I spent the entire month of February hoping, believing, that feeling totally normal was right around the corner. I’m not sure why I believed that this transition would be more like the flip of a switch than a gradual change, but it proved to be ridiculous: only in the last week or so do I feel I have returned mostly to myself: biologically, mentally, intellectually, emotionally, philosophically… existentially. 2023 has been really fucking annoying so far.
The set of symptoms I’ve experienced this round has been different than past episodes. For the first time, hyperthyroidism gave me pretty constant anxiety, combined with nightly panic attacks, along the lines of “am I dying? I might be dying”… every. Night. I am pretty well equipped for this: I have long desensitized myself to the symptoms of panic attacks, as I used to have them regularly in college. What I was unprepared for is that after the hyperthyroidism had passed and my blood work returned to normal (I also passed out at LabCorp during my blood draw, which is common, but was definitely a first for me – I have no fear of needles whatsoever) I rebounded into a kind of bizarre depressive state, which was a horrible pairing for bloating, water retention and general sluggishness. I am a lot of things, depressed hasn’t ever tended to be one of them, so that really fucked me up for a few weeks. It also put a giant dent in my self-esteem, because I felt like I was exploding out of my clothes 24/7, for no apparent reason, and my scale weight was up by 7-10lbs. I am still heavier than I should be, but it is trending in the right direction, and I imagine it is just unfortunate water retention. I may or may not still have some subclinical hypothyroidism, but I will just wait it out and see if it resolves itself over the next few weeks.
I had, in mid-February, resumed fasting at 20:4 and returned to much lower carb intake and higher fat (after my trip to Chicago, where I ate EVERYTHING, as my peer there is also a foodie). I also resumed my very high intensity gym routine, so that’s been great: I’ve clocked over 600 active minutes a week for the past month or so, and that is bad ass. I decided to step up my bio-hacking and have folded more adaptogens and two different probiotics into my diet: one is Seed, which is outrageously expensive, but is well researched and reviewed, so we’ll see what happens. I suspect my microbiome is quite healthy already, but I’d like to further optimize; we will continue to learn as time goes on that having shitty gut flora can cause everything from IBS to depression to anger to cystic acne.
I have invested a lot more time over the years into self-care and health/well-being, which has been a consequence of aging. It simply takes more effort and research. I decided many years ago to not wear makeup (at all), and that puts additional pressure on me to keep my skin in good shape (my skin actually looks amazing presently, and I am not particularly self-complimentary). I would not have seen myself, ten years ago, as someone who occasionally splurges on Korean beauty products, or puts carrot oil under my eyes, or uses a facial exfoliator in the shower, or puts a frozen eye mask on at 6am before my alarm goes off 18min later, but apparently I am one of those people now.
I had planned to start lifting last year and had a very protracted adjustment to Denver, so when asking myself what I want to do with my rediscovered health, I found a highly regarded strength gym 1.1 mi away from me, and will be heading in for an assessment at the end of the week. It’s time. I want to continue to do more for myself physically for every year I age; and at 40 I’d like to be in peak physical shape, so this gives me sufficient time.
Outside of fitness, I’ve forced myself to get out and socialize more; I do have a group of friends here that I have not seen much over the months. A girlfriend from work and I did a happy hour this week, then I went to see Rotting Christ, then hit another happy hour the next day with a really awesome woman who was my Lyft driver in October (yes, I got her number and we agreed to have a friend date. It was amazing). I am going to keep this up; while I am happy to stay home most of the time, it’s probably better for me to go spend time with people. I realized during the pandemic that antisocial behavior robs people of the ability to polish their ideas and sharpen their opinions; I do Zoom regularly with my friends, but I definitely need to keep up the face time.
Resuming a high fat intake (and feeling better overall) has also pushed my brain back into overdrive, and below are the books I’ve knocked out in the past month: not bad. Holy shit, sometimes you don’t know how bad you feel until you feel better.
