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Running, depression & energy 2011 April 24 18:15

Posted by diamond in : Health , 2 comments

To the surprise of everyone (well ok, me), i’ve actually kept up the c25k program i started back in march. It starts out with intervals of run 60s, walk 90s, and repeat for 20 mins. Week 5 is the real killer. Up till that point the longest you’ve ran is 5 mins. Week 5 day 1 involves 3 runs of 5 mins, day 2 kicks it up a big notch up to 2 runs of 8 mins, but day 3 is the one that terrified me. Run 20 minutes. I’ve never run that long in my life. And today i finished week 5. I may have lifted my arms and screamed “FUCK YES!” in the gym *kof*.

My theory about keeping the barrier to exercise to the absolute minimum appears to have paid off. I’ve had about 2.5 weeks of breaks from the training, 10 days because i’d hurt my back, and another week because i was away. Apart from that i’ve been running on schedule. My physio gave me some warmup exercises to do before, and some stretches to do after, which have prevented the back injury from becoming an issue. My routine is:

  1. warmup exercises for my back
  2. walk at 6kmph for 5 minutes as a general warmup
  3. run at 9.5kmph, walk at 5.5kmph, following the c25k intervals
  4. cooldown walk at 5kmph
  5. stretches for my hamstrings and back

Now onto more general health stuff that i’ve been meaning to write about for a long time.

I’ve been tired for the last 10 years. For a very long time i believed the issue was a problem with my bladder preventing me from sleeping properly, i saw urologists for 9 years and was even diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis in ireland. Eventually the specialists said that though my bladder was behaving abnormally, that there was nothing functionally wrong with it. I saw a sleep specialist last year, they did a sleep study where i was hooked up to about 18 different sensors. I slept really badly that night, felt utterly exhausted after it, and yet the actual results showed that my sleep was perfectly normal. My theory for the previous 9 years was therefore out the window. The only remaining explanation was the depression, which has always struck me as a very hand-wavy cop-out of a diagnosis. But after chewing it over for close to a year, i finally understand.

If you sit down and study hard for an exam, at the end of the day you’ll be exhausted even though you haven’t been doing any physical labour. A brain that’s trying to process lots of stuff sucks vast amounts of energy. And the cause of my depression is that my subconscious has spent the last decade trying to resolve an issue it can’t cope with, the conflict between my human nature and my religious beliefs (this is not something i’m going to go into here). This is why i’m so exhausted all the time, it’s going round and round in circles, from the moment i wake up till the moment i fall asleep. This is why my memory is so awful, this is why my concentration is so distracted, this is why i have trouble thinking clearly, because a large part of my brain is totally occupied with this huge issue and keeps disrupting normal operation. This is why when i wake up at around 06:00 i immediately get stressed and find it nearly impossible to fall back to sleep even though i’m not consciously thinking about anything stressful.

I never thought i’d actually get to a place where all of this made sense. I never thought it could actually be understood in any rational way. So despite the fact that it’s still a massive issue to tackle, it’s an incredible relief to finally have a handle on the situation.

Exercise 2011 March 7 17:11

Posted by diamond in : Health , 1 comment so far

Until a year ago, i was playing table tennis for about 40mins every day during the week. It finally got to the point though where i was just too tired after playing, i’d be unable to focus for the rest of the day. Some combination of depression, medication and sleep patterns were sapping all my energy. So i stopped playing. And i started taking the bus to work most days (instead of the 12min walk). These were efforts to try and conserve the minimal amount of energy i had. Of course, you can see where this is going.

Fast forward to late last year. Walking made me tired, climbing a few flights of stairs wiped me out. I was hurting my back myself frequently just with daily life. After some thought, i realised this really sucked. I have enough going on in my life to be exhausted by minor things, to always be worried about pulling unused muscles. I started going to see a physio for my back. The first 5-6 sessions were just electrotherapy, to get the muscles in my lower back to relax enough that we could start doing stretches/exercises.

I’ve been seeing the physio once a week for the last 3 months, and it’s definitely helping. I’m no longer afraid i’ll put my back out just tying my shoelaces. My back is still tired a lot, my core muscles still have a long way to go, but progress. She also said to walk more, as it helps relax things, so i do. I now walk to/from work, and to/from phsysio. This isn’t a lot of walking, but it actually helps. I take the stairs for the 5 flights up to my desk in work. At the beginning, i was feeling shaky afterwards. Now, it’s mostly fine.

