Can I regain an edge in any area?
June 6, 2017 2:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm 55 and getting old all over. Where should I start if I want to fight some of this?

Problems: some debt and no savings yet; a time consuming, embarrassing (to me) skin issue where I must avoid humidity and steam (nothing to do with age, actually, but this has been chronic and is unlikely to improve very much); gut issues (actually mysteriously improving); low blood sugar type symptoms (which have also improved from frequently terrible to just occasionally difficult); cramping and worsening feet that need "fat" shoes; depression including delayed sleep phase syndrome; anxiety; chronic muscle and knee stiffness; balance and muscles weak, fingers a little fumbly (doctors say I have no problem); night vision worsening; highway driving anxiety; no interest in (and fear of) sex and men; and I could really use a facelift I can't afford, Botox and lose 20 pounds. Could someone help me prioritize these issues?

Or tell me to stop thinking of myself but mainly of others and it will all work out? I have a part time afternoon secretary job that pays well (for what it is) and I enjoy driving for food delivery services (I am extra vigilant in the dark and never speed). Walking on hills on sunny days is my main exercise. I do occasionally manage to Argentine tango.

What I want is fewer limits in my life. If only I could stand for hours without foot pain; go out in the rain without my skin driving me nuts; drive on highways, at least in the daytime; have the energy to have friends or to start a new career perhaps; have the kind of drive that I had when my cat was lost and I dropped everything until I found her. Maybe it's just one day at a time? Should I start with something? Possible options: electroshock for depression (pills don't cut it), massage (expensive); hypnosis for anxiety (I have the tapes, can start them again). I do a little stretching and irregular mild weightlifting. I know someone will suggest better sleep and eating habits, which is something I guess we all continually work on. I have an air conditioner and dehumidifier for my skin. I will shop for better shoes. I know that no one really has the answers but I'm mainly looking for some ideas on what might be a good idea to start out with, and what to pay the most attention to.
posted by serena15221 to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I do a little stretching and irregular mild weightlifting.

Do it more and do it regularly. Never stop.

posted by jgirl at 2:50 PM on June 6, 2017 [15 favorites]

Also, I sympathize! I am 59, unhealthy, no job, and almost no savings/retirement left.
posted by jgirl at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2017

Coming from someone who hates exercise: exercise more. It's not the universal panacea some would have you believe, but, damn, it helps in lots of ways. Including with anxiety and depression.
posted by praemunire at 2:56 PM on June 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

5-7 minutes of sun will give you a big vitamin D boost. That's a good jump start.
posted by amtho at 3:03 PM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The saying goes: How does a mouse eat an elephant? A bite at a time. You're a mouse looking to eat an elephant; think of taking one bite, then another, then another... It's really easy to get overwhelmed and give up if you think you have to solve all your problems at once.

Two things that might help you get the energy to take more bites are: exercise and therapy. You don't need a gym membership to take a walk every day, if your neighborhood is safe and walkable. Bonus: you get to know your neighborhood and say hi to your neighbors. Yoga is also a really good exercise, and it's good for the mood and sleep, too. Your local YMCA or Parks and Recreation department are places to look for low-cost yoga classes.

Therapy: many colleges have sliding-scale therapy available through their master's programs, with students who are looking to complete their supervised hours. IME the therapy offered is usually of excellent quality. MoodGym is an online, do-it-yourself cognitive behavioral therapy program - no substitute for a human therapist, but a stopgap until you can find one and something that can be really helpful alongside in-person therapy.

There are also apps you can get if you have a smartphone, like Habitica (for habits), Sworkit (exercise), MoodKit (therapy), Pomodoro, etc.

Good luck! It's never too late for self-improvement and leading a happier life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:07 PM on June 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

Commit to exercise. It's a pretty simple thing to do. The weightlifting is going to be very very helpful and also gives you the ability to set goals to chase. When I got started I was like, I want to bench press two bags of cat litter (LOL) or 80lbs. It was a joke, but it was also, god, cat litter is heavy. It's a practical goal.

