Take Care of Yourself
This advice is just as much for me as for anyone else who happens to read this.
As humans, we have almost always lived in some state of danger or uncertainty. Living in a country like the United States in the 21st century, however, it is easy to forget just how dangerous the world can be. With cell phones, the internet, medical technology, transportation, abundant food, and a huge amount of instantaneous satisfaction, it can be VERY easy for me to forget just how quickly all of this can be taken away. I am NOT invincible, even though sometimes I would like to think I am. Accidents can happen, mistakes can occur. I am blessed with a tremendous amount of control over my life and my future, but even then, money and privilege can not but CERTAINTY. I do not know that I will wake up tomorrow, for certain. I do not know that my dorm room might burn down, for certain. I do not know that my friends or family might be killed in a car accident, for certain. These are terrible things to think about, which is why I think death is such a taboo topic in our culture – it makes us feel uncomfortable. But I think it is far better to acknowledge these possibilities rather than live in denial. I’m not saying be morbid, I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t take our lives for granted.
Recently, I have been taking my life for granted. I have been taking the opportunities given to me for granted. I would even go so far as to say I have been squandering them. Despite my privilege and opportunity, I have not taken care of myself or the blessings I have in this life. Staying up late, very late, with no real reason other than I do not want to sleep; I think I am too good for sleep. As a reaction against my narcolepsy, with the help of my new medication, I think part of me thought I was invincible, that sleep was no longer that important. It was a big mistake.
By staying up late, by increasing my sleep debt to an inordinate amount, I literally made myself sick. At first I thought it was just seasonal allergies, but I’ve realized over the past few weeks this is a yo-yo effect: if I get a decent amount of sleep for a night, I feel alright the next day, but since my sleep is never consistent, the sickness soon comes back. I had terrible, chronic headaches. A bad cough and painful sinuses. My muscles felt weak and stiff, and I was feeling cold shivers. It was getting to the point where I was even starting to feel dizzy when I got up, almost falling over if I exerted myself too much. And this was entirely my own fault.
Yes, I could easily blame seasonal allergies, the flu season, the demands of college, but deep down inside I know that I am the instigator of the suffering with which I am now contending. I have taken life for granted, to the extent that I am causing myself harm. Nothing outside of me has done this, so I must take responsibility.
This is perhaps a sobering entry, maybe more so for me as I type it than for those few who I know read it. But I am glad I am saying it, because it is encouraging me to be accountable. And my life is improving. I have been insisting I go to bed at a sensible time and after several nights of good sleep, the improvement in my overall health is very apparent. The key is to make such behavior a CONSCIOUS habit, just like any form of actor training. It must become a part of my daily ritual, the same as brushing my teeth or doing my stretches.
My advice to all: please, take care of yourself. No one else can do this for you, and no one else can help you recover until you take the initiative yourself. Whether you are an artist or not, you will reap the benefits of good health through this behavior, which will also help you tackle the challenges outside of yourself, over which you may have little or no control.
Take care of yourself.