How my Kindle saved my mind

I promised myself six moths ago that once I had settled down in the US, I would try to wean myself off my sleeping pill… again. Six years ago, I was prescribed a popular sleeping pill when I was suffering from acute carpel tunnel syndrome. Soon after I fell asleep, my hands would cramp, hurt like hell, and invariably disrupt my sleep. After several medical interventions the carpel tunnel was solved by surgery. I had carpel tunnel release surgery in both hands and it was the only thing that finally fixed it. The pain stopped on the day of the surgery six years ago and never returned. Unfortunately, the sleeping pill stuck with me. Having been an insomniac all my life, prescribing a notoriously addictive sleeping pill to me was like writing a prescription for alcohol and handing it to an alcoholic. Since then I have tried to wean myself off the medicine twice. The first time, I almost succeeded and then got pulled back, probably because I wanted just “one” more night of good sleep. The second attempt was so half-hearted that it is not even worth mentioning. So, I was hoping the third time will be a charm. When I set myself this goal half a year ago, I only wanted to do it because I was ashamed to be addicted to sleeping pills. This is such vague motivation that I doubt I would have gone very far with it . Now I have developed some real motivation to stop taking it. I started having some real troubling side-effects from it.

I realized that I have trouble remembering events that happen after I take the sleeping pill for the night. Initially it was off and on, but now it occurs all the time. The first indication that something was off was when I would sit down to watch an episode of a show on TV and the DVR would tell me that I had already watched it. I would watch it again and still not recall having watched it previously. I brushed it aside thinking maybe my husband watched it and that’s why it was marked “watched”.

Then my husband started telling me I was repeating myself – that I had already told him something the night before. But to me it was the first time I was saying it. I had such a hard time believing this because I have a really good memory. So much so, that I always thought of my good memory as more of a curse than as a gift. I always remember all the times I was hurt, what people said to hurt me, word by word. Its hard to forgive when you genuinely cannot forget! To top it off, it is a generally accepted fact in my family that my memory is better than my husband’s and it was simply ridiculous to me that he remembered things that I had forgotten (ah! pride does goeth before a fall!).

Even with these signs, I never really believed it. It is amazing how our mind conspires to fool us when we we don’t want to believe something. What finally convinced me was my Kindle. I always read before bed and lately I have been doing it less and less.  I knew I was reading less but I never questioned why. Last month, I got Stephen King’s “Bazaar of Bad Dreams” on my Kindle. A King book, and that too a short story collection! I would have had it finished in days. And yet, I still have about 40% to go. The reason finally dawned on me. It was because I was reading the same story over and over again! I would read before bed and stop halfway into the story. The next day, I would pick it up and have no memory of reading it. So I would go back and start reading it again. I would finish it and remember if I read it during the day. But if it was at bedtime, the same thing happened again and again. If this had been a real book, I would have never realized it as I almost never use a bookmark. I usually memorize the page number and come back to it. But this was my Kindle, and it opened to where I left off. Still, I initially dismissed it thinking my son had been fooling around with the Kindle and had turned the pages! But too much evidence was piling up and I finally had to face the fact that this was really happening.

I must have been subconsciously aware of it, because when I scrutinize some of my behaviors I realize that I stopped doing some things after dinner (like watching some shows or reading or anything that required me to remember it the next day) . When I finally faced up to it, it scared the bejesus out of me. There is a reason why  Alzheimer’s is my worst nightmare! Now, I have some real motivation to get off that drug! Over the past couple of weeks I reduced my dosage from 10 mg to 8 mg. Its been a hard couple of weeks and I know its only going to get worse before it gets better. But I do know one thing for sure. This time, I will get successfully get of it because now I have something that scares me worse than a bad night’s sleep.

On a side note, I think it is interesting that both the first thing that alerted me and the final thing that convinced me of my problem were both modern technological inventions (the DVR and the Kindle). So, there is something to be said for modern technology after all.

-AB

 

Keep calm and live life

Nearly a year ago, I downloaded a meditation app on my phone called “Calm”. I used the free version off and on for most of last year. It had nature sounds, scenes, and a series of guided meditation sessions called “7 days of calm”. The sessions introduced different practices of mindfulness meditation; from body scans to progressive relaxation for sleep. Around that time, I also downloaded several other meditation and relaxation apps mainly with the goal of controlling stress and helping me sleep better. But I eventually deleted all of them except Calm. A big plus point with Calm is the voice of the narrator who guides the meditation. The woman has an incredibly calm voice that is instantly relaxing and has done a great job narrating the guided sessions at a slow and even pace. I have deleted some of the other apps just because I couldn’t stand the voice that was used! The narration is also very intuitive and provides just enough instruction so you know what to do.

In January of this year, I decided that meditating regularly was going to be my resolution for this year. One afternoon on a whim I paid the subscription for the full app for the whole year ($40). It is more than I would have liked to spend but because it is a subscription, new content is added every month.

