Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Worrywart's Rosary

"This is a serious medical condition," the missus said.

"I know."

"Your mother didn't pay attention to her parasympathetic nervous system, and look what happened to her!"

And there we go. Recently, a wonderful trip was marred by a recurrence of my stress-related nausea, compounded by blood loss from my ulcer. I'm tempted to use this as a source of humor, but it's gradually dawning on me that not everyone in my life finds the subject of my health amusing.

When I did a post-game analysis of the situation, I saw any number of things that I could have done to ameliorate the situation. In the end, stress management comes down to details. The problem is, is that one of my reactions to stress is an inability to monitor my stress. This is one of the things that brings me into crazy person territory from time to time.

(I am in the process of working up a nice handy flyer on Oaf Wrangling 101, but I want to run it by my near and dear for practicality and accuracy before releasing it into the public. If I am going to insist on making my socialization a blood-sport, it only seems fair to clarify the rules.)

But that's the thing. I have a lifelong pattern of psychosomatic reactions to stress. These typically present as a medical crisis -- my skin is peeling off like scabby sheets of typing paper! The doctor thinks I have colon polyps! only to reveal themselves as stress reactions.

Nausea, primarily manifesting as lack of appetite, is one of the big, long-running themes. My mother suffered from this quite badly; it's a little creepy to find myself following in her shoes. I've been hospitalized due to uncontrollable nausea three times.

Honestly, the ulcer and blood loss? That is actually helping me deal with things -- it mandates stricter behavior. It may seem to be a big issue, but if managed properly, it heals and doesn't give me trouble.

But not eating, and then using alcohol as an appetite stimulant seems to be an unreliable but effective means of opening up the wound so I bleed internally, and when that happens I get the chills and sweats. These are worse than the nausea, and at this point I'm basically hallucinating. Drug fans? Imagine really, really, really bad acid, or some exceptionally nasty herbal shit like datura or morning glory seeds. Eight to twelve hours of visions of hell interrupted by vomiting blood, bile, and what I honestly believe to be shit.

Hell, I've paid for worse experiences than that, but still. It gives one pause. But here's the thing -- it means I have to take care of myself. And being involved in a larger and larger social sphere places a correspondingly larger and larger responsibility in terms of self-care. My well-being has never been my private concern, and now it is taking on the feeling of being a sort of public trust.

So managing stress is an issue. But that is only one of the things I'm dealing with right now.

I am easily confused, and find it difficult to sustain coherent thought for the extended periods of time necessary to perform serious intellectual tasks. I am irritable. I have little energy, and that expends rapidly. Interestingly, I have been sleeping more rather than less, and have even found myself taking long afternoon naps, from which I rise wan and crabby. I have extremely vivid memories, bordering on hallucinations, of bad moments from my early years. I am prone to sudden panics and anxieties. And from time to time the profound conviction of a universal negativity and hopelessness grips me, as though existence is a set of jaws.

Then I think, "You're getting press and you're getting smooches and the refrigerator is full and there seem to be a ton of people who like you. Quit bitching."

And I do, and it helps, but come on. This is physically mandated misery, and all I can do is get through it with as much grace as I can muster. But hey, my spring season is due to start any time now, and then I'll be full of all kinds of good crazy energy.

Right now I have any number of things I need to do. All of them are significant in my creative career -- what I've been telling people is that I've been turning the handle on a sausage grinder for the last nine or ten years, and the sausage is just starting to come out. And that 'career' is a thing at this point. Regardless of my degree of success, I'm a real, acknowledged writer, artist, and performer. Don't care if anyone's buying, I know I've got the goods.

So I really should make myself work. But when I do, the results are not good. They reflect the disarray and emotional neediness I'm experiencing right now.

And if I push myself, I stress out. And as has been pointed out to me, that actually represents a real health hazard. That wouldn't bug me so much, but now that I'm seeing myself in the big picture, it does. It causes trouble for other people when I'm not functioning at my best.

But if I can avoid obsessing over my stress levels, my seasonal depression probably won't spike on me.

See, yesterday's post and today's post? These are the kinds of posts I haven't been making for the past couple of weeks because the vague tone of self-pity kind of nauseates me, and that's a source of stress.

Sometimes the word 'blog' seems onomatopoeic. Blog! Blog! Bluh. Bluhuh. Bluooooahhhhg.

Now I have to floss.