Here's the result of those five months of body- and mind-wracking anxiety: I've got not what I would call a full-on-brawl cold, but rather just a stuffy nose that goes in and out based on when I've taken Sudafed and had decaffeinated tea mixed with honey, lemon, and as I was told to put in, a little sugar, even though I prefer only honey and lemon. Mom says a little sugar helped my sister get rid of her ailment faster.
Fine. I agree with this. It's only a little bit of sugar, far less than I used to consume back when I could seriously ask NASA for planet certification, but leave me to my own methods.
I got up this morning, after having slept 7-and-a-little-plus hours from 10:22 last night to 5:37 this morning. I can't start my day at 5:37, unless I'm scheduled to go to work at my dad's school, in which case I just lay there quietly, keep my eyes closed (which I learned works better for me because it at least conserves a little more energy than blinking right then and there), and wait until his alarm goes off in the other room.
So I tossed and turned a bit, not as violently as I did when I was completely worried about sleep during the worst of my anxiety, and eventually drifted off again to a dream that involved construction at the side of my house, some elaborate gazebo I think, or maybe just an amphitheater. I woke up, and I felt fine, at least in my body. My nose was still stuffed, one nostril always open and available, though their shifts switch throughout the day. I have a slight cough, but nothing that'll explode into pneumonia. After I decided it was time to work toward reducing the anxiety, and switched to a better diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables, I had hoped that any future illnesses I might have would be dramatically lessened by all that crunching and chewing. For example, I saw yesterday on the package of baby spinach that spinach is considered a superfood that helps a healthy immune system. I'm getting back to one of those. I'm sure it was battered considerably during that great and terrible personal storm, but it feels like it's helping me now.
Mom's been a heroic help, too, first and foremost for the suggestion of the tea, second because she had bought the Sudafed quite some time ago in anticipation of anything like this happening. Good move. But one thing she told me this morning that I refused to follow was to swallow the orange pulp already.
For breakfast, I have Cheerios (the plain kind, if I have them, which I didn't, so I had multi-grain Cheerios and will continue with that until I get another box of the plain kind) and fruit. It's usually a Bartlett pear, but I've been out of them all this week, so I've had the Valencia and other oranges from the fruit bin in the fridge. The Bartletts and the bananas sit in separate bowls next to the stove on top of a folded paper towel sheet.
My teeth are strong, but orange pulp takes a little bit of time to chew. It's not a McDonald's Shamrock Shake, or the many times when I was overweight, didn't much care, and ate faster than any human should probably eat. I used to swallow macaroni and cheese without chewing. Fettucine Alfredo merited one or two chews, and then down it went. I'm sure that's part of what brought on the anxiety, the shock of my system in trying to process generally unchewed food, along with the copious amounts of sugar I'd easily bring down into my pit without much thought of the consequences.
So this morning in the kitchen, Mom saw me still chewing the orange pulp and told me to just swallow it. Uh, no, for that reason. Anything that I chew will be chewed thoroughly. Then she told me I looked like a cow and I replied, "I'm not here for appearances." It's not her mouth, and it's not her body, though she was the UPS company that delivered me. I need to be much more careful with this hardware than I was before. When I began improving what I ate, and began to embrace more fruit and vegetables, I started to feel a bit better, and I got very lucky. My nerves, screaming inside my body like they were in Abu Ghraib, was one of the most horrible experiences I had with anxiety. It's said that if your nerves are acting up like this, you need to change something, though for a while, it's hard to change anything, because you're so confused about what it is and it feels so rotten. Add to that the little sleep I got over that period of time, and it was doubly horrific. If I want to chew anything to its natural conclusion, even if it takes a while, then I'll do it. I don't care about those comments anymore, just like I'm working to make sure that Mom and Dad's continued arguing doesn't affect me as much as it used to. I realized that there's nothing to figure out or solve about their marriage, it'll always be messed up, and I need to think about me, in whatever I want to do in life, be it as a writer or hopeful lover.
Though I do sound more nasal than I did yesterday, one thing that did help was going out for a little while. Since no campus supervisor at my dad's school needed a substitute up to Thanksgiving, I had been in the house since Monday. I needed to get out, and fortunately, Dad had to go out to get The Signal and the Los Angeles Times at the newsstand store near K-Mart (One day I'll go through the swinging double doors they have there, with the sign that basically says, "Get out if you're not going to buy anything," and see what their porn stash looks like, partly out of curiosity), and then to one of the supermarkets to pick up a few things to complement Thanksgiving dinner, such as onions for the stuffing, and we needed bread. We got the onions at Ralphs (doesn't any supermarket in Southern California believe in a possessive apostrophe where necessary?), where I also partially restocked my supply of Bartlett pears, Gala apples, and bananas, and then to Vons for bread. That outing helped a lot. I felt better; I felt more human that I had in those morning hours before we went out. Before that, I was worried that the anxiety might rear up again. After I had gone out, I forgot all about that.
That I slept fine this morning was an absolute miracle, considering how much I worried myself when I spent two days and a combined 10 hours in the middle of the week reading over proofs of my forthcoming book, and realizing why I don't spend so much time on the computer anymore. I had my music, such as the 1969 cast album of the Broadway musical Company, and I played many of those songs over and over, but the work just got so tedious, and I was reminded of how I pushed myself so hard with this book, how I read so many books for the purpose of research, how I transcribed 30-40 pages of notes at a shot into Microsoft Word, how I wrote and wrote and wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote. I know it was my first book, but my biggest regret is shutting out more than I should, such as the other books I could have read during this project that weren't related to this project. But you know, as I read each essay, and I was making corrections in a separate file to be sent to the copy editor to work on, I was proud of what I'd done. My essays read so well, and I'm glad I worked as hard as I did, but I will not kill myself like that again. I wasn't passionate about some of the essays I wrote, but they read as if I was. And that's a huge accomplishment. But next time, I will not do what I did just to write well. I will write what truly makes me spark like 4th of July fireworks, and I will do research as necessary, but I will not feel like it has to be done right in the moment, and allow myself more than just two or three minutes to breathe before I hold my breath and dive back below the surface of my work.
In other words, even though this cold was partly brought on by not dressing warmly enough, even though it didn't seem that cold at first, I will not run myself down so hard and harshly that this happens again. And I will chew my orange the way I want, thank you.
Edited to add at 9:36 a.m.: I just received in my e-mail the corrected version of my book from the copy editor. Now I know I'm going to have to go into it alongside of my corrections Word file and make sure everything is correct. I'm remembering just to breathe, that this is nearly the end of this sometimes strange and surreal trip, but it'll be worth it when I get my five free copies in the mail ahead of its publication. And then I'll leave it until that time and make sure the rest of the day is filled with everything I love, and every day after that.