Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

I recently started experimenting with melatonin to alter/improve my sleep schedule to something a little more normal after hearing a lot of people talk about it. It's easy to do since it's an over the counter supplement in Canada.

The effects have been very interesting. Pretty much consistently, after taking a 5mg sublingual dose of melatonin, I become sleepy about 1-2 hours after taking it. Lately, this has meant taking it at about 11:30-12:00 and falling asleep around 1:30-2:00AM as opposed to what seems more natural to me lately, which is around 3:00-4:00AM. The sleep I get when I do this isn't really quite as good as when I sleep naturally in that I often wake up in the middle of it, and I've had a significant increase in the vividness of my dreams -- the first night I took it in particular resulting in the only nightmare I've had in recent memory. The dreams are starting to be less of an issue, but the quality of sleep remains not so hot.

If I don't take it one night (like tonight), I immediately jump back to what my body seems to consider a more natural sleep schedule, which is why I'm awake now.

I decided to do some research on this, starting from the list of things that the bottle claims to 'treat,' and found that one of the things in particular fits me pretty much like a glove. Delayed sleep phase syndrom is when a person can sleep naturally and consistently, but at a cycle significantly delayed from what's considered normal. They can't 'force' themselves to sleep at the 'normal' times, and only significant effort against that natural grain can bring them in line with societal norms, and then only temporarily. Of particular interest is this paragraph, which reads like it came right out of my life:

By the time DSPS patients seek medical help, they usually have tried many times to change their sleeping schedule. Failed tactics to sleep at earlier times may include maintaining proper sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, early bedtimes, hypnosis, alcohol, sleeping pills, dull reading, and home remedies. DSPS patients who have tried using sedatives at night often report that the medication makes them feel tired or relaxed, but that it fails to induce sleep. They often have asked family members to help wake them in the morning, or they have used several alarm clocks.

I have struggled with my sleep schedule my entire teenage and adult life. I have even replicated some of the actual treatments of it completely independently. Namely, the push back one hour a day until synchronized technique listed under Chronotherapy on that wikipedia page, and obviously oral melatonin. I think a lot of people have trouble understanding this struggle, because to them difficulty falling asleep is a sometimes thing. Something caused by stress or other external factors. If I can't sleep when they do, it often gets treated as something I should be able to fix through force of will, and that my inability to do so indicates a lack of either willpower or interest in the things I'm doing.

I also found a summary of studies on the effects of melatonin on various sleep disorders that found that the effects I experienced from melatonin are pretty uniquely tied to this disorder and not to other issues like insomnia (which I don't think I fit anyways).

Obviously, there's no diagnosis here necessarily. I'm not trying to self-diagnose. But it is really nice to have something that I can point to and say "hey, this kind of fits me. I've been looking for a name for this for so long."

Socializing and introversion

I think if me 10 years ago saw me now, he probably wouldn't recognize me as himself. It's kind of amazing, really. I don't think I ever really understood how to 'be social' until I went to college (which was about 5 years ago), and even then it was really just stumbling around at the whole process, and it wasn't until I worked at nexopia and had to really deal personally with a decent number of coworkers that I actually started grokking the whole thing. In the year and a half since nexopia and I parted ways, I've done very little *other* than continue to develop a social life.

Me ten years ago rarely interacted directly with anyone who wasn't Nancy. Me now generally has something he could be doing that involves other people nearly every day of the week if he wants, and takes advantage of those opportunities probably half the time or so. That's a pretty huge difference.

But I'm still an introvert. Being around people, especially large groups of people, still exhausts me. And right now I think I'm feeling the effects of having something to do all the time. I was out last night with Nancy at a game night kind of thing, and for the first half of it I just felt kind out of it and uninterested in interacting with people. I need to find ways to recharge my socializing batteries without feeling like I'm falling out of the loop or like I might lose some of the connections I've started developing.

I don't want this to come across as whining, because I'm overall really happy about the way things are going on this front (even if I'm less satisfied with how things are going on other fronts). I've always wanted to have more people in my life who I feel really close to, the whole chosen family kind of thing, and I feel like I'm on the verge of really having that. And all that socializing that's tiring me out is what it's taken to get there.

And I think that's part of the solution. More interacting on smaller, more personal levels. It's not nearly so draining to spend the afternoon with one or two people as it is to spend even an hour at a big mixer event surrounded by 20 different conversations.

Fringelog's over there

Once upon a time, this was the main place I posted my Fringelogging. No more, now it's over at Goes To Show, my theatre blog.