You can do it. If we could know where you are, MeFites could possibly recommend local resources in the way of friendly gyms or places to go to be outside and also get a little bit of movement. But seriously. It's never too late to pick up the heavy thing. Excuse the link to People, but this lady got started at 56. Not saying this is where you need to go, but you can do the thing. I promise.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:37 PM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to exercise regularly. You don't have to train for a marathon, but whatever you can do for yourself that works for you, will go a long way toward combating aging and depression too.

Also, about depression, you mentioned ECT. I personally wouldn't recommend that unless you have tried every other depression treatment beforehand. The reason is that memory loss can be a real "side-effect" of the treatment and there are other treatments that may work as effectively without going down that road. TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) is similar to ECT without as many of the side effects. I have severe depression and went through TMS, so I know about what it's like. My doctor recently put me on thyroid medication and in combination with a low dose of an antidepressant, I am feeling much better.

Re: men and socializing, I lost my partner of 20 years to cancer almost 3 years ago. I'm sure I'm still grieving. But, it seems like this time of my life that men aren't as appealing as they used to be. It sort of sounds like that's what I heard you say too, no? Don't really know if it's a life change thing or what. I have to force myself to get out and go hang out with people, because it's so easy to just chill at home with my dog and my bird after work. :P But yeah.

One thing I'm really trying to concentrate on right now is my diet. Getting rid of the sugar. And eating a lot of protein. Drinking a lot of water, which is easy for me because I live in the desert.

You know, I don't know anyone who is having fun with the physical changes in getting older. But like Rosie said upthread, we do this a little bit (or bite) at a time. I wish you the best. Memail me if you'd like. I'd be happy to offer some support. :)
posted by strelitzia at 4:08 PM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

To me, it sounds you are bored. (I'm 70, and believe me, at my age everyone has physical problems.) You need to find an interest, preferably one with a social component. I reawakened a musical activity, but it could be a book club, or a game, or getting together with others to knit, or cook, or discuss books.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:12 PM on June 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

Could you use a change of scenery maybe? Move to a less humid, less expensive place (the southwest, maybe? )

My aunt, 72, has chronic pain and she tells me that the only way she can get through her day is because she walks regularly. It helps that she has both a walking partner and also a dog who wants to walk, plus neighbors that she ropes into at least part of her walk (she lives in a senior complex). So, nthing regular exercise.
posted by vignettist at 4:31 PM on June 6, 2017

Firstly, I'm sorry you're feeling stuck like this! I think what you've gotta find are a couple of your own keystone habits.

Here's been my experience: I've got oooodles of anxiety, depression, have struggled with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, self harm and more! For years, I'd be like, okaaaay, I'll do cardio faithfully, eat better, do CBT, blah blah blah but it all felt like such a struggle, with not a ton of mental payoff.

But it wasn't that I needed to work harder on feeling better, it was that I needed to work smarter. Each time you can find something that really feels like a big bang-for-your-buck habit, that can create a cascade of positive mental repercussions. And every habit or technique you try that doesn't give you much pleasure, or mental space, or happiness, chuck it! Maybe you can try it later when you feel better from something else, but right now it's not worth your time.

For me, my keystone habits are (in order of effectiveness): finding (the right) anti-anxiety medication, (the right) therapist, weight lifting (not just cardio), 20 minutes of gentle stretching (with a foam roller, love of my life) before bed while listening to my favorite podcasts, and taking a daily bath with epsom salts.

Weight lifting has been the most surprising – I lift weights and I feel strong like I can kick someone's ass! Baths are the other surprising one. I'm 35 and have barely taken baths as an adult and they shut my brain off like almost nothing else.

Fuck that facelift you think you need, save that money for your retirement or a vacation or something! Fuck Botox, and losing 20 pounds. Gain 20 pounds of muscle! Get strong, get selfish! Instead of thinking of the slog of things you gotta do, think of what you wanna do.

Try things you think you might not want to do or like - you might surprise yourself - masturbate, eat new and different vegetables, go to a meetup. And if you don't want to try a bunch of things for a while, just find one small small small thing to try and do that. It can be just like buying a pomegranate at the grocery store or going to a park to watch the sunset.

