Saturday, September 26, 2015

Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia

In the years since my divorce and even a bit before, I've suffered bouts of anxiety and depression which in turn have lead me to periods of insomnia. With some cognitive behavioral therapy, and even some medications, I've learned to lessen my anxiety and depression, if only just a bit. Yet, the insomnia is still a frequent visitor. Especially when the anxiety and/or depression return. Or something else is running through my mind.

I've tried many remedies; lavender essential oil on my pillow, counting sheep or something else to distract my mind, focusing on my breath, white noise apps, Xanax, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night, stretching, meditation, and Melatonin. I can fall asleep, but usually wake up anywhere from one to three hours later, and then can't get back to sleep.

Sometimes the remedies help and sometimes they don't. I'm not sure what brings it on and off, except maybe stress. A recent difficult period with a friend set it off, and when the friend and I stepped away from each other, the insomnia left. The friend has returned to my life, things have improved between us, yet a different type of stress has entered my life and the insomnia has returned.

My bedtime routine is this; around 8:30 I'm in my bed and texting with a special someone. Sometimes the television is on, sometimes not. Yes, I've heard all the research on electronics before bedtime and yes, I should quit the television, but I enjoy texting my friend. I've also read the research on reading, and maybe I should try that, (and as a writer I definitely should) but more the old-fashioned paper books, not the electronic kind. And I should read fiction as non-fiction requires too much thinking which then becomes a distraction.

But, I'm seriously considering another alternative...medical cannabis.  

I've been doing a LOT of research. Cannabis is actually healthier than alcohol and even caffeine. It is not chemically addictive, though one might argue it can become psychologically addictive depending on the individual. It is impossible to overdose on it. There are numerous medical benefits; it is being used to treat several types of pain-from arthritis to muscle spasms, reactions to chemotherapy, migraines, managing appetites for diabetics, anxiety, depression and, even insomnia. One of the chemical components in marijuana is even being used to treat seizures in children. Many indigenous cultures use it spiritually with the aid of a shaman to move some individuals beyond their emotional blockages.

There are some drawbacks; it is a vasodilator which ultimately increases your heart rate, similar to a cup of coffee. Pot has also been cited in possibly triggering heart attacks in some people. Depending on the strain involved, it can also increase anxiety and/or depression if the patient is already prone to either or both. Being I already have a slightly elevated heart rate, and am prone to both anxiety and depression, I would need to exercise caution.

Despite the benefits, I'm not ready to take this step. I grew up with seriously negative views of marijuana, due to the attitudes of the 1970s. It was the devil's weed, a gateway drug to harder stuff. The church and my conservative parents also looked down on anyone who used pot. The students I knew who smoked weed were troublemakers in school, and some of them I suspect were among those who bullied me.

In the early 80s, I discovered that a few close friends of mine smoked recreationally, yet they did not fit the image of marijuana users I grew up with. Did it change my opinion of them? No, they were still studious, hardworking and dear friends, but I also didn't necessarily change my opinion of the drug, as I saw weed back then. Plus, it was illegal, to boot. And with me being so afraid of doing anything wrong, I was not about to break the law.

And there's a couple of other things. 

Due to Federal Laws, the California Educational Code still considers marijuana to be a Class 1 drug, meaning a teacher found to be under the influence of it can have his or her credential revoked. As cannabis can remain in the system for several days after smoking or ingesting, should a teacher test positive that could mean the teacher would lose his or her job, even if the teacher hadn't partaken the day before. What is the likelihood the teacher would even be subjected to a drug test? Not very, unless said teacher was believed to be under the influence while on or near school grounds. Is it a chance I want to take? I'm working that out. And should I obtain a doctor's referral as a medical marijuana patient as defined by the State of California, would it hold up against any proceedings against me based on Federal laws? As Federal laws trump State laws, most likely not. But, it would all depend on the people conducting the hearing, should there be any, in the first place.

Secondly, can I see myself as a stoner, medically or otherwise? I realize, deep down, it won't change who I am as I see myself, but after years of having these feelings around weed, and  around those who used it and teaching drug education to my students, can I justify to myself this change of events and attitude, even for medical reasons? If only to sleep...perchance to dream...

One other reason I'm considering medical weed, I'm getting fed up with the big pharmaceutical companies raising prices of drugs to the point they are no longer affordable for those who are on a limited income. So, maybe I'm a bit of a social activist, as well.

Time will tell what I decide. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pride and Prejudices

Home ownership comes with pride, or is it the other way around? Home ownership also comes with responsibility.

I recently went through a big home improvement project. I had my yard professionally landscaped. 

Back yard
At the end of June, the landscape designer came to the house to see what the project entailed and what my ideas were. I found myself clearly articulating what I wanted (something I had not really learned to do before); I wanted mostly California native/drought tolerant plants and I had a couple specifics in mind, Kangaroo's Paws and a couple Manzanita bushes. Then I waited for his proposed plant list and costs.