Of note, so far, includes:
Tech Day - where afterthree got me in to see the tech day for the show she's doing stage management for. It was awesome.
Initial list of plays to see - where I listed the plays I hoped to see this Fringe. So far I've seen ten plays total, and only 6 of them were on my list. This is how things often work with the Fringe.
The first play I saw, Phone Whore - was also one of my favorites so far, though I'm having difficulty recommending it too much due to some VERY explicit content.
The play I got to see the aforementioned tech day for, Spin - I enjoyed it a lot.
Game Face - A play with a furry in it. Yes, really. Also really frickin' funny.
39 - The worst play I saw this year so far. One man sci-fi shows. Never a good idea.

It's been a really awesome Fringe so far, though relatively few of the shows have been stand out OMG I <3 kinds of things. It's been awesome, though, because for the first time ever I'm actually having trouble fitting in all the people who want to go see plays with me. Some of those people are even people I've only just met recently and barely even know. And that's pretty awesome.

Belated Father's Day Thoughts

So last weekend was Father's Day. I'm not usually big on hallmark holidays, but I did the duty associated with it and tried to get in touch with him to wish him a happy Father's Day. But this post isn't about that. It's not even about him. It's about how Father's Day finally hit me on an emotional level a week after it was over, almost 29 years into my life.

If you've ever eaten with me, and it's somehow involved eating a bun of some sort (dinner roll, hotdog or hamburger bun), you may have seen me 'cut' the bun open with a fork. Yes, that's right, a fork. Pierce the bun all around and then just rip it open. Most of the time I find this much more successful than using a knife, which unless it's a good sharp knife (as opposed to the kind you put next to your plate), you end up squishing the bun or ripping it up or angling it wrong or whatever.

But as I was doing this today, eating dinner with Nancy and her mother, I realized that I don't really do this for any practical reason at all. I do it because my Grandpa taught it to me. I assume he did it for all the practical reasons. Or maybe just to be different. It doesn't really matter. It's things like this that I remember about him, and it's in doing things like this that I keep him alive. I also hit ketchup bottles on the side rather than on the end because he taught me that, and trust me it works really really well.

But I also got, I think, my love of computers and electronics from him. He taught me to use a soldering iron, he gave me some of my earliest experiences with a computer, and even gave me the first computer I could really call my own. It was a TRS-80, which was old when I got it from him, but was also what I first learned to program on. I wish I still had it, because that computer was special to me in a way no other since could be.

He died when I was about 15 or 16. I'm not exactly sure, because I've always been terrible with dates/years/etc, but it was around when I met Nancy. It was a formative experience in my life, as was nearly every interaction I had with him. As my own father grows older, I see more of my Grandpa in him. And as I grow older, I see more of both of them in me.

I'm not sure where I want to go with this post. I've often considered myself an aspiring writer, but it's not something I've pursued heavily since I finished gradeschool. I know that I have an image in my mind of a story I want to tell someday, and it involves him, his death, my reaction to his death, etc. I wish he'd lived long enough to meet Nancy. I think the story I want to tell would end that way.

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game, and Father Knows Best

So I recently got on a kick of re-reading *all* of the Ender books. I own them all from before Orson Scott Card came out of the gay-hating, right wing nutjob closet. On coming close to finishing the Ender's Shadow series of books, I discovered there was a sort of interquel between the Ender's Shadow series and the Ender sequels called Ender In Exile. Despite my preference to never ever buy anything of his again due to some of that money no doubt going towards things like the anti-prop8 bullshit, I couldn't resist. I apparently have very little willpower when it comes to this. I can't leave something unfinished like that.

One thing that's struck me about his books in general is the way he injects his religious views into them. Often quite directly and obviously, and moreso as time went on. The Ender sequels were fairly subtle despite having a huge amount of religious content (most of them take place on a Catholic colony planet, and there are absolutely no happy people on this planet, but that's beside the point). The Shadow books were less so, having a lot more in the way of little diatribes about the nature of faith and religion and views of atheists shifting more and more towards theist viewpoints. Also a gay man who never has a relationship with a man and appears to only become happy when he finally gets into a relationship with a woman and is proud of 'doing it the natural way.' Ugh.

