Post #23 02092020

Since I quit smoking on 12/2/2019 I have had a miserable two months of lousy sleep, periodic headaches, a sense of despair (even though my physical life is, quite frankly, one of relative ease and abundance compared to so many others suffering all over the world). Then I (accidentally) discovered I have inordinately high blood pressure! My frequent headaches are a symptom of HBP but I did not know that. Besides, BP is supposed to go down when one quits smoking!

On the positive side, my lungs do appear happy with the change, almost no phlegm, no coughing. Saving money with no trips to the tobacco shop, no shivering out in the garage while smoking in the winter (in past 25 years, have never smoked a cigarette inside my house) and no time wasted on rolling cigarettes or smoking them either. (Although hand rolling cigarettes can sometimes be experienced as a form of meditation.)

However, peeking into an unknown future, I would rather die the slow death of COPD (but still able to choose if and when to end it myself) than the possible sudden incapacitation of a heart attack or, much worse, a stroke that might suddenly steal my capacity/agency to make choices. I do NOT want to spend my life or money on a nursing home, nor on expensive end of life medical expenses. I have already purchased my long term care plan for $700, a well made .38 revolver and a box of metal jacketed bullets. (They don’t sell them individually.)

In any case, my goal is to get my BP down to a safe level.

After some research, I learn the principle causes of HBP are:

Smoking. (This is contraindicated for my situation given my BP was normal a month before I quit and sky high afterwards.)

Being overweight or obese. (I am a bit overweight but the same weight I was when my BP reading was normal only 3 months ago)

Lack of physical activity. (Walk my dog twice/day + do aerobics on an elliptical at home alternating with weight training- not in shape to do a marathon but not a slug either – same as I was 3 months ago)

Too much salt in the diet. (My diet is unchanged from three months ago and don’t eat processed food, the source of most dietary salt.)

Too much alcohol consumption (meaning more than 1 to 2 drinks per day) (I drink very little)

Stress. (Interesting possibility!)

Older age. (I am only 3 months older than I was when my blood pressure was normal!)

Genetics (have the same genes now I had three months ago!)

The possibility of stress being the source of my HBP got me to reflecting on my life.

I finished my book in November, quit smoking in December.

For the past five years, my principle daily motivation was writing the book. I would get up in the morning; eagerly go to my journal, my Morning Pages (this title taken from the excellent book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron) and write 2, 3, 4, sometimes even 5 pages in my 8 1/2X 11 notebooks. I so looked forward to this, perhaps my favorite part of the day. I loved to write there in the garage at my work bench, in silence (Spiritdog still snoozing), armed with a hot cup of coffee and a cigarette or two or three. For me, it was Heaven on earth. Pure joy.

It is not a stretch to say that my latest book, 11 Life Practices/An Old Man’s Stories of Light, Love, Joy, was first imagined, and put down on paper (using my beloved Pentel Artist’s pen, 0.4 mm thickness) in my journal. Then, after meditating, walking Spiritdog, doing my daily exercise, the next few hours were devoted to converting those insights and revelations into readable copy on my computer.

When I get up in the morning now, I am lucky if I can fill a single page of my journal. No cigarettes, but no ideas or excitement either. Some days, I literally have nothing to say at all. There is nothing exciting to fill up my morning, or day, either. Tasks here and there of course, errands now and then but …………

 

So, here is my story:

My daily life has been tipped over, spilling away the meaning in my life. Now I understand why I have gone into an emotional tailspin.

Suddenly, my life feels empty and meaningless. I feel anxious, even despondent, at a loss with what to do with myself. The fun, satisfaction, thrill of creating something new has disappeared from my experience. What am I to do with me, my energy, my time? No surprise that my stress level has skyrocketed.

At the same time, my lifelong way of relieving stress is gone. My cigarettes!

When my wife, Dianna died, I was in a similar situation. I went from being married to an amazing woman, and having the honor of being her caregiver 24 hours/day to, in a single moment, having no one, suddenly without a purpose for being. Yet, throughout the subsequent years of grieving and sorting out my life, my blood pressure remained absolutely normal. I was smoking in those days.

In contrast, during this stressful period, my BP has gone from lifelong readings of 120/80 or less, to 160-190/100-160 when untreated with medication. So, today, I am taking 50 mg/day of Losartan and my average BP is still 140-170/80-90; better but still not good. Of course, the dose can be increased. BUT, I am not willing to accept lifelong HBP medications to achieve something I had naturally without drugs only three months ago.

So, where do I go from here to find my way back to normal BP without medication?