Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The obstacle of nothingness

These days, there are many things I have no motivation to do or get done—or even started. Those things range from projects around the house, big and small, to reading, watching movies, and on through to things I used to enjoy. I exist in a state of—nothingness. That seems unlikely to change any time soon.

For the past several years, the prescriptions I’m on to control my heart rhythm have also kept my entire existence on a go-slow level of activity—a kind of low resting heart rate for my entire existence. That improved very slightly in 2018 when I went off beta blockers and on to other drugs, but for the past three years I’ve been chronically tired and endured ongoing brain fog—chiefly an inability to concentrate or focus, and a patchy memory.

The reality is, however, that I used to manage better on these prescriptions then than I do now, and, back then, switching to this drug cocktail helped improve things for me. At the end of 2018, I wrote a “year in health” post, and I used the number of blog posts I published per month that year as evidence to back that up. The same data for 2019 shows another problem is plaguing me:

► December (14)
► November (16)
► October (22)
► September (9)
► August (20)
► July (21)
► June (30)
► May (28)
► April (30)
► March (22)
► February (24)
► January (27)

I had a somewhat slow start to 2019, but a fairly steady rate—until September, when Nigel died and everything changed. I never got back to the levels of the early part of the year (except for October, which was the month I was sharing the most about my grief journey). 2020 reveals a similar situation:

► December (35)
► November (10)
► October (17)
► September (30)
► August (12)
► July (19)
► June (15)
► May (13)
► April (22)
► March (14)
► February (9)
► January (9)

The early part of that year I was busy with moving, settling in the new house, and also selling the old one—all within the first six months of Nigel’s death. Then came NZ’s Covid Lockdown in March (all my posts about that time—during and after—are labelled “Life Under Lockdown”). There were only two months in all of 2020 when I met or exceeded my old goal of an average of one post per day. This year so far has been every bit as bad.

So, what gives? If I was more “productive” in 2018 under these same prescriptions, then something else has changed, and not merely the fact that I’m three years older. The answer is obvious: Grief.

The cold, hard reality is that I don’t enjoy anything anymore. It’s a sort of nothingness in which I have only isolated moments of joy, happiness, passion, excitement—all those sorts of things. Those transient moments are nice when they happen, but they never last. That’s the real reason I don’t blog much or podcast at all: Put simply, I don’t feel like it.

This isn’t a situation that I can “fix”, except by giving myself time and space. It will take as long as it takes, and I have to let it run its course. At the end of it, I may again enjoy things I used to, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find other things to interest me, or maybe I won’t. I can’t know the answers now, and I actually don’t care: What will happen will happen.

However, that doesn’t mean that I exist in a complete state of nothingness: From time to time I get motivated to work on projects around the house, even old ones, and I’ve also had the odd burst of energy to empty boxes in the garage (one day recently I emptied six, which is a huge amount compared to the zero I do most days). At the moment I’m working on finishing my main living space (lounge, kitchen and dining, and with stacker doors leading to a cement patio outside). It was in a finished state before now, but I’m now putting it as I’ll have it longterm (more about that soon).

My next project is my office and bedroom because then the entire inside of the house will be finished, allowing me to focus only on the garage—if I want to. The important thing is that everything I see on a daily—or even hourly—basis will be orderly (and hopefully tidy most of the time…), and if I don’t feel up to working on the garage, I can ignore it. In some ways, the garage is the most challenging part of all of this because so much of the stuff in the garage was Nigel’s, from or related to his many projects.

Overall, I feel pretty much like I did when I was taking beta blockers. Just like I did back then, I often have to “ration” my energy, picking and choosing what activities I’ll do in a day. Some days are good and I’m energetic and productive, but on other days I barely get out of my chair. In my opinion, this is the cumulative effect of being on these drugs for so long, together with the weight of my grief journey.

What I’m hoping is that by working slowly and steadily on particular projects, I can finish them (and more quickly), and I further hope that doing so will allow me to once again do the many things I’ve had no motivation to do or get done—or even started. If I’m right, this nothingness will start to go away at some point. But I still think it seems unlikely to change any time soon. I wouldn’t mind being wrong abut that, though.


Roger Owen Green said...

I do understand it - I'm not doing all that much, but it seems like it overwhelms me. I can't control my email, even.
Went to the cardio guy today. Not much worse. Probable surgery in 2 years. Eh.

Arthur Schenck said...

I think the thing that gets me the most is impatience: I want to feel at least nearly as good as I used to. The waiting and delay is annoying.