But something really struck me in this latest book. There's a line where Ender's sister Valentine is thinking about marriage, and she thinks something to the effect of: "It's like Father always used to say, monogamy works best." (Sorry, I didn't mark the quote and can't find it now, so that's a paraphrase) And I couldn't help but wonder what kind of family this is that something like that is always said. What father is constantly drilling into his kids' heads that monogamy is the way to go as directly and specifically as that, and based on specious historical data at that. Granted, this is supposed to be a brilliant family in which everyone is a genius of some sort, so intellectual discussions on the nature of marriage seem likely to happen, just not to be one of those weird little Father Knows Best nuggets that's treated as an axiom for the rest of your life.

And then I realized, Orson Scott Card was raised a Mormon. Partly, even in Utah. Regular discussions about the evils of polygamy, being the thing that almost cost the church its existence over a hundred years ago, may actually have happened in his household. The need to rationalize and whitewash the history of the church through how you teach your children may actually be present in that society I know oh so little about.

Of course, in Ender's family his father is catholic, not mormon. His mother is mormon, so maybe he would bring it up as a means to subtly rib at his wife's religion? I don't know. All I know is, I'm glad I didn't grow up in Utah or mormon.

Mood, introduction, more later.

A couple of days ago I was starting to write a decade in summary post, but realized as I was writing it that I must have been in a bit of a negative mood because it was coming off a bit bitter and negative in tone. I realized, actually, that I've been in that kind of a state pretty much since coming back from the Dominican for Christmas (which I don't believe I mentioned here, but oh well).

So I trashed it, decided to wait until my mood improved, and then post something. Not a decade in summary, because to be honest I have some valid reasons to feel bitter about it in spite of the massive successes I've had, and I'm not sure I want to go down that road just yet. Nor really about much at all, I guess.

But I just wanted to say that I think bambamiamtam and afterthree should friend each other on here. There are some overlapping activist-y interests there. And the fact that your only time interacting with each other involved a drinking game and untoward interactions with a teddy bear (say n'more, say n'more) should not stop you from livejournal friending.

Real posts soon. I'm trying to blog more. But that's not a new years resolution: those are bullshit. My new years resolution is to learn to speak with a Scottish accent. I think it may involve watching a lot of Ewan McGregor films.

Philosophy and Paintings

I was talking to someone via email (someone who has been the subject of a prior post) and the subject of my philosophical attraction to water came up. I realized I've never posted about this, but that it's something fairly relevant to my life right now, and decided that I should take the part where I explained it and turn it into a blog post.

To give some more context than the post provides, the reason it came up is because I'd like to get a tattoo that symbolizes some of this sometime in the near to medium future. I have grand plans of doing a shoulder sleeve based on the theme somehow, but that's too ambitious for a first time tattoo I think. Also too expensive for right now. So I'm thinking of getting a simple small one on the opposite shoulder (by which I mean upper arm shoulder, not upper back) I'd eventually like to sleeve. I have a small sketch of my own that's derived from the alchemical symbol for water (which is basically an upside-down triangle) and more literal gilding and colouring. I'll post that at some point later.

For now, this is the painting I'm talking about:

There's a painting my grandmother made when I was a kid of a scenic river view on the top going into a dark waterfall on the bottom and somehow this painting resonated with me really strongly. The contrast between the bright top and stark bottom, the powerful flow of water, etc. That and the fact that my grandpa was very very dear to me, and the painting brings back good memories, means this painting means a whole lot to me.

I loved this painting so much I made sure that I got it when my grandma sold her house and needed to get rid of things. It hangs above and to the side of my TV now. I don't really know if she knows how much this painting means to me as I don't really talk to her very much these days. Which is something I should probably change.

A long time later I read the Tao of Pooh, and while the book is just an introductory text on Taoism (and given the subject matter and such not to be taken entirely seriously) a lot of it resonated with those earlier feelings. Water is, by my understanding, of great symbolic importance in taoism as a shaper. Go with the flow, let the water carry you, shape you, etc. I've found that whenever, in my life, I try too hard to go against the natural flow of things, that's when things become complicated and difficult. Oddly, I feel like I'm doing that right now in my career, and I'm feeling that result a lot lately. I'm trying to find a way to get what I want *and* go with the flow and it's proving difficult.

I don't consider myself taoist by any means, since I know very little about it and tend to think of myself as a very unspiritual person, but learning about it has helped me be able to express fundamental things about myself, my personality, and my life that I might not have otherwise been able to. The symbolic power of water struck me long before I was able to express it, but reading that book focused it for me.

To hair is human, to bald divine?

