Are you sleeping enough?

One of the services that I use to monitor the “world” of the internet is Stumble – I click on the Stumble icon in my browser, and it randomly jumps to a new website based on general categories I’ve indicated an interest in. I also periodically get a newsletter where they highlight some sites I might like based on reviews I have written on their previous recommendations.

One recent newsletter caught my attention with an article about SLEEP. Probably because the last couple of years I’ve had a real problem with getting enough. I am certain that I haven’t slept 7 consecutive hours in over 3 years, and there are whole months that go by (especially in spring) when migraines and arthritis pain tag-team to force 2 or 3 tries at sleeping to reach an accumulated total of 6-7 hours.

Anyway, this article was worth a careful reading to me, and I thought some of you might like it as well.

10 days grain-free . . .

I thought it was a good idea to turn off all the politics and just do an update on this grain-free experiment my wife and I are doing.  We’re now 10 days into eating NOTHING with any known grain in it.

You know what?  I’ve felt like this before.  Back in 1995, when I was a newly minted Minister in the Church of Scientology.  Completing the ordination was the final step on my being fully-trained for my post, and thus opened the door to my doing training/processing that wasn’t just about my job.  The first action I did?

The Purification Rundown.

I can’t say anything bad about the Purif (as it is usually called).  It was the first step in opening my eyes to the environmental hazards this “modern” world has forced us all to live in.  That, and I did get some awesome results.  That said, the last 2 days of the Purif were, for me, a total living nightmare.  The pain was worse than anything I’d ever experienced, with the exception of passing a kidney stone (I’ve done that 7x now).

This grain-free program is bringing that all back.  I got my very first migraine in the Purif (although I didn’t know to call it that at the time).  Now I’m getting what I’m calling micro-migraines.  The pain is the same as a migraine – usually in the same place.  However the headaches only last between half an hour and 90 minutes, and I can have 3-4 of them a day.  Every day.

There is another reason I deliberately tied this experience to my experience doing the Purif.  They are both processes aimed at better body health, and as such, you have to expect things to get worse before they get better.  Think of it this way – something made your body ill – to get better you have to chase that something out of your body.  While it is stirred up and running out, it is going to be affecting everything it passes through on it’s way to the door.  Sort of like chasing a wild bull through a china shop.

So, even though I feel lousy right now, I have enough awareness of what is going on to accept that this is what is SUPPOSED to happen, and I’m going to hold on and tough it out.  I’d think it should start getting easier in a few days, except that I have no honest idea just how bad the damage to my intestines was.  This might actually take a few months to get all the way through, for me – because I took NSAID pain killers like breath mints from 1980 to 1995.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time.  The way out is the way through.  Whatever turns it on, turns it off.

I think you get the idea.  Mostly I’m trying to remind myself.

Fine Tuning . . .

First off – let me state with no reservations that the paleo diet has helped me fantastically.  It managed to accomplish what no other diet I’ve tried over the last 20 years did – I lost weight and kept it off.

I recently had to go to a chiropractor, because I got a little too ambitious with a deceptively effective easy exercise – the Hindu Squat (to see an example of how to do one  ) and over the next day my lower back and hip muscles practically locked up. When I was at the chiropractor (who I’ve been seeing off-and-on since 2006) his jaw dropped and he congratulated me on how much different I looked.  He totally understood that the paleo diet has been helping, and he said my other exercises were putting the muscle in the right places.

So, I’m pretty much on track to taking back my life – with one exception.  The migraines and arthritis still get in the way of much that we’d call normal living.  However, my wife and I have already established that a healthy diet can do fantastic things for our bodies – she confronted and BEAT endometriosis using nutrition and chiropractic – so we decided to see if it would work for migraines and arthritis, too.

Turns out – going paleo for weight loss was a huge step in the right direction for that, as well.  My wife recently found Dr. Peter Osborne’s new book “No Grain, No Pain” (ISBN: 978-1-5011-2168-5 or ebook ISBN: 978-1-5011-2170-8) – and one of the big bombshells we got right away is that migraines AND arthritis can be caused by the EXACT same thing – a gut made unhealthy by the use of NSAID pain killers.  Which I used very heavily in the first 15 years after the surgery on my bone tumor – back when I didn’t know any better.

The good news is that the book also said that the unhealthy gut is reverseable, with the right diet controls.  First on the list was getting rid of all grains – which is a lot harder than it sounds.  Grains are EVERYWHERE these days – thickening agents in canned soups is just one example where you wouldn’t think to look. Another is instant coffee – all of them. If your meats are raised on grains, you’re still getting grain in your diet even if you try to avoid it.  HFCS is also a trigger – and has the additional warning that it is one of the vehicles by which you’re putting poisonous MERCURY into your system.

