Insomnia in the Hospital (Come on Eileen)

(CC BY-SA 2.0) Faisal Akram https://www.flickr.com/people/72847119@N00

(CC BY-SA 2.0) Faisal Akram https://www.flickr.com/people/72847119@N00

When I was in the hospital a couple of years ago, I had a variety of symptoms from the medications we tried over the course of the week to find a new regimen. Some of the medications they gave me for my anxiety were straight up sedatives which had the wonderful side effect of keeping me up all night, because I napped during the day.

One night, I was playing cards with two girls. One of them had over 200 scars/scabs on her left forearm. She self-harmed on a regular basis. The other girl had fewer scars, but was also there for self-harm/depression. We were all sharing stories and they were talking about their favorite songs, while we played every card game any of us could think of.

Something one of them said sparked a guitar riff in my head. I couldn’t place it, and I couldn’t shake it. So I asked.

“What’s that song that goes ‘Come on…’ you know, with all the crazy instruments and stuff?”

The girls grinned in unison and belted out, “Come one Eileen, oh I swear what he means…” I grinned ruefully at my drug-induced lapse of memory, and was surprised when a lady came out of her room. Then it struck me. Her name was Eileen!

I bowled over laughing, trying to sound sincere when I apologized about a hundred times for waking her up. She took it in good spirits, but said she was tired. We let her go back to bed trying to muffle our laughs, while we got stern looks from the nurses. We apologized to them profusely for the noise.

For the rest of the night, every time someone won a hand they would hum a little “dah-dah-dah-dah” and we’d all smile at our new inside joke. Sometimes, getting the help you need sucks. Other times, it leaves you with fond memories of shared joy and a sense of community.

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We Are All Afraid of Something

 

Heights can be scary as shit.  Image: epSos.de

Heights can be scary as shit.
Image: epSos.de

Last night, Jenny and I went to see a musical. It was wonderful, dramatic, tear-inducing, and all-around fabulous. But I had a single, powerful, and vivid takeaway. When we were being seated, a wonderfully dressed lady came up the stairs to our row, and something was not-quite-normal. She said, “I can’t turn around,” and, “I can’t sit yet.” After watching for a moment, I realized she was struggling with a height-related phobia/anxiety.

Jenny and I sat patiently with the other audience members in our row until she started coming to her seat. She was shaky, afraid, and understandably embarrassed. Then she said something that broke my heart. “I’m so sorry. This is so stupid, I know.” I looked her straight in the face, and said, “It’s not stupid. We are all afraid of something.” She smiled a little, before passing, and a beautiful thing happened.

Jenny reached across me, and offered the lady a hand to hold. Her face was instantly more peaceful, and she took Jenny’s hand. She said, “It’s stupid, I’m sorry.” Jenny didn’t even blink. She looked the lady right in the face and said, “It’s not stupid.” I can only hope that it stuck. She happened to be in the seat next to Jenny, and she sat down, looking much relieved.

It struck me just then; this lady was not just relieved to be sitting. She had genuinely been comforted by Jenny’s gesture. Offering a hand, and reassuring her that this fear wasn’t stupid, were small things for Jenny to do, but they were the right thing to do, in that moment.

So, if you ever wonder, “How do I help someone who is afraid?”, remember: There’s not a single answer. The key is to be supportive, and to remind them that they are not alone, and that their feelings are valid. Be there for each other. Be there for yourself. You are not alone. You matter.

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ALL THE BABIES!!

Image: http://rainbows-of-skittles.deviantart.com/ Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Image: http://rainbows-of-skittles.deviantart.com/
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Three years ago, my sister had a little boy. He is beautiful and funny. I became an uncle that day. In the last two weeks, my sister and one of my brothers each had a little girl. Now I have two nieces and a nephew!

I’m finding myself sadder than ever that I don’t live nearer my family. Don’t get me wrong. I am home, and that’s all there is to it. I just wish I could poke cute little tummies and kiss little squishy people. I also wish that I could be there to help my siblings more. New babies are no joke!

Thankfully, our family is a big one, and the hearts of Sam and Gem are strong. Cheers to an ever growing family, and beautiful little people who have come into the world.

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University of Bristol Did It!

Last night, George sent me a link, and it made my day. It seems like somehow, the world is starting to grow up. It’s about damned time. Too many people today are forced to deal with “bathroom shame” for many reasons. Being Trans (-gendered -sexual) can cause a lot of confusion for a lot of people. Sometimes, you may feel prompted to ask an apparent male why they are using the ladies’ room, or why that cute girl is headed into the men’s. Just don’t do it.

Outside of that situation, the best thing you can do, if you are unsure of an individual’s gender role, is to ask them polite unbiased questions such as, “Which pronouns do you prefer?” This opens the dialogue which is difficult for both parties at times. Other than that, the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut.

Most definitely do NOT tell anyone that they are using the “wrong” restroom. If you know someone, and notice them entering the restroom they would normally not use, it’s entirely appropriate to point out the discrepancy. If you don’t know the other person, tread carefully and respectfully. Either way, it can be embarrassing for both parties, so just don’t do that to people you are not well acquainted with.

