House Arrest

House Arrest

No one enjoys the lockdown process. And now that we’re “celebrating” the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown orders, it’s hitting home with a lot of people. We’ve spent one year donning masks, focusing on washing our hands, and avoiding contact with our human beings. For some people, that’s an endless lifetime. For those of us of the introvert persuasion, it’s more like business as usual (more or less). And while I won’t admit to being a FAN of everything, I haven’t hated it as much as other people.

Until last week.

I’ve been battling issues with my sinuses…well, since I moved to Virginia. As anyone who isn’t a native will tell you, this is the state you come to to develop allergies. I have no idea WHY that’s the case, but you’ll find stories from one end to the other. And I’m no exception. My ENT has changed my medication routine so many times I can’t remember what we’ve tried and what we haven’t (short of injections, where I draw the line). Finally, we decided to run a CT of my sinus passages to check for potential problems. Considering my neuro issues were also undergoing changes – and the fact that the trigeminal nerve sits near the sinuses – it made sense to cover the bases.

Surprise! Turns out my sinuses aren’t normal. (If you know me, this isn’t much of a surprise. Very little of my anatomy is normal) My turbinates were out of alignment AND overly large, I had air trapped within them, and my concha were too big. It led to a natural environment for trapped inflammation – and made me a perfect candidate for a balloon sinuplasty.

(So much for my plan to avoid surgery this year)

If you haven’t ventured into an OR in the past year, there’s a new test required – even for inpatient procedures. That’s right: the COVID test. As someone who hasn’t needed one this entire time (not counting the antibody test they perform each time I donate blood), let me say one thing: that test fucking HURTS! I’ll concede it may not be so bad if you have normal sinuses, but I don’t. I handed over a bloody swab to the nurse who looked at me sideways. And then she dropped the hammer: I wasn’t allowed to set foot outside until my procedure. Which happened to be TEN DAYS away! No one warned me about THAT fact!

Granted, I wasn’t going out a ton. But the weekly trip for groceries let me BREATHE! To suddenly end up trapped in the house, with no chance to shop for the new curtain rods, or pick up my own medications felt like the worst kind of house arrest in the world. I hated it. I’d stand in the window and watch my husband drive off on our basic errands and grumble under my breath. Maybe they were tiny (necessary) trips, but they were my lifeline to the outside world, and now they were gone. I felt like a criminal. Ten days was the worst life sentence. And my mental health took a major hit.

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

I was MISERABLE! No walks around the neighborhood. I couldn’t even set foot in the backyard since our neighbors were outside working in their yard (couldn’t risk the possible “contact”). Ten days in the same walls. I didn’t want to do anything. I mean, I did (I needed to write), but I didn’t WANT to. It was a rebellion against the confinement. All I wanted to do was go to the stupid grocery store! My one little outdoor venture! I never thought I’d look FORWARD to a surgery!

Of course, then the procedure happened, and I got a new shock. I knew it was inpatient. I also knew I’d stay awake the entire time. (For the record, listening to your sinuses crack and pop is a level of disturbing I don’t have words for) But they assured me I’d go home and be back on my feet by the next day. So I planned accordingly with my clients.

Never trust doctors.

Within 20 minutes of hitting the recovery room, I knew I was in trouble. The “pain medication” they prescribed may as well have been Tic-Tacs. I almost broke my husband’s hand, and I couldn’t stop the tears. As the staff are using that half-laughing soothing tone that indicates they don’t believe your face was just smashed in with a boulder. It took me more doses than I care to admit (when I got home) to reach a point where I didn’t want to actually bang my head into a wall to make everything stop. And I realized there was no way I could sit at a computer the next day. (Balancing a laptop over my head while reclining sounded a little risky) I had to swallow my pride and send messages to my clients, requesting a “day off.” (Remember, freelancers DON’T get sick days)

Recovery presented a new “normal” for me to cope with. By Monday, I had no choice but to work. I didn’t feel 100%, but I had assignments. If I didn’t get writing done, I’d have no paycheck coming in. Not to mention that I’d end up letting clients down. I had to find the balance between feeling like someone ran over my face and concentrating (it’s fun – I highly recommend it).