Which brings to the latest and greatest. I’ve started the couch to 5k program. It’s designed to get couch-potatoes like me from zero to running 5k after 9 weeks. I tried it once before, but i pushed myself too hard, and never got past the first day. Glen’s comment on that attempt stuck with me though:

People always make this mistake at the start. It’s possibly not such a big deal when running on a treadmill but positively detrimental if running on the streets. The early part of the program is all about conditioning. Even if you know you can run faster, you shouldn’t. your muscles and tendons aren’t used to the strain/impact. You have to build up their strength as well as your cardiovascular stamina.

I always intended to start again, and with that piece of advice under my belt, i knew that i had to resist the temptation to bite off more than i could chew. So last monday, i went to the gym, and did the first day. I set my walking speed to 5.5kmph, and running to 9.5kmph (vastly slower than the 6.5/13 i tried the first time). And it was fine. I didn’t collapse like i feared. In a bold move, i then completed the first week, and as of today have started on the second week.

It’s going well. The pace seems fine so far, i know it’s going to get tougher later so i don’t want to be struggling at the moment. I’m actually enjoying it, looking forward to it. I’m able to do it in work during the day, and still have enough energy after to get work done, which has always been the roadblock. My weight is stable at around 82kg at the moment, i’m hoping that as i run more, it’ll start to bring that down.

I put off talking publicly about this for the first few days for fear that it would turn out like last time. On the flip side, i’m hoping that writing this will help encourage me to continue 🙂 Here’s to improving health.

Working 2011 January 18 13:18

Posted by diamond in : Health,Work , 3 comments

I wanted to write something longer, but i keep putting it off. So i’m gonna go with the short version and actually get it written 🙂

I’ve not been productive in work in a long long time. The last 9 months have been awful, and before that was still pretty bad. While Google have been exceptionally supportive and understanding, it’s still been a very large burden on me, weighing me down. I want to be productive, to contribute, to use my abilities. Not being able to do so was killing me.

But finally, last week, something happened. I got a new project (working on ganeti node groups), and for the first time in ages, things were looking up. Here’s the rundown on why:

  1. It’s a cool project, it’s something that i find interesting, so it’s easier to motivate myself to work on.
  2. There’s an established large local development team, so i’m not working on my own, not constantly running into team issues that have never been considered.
  3. It’s well-defined, so i’m not running into questions that i can’t find answers for.
  4. I’m working directly with other people i know well, so there’s support, and positive peer pressure.
  5. It’s a big chunk of work, not something i’ll be finished in 2 weeks and then be in limbo again.

In short, it’s perfect. I sat down with my team lead before the xmas break and talked to him about the sort of project i was looking for, and this is exactly it.

So there i was, bright-eyed and hopeful. But i was also worried. I have a history of getting excited about something new for a short period of time, and then losing interest. So i was worried that i’d lose momentum in a day or two. And while i’m still worried, i’m much less so. Why? Because i woke up yesterday morning, and i wanted to get up early so i could go to work and get stuck in. I had completely forgotten how that felt. This is hope, this is progress, this is the direction i want to be going in.

“Shall we?” “Let’s.” 2010 August 11 8:57

Posted by diamond in : Health,Random , 11 comments

On saturday 2010-07-31, at the security gate in zurich airport around 05:40, Noirin and i broke up. We were supposed to be boarding a flight to Sweden, to attend Herräng swing dance camp. Noirin went through, i went home.

This is an attempt to describe why, what happened, what went wrong, how could it go this badly. This is an attempt to understand. This is for the close friends and family members who had no idea (esp. for my brother, and younger sister). This is for me when i try to remember how things were.

Before we got married, many people told us that the first year is like an extended honeymoon period, everything is fantastic. That the second year is when reality would start to kick in. This was so far off truth as to seem like a sick joke in retrospect. The first year was Hard. The second year was Really Hard. The third year broke us. Nov 2010 will be the third anniversary of our wedding.