So I inherited an unfortunate trait from my mother's family: Male pattern baldness. I have a very visible receding hairline and some noticeable thinning on the crown. So far, my response to this has been to let my hair go shorter and shorter, but it's getting to the point where there may need to be a final solution: Go completely bald. I've resisted this a long time, probably mostly out of fear. So the question is, should I do it?

I'm very likely to try it out when I go on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic over Christmas either way, but I'd like to gauge what people think of the possibility. Especially people who know me in person, but random input is always welcome. There's also the question of how facial hair fits into this, as I'm exceptionally lazy about shaving I alternate frequently between beard and clean/stubbly.

Poll #1486905 Shaving

Should I shave my head?

To spikey (mostly what I'm doing now)
To stubble (visible hairline, but very little hair)
To a glossy sheen

If I do shave my head, what should I do about facial hair?

Leave the full beard
Leave a goatee
Mustache (I'm unfriending anyone who picks this, and Nancy would divorce me if I did it)
Clean shaven

Love and Marriage

So Nancy and I went to a wedding yesterday. A big, all-day, grand affair with five course meal, open bar, lots of dancing, etc. It put me in mind of how my feelings about relationships and marriage have evolved over the years. Nancy and I were married just over 8 years ago (8 years as of June) and it's been interesting. We married young, compared to our peers, but our marriage has not, as yet, evolved into the nesting/kids/house in the burbs kind of thing that most people seem to consider their wedding a declaration of intent to do. It's possible we never will reach that stage, as I have serious issues with the concept of suburban living and Nancy has serious issues with the idea of using her body as an incubation device.

To put it in perspective, we were married (just) before 9/11. Much as I hate to say it, the world did seem to change with that event, if not in fact then at least in perception. Since then, our society has seemed to stratify along religious lines in a way that didn't seem to exist before, or at least was more subtle and unquestioned. In a way, I credit that stratification with the rise of the gay marriage debate (where the non-religious, emboldened by the emboldening of the religious right, felt a need to push back with their agenda), which has had a huge impact on my views of marriage. It made me question a lot of things about the institution, its origins, and its value.

The honest truth is that if I could go back, I would not have gotten married. Looking back at it, I can see the societal pressures that led us to make that move: the desire for acceptance and confirmation from family and friends as to the validity and maturity of our relationship being the prime motivator, with general background pressure along the lines of that it's just what you do when your relationship gets serious. We had no big proposal, no real idea of what this meant on a core level to ourselves, it was almost entirely motivated by external forces.

Which is not to say that I don't love Nancy, or that we're breaking up or some such nonsense. I'm as committed to Nancy as I ever have been. She's my right hand in all my endeavors and the most important person in my life. I don't see that changing any time soon. But in the end, that has nothing at all to do with the fact that we're married. It has to do with how compatible we are, how much we care about each other, and how devoted we are to making it all work. Those things exist whether or not you get married.

Seeing and recognizing that there has been, all along, an entire community of people relegated to not having this societal validation of their relationships has somewhat permanently damaged my impression of the institution. That that community is not far removed from me, being married myself to someone who is bisexual (and who was or believed herself to be gay before we fell for each other) and knowing a lot of gay people, means this is a somewhat personal concern for me. Though I believe strongly in marriage equality, I would honestly be just as happy with the abolishment of it as a legal construct altogether replaced completely with common law shared domicile benefits and a simple procedure for establishing someone as power of attorney and visitation rights. That'll never happen, but it would work well enough for me.

The fact that I came to a realization several years ago that I don't buy into monogamy as a concept, to the point that we consider ourselves polyamorous in theory if not always in practice, also factors into this. I won't go into too much detail about that here, since I usually lock posts relating to poly more tightly than I intend to lock this one. If you're curious about details on this, let me know and I can add you to the filter or answer any questions you might have.

Interestingly enough, while I feel negatively about the institution of marriage itself these days, I actually really love the idea of weddings. In reality, they take many forms aside from celebrations of legally empowered marriages: commitment ceremonies, handfasting ceremonies, anniversary parties, etc. Everyone loves a good party, and a declaration of love is as good a reason to throw one as any. Though I would never throw one as extravagant as the one I went to last night (unless I got rich enough to throw them as a matter of course), I certainly appreciate the idea of them, and think there should be more of them.

So basically, if I could do a Quantum Leap kinda thing into myself at 19, I'd go for the wedding, but screw the marriage. My feelings for Nancy are none but my own, and I don't need a piece of paper to prove it.

Oh, and it's a hell of a lot easier to dance at a party where you don't know anyone there. That was a good self-discovery too.