You Argentine tango ??? I dunno, that sounds pretty badass to me. Focus on finding those 3 or 4 things that make you feel strong, valued, loved by yourself, and badass and let everything else go fuck itself.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2017 [26 favorites]

Gut issues can cause and be caused by so many different intertwined things. So I would start there.

Since you say it is mysteriously improving maybe you can sit down and really analyze your habits and choices and rhythms and identify some patterns. This data and introspection is going to reveal other paths you can take for other problems you're wanting to find solutions for. Like for example, if your gut issues are getting better because you're sleeping differently you can encourage yourself to continue in that rhythm which can provide valuable structure and build your ability to be sociable in a way that you have control over. Or if your digestion is affected by anxiety you can follow that up with treatment for your anxiety and get immediate feedback from your gut on how you're doing. Or if it's from a diet change you can use that to feel good about your eating habits and keep it up (screw losing 20 pounds, fuck that noise). Or if it's a medical problem that is finally healing, you can bring that knowledge to your doctor and help adjust your treatment for other things. A whole mind and body approach is what you want, and your gut is kind of the central touch point for all of that.

Please toss away thoughts of facelifts and Botox. That's all shit evil people and the patriarchy have spent decades manipulating you into feeling bad about. Aim for comfort, energy, and joy.
posted by Mizu at 5:29 PM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would suggest dating much, much older men. Sex won't likely be frequent and there may be some financial security if you fall in love and/or get married. I'm not joking about this, it's not uncommon and lots of younger ladies like you have happy relationships with older men. There are so many, so don't feel like you have to settle. Be discriminating and keep looking until you find one. In the meantime you can continue to work on some of the other items like suggested above.
posted by waving at 5:43 PM on June 6, 2017

I have no advice but second the regularity of exercise. Also I want you to know that you're my hero for doing delivery driving with driving anxiety. (mine is mostly highway, but a sufficiently high speed/volume expressway also counts for me.)

My admire from afar hero, not one I will attempt to emulate at this point in my life.
posted by pearshaped at 5:58 PM on June 6, 2017

You're only 55, regular exercise (like 30-40 minutes of weightlifting 3x a week, or a couch to 5k program) made me feel 20 years younger after six months.
posted by zippy at 7:24 PM on June 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Have you ever tried or been drawn to any kind of spiritual practice? There are groups, there are DVDs and CDs, there are books. I have a physical syndrome with some of the things you are experiencing. Exercise, exercise, exercise -- you will still continue to get older and frailer. But it is possible to become a richer person. Calmer, wiser, happier (sometimes; it's hard as you age). If I were you, I would start with the food delivery service. It satisfies you. What part especially? The driving WILL get more difficult as you age. But there are so many ways you could branch off from what you're doing.

MeMail if you'd like to talk about specific suggestions. Reaching out to other people is part of the growing wiser.

Good luck!
posted by kestralwing at 7:42 PM on June 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My instant fix is definitely at the med spa.

When I want injections (I get fillers etc on occasion), I usually use Groupon for a better rate. Do your research though, make sure the place has good reviews.

Personally, I find it does a lot for my mental state with very little effort on my part. I really enjoy looking in the mirror when I'm freshly injected, and it lasts several months. For a few hundred dollars and an hour of my time, I personally feel it's worthwhile (However, I find it fun, rather than a source of stress or obligation. To me it's along the same lines as getting dressed up or going for a makeover).

Being in your 50s means it would be fairly costly for you to eliminate all your character lines, but you probably wouldn't want to; it might look a bit odd.

Many people find just a gentle softening, or focusing only on one thing, is adequate for their goals, and it's okay to tell your nurse that you don't want to be "frozen" and lose your movement, nor eliminate your lines altogether. I think it's better to start small and get more later if you want it, or let it wear off if it isn't your thing. I'm getting my 11s done next, as I notice that using my fingers to push away the growly scowly face helps the growly scowly mood too.

Consultations are usually free (call to be sure!) and can give you a good idea of your options and what they think might work for you, which isn't always what you'd expect.

IF you're prepared for them to hard sell Doing It Now, and able to walk away without making a commitment until you're ready, getting a consult couldn't hurt if it's something you're interested in trying. Then you can decide if you think it's worth the money.

