Day 3: What it feels like to be a terrible sleeper

I can’t sleep.

Well, that’s not totally true. I can, sometimes, sleep. But not well, and not easily.

Last night I experienced a particularly frustrating bout of sleeplessness. I was exhausted after dinner/wine/watching The Jerk on TV, and got ready for bed around 9pm. I talked to my boo on the phone a little bit, read a little bit on my phone, and then realized it was 11pm — might as well stay up for SNL, right?

I stayed up, watched all of a very subpar SNL (except OMG this cacophony of impersonations by the master Jay Pharaoh), and then decided at 1am that I needed to settle down more, so I read a bit on my phone.

Last night was probably the most clearly I’ve understood that addiction to technology is absolutely real. It’s not just like I can’t set down my phone/iPad/TV remote/whatever. It’s that I was being mentally stimulated by exhaustively reading every New York Magazine interview and Vulture episode recap I could find in my Facebook feed, then checking in on apps I hadn’t used in a while (why can’t I be better at this Pinterest?), and then scroll through pictures I’d taken recently. Looking at my bright phone screen (even though it was totally dimmed, as I was in bed at 1am), my circadian rhythm was getting confused, and my mind was fully active. I fell asleep after I put on a Spotify “Sleep to Dream” playlist around 2:50am.

Today, I feel like total crap. My some miracle, I don’t feel cranky — but my muscles ache and I SWEAR I’m getting overheated because I didn’t properly rest. My eyes are puffy and, since it’s Sunday and I am refusing to wear makeup, I slightly resemble a lizard in the eye department. Plus, yesterday I got a deep tissue massage (thanks honey!), and for anyone who is an occasional/regular massage consumer, you KNOW you need water and sleep to get rid of those toxins. Instead, the congestion I woke up to on Friday is turning into a full-blown cold, and I’m afraid I’m going to fall asleep while watching Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tonight, therefore disrespecting my life’s hero, Tina Fey. (If you know me basically at all, you know how serious of a grievance this would be.)

Dear lord, why did I do this to myself? I know what it takes to get me to sleep. I drink enough water, go for a run, maybe don’t eat dessert literally 10 minutes before I get ready for bed. I know what it takes. Yet I totally ignored it. I’ve done this a thousand times. I’ve gone months without changing my sleep-prep habits.

Sleep is something I actively disrespected in college. I would sleep for 5 hours after a night out, wake up and make it to an 8am class, be moderately pleasant at least, and do it all again the next day. How did I do that? Now, I swear I run a fever on days that I don’t sleep enough, and being tired one day makes me somehow too under-pressure to have a good night’s sleep the next night that I worry about getting sleep! It’s a horrible chain reaction, and I’m so exhausted just thinking about it.

A lot of my blog posts have to do with my struggle with anxiety, and this one’s no different: two of my triggers for panic/anxiety are being tired and feeling overheated. This is the vicious cycle (have we thought of a less-cliche phrase to replace that yet?), the domino effect (same question pls), the catch-22 (OMG SOMEONE WRITE A BOOK TO REPLACE THIS). Tonight I must break it: I must exercise, drink water, avoid eating a delicious homemade brownie with ice cream too late (BUT DEAR LORD I AM EATING IT AT SOME POINT!) and get to bed on time — not too early, because then I fall into the trap I experienced last night.

Man. I love sleep. It took me a while, but sleep and I really fell in love. Sleeping poorly must be what it feels like to lose your soulmate. Maybe sleep is my soulmate (sorry hon). Sleep definitely saves my life every day. Sleep, you’re my hero.

Optimism in the most expensive place in the US

Calgary Stampede

I shared earlier this week that being in the Bay Area has made me severely dial back the money I spend on fun things. I am essentially in the lay-off process of all the fun excursions and adventures that are presented to me.

For this upcoming Thanksgiving, my S.O. and I thought about going on vacation instead of visiting family. That was when I realized: I’ve spent SO MUCH on little weekend trips, that I’m really not in a place to (responsibly) shell out $600+ for a flight plus all the money spent on actually being on vacation. We weren’t thinking cheap, either: we thought about Hawaii. I fell into the weirdest, most unsettling temporary depression about the realization that I shouldn’t go. I’d been really “living”: in the past 12 months, I’d been to Chicago, New York, Vegas (3x), Calgary, Seattle, Spokane, and back to Southern California a few times. I’d made the most of my local weekends, as well, staying in Sonoma and visiting coastal cities like Monterey. I dine out a LOT, and I pay hundreds for improv courses. On top of that, Amazon Prime is the best and also the worst, because it’s way too easy to spend money on a whim.

In sum, I’d been spending way too much. This budget was fine when my rent was 50% of its current total; now, I can still absolutely go on vacation, but I can’t be spending $1000+ on my average quick weekend trip, and take those weekend trips 2x per month, while also spending decent money locally.

