Thursday, November 14, 2019

The good side of the ride

I said last month that this process of dealing with a major loss is a rollercoaster—because it is. I’ve certainly proven that over the past week and a bit, haven’t I? From the height of a good Tuesday, to the depths of a bad rest of the week, and back up to an awesome day today. It’s certainly been a ride.

I think one of the main things I’ve learned from this experience is to take each day one at a time, and to remember that bad patches don’t last. On the other hand, good patches don’t last, either—let’s be honest about that—but a reasonable thing for me to hope for right now is simply to have fewer bad patches. The shiny, happy, rainbow-filled days can come later, at their own pace. Right now, “average” is good.

Today I got two bits of good news, and what’s important about them is that they’re not unique: They’re bits of good news, things that made me happy, and those are the sorts of things that help with healing because they help to lift me out of sadness.

I also find routine helps with that, and I had some of that this week, too.

I went to the doctor for one of my quarterly visits to renew my prescriptions. There was nothing unusual about that at all—everything was routine—but I also hit my annual cap for prescriptions, meaning I won’t pay anything more until the end of January. That kicked in yesterday—for a couple of my prescriptions this time—so I only paid $15 rather than the usual $25. However, I’m also unlikely to get any more prescriptions filled until February, so that was kind of a minor victory—but I’ll take it.

It’s only been recently that I’ve started to get into new routines, since the old ones just don’t work anymore. That mostly affects ordinary things, like when I buy replacements for groceries, because it takes me much longer to get through things. That’s not a bad thing, by the way.

When I was in hospital in May, one of the doctors subtly said I was fat. She said, “there’s evidence that fat around the heart is toxic to it, so you might want to think about maybe losing some weight.” She was cheeky. And I’ve been working on taking her advice since.

Over the past five or six months, I’ve been slowly losing weight. I’ve done it mostly by substituting a few meals a week (usually three) with low-calorie nutritionally complete meal substitutes. I chose that option because the prescriptions I’m on make me too tired to even go for a walk, and strenuous exercise is forbidden completely at the moment. On the other hand, those same drugs mean I haven’t had any alcohol (and their empty calories) since May, and I also don’t drink much calorie-rich non-alcohol wine (mostly just when we have a family gathering).

After several months of those substitutions and deletions, I’ve lost around 5 kilograms (around 11 US pounds). While I still have a way to go to get to an ideal weight (or a more ideal one…), the last time I hit this same weight was nearly 14 years ago (and even that was about 8kg heavier than I eventually got to the following year).

There are three things about this. First, I’m very happy about it: I’ve long known—long before that doctor’s cheeky comment—that losing weight was critical to improving my health and maybe one day not needing so many prescriptions. Second, the doctor was pleased. Third, everyone who’s noticed (and thank you to them!) has assumed it’s because of my grief, not knowing I’ve been making a deliberate effort for months.

None of which should be taken to assume that I’m living like a monk or anything: I still have the things I like, and too much of them sometimes. When there have been rough patches for me, I’ve been known to engage in substance abuse: Chocolate. There are chemicals in chocolate that can help with depression, which is why we may crave it when we’re sad or depressed, and sometimes I may have had a bit more chocolate than I should have had. Oops.

What all this means is that we have to choose our own path, what works best for us. This is especially true for someone dealing with depression like profound grief. In particular, those of us going through that need to pay close attention to our health. However, others may not understand what we’re up to, and we may have to ignore that in order to do what’s right for us—because most of us know instinctively what we need, regardless of whether we act on it or not.

Speaking of health, one of the worst things that happened to me in the earliest weeks after Nigel died was that I just couldn’t sleep properly: It took me forever to fall asleep, no matter what I did, I woke frequently, and seldom got more than six hours of sleep. When I was lucky. In the past couple weeks or so, that improved noticeably, to the point where I now usually sleep through the night, and get a proper amount of sleep, too. I’m still tired—those prescriptions are still there—but no longer sleepy like I was before.

There’s one final bit of apparent good news, something I haven’t mentioned before because I thought it might be an illusion (delusion?). A few days ago I had the strong feeling that I’d turned a corner. Of course, the path I’m on has many corners, but this felt different, like I was beginning to move forward emotionally. It was the first time I’ve felt that way since this all began.

This is NOT to say that I won’t have bad patches again—of course I will. Nor does it mean I’m suddenly a happy fellow—I’m still in profound grief, and will be for a long time. But maybe good days can be quite good now, and the bad ones? Well, maybe they won’t be quite as bad.

Right now, this is the good side of the ride. I hope it continues, but I’ll still take things one day at a time.

This is an edited version of something I originally posted to my personal Facebook this evening.

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