Regarding driving anxiety, this is something I suffer from as well. Phobias are super duper treatable, exposure therapy is very effective! I googled some driving phobia resources and made my own exposure therapy workbook for zero dollars, which I presently use in conjunction with the emotional regulation techniques I am learning from my therapist.
posted by windykites at 8:16 PM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

What I want is fewer limits in my life.

A few of the things you've talked about are not really going to stop being limits, unless you find ways to adapt to them. Even then, you won't have the unselfconscious freedom you used to have (in those areas). But the world doesn't have to keep getting smaller. You can tackle the small problems step by step, to make it as big and navigable as you can.

First you have to accept the limiting things. It might involve anger and/or grief first. Fine to feel them; try not to get stuck. (This Louis CK bit helped me sort of get it, laugh at it, and feel less alone, I hope it does the same for you. [I've watched it more than once.])

Standing for hours with no pain might be unrealistic. (It's unrealistic for me, can't do without orthotics/appropriate footwear, and there's no hope for "hours". I have to anticipate obstacles and probable pain - based on trial and error - and try to plan around them). Loss of night vision may demand new eyecare, or activity workarounds.

Some things will need ongoing maintenance. Like resistance exercise, 2nd that. (Easiest to be consistent if you do something every day. Seems like yoga might be worth a try for you, because it helps with coordination as well. The tango is great.)

Prioritizing: There's lots to attend to, but in the very immediate term, I think you should begin with these, because you can at least start on your own, even if they're not perfectly solved:

1) Shoes (it's hard to stay positive, active, and engaged if you're at home all the time and can't go anywhere. You said you'd get them, I think this should be first)

2) Exercise (will help with sleep, may help a bit with depression, maybe anxiety)

3) Sleep (will help with energy, clarity of thought for next steps, mood, energy. At least, I can't tell you how massive a difference a good night's sleep is for me, in all those areas. If it takes a sleeping pill or other OTC aid, so be it.)

Next, I think, yes, look into treatment appropriate for the depression. May be a long-haul project.

Try to reconnect with old friends, the comfort of familiar faces/voices is so helpful, if it's possible.

Do the botox, why not, it'll give you a boost. Vitamin D seems worthwhile if your doc thinks it's low (which it is for lots of people).
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:28 PM on June 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

ONE thing. Pick ONE thing. Tackle that first. Don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once.

If you pick DEBT + NO SAVINGS first - break that problem down further. Until you clear your debt your savings will be null and void. So your first problem is to clear your debt. If you are in the UK go to and do the exercises there.

If you choose the SKIN ISSUE first - do you have a diagnosis? Are you aware of how to treat this? I don’t have any answers for you there… there are very few dermatologists in the UK (if you’re here) so I won’t suggest that either. If you know how to handle this issue and it’s really a matter of doing the necessary things… well you know what to do.

If you choose the GUT ISSUES first try keeping a food diary to see why they’re improving. You might learn something. I’d see a doctor though.

If you choose the BLOOD SUGAR issues first, see above re: GUT ISSUES.

If you choose the CRAMPING FEET which need “fat” shoes - what do you mean by “worsening”? Are they getting more swollen, or something? Try raising your feet above your head for 20 mins. per day if that’s the case. IANAD but cramping can be caused by dehydration and lack of potassium, so more water and a banana may help with that. Again, though, IANAD. But water, bananas and raising feet are all worth a try, right?

If you choose DEPRESSION + DELAYED SLEEP PHASE - doctor…

If you choose ANXIETY - doctor…


If you choose BALANCE - doctor…

If you choose MUSCLES WEAK - regular exercise, at least 30 mins. 6 days a week.

If you choose FUMBLY FINGERS (subclinical) - IDK, Google exercises to improve finger coordination?

If you choose WORSENING NIGHT VISION - optician?

If you choose HIGHWAY DRIVING ANXIETY you are not in the UK so won’t help you with UK-specific money problems but the exercises and guiding principles will help so I still think you should go there. As for the driving itself - look up a driving school that sells refresher courses to help with this issue?

