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The "P" key issue: not the same as procrastination  RSS feed

paul wheaton
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Posts: 21474
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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This is what procrastination looks like:

And I'm not talking about that.

This is a feeble attempt to share something in the hopes that it might help somebody. In many ways, it is foolish to share this sort of thing as it exposes you (me) to haters. And, at the same time, many people will then have less faith in the rest of my endeavors because I am sharing this. Let the chips fall where they may.

I was about 22 when I first encountered what I call "The 'p' key issue." I was writing a program, but I wasn't. I needed to write this program, but instead of writing the program, there were times when I just sat in front of the screen and stared at the screen. I knew what I needed to write. I wasn't procrastinating. I was there, in front of the computer, knowing what to do and it just wasn't happening. An hour or two could pass like this.

I would know that the thing I needed to do was push "p" on the keyboard. I knew it. But I didn't. I just sat there ... staring at the monitor trying to will myself to press the "p" key. Sometimes the day was broken only by peeing, pooping and eating. I refused myself any fun or adventure because I had not earned it.

I then tried to solve the problem by trying different things, including going out for a bit of fun or a bit of exercise or doing something other than what needed to be done.

My diet at the time consisted of mostly PB&Js and crunchy cereal (Mmmmmmmmmm .... delicious crunchy cereal ... my favorite at the time was bucwheats ... so crunchy ... so yummy). In time, I figured out that the culprit was the milk in my crunchy cereal. Once I got rid of the dairy, the problem went away. But it took several months to figure this out.

About eight years ago the problem returned. Not quite as bad as before, but my productivity was definitely low. This time the problem did seem more like procrastination. But it seemed to be 20% procrastination, 40% "the 'p' key issue" and 40% new territory. I decided to solve it like I did before: figure out what was causing it. After a year or two, I met Jocelyn and she connected me with a really good naturopath. After more than an hour of talking she sent me off to have my B12 levels tested. Apparently, it was the lowest she had ever seen. She started me on stuff to get my B12 back and, in time, the problem went away. I was back to being very productive. It was suggested that my B12 went down due to stress (from crazy people!).

On the spoon theory thread, I shared some stuff about stress over the last couple of years and a feeling of exhaustion. This was not the same as "the 'p' key issue." And this wasn't procrastination. It was just oodles of exhaustion. I felt certain it was mental exhaustion brought on by the 20 month party and stress. The spoon theory stuff has been really helpful in trying to heal up from that. But at the same time, it was amazing how I would easily give up a lot of spoons for stupid stuff.

I was making progress. If I take a 15 minute break every couple of hours, plus take evenings off, and even take off an afternoon or two each week, I would be able to do more and feel better. It was a slow road, but with definite progress.

Last fall I had "an incident". I was in my office talking to jocelyn and I suddenly got super dizzy - the room was spinning. Jocelyn got freaked out and insisted that I go to a doctor. The doctor took blood tests and ... in the end I just decided it was stress and a bit of a fluke. I worked less and things started to mend.

A week ago I was taking time off one evening. We don't have a tv, but we do have netflix instant view. We were watching "Doc Martin". A woman collapsed. It turned out she had an excess of iron. And I remembered that one of the blood test results from last fall was high iron.

I sent an email to the doctor to ask "how high was that iron stuff on that test?" and have not heard back.

I looked it up and found that pretty much the only way to solve this is to donate blood (which is what doc martin did).

I used to donate blood quite regularly. I was past two gallons. In 1994 I donated blood and the red cross sent me letter saying that they tested my latest donation and a liver thing was wonky. They don't want my blood until I see a doctor about it. I saw a doctor and was told to tell the blood people that it must have been a fluke, test again. But I ended up just not going back.

So I thought this was a thing to try. Red cross blood donation place in missoula is closed on wednesday and thursday, but open from 10am to 2pm on friday. So I have to wait. I get there on friday at 1 and they say that they cannot accept my blood because of the thing in 1994. I told them that my doctor said I was fine back in 1994 but they said "don't tell us, you have to call this 800 number and convince them." Jocelyn got that all sorted out for me by 3pm - too late to make a donation. Plus, it sounded like it could be weeks until the computers could all catch up and ... fuck it - I'll donate somewhere else. I spent a couple hours on saturday trying to find another place. I even found a place in spokane that would take blood on sunday (but there was a LOT of conflicting info on whether they were REALLY open on sunday - after several phone calls, I managed to get a human being on the phone and received ample assurance that they were, indeed, open). So Jocelyn and I made a day trip to spokane. A beautiful drive punctuated by a wonderful restaurant that jocelyn found in core-duh-lane.

The spokane blood center folks tested my blood for iron and said it was "15.7". Apparently if the number is lower than 12.5 they won't let you donate. I have no idea what this actually measures. Google told me that the average person has 10 pints of blood. I'm a giant so I'm just going to guess that I have 20 pints. So maybe my iron load was reduced 5% from 15.7 to 14.9. So if I was 3.2 units above "barely anemic" I would now be 2.4 units. A pretty healthy shift!

That was sunday. Yesterday, monday, I probably got twice as much stuff done. A very productive day. And I'm getting a lot done today too. The change is so dramatic and feels so good, I feel quite confident that this was the solution. Naturally, I would want to wait several more days to see if I maintain this level of productivity. And I plan to donate as often as I can for at least a year. I think after my next donation I will go in to see the doctor and get my blood retested.

As I did the research there were a couple of other fascinating things: apparently nearly all men get excessive levels of iron in their 40s. And it can be a huge contributing factor to lots and lots of problems. It just seems like guys donating blood once in a while does a lot to improve the health of guys!

- - - -

Through all of this I was really sure that I didn't have depression. I don't know why. After all, I have never felt suicidal. Nor sad (at least no more than what seems normal when you see or hear of awful things).

I once heard of a woman that would sleep 22 hours a day and it turned out she had depression.

So I looked it up just now. Hmmmm ... maybe? Fatigue is on the list. But most of the stuff on the list is not me.

I really enjoy the writings of former Missoulian allie brosh. And when she wrote about her Adventures in Depression

I commented and told her about the B12 stuff. My comment was comment number 3500 or so. The comments were eventually turned off and then she responded with Depression, part 2. She explains that offers of help sound like ... well, suppose your goldfish have died:

- - - -

What if I never figured out the dairy thing? Or the B12 thing? Or the iron thing?

What new adventures lie ahead for me as I get older and moldier?

I'm excited to get caught up on all of my stuff soon. I hope that Allie Brosh is all better now. I hope that my exposing my own personal health junk that it helps some permies.

Without subsidies, chem-ag food costs four times more than organic. Or this tiny ad:
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