The bigger toll of these weekends and mini-trips: I’m EXHAUSTED. The more I am away from my normal life, the more I spend money unnecessarily, the more I have to wake up at 4am to catch a 6am flight to get back to work on time, the more I create stress on myself. Why was I so unable to stand still for so long? I’m happy in my life. I have a sweet man at home (my cat) (and also my S.O., haha, hi honey). Why was I constantly in need of that next trip?

When I was in college, I never was able to spend money. I worked a part-time job at the main library on campus making just over minimum wage. I didn’t go anywhere for the weekend unless it was mostly free (family vacation homes, etc) and I knew not to spend money on the “nice to haves” for the most part. Somewhere in the years after college, a paradigm shift occurred, and I got to the point of buying anything I wanted (to a degree) and having the ability to not feel financial pain. The day before I left for Europe in 2013, I got a flat tire and ended up replacing multiple tires, and it didn’t make a bit of difference. I bought a really nice and expensive leather jacket in Italy without a flinch. I loved the idea of spending my money on experiences.

Now, I’ve realized, I’m entering the point in my life where I genuinely want to slow down. Jetting from place to place was exhilarating, and it’s something I won’t be able to do one day when I have children or a mortgage. I’ve been through much of Europe, sunbathed in Mexico (and, uh, bathed my insides with tequila), gotten rowdy at rodeos, spent a weekend at a music festival only to wake up early the next morning to go to Disneyland. But I have a really happy life right now, and it’s my time to put my weight into that, to build toward lifelong happiness. That might mean that for a while I won’t be quite as flush with airline miles and awesome Instagram posts. But you know what? I’m pretty darn excited. When I was leaning in to my ability to travel and to spend money, I was doing that because I was entirely independent. Now, there’s a life at home that’s just as good as a life spent seeing the world, and I don’t have to buy a plane ticket to get there.

Ageism and understanding yourself

For much of my life, I felt like I was the wrong age, or born in the wrong year, or just not the same as people my age. I would avoid telling people my age and relished the times that my grandparents’ near-blind friends asked my sixteen-year-old self if I was in college.

As I got a bit older and began undergoing the maturation discovery phase that is college and early adult life, I found myself acting like most people my age. I joined a sorority, shook off a lot of inhibitions (and gained some back, thankfully, after graduation), and began learning the balance of caring for myself and having a really great and memorable life. There were plenty of times I felt “mature,” probably due to the perceived independence of being on a campus and not in your parents’ home. But there would be spans of time when I would be a near-hermit, get really thrown into scheduling my part-time job, internship, and school and would avoid my social life. During these times, I almost felt estranged from my peers. This isn’t their doing at all: it was mine. I couldn’t reconcile having fun with being responsible.

Fast forward to today. I think I can officially say that while I’ve certainly not perfected my balance, I’m absolutely the closest I’ve ever been. Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned makes me comfortable:

  • My one-bedroom apartment is kept clean and tidy. For the most part, this is by doing small things regularly — not one big clean-up on occasion.
  • I put my financial health very high on the priority list. This has been the biggest struggle for me, surprisingly. Historically I’ve been very financially savvy and disciplined, but since my cost of living is so enormous in the Bay Area, I’m learning to dial down my “fun budget” to keep me happy.
  • My cat actually gets the attention he deserves, including lots of cuddles and actually cleaning his litter box. (I can’t believe I only did this once a week or so when he was little. Poor guy.) It’s little, but it’s got huge payoff.
  • I’m in a really, really good relationship that makes me want to keep myself happy in all other regards so I can keep the relationship happy.
  • Exercise is an absolute necessity to manage my anxiety. If I don’t exercise, anxiety reduces my productivity and makes me less rational and generally sends me into an unhealthy snowball-effect.
  • Thanks to a year with the best therapist in the world, I know a lot of “triggers” that set off my anxiety, including little things like being tired and getting overheated.

Age DGAF-er

Age DGAF-er now

And now, for the first time in my life, as I’m just a few weeks away from my 26th birthday, I’ve noticed that I no longer am quite as afraid to share my age. Part of that is because at a certain point age difference is not much of a factor when relating to others. A bigger part of my newfound age-acceptance, though, is knowing that exactly who I am is exactly right for me. I always felt like I wasn’t in the right skin from an age perspective, and instead of fighting the uphill battle of being the “right” age, I am the right me. At times I’m a little boring now. I don’t care. I love it. It’s perfect.

Perfectionism, aka the Newman to my Jerry Seinfeld.

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, Perfectionism is the WORST. It’s never recognized as a horrible affliction like addiction, but isn’t that what it is? Your mind doesn’t recognize when you are good and well, and it craves this unattainable state that you harm yourself in pursuing.