If you choose NO INTEREST IN (AND FEAR OF) SEX AND MEN - ummm, overthrow the patriarchy? Maybe you should just backburner this issue for a while.

If you choose FACELIFT please don’t have a facelift. It will only make you look weird. Here is what you should do: provided the ingredients do not exacerbate your skin condition, try applying Ocean Potion facial sunscreen every day. See dermatologist for advice. Also, for topical retinoids. And I find that Carole Maggio’s facial exercises do noticeably lift facial muscles that are starting to droop (I started doing them to increase control over my facial muscles on stage but darned if they don’t do what they say they’ll do).

If you choose BOTOX you have to go to the dermatologist for that anyway, right? But you don’t have money to waste on Botox right now. Instead, just stop doing that thing where you raise your eyebrows right up into your hairline. I used to see that on TV all the time and it always gave me a headache. Now everyone has had Botox and I don’t have to see them do that any more. tl;dr Botox is a problem for another day.

If you choose LOSE 20 POUNDS: go to Amazon and get the Kindle book “Empowered by Lifting” (the title may have changed) by Chris Ellerby-Hemmings, also look for the website “Empowered by Eating”.

If you choose STOP THINKING OF SELF BUT MAINLY OF OTHERS try donating 10% of your income to charity. However I hesitate to suggest this to someone who is in debt. I suggest you tackle the debt first, with the goal of beginning to donate the moment you clear the debt.
Until then, go to Amnesty International’s website for your country and set yourself the goal of taking two campaign actions per day.
Also, don’t bother thinking of others. Others don’t benefit from your thinking about them. They benefit from your doing stuff that actually helps them. So less thinking, just do.

You enjoy driving for your delivery job? How wonderful. You should continue to drive, then. And you sound like an excellent driver! Every day, make a note in a diary about something nice that happened or that you observed while you were out driving, or doing anything really.

Walking on hills on sunny days: very nice but not enough for main exercise. I personally do 20min. HIIT followed by 10 min. dance drills each day. I don’t know if HIIT will exacerbate your knee or foot symptoms though so consult your doctor. But, 30 min of vigorous exercise daily is more the thing to aim for. But, keep walking.

Occasionally manage to Argentine tango: do this regularly, not occasionally. Schedule it in.

Stand for hours without foot pain: sounds like you need a foot doctor.

Go out in rain without skin reaction: dermatologist

Drive on highways in daytime: see above re: driving school

Find energy to have friends: see above re: exercise and Argentine tango. Also, find a church and go to church.

Find energy to start new career: what new career? Define new career.

Find drive to push projects to completion: again, pick one project, don’t try to eat whole elephant at once.

Take things one day at a time? IDK, I don’t have those answers

Electroshock for depression? Don’t ask me, I don’t have those answers.

Massage? You can’t afford it right now.

Hypnosis for anxiety? I don’t have those answers.

A little stretching and irregular mild weightlifting? See above re: exercise.

Better sleep and eating habits? keep working on those I guess

Air conditioner and dehumidifier for skin? I guess that’s OK then?

You will shop for better shoes? Why aren’t you out shoe shopping now? Go get them.
posted by tel3path at 4:30 AM on June 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lots of good advice in this thread, especially regular exercise. But I think a lot of your issues would be helped by a better, healthier diet. Not necessarily for losing weight, although that could be a side benefit, but eating unprocessed foods can improve skin, gut, energy, and more. And think of it as taking control, not limiting. Also, I highly recommend the book Younger Next Year for Woman, which focuses on the small gradual steps you can take to slow and reverse the many effects of aging, with detailed stories of other people, along with specific research and advice that I found helpful. Good luck, keep moving forward!
posted by j810c at 7:23 AM on June 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like you are bored. You've been doing all this stuff and yeah, you are kind of in a plateau, it's not particularly working and not particularly interesting and not something you look forward to doing...

So... I would suggest looking for some kind of new activity that provides you with exercise that trains you in stamina, balance and flexibility and is fun.