Then I met with the installer who would actually oversee the other parts of the project; the pruning of my existing plants and the actual planting and development of the finished garden. All went well here, too. I told him what I wanted, he pointed out what he felt was necessary, and then left. A few days later I received his budget proposal. I eliminated what I couldn't afford at this time and we settled on the final costs.

Then the anxiety set in-could I truly afford this? When will it start? How long will it take and will I need to take time from work? And ultimately, will I like it?

After a few delays, mostly due to a few hard-to-find plants, I was notified when the planting would begin. And ultimately, G-day (Garden day) arrived. The delivery arrived unannounced prior to G-day, fortunately I was home! The crew arrived bright and early (7:00am!) two days later and I felt a bit of anxiety. 
Front, left

I am not a prejudiced man, yet the make-up of the crew gave rise to the anxiety; one Anglo and four Latinos. I'd met the Anglo before as he was the installer and owner of the company the Latinos worked for.  My anxiety came from my own homophobia and my perceived prejudices around Latinos and their views on homosexuality. 

I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible to stay out of their way, yet intrigued by what was happening in my own yard, I kept wandering out to watch. I tried to eavesdrop on the conversations but the various Spanish accents I was hearing gave me a bit of trouble. I dropped a few common phrases here and there until, in order to make myself more understood, I said something completely in Spanish. The men looked at me puzzled looks on all of their faces, and one of them asked, "¿Habla Ud. Español?"

"Sí," I replied and suddenly we were best friends, almost. As it turns out they were more intrigued by how this gringo learned to speak Spanish so clearly, so I explained that I had studied for a few years before spending part of my Junior year of High School in Mexico as an exchange student living with two different families.

"Muy impresionante," they said.
Front, right side
On the second day as I was talking with the crew chief, a bearish man in his mid-40s, he started telling me about his uncles. And I couldn't figure out why. His wife had uncles, too. Oh, and an aunt. And it hit me when he said, "And we all knew, but no one said anything." He was opening up to me. He was telling me these relatives were gay, but closeted.

In his gentle-mannered way, he hit every stereotype, "I love watching you guys dance!", "Whatever you do, you do it with such energy, to the best you can.", and "I love the colors of your flag!" He gestured towards the rainbow windsock hanging behind me from the eaves of my house.

But, my favorite comment was when he asked, "What do you guys like to be called?" 

"Gay," I said. 

"Bueno," he said. 

It was very relieving to me to be talking this calmly with a stranger about what once used to be, though sometimes still is, a taboo subject. I never heard any derogatory words from the rest of the crew, either day. It wasn't until later it hit me, I had been the one with the prejudices. They may have had their prejudices, but they were nothing but professional with me. 

And that's as it should be.

I just have something to work on.


Back yard

Monday, September 14, 2015

Time and Space

They say time and space form a continuum. 

I'm not even sure I know what that means. I appreciate I can exist in both time and space. I mean I know I exist in this moment in time and now in this moment, and now this next one. And I exist in this space-the chair where I'm writing this post- and I also exist in this other space I've since moved to, the sofa on the other side of the room. Time and space exist and are continuous, and we exist simultaneously in both, but what exactly is a continuum?
But, I'm digressing from the original intent of  this post...
I may not know exactly how time and space form a continuum, but I do know they often give us some perspective.

Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a situation in order to gain some insight to finding a solution, an answer or even just some clarity. 

My grandfather loved solving word problems while eating his breakfast and occasionally he'd get stuck. He'd put the problem aside and come back to it later in the morning. Sometimes that little bit of time and space would be enough and sometimes not. Sometimes the answer would come to him after his afternoon nap. And sometimes the next morning.

I've blogged of a possible romantic relationship I suddenly found myself in the middle of; one that has so much going for it-beginning organically in a friendship, we shared a deep connection on multiple levels, we had open and honest communication; yet this relationship has so many challenges for us to work through-we have a large age gap and come from quite different backgrounds, not to mention the 1,180 miles from my front door to his. And our own fears and baggage played into this mix. Ultimately, something got to us and we realized the romance might not work but we tried to save the friendship which, at times, also seemed to be floundering. To help deal with the pain of the loss of the romance and to adjust my thinking of the relationship as more of a friendship, I asked for some time and space.

He reluctantly agreed, leaving me to message him when I wanted and was able. 

We recently resumed chatting online and the time and space seem to have done us both some good. We've opened up to each other even more deeply than before. We've accepted where we might have miscommunicated in the past in order to improve the communication in the future. We acknowledged our fears and that they played a part in the distancing.

It's so hard to explain but even the energy between us feels different, much more positive. Perhaps we needed the time and space to move out of where we were in our personal lives, to regain some focus on ourselves first, then on each other and finally on what we wanted between us.

The past is gone but serves as a lesson, the future is uncertain, so all we have is the present. 

I'll take this present. And unwrap it slowly...