if I “try wine again,” this energy, or commitment, to follow through on things might go away. And I literally can’t afford that to happen.

And, well, I just don’t want this amazing sober ride to end!

Drinking is boring. What is not boring is everything that YOU GET TO MAKE HAPPEN now that you’re sober.

So, that’s a quick update. I’m still sort of between there and here, and not quite sure why, but feeling anxious. I have a ton of work to do here–and some work to do there, that I didn’t finish before I left. And, this horrible flight crash–and all the other horrendous news that I managed to duck out on while abroad, in my bubble of developing-country-world–well, it’s got me feeling a tad bit overwhelmed. Time to process, and appreciate, and then, plan for the next adventure.

Thanks everyone for checking in, and onward we go!

(And, btw, day count busted at over two years counting? The pedantic in me was like, Oh, shit, now I have to start over, after 460 days, AGAIN. And, you know what? The pedantic in me is what made me drink. I think I’m far enough into sobriety where days, while important, aren’t that important. What is important is maintaining my resolve to not drink because…it’s the right choice. Habit and a long stint of continuous sobriety has pounded it into my brain–do not drink, EVER–but now, the training wheels are coming off. Yes, I drank, but…I’m not not drinking to reach a day count or some other cake-and-candles goal; I’m not drinking because I want–and need–to remain sober.)

Who am I now?, or, the art of no longer living in denial

18 Jun

12:10 pm

(I wasn’t going to post this, but I’m deciding to do so because, well, remaining sober means necessarily embracing it. And, Wolfie-boy and his ugly mange-y paw, Denial, can ruin the best of intentions. So, in an effort to embrace sobriety–and hang onto it in spite of Wolfie breathing down my neck (Oh, come ON, you’ve gone far enough, you can drink on this trip)–I’m reminding me (and you) of how I got here.)

I have to admit, I thought I was “different.” All these drunks at meetings, saying stuff like, “I had no idea who I was when I first got sober.” Pfft, please. That’s not me. *I* knew who I was, didn’t I? Don’t I? I know who I am, right? In FACT, I was the same person back then…except I drank. I still am that person, I just don’t drink.

Right? Riiiiight.

Anyway, I have accomplished some shit in my life, but one day last year, with my issues coming into crystal clear focus, I realized that it might have all been pretty much fueled by wine. And that hit me in the gut like a punching bag. Oof. Really? Have all my successes and achievements–and failures, even missteps–been a direct result of my drinking? Not in the, I needed wine to do this, kind of way, but in the, Wine was always in the picture, kind of way. And it did, indeed, allow me to do certain things. My sense of motivation–maybe a frenetic one, looking back–CAME FROM THE WINE. Sure, my brain is wired to accomplish, to want to achieve; but, in the later years, especially from about 2004 until now, was it the “wine brain” that was propelling me to do all the crazy, caution-to-the-wind shit that I did? Or, was that me?

Wait, who am I?

As I prepare for this volunteer trip (for which I, gulp, leave on Thursday), I have to admit: I have NO IDEA how to do this sober. I’ve never done it sober. I’ve gone to the country where I’m going three times already, but I’ve never seen the place through the lens of a sober person. That is to say, the past three times I’ve gone to where I’m going, I drank–like, drinky-drank-DRUNK drank!

The third time (four years ago), though, not so much. And, here’s what’s “hilarious” about that: for the past few years, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink *as much* on the third trip because I “wasn’t really an alcoholic” and that I just needed to find something purposeful to fill my hole.

What really happened, I’m remembering more clearly now, is that I was AFRAID OF KILLING MYSELF based on how ridiculously I drank the first two times.

Just to semi-recap: on the first trip (over five years ago), I drank every night, till the end (3 am), and then had to get up every morning at 7 am for work (manual labor–somehow the hangovers weren’t so bad when you were sweating them out). I drank WHILE ON malaria meds, and then WHILE HAVING A BAD REACTION to said meds, such that I was in a state of acute panic/anxiety for a period of 36 hours at one point. It was a nightmare; literally, a waking nightmare. I completely blamed this reaction on the chloroquine as being an older anti-malarial that I shouldn’t have taken based on my medical history of depression and anxiety. Now, however, I have to ask myself, Could it have been the probably-dangerous combination of a shit-ton of booze plus the meds? (tilts heads in mock wonder)

On the second trip, a year later, it only got worse! I got SO drunk one night at a party (thrown by and for my host mother’s family), that I kissed an old guy, got SUPER-emotional and crazy and was yelling at people, then, managed to pass out on the outhouse seat. I fell forward onto something hard and flat with the full weight of my noggin, bashing my forehead so hard that I not only had a huge welt up there, but gave myself a black eye (days later, after the blood drained down). The host mother was chagrined, to say the least, and there was at least one person who bid me an official farewell the next morning (even though I was there for another several days).

I mean, these are just a FEW stories of how I drank there. No, I wasn’t the only alcoholic, and no, others experienced a lot worse consequences (one guy fell off a roof and died), BUT…

It never seemed to click, how exhausting and dangerous all this was–year after year after year. Once the hangover wore off and the bad behavior, forgotten, I simply moved on and pretended that nothing needed to change. Or, at least nothing needed to change *that* much.

This is stuff that makes my (bobble)head spin, like someone threw a brick at my face–how could I have lived in such denial? Not only of what I was doing–and how I was using alcohol–but of how I was lying to myself about what I was doing?! Something must have stuck (was it the outhouse incident?) because, fully realizing that it would be dangerous to binge drink like that again, I managed to control my drinking on the third trip (the dehydration factor also helped).

Fast forward to now, and I seem to have forgotten about all of this! Like, I’ve been telling myself that I didn’t drink heavily the last time because I didn’t need to, didn’t feel like it, realized that this work filled my unmet needs–no, I wasn’t really an alcoholic at home, I was just empty with want and my unmet needs.

Yes, unfortunately, I was an alcoholic at home. I drank and bad shit happened, but I kept drinking. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

All this being said, this time around, I am not going to drink because, well, I’m sober. Right? I’ve thought about it, of course: would it really be that bad to do the two-beers-a-night thing again? I’m sure I could do it, and might even want to. BUT…a part of me really wants to see this world, have this experience, live out this dream…through the prism of a sober mind. And this, somehow, seems much more important and real than all my doubts and fears (of which I have many, namely: Will this place have lost its romantic appeal now that I’m sober? Will this idealized reality–which I could maintain as a drinker–simply become mundane? Will my supposed “dream job,” which I’ll be doing there (as a volunteer), turn out to be something I really don’t like, find to be an actual pain-in-the-ass without the nightly reward and reinforcement of wine/beer?).

You know, I am no different from all those “people in AA meetings who don’t know themselves.” And, that actually makes me feel hopeful. I am living this thing now, for real, and that must mean…progress? I sure hope so!

Well, I might sneak in one more post before I take off, but if not, travel well, my sober friends, and I’ll see you in a little bit (will post from there, but it might be random and/or sporadic).

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