Last week I talked about giving in to the nothingness. I need to stop distracting myself with activities and learn to be alone. I even cranked it up another notch this week by not listening to music, watching TV, or playing games, which was really hard. They aren't restful activities, they're for coping. Childish Gambino and J. Cole just released new albums, but I haven't been able to listen to them yet. Rest isn't a difficult concept to grasp, but I have a lot of years of being tightly wound to undo. I just laid in bed mostly. Whatever illness I had, it gave me a headache. Turned off the lights, pulled down the shades. Drank tons of tea. It was hard. In Always Sunny, when Mac learns he has diabetes and the doctor recommends he change his lifestyle, Dennis tells him about a workout he's always doing called hummingbirds.

I am constantly in motion. Dude, I am doing leg lifts that are imperceptible to the human eye. And even though I look relaxed, I'm actually incredibly tense at all times.

That's what my week was like. I laid in bed, but I don't just lie there. I was very focused and alert, resisting the temptation to distract myself like I've practiced for years. I may have fallen asleep a few times. I'm re-training myself to accept total quiet instead of compulsively indulging in diversions. Later in the week, I ran out of willpower and listened to some music. I think I might dive into the void for 30 minute intervals.

I have a problem of trying too hard, and on top of trying too hard to relax, I've predictably tried too hard to change my diet. It's a difficult balance to strike as I'm intentionally making only basic changes to my eating. I'm eating smaller meals more frequently, which leaves me vaguely hungry all the time. However, I'm trying to be more kind to myself in response to pushing myself full tilt all the time, so I allow myself to indulge in some delicious things. Instead of hastily making big gains in weight loss every day, I'm practising patience every day and making smaller changes.

Some random thoughts about exercise, sleep, and diet:

  • Sometimes I wake up before my 5:30 alarm now. The sleep training is taking hold.
  • NyQuil has helped me sleep lately. It's been nice.
  • Eating smaller meals more frequently. I usually drink my protein shake right after waking up, then I eat something small every 3 hours.
  • Eat only until I'm not hungry anymore. When I'm full after a meal, I've eaten too much. This is a hard habit to break, especially during weekly dinner with Carrie's family and delicious homemade Vietnamese food.
  • Doing more cardio at the gym now. Skip rope.
  • Smart snacking. I cut a brick of cheese into smaller rectangular strips. Deli meats. Minimal tortilla chips and salsa.
  • Starting with cheat days, but one day I hope to reduce it to only cheat meals.
  • Rinsing my mouth after each meal now. Sugar that sits on the teeth is really acidic. Dental health is heart health. I got a cavity a few months ago. Part of the struggle this year has been taking care of myself when my emotional problems overflow. Being drained from all the bombs blowing up around me, there were a lot more nights than I cared to have where I didn't brush my teeth before passing out. I'm normally pretty insistent on brushing and flossing, but that's how drained I've been at various times this year.

After I ran out of willpower this week, I started 3D printing a lot. It's funny when I try to escape my problems because they seem to somehow find me anyways. My counsellor confirmed that it's unique to me because of how my mind makes connections to random things. One of the hard parts of 3D printing is getting that first layer to stick to the print bed. You want the nozzle to be close enough so that a piece of paper drags when moved between it and the bed. If the nozzle is too close, the filament won't flow properly and will jam. If it's too far, the filament doesn't stick to the bed and the filament flows like silly string in the air and makes a big mess on the outside of the nozzle. The printer works great when the stars align. When something is off, it's a beast to wrangle in and tame again. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. As such, the printer serves well to reflect my own inadequacies back to me.

When I tried to escape my problems through playing with the printer this week, my problems came circling back to me. One of my project's first layer wouldn't stick, so I had to go into fix-it mode. I changed some settings in the software, I adjusted the four knobs that adjust the height of the print bed's corners, and loaded my height calibration file. It still wouldn't work. One change I casually made last week was using a new manufacturer for my roll of filament. Ugh. There's nothing wrong with the filament per se, but my printer is currently set up for a different manufacturer's. This filament responds differently to projects with smaller footprints, so I couldn't print Charmanders. The thing is, I shouldn't have been printing in the first place because I was supposed to be doing nothing. I was still pretty sick at this point, so I should have just been resting and sleeping, but I was too anxious for that. When the print failed, my anxiety spiked. I tried even harder to fix things. Then things got worse. Then I zeroed in. I even stopped to take some deep breaths. But then I went back to change other settings, and I remembered that sometimes the printer can get too hot (the nozzle heats to 220 Celsius) so I opened the window to let in that -30 Celsius air, but the nozzle was jamming so maybe cold air was cooling it too much, so I restarted the project, but I remembered changing one setting made things swing too far the other way and then I turned the knob too far in one corner so it was jamming but then last time it was too close and jammed therefore I should turn it only slightly but perhaps leaning on the table was throwing off the balance OR SHOULD I LET IT COOL AND RESTART AFTER A FEW SECONDS WHY WONT THIS STUPID CRAP WORK I HATE MY LIFE OKAYMAYBETIHSTIMEITLLFUNCTOINLIKEITSSUPOSEDTOASDFASDF. I just needed to leave it alone for the night, and it started working again for me the next day. 😑

One of the symptoms of my C-PTSD is hypervigilance. Constant vigilance. The trauma makes you feel like the initial threat from the traumatizing event is still there, so you're always scanning your environment for it. You can't help but notice everything, and you overanalyze situations and the people around you. I think that's one reason why I'm pretty good at doing impressions of my friends. It's similar to how, because of the proliferation of technology, we capture more pictures now than before. The entire analog camera business processed up to 3.5 trillion pictures ever but that's about as many pictures that were shared in 2015 alone, though many more were taken and weren't shared. My hypervigilance probably helped me learn things quicker in school, but at the same time, it's what made school harder for me than others. I couldn't sit still, I was always noticing things and making jokes, getting in trouble. Carrie's always asking "How do you always come up with these puns?" They're usually not that funny, but one of the cardinal rules of punning is that if you see a connection, no matter how lame, you go for it. The significance is that my hypervigilance is probably why I can't really escape my problems for long. I make these connections that others wouldn't notice. Most people also probably aren't in a constant state of survival, considering whether to fight, flee, or freeze.

Maybe that's why Jesus keeps reminding me to quiet my life. Turn off the devices. Kill the lights. He speaks in whispers.

““Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭19:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

I used to use external things to fill this puzzling void in my life, driven by the need to be successful, but the chorus I've heard over and over this year is that I need to not-Netflix and chill. It's uncomfortable as hell so far to actually live in quiet, but I have a feeling that solitude is the clue to my healing and renewal.

Jonathan Phan Lê @jon_le