I’ve read a few too many books to really delve into each of them: War on the West, The Identity Myth and On Decline were all excellent: Identity Myth was well researched and complex; War on the West was a slightly more vague version of such; On Decline was written by the guy who did The Authenticity Hoax. I think I’d skip On Decline in the future, start with War on the West, and if you like that one, continue with The Identity Myth, which has a ton of intriguing content and a lot of source material.
I also stumbled upon Metabolical, by one of my fave doctor-writers, Robert Lustig, so I read that, and The Hacking of the American Mind. Lustig gave a lecture I loved called Sugar: The Bitter Truth (the link is probably different from the one I originally came across, but the content is likely the same) and I’ve read his other books. Metabolical was great, very much in line with his other work – he is a crusader against processed food, and rightfully so; he is (was: he has since retired) a pediatric endocrinologist and a lot of his work is based on the horror he experienced tending to 200lb 10 year-olds – can you blame him? The second book, The Hacking of the American Mind, was kind of all over the place: neurobiology, psychology, metabolism, vices and virtues, essentially his top rules for living a good life, which I actually found to be the most memorable part of the book.
As for the other books… Sovietistan was a bit outdated, but entertaining, and I will knock out another slightly outdated Uzbekistan book before I depart, Murder in Samarkand. Secondhand Time was unbelievably good: that book will remain in my permanent collection. Probably one of the best contemporary books I’ve read about Russia in years. The final three are by Bosnian writers: the dual My Parents/This Does Not Belong To You was one I hadn’t read by Aleksandar Hemon, and The World and All That It Holds was really exceptional (it is new, and was reviewed in The Economist). I was skeptical about this book: two gay soldiers – one Sephardic Jew and one Muslim – drafted into the military as WWI begins and drift from their home in Sarajevo to Shanghai, through Tashkent and Samarkand. It ended up being as good as it was sad: and it was very both. There is a lot of history packed into that book as they move east, and east, and east, and clash with so many different cultures. It was really an exemplary read.
As for what’s coming up beyond Uzbekistan, there are some good shows in the works, particularly Emperor’s US tour (they seem to have been released from exclusivity with Psycho canceling). I booked all of my stuff for Dallas and am meeting some friends down there (and perhaps bringing one of the metalheads from here with me). I considered hitting up the Chicago show for my birthday as well (they are playing Jun 23) but I think I will do something else.
Botch is also doing a reunion tour and are, shockingly, playing in Denver in the fall – there are multiple amazing shows here in the fall, including Igorrr (finally rescheduled) and Ne Obliviscaris, so it’ll be a good time of year. I am still TBD on Brutal Assault and it’s not looking promising for me given the slim pickings for hotel rooms (they did not announce this year as they usually do, so we missed the boat). I am actually feeling pretty OK about staying put this summer and maybe taking an additional trip to Myrtle Beach. I am eternally grateful that Di, my long-time hiking partner, changed her plans to drop in on me in AK when I’m up there, so that will be a very active trip and we will bang out some good, wet, muddy hikes for the days I’m there. That was a really amazing surprise.
Speaking of hardcore music, I was listening to Jocko on Huberman Lab and he was asked what was an early contributor to who he became as a person and his sense of resilience, and he attributed it to hardcore music… I was pretty shocked and amused. I have resumed listening to more podcasts lately as well.
Last, I enrolled in a course on UX, and finished the first module. It will take me a few months, but I believe I will successfully be able to switch careers in the next year or two, and I am really enjoying what I am learning. One of the researchers I spoke to commended me for my bravery at hurling myself into the unknown, but that is pretty much just my thing. Everyone across those teams has been so helpful – I’ve received a ton of source material, courses, book recommendations, have been CC’d on emails and invited to labs and studies, it’s been really awesome. I am not 100% sure if their remote situation will continue, but if not, and if I cannot stay in Denver, I will most likely move to Texas. We shall see. I also happened upon a lifetime membership to Babbel, so I am going to use that to brush up on my Swedish, which is still pretty good considering I never use it, and probably start with Russian (why not?). It’s awesome to have all of my synapses firing again.
That’s about it, I think. I may or may not post before I leave at the end of the month; we’ll see. If not, I’ll have a lot to yap about it when I get back.