Two big things contributed to this, plus a multitude of smaller things. I’m going to try and outline the two major factors, as i currently see them.

Memory
I am a man who has made 1000 promises, remembered 5, kept 3. When i tell people i have a really really bad memory, they almost always say “Oh, me too!”. They ask for examples, i can rarely remember any, so they assume i’m exaggerating. They also tell me it can’t be as bad as i say if i’m able to hold down a job. Life, as usual, just isn’t that simple.

My memory is the single biggest factor in our relationship breakdown. Every day, i tell Noirin i’ll do X,Y,Z, i won’t do Q,R,S, my opinions on subjects L,M,O. And every day, i’ll have zero, zero idea that i’ve said i’d do things we talked about only yesterday; i’ll do things i promised i wouldn’t do; i’ll have a completely new opinion on various subjects, having no idea that i had a different opinion on the subject only a few hours ago. Sometimes i realise later that i’d changed my opinion. Most of the time, i don’t.

Every day i’ll watch Noirin look crestfallen time and time again as i’ve failed to live up to my word. And i’ll have no clue what i’ve done or not done. And after this happens for the hundredth time, she just can’t muster the energy to explain again. What’s the point? I haven’t remembered the last 100 times she told me how she feels about something. I’m hardly about to remember it this time.

We talk, she gives me information that changes my opinion on something. The next time we talk, i’ve reverted to my original opinion, oblivious to the reasons i changed my opinion previously, oblivious even to the fact that i did change my opinion. It’s not fair on her. Not even close.

From my side, i live in a relationship of arbitrary rules. It’s *incredibly* frustrating. But i can’t expect Noirin to endlessly explain herself. It’s not fair on me. Not even close.

Doctors haven’t been able to tell me why i have memory issues. I haven’t slept properly in somewhere between 7 and 9 years. But it’s not clear that that’s the issue. I’ve had blood tests, thyroid exams, MRI’s. Nothing. Maybe it’s all psychological. Even so, i’m not aware of it, i can’t just flick a switch.

I’ve tried lists, i’ve tried harder, i’ve tried leaving myself reminders. I forget to look at the lists. I forget what the reminders are about. I feel stressed all the time, from the moment i wake up, to the moment i fall asleep. Constantly stressing about all the stuff i’m forgetting. And it makes it worse. But how do you stop caring, when you see how much damage it’s doing to your relationship?

From the other side, how can you trust someone who is utterly unreliable? You can’t. You try again and again, giving them chance after chance. And they almost always let you down. How can you stay in a relationship where you cannot name a single area you can trust your partner in? Noirin ended up taking care of all the finances, all the health and other insurances (and my health insurance dealings are extensive). All of the planning. All of the responsibility.

How can i cope with work? I don’t know. The fact that it’s a structured environment means i can always read the docs, or ask someone, when i don’t remember something. But i don’t know.

I remember some stuff. It’s not amnesia. And this makes it harder. If someone never remembers anything, that’s tough, really tough to deal with. But at least it’s consistent. Someone who *mostly* doesn’t remember stuff, but does sometimes; that just comes across as not caring. Not giving a damn. It doesn’t matter how much they explain how they can’t help it. It doesn’t matter how much you tell yourself they don’t mean it. Eventually the evidence you see repeatedly is too much. Too hurtful.

Priorities
How do you define love? One of the definitions is putting the needs and wishes of your loved ones above your own needs and wishes. This led me to the following priority list:

  1. Noirin
  2. The relationship
  3. Myself

The logic for the ordering of 1. vs 2. is simple; if Noirin isn’t doing well, the relationship can’t be doing well. Unfortunately, i never applied the same logic to 2. vs 3. until it was too late. Far too late.

How does this screw things up? I censored my emotions and opinions for the sake of the relationship. A simple example. Noirin likes cooking. When she cooks, she usually wants my company, so i sit in the kitchen while she cooks. I find this really tedious, and hence frustrating. But i would squash those feelings, would not allow myself to feel them. I would sit there, because i thought it was the loving thing to do.

It turns out, if you censor your emotions for a long enough time, you stop having any. You forget how to feel. You’re numb inside. You rarely feel anything, and when you do, you feel guilty about it. But over time, your subconscious gets filled to overflowing with frustration and resentment. And this shows through the numbness, through everything you do to be nice.