To train for stamina you need repeated bursts of exercise or sustained exercise that increase your heart rate. (Bursts of exercise are actually more natural if you observe animals and humans when they are not being told what to do. However sustained exercise is recommended if you want to feel you have suffered sufficiently to be superior to other people who are incapable of living on protein shakes and running marathons)

To train for balance you ideally need to be moving around on surfaces that are not flat and not always the same hardness. Lumpy slopes are ideal. This will help you gain ankle and foot strength and train you in making those minute changes in your body core and trunk. Failing that doing things that cause you to lean in all sorts of directions are good. Leaning in all sorts of directions while moving around on lumpy slopes of variable hardness is best.

Flexibility exercises done by rote: - lateral lift right, count five, lateral lift left, count five - are good. They are certainly far better than nothing and they remind you that you have a body, that you ARE a body and that you need to be used and to feel and that you will ossify into an elderly preying mantis if you don't. But simple stretches and weights are not as good as movement exercises, such as kata or tai-chi because you don't get as much of a range. But even kata and tai-chi are meant to be an augment to using your body. Kata is meant to be done by someone who is actually sparring and maybe even fighting. You get full benefit of such exercising if you are actually doing, not just exercising.

(Kind of like you can learn your times tables, but if you aren't actually ever doing any math it's nothing but a brain training exercise that is almost a pointless dead end. Certainly better than staring at a blank wall, but maybe the ultimate goal of learning times tables is not to have memorized your times tables, it is to be able to work out your household accounts and figure out roughly how much sales taxes you might have to pay, and enable you to study calculus later, if you want.)

My suggestion is that you find one or more entirely new activities that fit these parameters. Take someone's kid to the park and roam around over the grass. Try volunteering as a Big Brother Big Sister. Got a friend or cousin with a kid of an age that use to play outside but now only gets to stay indoors or particpate in organized activities? Look into mentoring that kid and take them out. Go out with a stay at home parent when they take the kid out. Lots of stay at home parents don't take their kid out to the park much because it is so boring and they end up isolated, and would love to combine social time with a friend with taking their three-year old out, and the two of you could stroll around following the three year old as she climbed on and fell off park benches, got into the bushes and went under the bleachers and did all that aimless wandering that kids need for good brain development, but get so little of because they have to be supervised so closely, and meanwhile the two of you could climb on the bleachers and and the park bench and get some light exercise too.

Take a dog for a walk. Try volunteering for the local shelter, or for some senior with mobility issues through a senior resource centre.

Try joining a geo-caching group. The devices can be rented or bought second hand. Try merely roaming around in whatever under developed nature park is within range, clambering up hills and down. Look for dirt paths, not manicured ones. Bring a camera, or a library book on spotting birds, spotting fungi or creating fairy gardens to add more interest than merely trampling a few ferns.

Tango is quite hard on the feet, and could account for some of the foot problems, so perhaps it is time to branch into some forms of dance that are less hard on the feet and which will involve different body mechanics and stretch your body in different ways. Is there an outdoor drumming group somewhere? Have you ever danced outside on the grass? Very good for the balance and the feet and the ankles.

If you can't afford massage look for a continuing ed course on massage that you could take. You might be able to learn to give massages so you can learn to massage yourself and find a massage buddy at one of those courses, for roughly the cost of two professional massages.

Look for a library book on self hypnosis. Also look on You Tube.

Find something that you look forward to. You sound like nothing seems interesting. It's like you feel like you ought to lift weights and you could tango and your guts probably won't bother you much and everything is blah... I am guessing that love is something that motivates you, since you mention that you were fiercely motivated to find your cat when she went missing. It's worth thinking about ways you could use that protective affectionate urge to motivate yourself. For example, would you be interested in participating in a cat rescue fund raiser or a dog jog? I'd pay money to see you perform a tango at a variety show if the funds raised went to Rescue MEow.

Consider splurging your time or an unusual small chunk of money on a treat for yourself as a kick-starter for your mood and enthusiasm. For example, if you decide that the weekend of June 24-25 you will do something special, fun and good for your health and have a budget of $50, what would you do? Could you take a field trip to a lake and go for a hike? Could you buy a DVD course on a new form of dance or on a Tango you'd love to learn, invite your dance partner(s) over and put it on and dance at home to it?