Oh, I got a bit off track.  Anyhow, the book has 3 sections – part one covers the science behind the program, part 2 tells you what you’ll be doing, and part 3 has a diet and menu plan to put you on the track to hopefully the best health you’ve ever had.  We aren’t quite at the level of starting the 15 day challenge yet, but we’re taking steps in that direction.  Finding a reliable source of grain-free meats is tough – at least around here.

Keeping it real . . .

I have a confession to make; I have a bad habit.  When I get a new idea, I get so enthusiastic about it that I tend to forget that it might not work out like I want.  For example, when I first started seriously thinking about the femur replacement, I was so thrilled about being able to do serious exercise again that I didn’t stop to realize all the other things going on that won’t be fixed by that surgery.  So, to put my feet back on the ground, I thought I should make a list:

arthritis and bursitis in shoulder

bratwurst sized hernia along the center of my abs

migraine headaches

bad teeth (seriously, I should just get them all pulled and get full top/bottom dentures)

This does not mean that I shouldn’t get the femur replaced – in fact, I am still trying to move forward with the VA about it.  At this point, though, I don’t even know for sure the VA will agree that I should get it, so optimism is premature.  I just want to be realistic about how much my life will change once it’s done.  Yes, I will be able to do more weight lifting and eventually work back into distance running, but I’ll still be curled up in a dark room 1/3rd of each month on average, and I won’t be exercising my abs at all (except indirectly).

Painful Intuition

I’m still dealing with a migraine, but this needs to be shared.

I have believed for several years now that intuition, for lack of a better term, is a skill that can be developed.  Oh, and I’ve been actively trying to develop mine, by looking for those times when my “gut feeling” told me one thing was right, and then seeing how things turned out.  Over time, I’ve been learning to trust my instinct, even when the facts of a situation appear to go against it.  That isn’t easy for someone who once (and to some degree still does) venerated SPOCK from Star Trek.

However, the problem with intuition is that when you get one of those feelings, it is tough to explain the idea to someone else, as my little narrative is about to demonstrate.

Re-wind to about 0300 hrs Sunday morning.  I was sitting there playing a video game when I felt a migraine kick in.  It was a real hum dinger, too.  When my wife got up, I had all the lights off except for a table lamp 15 feet away from me, and the TV volume was turned down so low you couldn’t hear the sound at all if you were 10 feet from the TV.  Even with all of that, I was wearing sunglasses.  I’d taken Imitrex AND Excedrin, and still couldn’t relax.  It was THAT bad.  I normally would go to bed at around 0700, but I was up until 1330.

I mostly tossed and turned, not getting any real rest, until my bladder needed relief at almost 2100.  When I got up, one of the first things I noticed was that odd “gut feeling” that something was off.  I couldn’t tell you what it was, but something was wrong.  By the time I got to the living room, I noticed that my wife was about a half-hour into the most recent BATMAN movie (with Christian Bale as BATMAN).  If she’d stayed up to watch the whole thing, it would have been almost 2300 when she went to sleep.  I did a bad job of pointing that out to her, and we had a small spat and then ironed it out.  She went to bed, and I sat there wondering how I could have expressed my concern better.  On went the sunglasses, and I did a bit more gaming.

Then, at about 2345 I noticed what the problem was that had plagued me hours earlier when I got up.

My wife’s bedside alarm clock went off at 0600 Monday morning, and when she sat up I handed her a single AA battery.  She put her glasses on, looked it over, and asked why she needed that.  I whispered that she needed to follow me.

In the living room, her chair sits closest to the wall clock AND the TV.  Due to it’s orientation, her natural habit is to look up at the clock whenever she wants to know the time, even when she’s currently using her laptop.  At 0600 Monday morning, that wall clock still said it was 2048 of the night before, and the second hand was still struggling mightily to complete it’s climb to 2049.  Suddenly she was very glad I’d made an issue of her getting to bed the night before, even if we both still acknowledged that I had done a poor job of it.

After a quick action of replacing the battery, the clock resumed working perfectly.

An apology . . .

I feel a need to apologize for not writing something yesterday, and not having anything good to write today.  I haven’t had more than 3 hours of good sleep at a time in nearly a week.  The vacancy yesterday was due to running out of pre-written blogs.  Unless I get very inspired by something, I might not write again before Monday – the next day when we have good weather scheduled (at this point – we’ll see how that plays out).

