.journal 2001.02.24
Watch me go insane.

Now listening to: Backdraft soundtrack
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Exquisite Corpse
Now playing: NHL 2001 (Playstation 2)

Well, I think you're all in for a treat; I think I am going insane. And you all get to watch me document this process right here on seanshannon.org. Don't you feel special now.

For most of the past week I have found myself unable to sleep. At all. And this is with me cutting out all caffeine from my diet in an attempt to help regulate what had previously been a somewhat haphazard sleep schedule. It's almost enough to drive me to chug four or five Mountain Dews in succession. Unfortunately, it's not my diet that's causing my lack of sleep. Or rather, it is not the root cause, it merely contributes to what is actually causing my sleeplessness.

What has happened is that my brain has simply become unable to shut itself down. Whether I'm working on business stuff or artistic stuff or just trying to kick back and watch some television or play some video games, or sleep, I am having this constant itinerant stream of thoughts running around in my head, and I cannot shut it off. That in and of itself is making concentrating on work or the other things I have to do hard enough, but when you compound that with a lack of sleep, I am in such a state right now that I don't know what in the hell I'm supposed to do.

I have spoken about symptoms like this before when speaking of The Artists' Way. Julia Cameron cites the need to "drain the brain" in order to focus more clearly on the things we do, especially our artistic endeavours. The main tool for this is the Artist Pages, three free-form pages written every morning without exception. And it would be one thing if this were happening to me if I'd stopped doing the Artist Pages, but in point of actual fact I've actually been going longer than usual in the Artist Pages every day, sometimes writing up to three and a half pages. And while I've been away from this online journal for awhile, it also serves to help me drain my brain.

In point of actual fact, I've had a few journal updates in mind recently, but haven't had the ability to write them out due to time constraints. (When you can't work quite as well as normal, you have to work longer in order to make it up, plus I've been busy redesigning one of my father's sites.) My recent pickup of Madden 2001 for Playstation 2, as well as realizing how much I forgot to include in my most recent video game rant, makes me think I have enough material to write a second journal update devoted to video games. Björk getting snubbed when the Oscar nominations came out last week has me wanting to do a journal update devoted to music. And enough other stuff has been going on in my life that a more general-purpose journal update is probably in order.

So what is this jumble that's endlessly running through my brain? It's too many things to count, really, and a lot of it is personal stuff that I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing here. But hopefully if I talk about the other stuff here, maybe it will help alleviate some of whatever's going on in my head.

I guess I should start with my diet, because that seems to become a recurring theme in some of the other things going on in my head. As I mentioned around Christmastime, I had to make some cutbacks in my diet recently because my weight loss had stagnated, and as the fat has come off my body I've come to realize I didn't quite inherit as much of my Mother's Germanic frame as I'd thought, so I had to revise my goal weight downward a great bit. And while the cutbacks in my diet, as well as practicing yoga, have caused my rate of weight loss to kick back up, it's also had the nasty side effect of increasing my food cravings.

I had gone over two years with DietWatch, save for six to eight weeks when repeated illnesses forced me to eat more food to keep my strength up, pretty much eating in the same caloric and fat range. That range wasn't necessarily all that tight, but the important thing was that I was never really hungry. I was eating three decent sized meals every day, I was eating very delicious food (as using DietWatch encouraged me to try different things and I found a lot of foods I really liked), and every now and then I could have the odd snack of healthy food. And while I did wish I could eat the odd fatty food once in a while (I couldn't believe I went over two years without eating Crunchy Cheetos), I didn't really have cravings per se, just fleeting desires. And I lost a hundred pounds that way.

But then my weight loss basically stopped, and it was obvious that I still had a great deal of weight to lose; I haven't been obese for nine months, but I'm still clearly overweight. So I recalculated my caloric and nutritional needs, and adjusted my diet accordingly. For the most part I'm still eating the same foods I was, just in smaller portions. I had to cut real pizza and ice cream-based products out of my diet, though, because I found eating those things tends to slow my weight loss a great deal, but I'm still eating food that is pleasing to my palate.

The only problem is, for two years there my body got used to having a certain amount of food brought in every day, and now all of a sudden that intake was decreased. The end result of that was that I started becoming hungry. And hunger really wasn't a problem for me there for quite a while, so the sensation was a bit unfamiliar. I didn't think it would be that much of a problem, though, because I figured my body would adjust to the restricted food intake in time, and I'd be okay.

It hasn't happened quite that way, though. Hunger has become a near-daily experience for me, particularly late at night when I'm about to go to bed. And then a few weeks ago I started having actual cravings for food, and it wasn't even particularly food I used to like before my diet, just food that I knew I really couldn't fit into my diet. The cravings became stronger, and I just didn't know what to do with myself. So I promised myself that when I crossed a certain point in my weight loss, I'd let myself have a day or so off of my diet, and eat the things I was craving. I figured that would work out okay.