The University of Bristol LGBT Community found the best solution to most of the possible confusion:

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And Then There Were Two (Bristols, That Is)

Yesterday, my lovely Jenny was granted the name change order. We are now officially Mr. and Mrs. Bristol. We celebrated with the inevitable couple selfie, and for once, Jenny loved a photo of herself! (The world might end on that note, but so far the sky is still “up” and the ground is still “down”.) So yay! And huzzah! Also: Woo!

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

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Chin Up Until Sun Up (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

This time of year sucks for many of us. Cold, short, and dreary days mean that it’s hard to feel positive, or (sometimes) little more than apathetic. It’s depressing when the whole world seems to be hibernating, but they expect you to keep up your “chipper”. Not fair.

Each year, around this time, I start to withdraw. I want to sleep, eat, and surf the Internet. This year is especially hard, because I’m working 6+ days a week. Happily, Jenny and I have worked out some things to help me keep my head up. Here are some of the things we have found to work.

  • Wake up lighting. These lights increase in brightness over time, helping the body wake up naturally. This is great for me, because I tend to sleep until my body feels like it is “daytime”.
  • Music. Playing music on my iPod overnight helps me sleep deeper, allowing me to rest deeply. This is critical if I’m going to use lighting options, because I need to have had enough rest in order to wake up naturally.
  • Schedules and routine. Going to bed at the same time, and waking up at the same time allows our bodies to fall into a natural cycle. This one is hard for me, because my work hours vary so much.
  • Quiet/silent alarms. I love using my Fitbit alarm. No jarring sound, just a little vibration on my wrist. Jenny hates it for herself. I love it. The Fitbit also has a sleep tracker built into it, so this option allows you to identify if/when you are restless in the night.
  • Adequate lighting throughout the day, and into the evening. We string up Christmas lights around tall cabinets, and near the ceiling. These bulbs provide warm and bright light to the environment. We put them on a schedule, so we don’t have to remember to turn them on and off.
  • Sitting near the windows. Seriously, this helps. Sit next to a window, and the sun gets a little more action on your skin. This helps provide much-needed Vitamin D. It also warms your skin, improving bloodflow. It also stimulates your brain via your eyes, helping you to feel alert.
  • Supplements. I started to take Vitamin D (after consulting with my doctor), which helped my apathy. I also added Vitamin C, and a multi-vitamin.
  • Plants. I tend my bonsai, and grow moss and grass inside the house in the winter. The grass is for the cats, and the moss is for the bonsai. Monitoring the bonsai brings me joy, and tells my brain that not everything is dead in the winter. Bonus? The fresh oxygen in the house helps everyone breath better.

None of these are perfect. Each of them takes its own effort, but they all compliment each other, bringing positive feelings to my day. What makes you feel better in the winter? Feel free to comment here, or on Facebook!

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The Little Things (Taking Care of All of Yourself)

I have said a lot of things to my wife. Like, a LOT. I mostly don’t expect her to remember all of it, because there’s just too much. Of course, I am a typical man (in this case, at least), and I underestimated her abilities to lock in info. Yesterday, she brought to my attention that I once told her about the connection between my creative side and my grumpy side.

It basically works like so: I stop doing creative things for a while, and my mood suffers. I get grumpy and such, as a result of my brain’s boredom, I think. So when she pointed this out, I realized (in about 1/16th of a second) that I had been less myself. Between work and family time, I haven’t been giving myself enough Rory time. I haven’t been crafting, or even Minecrafting. I have been ignoring my need for creative stimulation, and I can do something about that!

Just today!

Just today! Photo: Rory Bristol

Tonight, while doing family time stuff (we watched Maleficent), I sorted my LEGO stuff, and organized my bricks. This was good for a variety of reasons. Doing something with my hands improves my engagement in an activity. It only takes a small portion of my creative mind, while the rest of my brain is engaged in the larger activity, such as watching the movie. When the movie is over, I looked into my LEGO bin, and realized that I had hit a little point of zen in there. It was all tidy and neat, and I knew where to go for my 2x3x1 bright blue bricks.

There are tons of other things I can do though. I can choose to ignore Facebook. I find it draining. I can tend to my bonsai, and other plants. I can create something ridiculous on Minecraft and not worry about anyone judging it, cause it’s just for me.

The trick is to make a point of fitting it in. There is always time. Often, our worry that we won’t have enough time is what makes us run out of time. The ongoing sporadic loss of moments drains our day, leaving nothing left other than un-met deadlines, and under-inspired days. Usually I do pretty well with this stuff, but I’ve recently taken to working six days a week, which makes it more difficult, but also more critical.

So tonight, I organized LEGO bricks. I might even play a little Minecraft tonight. Or maybe I’ll do LEGO Minecraft! And then go to sleep with my wife, like a good husband, who appreciates that his wife has the memory of an elephant.

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