My lazy title sort of says it all without saying anything but gibberish.
I had a conversation with a friend of mine after yoga class. She had just started back to yoga after being away from it for about 10 months. She is one of my closest confidants locally.
She is trying to work through the challenge of constant fatigue.
Personally, I experience something a bit similar. About three or four years ago, I stopped drinking diet soda cold turkey. This was a major accomplishment as I had a bad soda habit, drinking upwards of 18 cans of soda per day for the better part of twenty years and multiple sodas per day in the years before that as well..
After I cleaned up and stopped drinking soda, I worked diligently to avoid caffeine substitutes. About 12 years ago, I had unsuccessfully kicked coke for green tea. That only lasted three months and I fell off the wagon as soon as I ended up in some place that didn’t carry sweetened tea, probably on a road trip or holiday or trip. After that I was right back to the hard stuff, diet coke and coke zero.
This may seem like the lesser of the possible addictions that exist in the world. I will add that I have overdosed on diet coke once in my life. Diabetes and heart disease are challenges that run through my gene pool, although I am healthy and have not been impacted by these personally. I knew it was a problem but couldn’t stop drinking them until I finally did.
The addiction left a hole in me that I wasn’t aware of at the time. In fact it took me about three years to notice the hole. I attributed my longing to the addiction. I dreamed about soda, rarely did a day go by when I didn’t think about it.
I needed a lot more sleep. During these same years, I got healthier. I improved my diet and I exercised even more than I had previously. I’ve always been a runner and when I was drinking diet soda on a tread mill, I usually had a diet coke with me. I would open a fresh can before bed and put it on the night stand, drinking some in the middle of the night when I woke up for a caffeine fix.
My diet coke addiction was ridiculous.
But addictions are addictions. I had quit smoking easily when I was about 19. I have no idea why quitting soda was so much more difficult.
Sure, I have some ideas, such as when I stopped smoking, I partly substituted that habit with soda and junk food.
I wasn’t able to successfully substitute something healthier for soda.
Now three or four years later, and a major life change that shifted me from being a happily married, 23 years, father of three to a single father of three, I have done a lot of work on myself. I’ve gotten in touch with a number of things about myself. I’ve been working to heal and repair some damage done by a relationship that was apparently not as happy as I thought it was.
Over the last couple of months as I’ve been working in some new balance, I’ve started to come to the conclusion that in the mornings I experience a type of low level depression. It drives me to want to sleep more
Drinking only water and one sweet tea a day these days, I get very little caffeine. About 4 months ago, I was picking up some supplements and noticed a bottle of ‘Stay Awake’ pills, caffeine pills. On a whim I bought them and then they sat in my medicine cabinet for the next 2 months. Then one morning I took one, and I had lots of pep.
I felt like this probably wasn’t healthy so I didn’t take another for several weeks, then I took another and felt good and got a bunch of stuff done one morning.
On a related note, I tend to be a night owl. My brain doesn’t really wake up until the sun goes down. That’s nice and all but my family and a big chunk of my business operates while the sun is up. I have to be awake at some points during the day.
For years I tried to work something of a late 1st/2nd shift type of thing with occasional projects lasting all night long. I enjoy and benefit from extended periods of focus. There are some things that are easier to do in a solid 10 – 12 hour period than to try and split it up into 4 hours here and 4 hours there and another four hours to finish. The setup and reset times usually drag these things out even more.
So I told myself that my after hours schedule was necessary and useful.
For the last week or so, I’ve found that I have been taking one of these caffeine pills every morning. The amount of caffeine is about 200mg which is about the same as is in a cup of coffee.
I detest the taste of coffee. Its not an option.
Since I am a whole lot more in touch with my emotions and mental state now, much more so than I ever have been, I’ve realized that this caffeine consumption is form of self medication.
I’m essentially treating a low level type of depression.
I don’t really need it for the entire day. One pill wears off about as fast as a cup of coffee does.
Mostly, I just need it to get over the hump of the morning. Once I have built up some momentum, I’m pretty good.
I exercise a great deal by my standards, running, walking, hiking, yoga, and soon will be mixing in distance swimming, paddleboarding and I might even break out the bike again. I dabble with some free weights and kettle bells, a jump rope and try to hit the pull up bar 4-6 times a week.
Looking back, I suspect all that soda consumption was a combination of self medication for low level depressions + sugar addiction + addiction to whatever the hell else is in soda and later diet soda.
I’m now getting some distilled, Walter White approved caffeine about every day. On days, when I can get enough sleep, I do not need it nor take it. Enough sleep would be defined as 8 hours or more of uninterrupted sleep.
I get that kind of sleep about 12 days a month. The other 18-19 days I’m getting 4-6 uninterrupted hours of sleep and on the days when I’m in the 4 hour range, I might also sneak a siesta in for another hour or two.
I mentioned some of this to my friend, who is a coffee drinker. Maybe she’ll consider the depression angle for herself. Maybe that is not her challenge.
As I write this, I’m pretty well exhausted. Its about 7:30 in the evening. I’ve been awake since 6 am after getting about five and a half hours sleep. It was not enough. I got up and ran up a local mountain called Crowders. For those of you that live where mountains aren’t mountains unless they are several thousand feet tall, Crowders is not that kind of mountain. Its more mountain in spirit than in form, although it is big for local proportions.
It was about a mile and a half total running up it and down it today. I was going up the steep part, which has stairs at the top. Then I hopped in the car and rushed off to yoga and practiced yoga for about 75 minutes.
Then cleaned up and got to work for the day.
I was going to take a nap after dinner tonight, before my youngest daughter became distraught about needing to go to a local park about a quarter mile away.
All her friends were going.
So I got up out of bed after having been on my back for 3 minutes, and walked to the park, did some pullups and dips and crunches and started writing this article.
Everyone has their life balance challenges. Everyone has their sleep challenges. This is nowhere near the most difficult situation I have balanced. I served in the Army and after getting out of the military I worked full time for the postal service while going to college more than full time (15-21 credit hours a semester with a 40 hour work week 80-100 hours during the holidays). That was tough.
I’ve worked for a tech startup as well and that too saw me working insane hours plus driving and commuting insane hours as well.
I’m not trying to compete with anyone, not even my past self.
I am hoping to learn and do better going forward.
I’d love to rework my schedule, but currently my schedule as a single father is simply not my own. I have to be flexible and adapt to my kids schedule plus my own. I’ve built in as much flexibility as I can so far. I make a lot of meals in advance, freeze them and cook them in an instantpot for example.
I’m maxed out at the moment.
I do not want to take caffeine pills for the long haul. Probably going to be a negative for some part of my system, and I do not need any negatives.
Yet, at the moment as I work to balance all of my other demands including fatigue and low level depression in the mornings and the need to be on at times, well I don’t have a better way yet.
Maybe you have had some similar experiences? Maybe you have learned some lessons from some of the mistakes I am making?
Love to hear or share in any of these. I do not know everything, not by a very long shot. I welcome any feedback or wisdom or opinions or wisdom that might be shared here.
I suspect there has to be some better ways. Or ‘better’ may be a flawed concept. I suspect there are some alternative ways that I could try, some things that I might add to the mix so that I’m not taking caffeine pills 5 days a week. Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with that and that too would be handy to know!!!
Whatever, thanks for sharing in this story and bearing witness to my tale. Time to go do some more pullups and eventually call it a night and get a full 7-8 hours of sleep if I’m really lucky.
I hope you can do the same if not more!