Well, that day ended up being last Friday, when the previous day I'd weighed in below the target I set for myself. And I did enjoy the food I had, to an extent. One of the odd things I've found about dieting to the extent that I have is that just as a vegetarian's body "forgets" how to process meat after a time, so that when a vegetarian does eat meat it messes his or her insides up, my body seems to forget the sensations of eating fat. I finally had those Cheetos, but the first few I had, I only tasted the corn of the puffs because it was the only ingredient in them that was familiar to me, from the low-fat nacho dish I have every once in a while. I also had real pizza for the first time in a long while, and my lips were totally unaccustomed to the sensation of having pizza grease on them. (I can make homemade pizza on my diet, but only using the barest amount of cheese.)

The problem is, the cravings haven't abated since then. Well, some of them have (such as the Cheetos), but they've been replaced in turn by cravings for other things. The overall strength of the cravings is still as strong as ever, and in fact I worry that maybe giving into those cravings may have been a bad thing because now my memory of how the foods I can't have taste is that much stronger. At the same time, though, I realize that the cravings were driving me nuts, and if I didn't acquiesce to them to at least some extent that would've made things worse as well.

I think what I'm gonig to end up doing is just letting myself have days off on a regular basis from now on, with the hope that regular satiation of my cravings will help make them more manageable. I weigh in every four weeks, so I figure taking a day off after weighing myself would be a good way to go about things. If anything, this next weigh-in I have will help me see whether or not taking the days off will have that adverse an effect on my weight loss. Although my next weigh-in will be real close to my birthday, so I may put off my day off the diet until then and really be able to enjoy myself that day. I hope it works out.

What has been the most intense in my head, though, has been thoughts about my friends. The problem I have with my current circle of friends and buddies is that aside from Jeff, they all live real far away from me, and while I've never been someone who needs the level of in-person interaction in my life that most people do, I don't think I'm getting enough of it now to satisfy me. And if my friends lived closer, that wouldn't really be a problem, but when nearly all of them would require me flying out to see them, that makes things really difficult.

As I mentioned before, the one resolution I made this past new year's was to go out and see L. out on the west coast later this year. Apart from her, there are also a couple of friends of mine on the east coast that I really would like to go out and see. Thankfully because I've been so busy at work, the money for plane and hotel fare shouldn't be a problem. But it's not just a matter of money, it's a matter of me having the time to go see them, and them being able to fit a visit from me in their schedule.

And I really haven't ever had to do something like that before. I mean, I've gone across state to meet with friends before, but across state and across country are two different things entirely. I've never been in a plane before, and while I don't think I have a fear of flying, there's no way I'll know until I'm in that plane as it takes off. I don't think I've been in a hotel room for a decade or so now, and back then it was my parents or my school taking care of the planning for that, not me. This wouldn't just be having one new experience, this would be me having several new experiences all at once, and at the same time trying to relax and enjoy myself in the company of friends. And it all seems a bit overwhelming to me.

I'm not quite sure how things are going to work out yet; L. moved into a new apartment earlier this year and is now in the process of changing jobs, so I can't go out and see her until things on her end become less hectic. My east coast friends might be more of a viable option in the short-term, but I just have so much work right now that I can't go out there anytime soon. It also doesn't help that I still don't have a car of my own, so any money I might have for plane fare and the like should probably be deposited into the car fund instead.

But at the same time I can't stop thinking about being with friends, and planning for what we'd be doing while I was there. Artists by nature are daydreamers, and I always have very strong daydreams. But these daydreams are even stronger than my usual ones, and that's making things very hard on me because I get going with the daydreams and I just can't stop. I don't think anything short of actually seeing them will stop the daydreams, but I've got to find a way to curb the daydreams or something because they're driving me bonkers, at a time when that's a real short trip.

This aggravated mental state is exacerbating a lot of other things. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that you just can't shake? I've got about ten of them right now, and as soon as I think I've got one of them under control, another one rises up to take its place. I wish I could hook an antenna up to my head, because I'm quite sure I could have quite a little radio station going here. I'm also having these strange flights of fancy that have such insane amounts of detail to them that I know these can't be the product of my brain alone, something else has to be driving them on. And I seem to be a lot more aware of the sensations in my body, as every itch seems that much more irritating, every temperature difference that much more profound.

And, of course, there is the whole matter of the work opportunity vs. the school opportunity. That may be one of the key factors of me being like this, because I still haven't come to a decision on that yet. I can't decide yet because I'm still doing some important fact-finding, and I still need some input from some other people. But this is something that needs to be taken care of, and I'm hoping it's sooner and not later. Unfortunately as it's out of my hands right now, all I can do is hope.

Anyway, I have been able to get some sleep every once in a while, when my brain simply runs out of juice, and I think I'm going to try that again just now. Rest assured, I think you'll be hearing a lot more from me in the short-term, as I try to sort all of this out and just try to get some of this stuff out of my head and make things easier for me to deal with. Wish me strength.

- Sean