Now a month later, I feel that the $40 per year investment for my mental health was totally worth it. The daily sessions last between 10-12 minutes and that’s all it takes to significantly lower my stress levels. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure that it was helping me. Then I noted an increase in stress, irritation, and anger on the days I didn’t meditate. It became worse if I missed sessions for a couple of days in a row. I believe that a person can change only when they decide that they are going to change. For change to occur you need a trigger. If I didn’t benefit by the meditation, I wouldn’t have started to consciously make time for it. Initially, I would remember to meditate only after the kids get home from school (my guess is that’s when I need that extra patience and calm). But I found it so much harder to meditate for even 10 minutes when the kids are at home. Even if I told them that I was going to meditate and would like not to be disturbed for 10 minutes, they would decide that something was too urgent to wait 8 more minutes and would always interrupt me. So it took me a few days to realize that I needed to move my meditation time to earlier in the day – before the kids came home.

Nowadays, meditation is the first thing I do after the kids leave for school. Today, I celebrate 10 continuous days of meditation! So far, its biggest impact on me has been from the sessions that focus on “non-reactivity”. Increasingly, I find myself capable of realizing it when something upsets me and stepping away from it. I am learning to not react to such situations and instead, take the time to think about it and realize its not such a big deal after all. I am willing to wager that my cortisol levels are lower than they used to be. I can just feel calmness flood over me whenever I am able to do that.

There has been a wonderful side affect to this app. Back when I was meditating at the end of the day, I would sit and do it with my kids lying nearby reading. Soon, they became drawn to it and started meditating with me. I noticed that sometimes my son would be listening to it and fall asleep much faster than usual. My daughter says that it helps her to shut down at the end of the day and fall asleep. So, now I share my app with her. She takes it to bed with her (there are special sessions that guide you to sleep) and falls asleep listening to it.

If you are interested in really getting into meditation, I highly recommend “Calm”. Their website features also some freebies that are worth checking out. So, keep calm and live life.

-AB

 

Born again Love

 

My Dearest,

I don’t remember the moment I fell in love with you. But, in love I fell and now there is no turning back – forever. I fell in love with you only a few years ago, although, I have known you for most of my life. I heard about you even as a child, interesting tales about the things that you did, but they never affected me the way they affect me now. When I was a teenager, I went through a phase where I even disliked you! I felt you weren’t as perfect as everyone claimed. I could not understand your actions. I felt you were partial, unfair, and dare I say it? Yes, I thought you were unethical! I compared you with other men and found you wanting. You did not seem deserving of my love or devotion. I saw your mischievous smile as the arrogant smirk of a know-it-all.

In my twenties and most of my thirties, I was indifferent to you. I never really thought about you much. It was like my life had nothing to do with you. I thought that we completely lost touch. Now, I know that wasn’t true. I had pulled away from you, but you never gave up on me. You always had your eyes on me. You didn’t push, you didn’t force, but you stayed there, waiting, knowing, completely confident, that I will eventually realize that I can’t live without you. You waited all the while, smiling your know-it-all smirk. Only now I realize that if you had abandoned me, I would have never survived.

Then a few years ago, you decided that it was time. You reached out to me in an almost passive way. I don’t know how you did it, but you slowly wormed your way into my heart. You made me see you clearly for the first time and you lit a spark in me. A hunger to know you and find out everything about you. I turned to every resource I had, I spoke to people who knew you and I sought out those interesting tales from your childhood. Finally, I was able to see your actions in a whole new light. What I had seen as partial, unfair, and unethical finally made sense to me. Viewing it with older and wiser eyes, I understood the reasons behind your behavior; that they were driven by a pure sense of ethics, unmeasurable love, and amazing grace. That spark that you lit in me is now a raging bonfire that can never be put out. It keeps me warm on the coldest nights and makes my whole world brighter every day.

These days, I find myself day dreaming about you. My heart sings whenever I recall your mischievous smile. It no longer seems like an arrogant smirk to me. For now, I understand the language that you speak with your eyes and that smile. I imagine running my fingers through your dark curly hair, gazing into your kind eyes, and resting my head on your broad majestic shoulders.  But most of all, I come running to you when my heart is heavy; I lie on your lap, pour out my grievances and tears, and wait for you to tell me what to do. How many times have I fallen asleep like that? And you have just sat there, while I slept on your lap, watching over me, even though you had a million other things to do. You stroked my hair and my troubles dispersed away with every stroke.

Now, I can’t imagine my life without you and all that matters is that I want to spend the rest of eternity with you. I have a picture of you in almost every room of my house. Wherever I spend significant time, I want my eyes to fall on you. I have a photo of you on my bedside as well, so that your face is the last thing I see before I fall asleep and the first thing I see upon waking. Even right here, next to me, on my desk I have a picture of you. One from your childhood, of that time you were dancing, on top of Kaliya, imprinting your lotus feet on his head and subduing him to save the people you love.

I am never alone, now that you live in my heart. Thank you for saving me. I love you.

-AB

This post was written for the “Write a Love Letter” campaign for The Chennai Bloggers Club