As the week progressed, I felt better and better, but things weren’t “normal.” I’ve been exercising five times a week, but my post-op instructions said not until my recheck. And while my body was dragging (it DID just go through an ordeal), I noticed the lack. My legs started cramping in the middle of the night, and my foot would twist – issues I haven’t had in MONTHS. (Not to mention my FitBit giving me crap) I struggled to sleep through the night (part of which, I admit, was due to the fact I couldn’t breathe through my nose).

I felt like shit.

Now, I’m sitting at the beginning of a new week. The majority of the packing has dissolved, letting me breathe like a normal human being again. I’ve got the all-clear to return to exercising, and I’m starting a new program this afternoon (we’ll see how well I do). I’m back to sleeping again – though I still spent most of the weekend unconscious. And I’m allowed to venture into public again (as little as we do that). I’m starting to feel like a human being again.

It’s strange how little it takes to erase those feelings of “normal.” We take them for granted. And I’m not about to say the restrictions need to get lifted (that’s stupid – people are still dying). But I finally understand what the extroverts feel. It was a new perspective on things. Which is never a bad thing. Though I’m still glad to get back to my “normal.”

Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream

Cat sleeping upside down
Photo by Ilana Beer from Burst

Full disclosure: I’m not the best person to hold this discussion. In other words, this is going to be one of those “Do as I say and not as I do” lectures. It doesn’t make the topic any less relevant, though. Particularly as, the older we get, the more we tend to abuse this important aspect of our health: Sleep. You know, uninterrupted rest lasting around 8 hours a night? (Yeah, sounds like a mythical creature to me, too)

As kids, we fought against enforced nap times. We had too much we wanted to do. Now, we’d often KILL for 10 minutes of down time in our day to doze off. Usually because we didn’t sleep properly the night before. That “busy” appellation becomes our excuse to avoid sleep when we need it most. Suddenly, we’re pulling all-nighters for the stupidest reasons. (Okay, there’s never a GOOD reason for an all-nighter…unless you’re Santa Claus)

And your health crashes.

I’ve heard (and used) every excuse in the book to avoid getting a proper night’s rest. After all, writers are creative people. We come up with all kinds of inventive reasons to sit at a computer into the wee hours of the morning. As if that lightning strike of inspiration won’t remain once your brain’s rested and operating at full strength. I know it, you know it, EVERYONE knows it: jotting down a few notes for the morning will allow you to pick things up where you leave off. There’s NO justification to straining your body past the breaking point for nights on end. All you get for the trouble is a caffeine addiction and poor health.

As someone who suffers from insomnia (medical-grade, no less), I implore you: stop the madness. That whole message of “Get 6-8 hours of sleep a night” isn’t a joke or random idea; it’s a medical recommendation. I rarely manage more than 4 hours of sleep – once you add all of the time together. And you know what? It’s not enough. That deficit is why I struggle with other health problems. It’s why I spend my days exhausted and fighting to stay alert and functional throughout the day.

And it SUCKS!

I’ve had to face the truth of taking naps (much as I hate admitting it). And there are times when I have to write out those notes and put my writing aside. When you know every word coming from your fingertips is crap, it’s not worth continuing to sit there. It’s a crushing admission – especially when you know lack of sleep is the reason. And if it’s beyond YOUR control? Admitting you need to see a sleep professional is downright humbling. (I have TWO of the damn doctors – talk about feeling two inches tall!)

The world won’t end if you stop and go to sleep at a REASONABLE hour so you’re body has time to rest, recuperate, and recover. Your world MIGHT end if you don’t. Sleep allows us to reset. It also gives you time to dream – maybe come up with new writing ideas or even ways to work through a problem area you’re struggling with. (Bonus benefit!) The world’s morphed into this hurly-burly whirlwind that functions at 100 miles a minute on a caffeine infusion. It isn’t healthy – for anyone. Take the time to REST. You don’t want to burn yourself out in a couple of years. If evolution intended us to never sleep, we’d have…okay, I don’t know what we’d have, but we don’t currently have the adaptation. Which means you need to SLEEP!

I promise, you won’t die from getting those crucial hours in every night. NOT getting sleep, however, that CAN kill you.