With an extreme degree of vulnerability, I present to you many of the things I feel are imperfect about me. Regardless of whether you agree, these are what feel like HUGE flaws to me:

  • I’m not funny enough
  • I’m extremely unphotogenic
  • I haven’t traveled enough
  • My face isn’t that attractive
  • I don’t always react coolly when someone jokes
  • I apologize too often for things I didn’t necessarily do wrong
  • I won’t be able to buy a house in the foreseeable future
  • When I’m having a bad day, admitting to that is failure
  • If I don’t have a well-formed opinion on something, I’m not educated or smart enough

The list is FAR longer than that, but that sample should illustrate all the things I can find in myself that I don’t like. But guess what? At the same time, when I feel in control of my perfectionism, I feel really GOOD about a lot of those areas! Point for point, here’s how I feel when I have overcome my perfectionism:

  • I’m definitely known in my circles as someone who’s funny
  • I have some awesome profile pics on Facebook, which means that at least some of the time I look pretty good
  • I’ve been to a lot of countries with a healthy mix of first- and third-world, and I go out of town on weekends pretty darn often
  • I know my family and friends and SO don’t think I’m unattractive
  • I can joke back and forth with people without going negative
  • Standing my ground comes more easily as I practice it
  • Maybe I can’t buy a house in the Bay right now, but I really like what I’ve done with my own little apartment, and maybe one day — someplace else, or combined with my future spouse’s income — I can create a lovely home, regardless of the status attached with owning a home
  • Everyone has bad days, and I’m thankful to have people in my life who WILL listen and encourage me on those bad days
  • I know a lot about certain things. It’s awesome that I don’t try to argue a point despite being ignorant. That’s super annoying when people do that, and I don’t. Go me!

Not every day is perfect — in fact, no day is. And you know what’s even better? Taking the John Legend approach and celebrating “all your perfect imperfections.” I’m not going to argue that perfection would be boring, because we don’t know that. No one has been able to prove that theory. But I am going to argue that imperfections give us exciting opportunities to learn things about ourselves, or our partners, or our friends and family. Sometimes those realizations are painful, but most of the time they really help you strengthen yourself or know when to cut a relationship. And if you DON’T need to cut a relationship due to a realization, it usually emerges stronger and in turn develops you as well. I think that might be the best part of all.

I want to know more about perfection. What do you all know about perfectionism? How do you overcome your self-doubt? 

I’m a closet idiot, and other very true and verified facts

Fun story: I’ve been anxiety free for at least a month.

 

This isn’t like smoking. You don’t fall off the boat once and then maybe binge for a few months before remembering how much it sucks and resolving to quit again. (Note: I obviously have no idea what addiction is like.)

 

Anxiety is a come-as-she-pleases bitch. She senses a weakness in you — whether you have a low-grade fear of something happening in your life or you just haven’t been sleeping enough — and she attacks. You can’t breathe right; you lose even more sleep.

 

Have you ever, say, really needed to break off a relationship or get out of an unhealthy workplace? Once you left, you felt that INCREDIBLE RELIEF that doesn’t necessarily sink in right away. But, with time, you recognize the incredible relief it provides.


This guy relaxes like a cool genius. 

 

The last month without that ish, then, has been EVERYTHING! I made a lot of changes in my life, including the end of a job that a lot of people constantly ask about. I don’t even care that I have to answer questions about it constantly. I am happy and able to handle stress without imploding.

 

I know anxiety and mental health are such tricky topics, and that’s why I talk about it often. Just gotta keep it fresh, yo. You don’t have to live with that pit in your stomach or constantly feeling like YOU suck. Because you don’t. (Er, maybe you do, but that’s not anxiety then.) I thought I was clinically depressed. Then I talked to a kickass doc who snapped some sense into me and told me to make moves and take charge of my own happiness. And I did. And I am so happy.

 

Listen, a lot of things go into happiness. You really do need to sleep lots and eat well and exercise. You do. Science, bitch. But you also need to do things solely because THEY MAKE YOU HAPPY. I don’t know why, but that always seemed like such a weak and selfish motivator. I always thought I needed to be sacrificing for others’ happiness — or rather, what I perceived as their happiness.

 

When I was a kid, I remember once choosing what I wanted to do for my birthday party. I tried to make it whatever my guests would want. Then my mother said, “Why are you planning a party for them? It’s not their birthday.” BOOM. Relief.

To me, making myself happy means cleaning my apartment, sticking to a skincare regimen, and eating açai bowls approximately 5x per week. I exercise because I know I need it, and because after a lot of it, I realize I like it. Happiness is not always having some crazy plans. It is sitting on the couch and laughing with someone else. It’s writing a letter to someone without them knowing. It’s that surprise and smile you get when someone realizes you remembered something about them. Why wouldn’t I choose to do these things?


(No, seriously, I can’t get enough açai bowl.) 


I’m the last person so many people would ever expect to be speaking about happiness and fulfillment in the face of awful stuff like anxiety. I like to laugh, and I hate to get upset. This is how I apply my #FunkyFresh self to real-world, personal issues. I kinda like it. It makes me happy.