Cultivating health during difficult times

June 2, 2015

If you don’t keep up with me on Twitter, you might’ve missed the news that my girlfriend Kristin recently moved out. No, it’s not like that; to move forward in her graduate program, a six-month internship is required, and it just so happened that hers is states away in New York. She left Thursday morning.

I also happened to wake up that morning with a sore throat that has been lingering ever since. It was a pitiful scene: emotional distress from Kris leaving combined with physical stress from whatever “illness” was plaguing me. Plus, physics lecture was that morning, and lab that afternoon. The whole day was off to a bad start. The whole “six months living alone” thing was off to a horrible start.

I’m writing about all this because I haven’t really figured out how to get back on track.

Normally, I’m a man of habit and routine, and when my habits and routines are displaced, things are quick to fall apart. Kris and I had been living together for quite a while, and I was happy with our life together. Now things have changed, and I don’t know what to do.

I’m introspective enough to realize all of this, but not yet capable of working around it. Inspiration came from an article by Mark Sisson entitled Cultivating Health During Crisis, which I had Pocket’d months ago and had never read until today. A few lines hit home enough to inspire me to write about my situation.

The first: “Crisis can suck us into a powerful undertow of fatigue and inertia.

Anyone who feels the way I feel will immediately recognize this statement. This inertia is hard to break free from once it grabs ahold. The past few days alone have been buffed by excessive intakes of morning caffeine and evening alcohol, each acting as exogenous motivators to wake up and wind down, since finding the endogenous, self-driven willpower to do such things proves too difficult. The gym went on hold, really due to this sickness; I attempted a visit yesterday, only to cut the workout in half and go home after a usually light weight proved too heavy, and my warmup took 30 minutes too long. Worst of all is the dietary change, which is most likely spurred (comically, perhaps) by now living without a girlfriend: fast food has worked its way back into my life, and the fridge is emptier than it has been in months.

I’ve been living like this, more or less, since that fateful Thursday morning. I’m not okay with it, but I have a way of convincing myself that I feel okay with it. Writing that, I realize that it all sounds like an acute bout of depression. There’s no shame in admitting that.

More proof: yesterday was my 23rd birthday. I made no big deal of it, in real life or online, though I was driven for one reason or another to publicly paint quite the depressing picture of my situation that night. Looking back, it was probably some form of cry for help. If I had posted the same thing to Facebook, where my meatspace friends reside, perhaps someone would’ve contacted me or asked to hang out. But I didn’t do that, because again, I suppose I wanted to feel crummy.

The article I linked to above discusses a variety of options for staying alive, healthy, and sane, and I am giving each a fair shot. But when we talk about this stuff, we can’t forget that inertia that makes it oh so difficult to make any progress in the right direction. Mark words it beautifully:

Upheaval of this magnitude has a way of knocking us out of our orbits. Emotionally disoriented and fatigued, we can feel out of sync, stuck in an oddly passive or at least awkward pattern. Life can feel like it’s happening around us. Even our routines can feel foreign as we navigate days with an unusual detachment.

Like most of the longer-form content I write, I will end with no real conclusion or solution. It’s not entirely a choice, after all; I just really don’t know what to do. Each day that goes by, I feel a bit better, both physically and emotionally, which is all the evidence I need to not worry too much about all of this. Kris and I both are aware that we’ll survive the long distance thing and probably come back better for it. Once this cold goes away, I’ll likely be encouraged to eat better, go grocery shopping once again, and get back into the gym.

It’s difficult, and anyone who’s been in this situation knows that. But it’s something that I have to overcome, and sooner rather than later. I think writing this and clicking publish is one of the first steps.