Have you talked to some of the people that you dance with or exercise with or see regularly who might have interesting project ideas. I am guessing that most of what you do, you do solitary, like the weight lifting. But if you lift weights with a gym buddy talk to your buddy about changing routines to make it more interesting.


Finally the delayed sleep phase insomnia... I have had considerable luck with a minor sort of this with valuing my time spent in bed, doing nothing, enough to want to go to bed early and lie in the dark. I write, and daydreaming mulling over threads of plot and dialogue and character and backstory entertain me enormously, so if I have to lie awake for four hours in the dark from 8 PM until midnight, or from midnight until 4 AM I can compose myself relatively happily to do so and not end up restless, cranky and a prey to thoughts that I would rather not have (usually!). This is an enormous piece of luck for me. I recognize that most people will not be so lucky. But if you are working on your sleep cycle and putting yourself to bed in hopes of going to sleep while knowing that it is probably a lost cause, making plans to use your thinking-in-the-dark while-lying-down time as a creative time, or as a time to use your memory, free from the distractions of sight, where you will be just as happy to lie awake as you will be to sleep, can make the sleep phase problems a lot more bearable.

So my suggestion there is to come up with eight or nine hours worth of things to think about that will keep you amused or happy - whatever would work for you. if you can't invent stories for yourself, perhaps you could rehash the plot to your favourite TV series, or remember that wonderful vacation you had, for the first hour, or go through the exercises in a cognitive behaviour therapy workbook for your second hour, or silently sing hymns for the third hour... and Pat Benatar songs for the fourth hour... and so on.

If you can get to the point where you actually enjoy your wakeful time, you will likely get to a point where you are relaxed and unstressed and un-anxious enough that you start napping intermittently. But first of all you have to be completely happy with lying awake for hours.

Also, try sleeping with a weighted blanket. That might work wonders. Rather than buying one, just find something fabric and heavy, roughly the size of your torso and place that on top of your regular covers when you go to bed. Some people use enormous sized teddies, or winter coats, or body pillow cases stuffed with wool blankets. It's good to let your arms and legs hang out so they can change position and it doesn't get in the way of your circulation.

posted by Jane the Brown at 8:21 AM on June 7, 2017

Don't fight your DSPS. There are some pretty good support groups on FB. The happiest folk are the ones who have engineered their lives to work with the odd hours, and it sounds like you've pretty much managed to do that, work-wise? Awesome.

Social life is hard, I know. But I was a lot happier once I stopped periodically playing "Night of the Near Overdose on Sleeping Pills" to do morning things and, with very, very few exceptions, I am just not available before a certain hour -- the much-Mefi-recommended "Sorry, that won't be possible" comes up a lot, and I try to be friendly with people who do scheduling so they remember me, and do not say "How 'bout 11:30 [am]?" when I am asking for an appointment "late in the day." If you absolutely need to tell someone why you can't be there early, explain it without shame. I find people do not press the issue or ask ridiculous questions if I add in that it wouldn't be safe for me to drive at that time. People who have always slept with relative ease will never quite get it, but most people have been too sick or drunk to be a safe driver; they can identify with that part.

If you're in the States I think DSPS is now a protected disability under the ADA (just mentioning in case that's ever useful, and also to underscore the severity of it).
posted by kmennie at 10:09 AM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi! I think you sound pretty cool actually. I'm 24 and just started to learn how to do Argentine tango basics, along with blues fusion, ballroom, and swing, and I just came back from a cannabis job fair where they were looking for delivery drivers for dispensaries.

But before this, back in Oct - Nov, I was fairly depressed and suicidal, and somehow isolated myself from all of my friends even though I am a social extrovert. That was wild. What solved it was reaching out to my existing friends and asking them to introduce me to their favorite hobbies and to take me out on adventures with them, and trying to remain as open and curious as possible. It helped kickstart some major needs again that kept me going, which was that I really needed high quality social interaction, a chance to build and learn new skills, and to come in contact with enough new experiences, some delightful, some mildly risky, some boring, to help give some character and shape to my life.