Another open letter…

I know, I seem to write a lot of “open letters” – but mostly I write them as open letters because I have very low expectations that anyone with any authority in such matters would actually care about what I have to say.  Even so, I still need to try to express it – “get it out of my system” so to speak.

This one is to the judges who decide eligibility for US Social Security Disability programs.


Dear Judge,

We’ve talked once, and you’ve been in contact with my lawyer several times, about my pending claim for disability.  The fact that I have a permanent military-service-related disability is well documented and not in dispute.  You do seem to have some issues over what some call my acting “against medical advice” – so I thought some explanation would be called for.

I first had trouble with the leg that is home to my disability one week before I turned 18 years old.  It took the US Army 3 weeks to find the problem, do the biopsy, and give me a diagnosis (bone tumor) and treatment program.  I was in severe pain the entire 3 weeks, and could not walk at all due to not being able to put weight on that leg.  After the biopsy, I was informed that I was permanently disabled.  It took 6 months for me to be willing to believe that – 6 months during which I returned to the hospital over a dozen times for stress fractures around the biopsy site.

Becoming convinced that I actually did have a disability, I then began to follow “medical advice” – to the letter.  I never exceeded the limits the doctors imposed on me, took the pills they gave me for pain, did the physical therapy they assigned me, and 6 months later had recovered enough mobility to walk unassisted for short distances.  The US Army surgeons who worked with me said I would NEVER be able to exceed walking one mile per day – total.  That includes the trip to the shower, trips to the bathroom and coffee pot, going out with my wife – everything.  Not more than a mile.  That was the high end estimate back when I was still young and mostly fit at 155 pounds.

I’m now over 50 years old, and my most recent trip to the bathroom scale put me at 224 pounds.  I have trouble walking around the block.  Still, that isn’t really what this letter is about.  I had my first migraine headache about 20 years after that biopsy.  I had been taking prescription strength pain killers for the pain in my leg for 20 years.  During that entire time, nobody ever once told me that migraine headaches are a known side-effect of long term use of pain killers.  Even after I was diagnosed with migraine headaches by the St. Louis VA hospital, nobody shared that piece of information.  Not once was I told that I was buying 20 years of nearly-normal functionality by sacrificing the rest of my life. I had to find a copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference and learn it on my own.  But, if you look in the fine-print information on every drug I was given for that pain over the previous 20 years, it is there to be found.  Tylenol, 800 mg. Motrin, Tylenol 3 with Codine – and several others that are now over-the-counter – they all state in the fine print that the migraine headache side-effect is a known possibility.

Yet you think I should continue to trust the very same types of people who were never once honest with me about the possible harm their treatment protocols were doing.  Even worse, the ones I work with now won’t discuss the implications of the drugs they want me to take for the migraines, either.  If I were to blindly follow their recommendations, how much worse can I expect to be when I turn 60? Or, fate willing, 70?  Are you honestly suggesting that I throw intelligent caution to the wind and cooperate with their prescriptions that might lead to my early death?

About migraines . . .

There is no doubt about it . . . after 15 years of dealing with migraine headaches, I can assure you that the #1 worst thing about getting them is the pain.  It always feels as if half your forehead is exploding.  Sometimes that comes with extreme audio sensitivity.  I once had a migraine while someone was mowing their yard – 2 blocks away – and the sound of the mower made the pain worse.  Sometimes the migraine causes visual distortions instead – which can range from a slight “halo” effect to everything you see all the way to total blindness.  I’ve experienced both extremes.

But, have you ever considered what the #2 worst thing about getting a migraine headache might be?  It might surprise you, but not if you know that a migraine can last from 3-4 DAYS.  It’s sleep deprivation.  When you get a migraine, you can’t sleep properly, so you drift off whenever you can, and the pain wakes you back up as soon as it can.  It puts you into a yo-yo cycle that just leaves you feeling drained.  You don’t get the quality sleep that you need, so even the sleep you get doesn’t help.

Oh, and the #3 thing about getting a migraine?  Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it is that I haven’t yet found a medication I can take for them that will actually control/prevent the migraine without causing worse problems.  The last med my doctor tried me on actually triggered a migraine.  The first 2-3 that the doctor wanted to try all were known to cause hallucinations, so I never attempted to take them.

I’d love to try one of those TENS units that is specially designed for migraine treatment, but at a cost of $400 that has to come out of our pocket . . . . .