Noirin loves me, i tell Noirin that i love her, but it’s a purely rational gesture, it’s never heartfelt, it can never have emotion behind it. I talk based on commitment, not connection. It comes across as cold. And the emotions i do feel are destructive, negative, so i stop talking about them. Noirin can sense them anyway, and it hurts her.

I’m depressed, have been for years. I never realised. I saw a psychiatrist here for 6 months because of how badly the relationship was going. He said “well you’re clearly not depressed”. We went together to another psych for one session. He said “well you’re clearly chronically depressed”. Colour me confused. But the next tuesday, i was in work when i realised two things:

  1. I’d spent most of monday and tuesday wanting to go home to bed, curl up into a little ball and cry.
  2. This was normal for me.

So yeah, the second psych was absolutely right. I see him regularly now. I’m on 3 different antidepressants. I’m on the road to recovery. I’ve realised that i’ve been censoring emotion, and that’s what’s making me so angry inside. But these things take time to fix. A long time. And time is not infinite. Living with a depressed person is incredibly draining. And eventually it got to be too much.

Where does that leave us?
How Noirin lasted so long, i’ll never understand. She’s amazing. Towards the end, we finally got to the point where we understood each other, what we were both going through. The breakup was gentle. Noirin couldn’t go on any longer, i couldn’t ask her to sacrifice herself any more for the sake of the relationship that was so destructive for both of us. Living on the edge for so long has torn us both up, and Noirin has had a rougher time than me (partially because i simply don’t remember so much). If she’s at breaking point, and she is a higher priority than the relationship, then it’s over. It’s as simple as that.

I waited till the following thursday before i told my parents. I was hoping against all probability that something might happen, something might change, that Noirin would change her mind. Then i realised that this wasn’t fair on Noirin. Putting all the responsibility on her, yet again.

On friday, i realised something more. I couldn’t go back either. If Noirin returned on sunday and told me she wanted to try one more time, i’d have to tell her no. I need time to figure out how to be myself again. I need time to work through this depression. And i can’t do it inside a relationship. The stresses of trying to live up to a role i just can’t cope with is a big part of the problem that’s brought me to this point.

We’re still friends, we still talk to each other. It’s as amicable as it can be under the circumstances. The title of this blog post is from a comedy sketch we saw on our last cruise. The comedian was painting the picture of middle-aged couples separating with utmost civility and mutual understanding. It amused us greatly at the time, i look back on it as bitter-sweet.

I hope that in the future, where we’re both doing much much better, it’s possible we might get back together. But i can’t live my life centered around that hope. I spent the last 6 months of this relationship hoping things would get better, and it’s killed me. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. In the meantime, we’re working on being friends. And if we get that figured out, maybe we can work on being more than friends. But that’s a long way down the road.

***Update***
Noirin has just posted her own take on the situation.

diamond & breadknives 2008 November 26 21:25

Posted by diamond in : Health , 2 comments

Today, i went down to the break room at 16:00 as usual, looking forward to a few games of pool, and a delicious combination of swiss bread, cheese, and meat of unspecified origin. Peter was the only other pool player available from our group, and we quickly got stuck into a discussion about how load-balancing works in linux.

So deeply was i engrossed in this conversation that, while cutting myself some bread, i failed to realise until Too Late that the knife was going to end up removing a significant portion of my left index finger’s exterior. The knife was efficiently sharp, so i didn’t notice until about 1cm of my skin was hanging off (shuddering as i type this. I hate that memory). The doctor has told me “in a year’s time, you won’t even see a scar”. I’m guessing that was meant to be reassuring. I’m not convinced it had its intended effect however.

Still, my finger now looks like it’s dressed up for a black-tie event, with a very tasteful bow keeping the outer layers of cladding in place. And boy was i glad to have noirin only one floor away when the incident happened, as her first-aid skills (and general Competence) were put to good effect.

It’s, of course, typical that i was getting back into guitar playing. Here’s hoping i don’t have to wait all of the 6-8 weeks of healing before i can go back to that.

Filled this under the things-i-wish-i-had-been-paying-more-attention-to-so-i-could-have-avoided category.