Once you get invested and lean on the support of others to help you shape your life, it can get pretty infectious, positive energy wise, as you keep building and working your way up and up. So ask your dancing friends where else they dance! If you don't have any, make friends with instructors or people at your local dancing venues. Try to see if there are other fun delivery services you can work for as well. Try a variation on what you already do, or do something completely different. Small, small steps.
posted by yueliang at 3:27 PM on June 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

And to add on - the reason why I make these suggestions is because you really need to do things that will help you get out of your own head and your own self-loathing and remember what it is like to do things that make you feel alive, and try new things. You need experiences to help remind you that you are way more than what you think is a culmination of your flaws, that you are a living, breathing person with vibrancy. (While being mindful of your health needs as well, of course.) I was so bogged down in self-hate and low self-esteem because I wasn't doing new experiences to help take me out of my head and build my confidence. It made me really closed off because I was restricting my self-expression.

I've danced with a lot of people who are not conventionally attractive by media's standards, but I would have never known, because all I cared about was how fun it was to dance with them and found that they were really amazing. If they spent that time focusing on how terrible they looked, then I don't get to really see them or how they want to express themselves, and that's disappointing to me as a person who would want to get to know them through dancing and sharing those experiences. People don't really judge you in the way they think they judge you, your own happiness is way more important than anything else, and you deserve to do things that help you be happy like that and help express the cool parts of you that exist. You have interests! That is cool enough in itself.
posted by yueliang at 3:36 PM on June 7, 2017

I'm 50.
I run 3x/week.
I am a terrible runner. I'm slow and it has taken me a very, very long time to build distance.
But after a lot of mental wrangling, the thing that helped me most with my own limitations was to accept and to embrace them for what they are and work with them.
I have changed my eating habits. For this, breakfast and lunch are nearly all fresh foods. My typical breakfast is a frozen banana run through a food processor with some fresh fruit. Lunch is usually a heaping pile of spinach, a half cup of beans, some mushrooms, a can of sardines, and about 1.5C of fresh salsa. I don't use dressing. Dinner is whatever I eat with my family, but it is almost always home-cooked from fresh ingredients.
Except for rare exceptions, I avoid anything with sugar added to it.
I have removed all juices/sodas from my life except for seltzer.
I have removed nearly all caffeine. Once in a while, if I'm cold, I have a cup of green tea (only because I like it more than black tea).
Doing this for the past 2 years has resulted in the following changes for me:
I'm generally happier - there's a fair amount of shit going on in my life, but it doesn't bother me as much
I'm thinner - not appreciably lighter, but I've had to poke new holes in my belt to keep my pants up
I'm healthier - I can't remember the last time I had a cold that lasted more than 3 days and even then it was minor compared to my wife
Eating no sugar has recallibrated my taste perception - beans taste like candy to me now
I did all this because I'm getting more acutely aware of how little time I have left. The last 30 years blew by in an instant and I doubt I'll have another 30. I want to be around for my kids and this is probably the most effective way to do it.
Best wishes.
posted by plinth at 4:15 PM on June 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I just want to add on to kmennie's comment. I have found the DSPS Facebook groups to be very helpful. If nothing else, it was a relief to know I am not alone. That might sound cliche, but I have never met anyone else with this problem, and it gets dismissed by everyone. (Well meaning people talk about sleep hygiene, but it's just not about that.)

DSPS is a literal life ruiner if you don't (or can't) accommodate it. Maybe it just jumped out at me because I also have it, but I know that it causes a cascading set of issues, health and otherwise (depression and weight gain especially) if you fight it too much.

In the past few years I have started being kinder to myself surrounding this issue. I don't beat myself up the way I used to, and that has made a difference. I have started treating it as a disability that I need to work around instead of a personal failure.

I echo kmennie on giving yourself allowances. I have a business, and my employees know that for the most part I am not available before noon. I don't allow people to make appointments for me before then (and there are times noon is pushing it.)

If you are kind to yourself in this area, as much as you can manage, it could help with some of the other issues. Sleep is the foundation for everything else, and I think even more so when you have a sleep disorder like we do.
posted by imabanana at 11:37 PM on June 10, 2017

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