This is a post from My Health Journey, an ongoing series where I document my health progress. Follow along to see, month after month, how I implement my recovery protocol, handle stressful situations, eliminate food sensitivities, incrementally train my nervous system to handle more stress, and ultimately, how my method continues to allow me greater and greater freedom, happiness, and health!
November has come to a close, and, unfortunately, I finally didn't have a day with pain-free time. So what finally claimed my unprecedented streak? It took a second dalliance with COVID to end it. But, despite losing the streak, it was still a month of progress. In this month's health journey update, I'll discuss the mild case of COVID I picked up while traveling for the holiday near the end of the month, my continued quest to stop reliance on sleep medication, and how I continued to bulk up and gain strength before the illness. Let's start with COVID.
The End of My Streak
The big news is that I made it to a whopping 155 days straight with pain-free time, and it took an illness like COVID to break it on the day before Thanksgiving. It took a consistent fever, sore throat, and enough body aches and a consistent headache from the illness to create a day where I hurt all day. Unfortunately, I didn't have another day with pain-free time until I finally had a breakthrough on the last day of the month. I took a break from all exercise except for gentle walking during this time, and it made my suspicion clear that weightlifting and bouldering are necessary to keep my pain away. The longer I went without exercise, the more my chronic shoulder and base of skull nerve pain increased.
The loss of my unprecedented streak didn't bother me at all. Five straight months of pain-free time is an amazing run of relief after living with pain for 22 years! And if it took an illness to break the streak, that says a lot about how robust my health has become and how well I manage it. I'm essentially a normal person now!
This is the second time I've had COVID. The first was back in 2020, before I began these health updates, and it was many magnitudes worse than this illness. This time, I was fully armed with a supplement protocol. I began therapeutic dosages of Vitamins A, C, D, and E, along with zinc, n-acetyl-cysteine, quercetin, CoQ10, selenium, and propolis. I also started drinking three cups of bone broth daily, and since I was already eating a high-protein diet to bulk up, no change was needed there. I slept as much as possible, which was tricky due to body aches that increased in certain positions. My case was mild, perhaps due to how robust my health is and how quickly I intervened.
The most interesting development of having COVID was that it showed a continued correlation between my heart rate and glucose tolerance to the amount of stress and inflammation in my body. I got some wild heart rates and glucose readings during this last week. My heart rate was over 100 while just sitting or standing around, and I was regularly getting high blood glucose readings from my Keto Mojo, even on moderate carbohydrate meals. I've also seen this happen when my pain is elevated, and it is a dead giveaway that my nervous system is in a state of hyperarousal. I commonly see the same reaction when I work out when traveling.
The worst part of the illness was the psychological side of things. I'd been looking forward to a lot of wonderful family time, and the holiday was disrupted by quarantine. There was still a lot to appreciate, though!
I still had a tasty meal, even if it wasn't surrounded by loved ones. Thanksgiving also marks the fifth anniversary of my graduation from The Lemons Center, where I got my introduction to neuroscience, which led to my return to health after decades of chronic illness. It feels like a different life from when I first emerged from that program. Even with COVID, I felt better than I did back then. And I did get some brief quality time at the end of the trip after I'd passed the benchmarks to leave quarantine, so all was not lost. I'll see them again in a few weeks, at least.
Outside of the end-of-month COVID infection, I continued my journey to get off of sleep medication. I'm down to dividing the lowest dose into one-quarter of a tablet, which is so tiny that I can't subdivide it further. The first few nights went well on the lower dosage. Then I developed almost all of the withdrawal symptoms associated with the medication, including a potent chronic headache, gut irritation, and difficulty falling asleep for the next week. So I countered by starting to wind down 30 minutes earlier than usual, at 9:30 p.m. instead of 10 p.m., and doing some extra deep breathing sessions.
By the end of the second week, the symptoms were subsiding, but I still wasn't feeling as great as I did before the change. I didn't notice any other ill effects from it for the rest of the month, but I wonder if getting run down by the symptoms and getting worse sleep led to weakening my immune system to be more susceptible to COVID. As soon as the COVID symptoms are gone and I'm back to lifting regularly, I'll reduce to zero medication every other day and see how that goes.
Despite the symptoms I was experiencing from cutting down on my sleep medication, everything was full speed ahead with exercise until COVID struck. I set personal records on all eleven weightlifting exercises until my Thanksgiving travel, making me, without question, the strongest I've ever been! I was due to bench press my body weight with a set of 155 right before Thanksgiving travel but didn't get to attempt it when I came down with COVID. That's twice this year that I had a chance to lift my weight and got ill, with the previous time coming back in May when I had a severe case of food poisoning that set me back until a five-day water fast at the end of August.
And when I went bouldering, I only completed a few walls due to one immense challenge that was a significant progression for me. I finished my first advanced wall with sloper grips, shown here. Most of the grips on this course are imperceptibly sloped downward. When I first saw this wall, I thought it would be easy. I usually blitz right up straight vertical climbs like this. Boy, was I wrong!
These grips were like a wet basketball court or trying to cling to ice. One wrong move and it was an instant fall. On the second and third holds, I flew right off over 20 times. I was about to give up after that many failures and due to exhaustion, but I had some great coaching from my veteran climbing friend, Brian, that helped me figure it out. I was unable to succeed at first because I wasn't putting together all the moves simultaneously that I needed to stay on the wall. I was either forgetting to tighten my core enough, and gravity would give me a swift ejection from the wall, or I wasn't tensing my forearms and hands sufficiently. I finally put it all together, and on my first success of getting onto that third grip, I made it to the top! I was completely spent afterward. The video I took doesn't begin to show my epic struggle with the wall. It was a very satisfying session to conquer such a challenge!
Shortly after, I came down with COVID and didn't exercise for the rest of the month. Hopefully, I won't have lost too much strength when I resume. I think I'll be able to tomorrow.
In December, I have three priorities: to finish recovering from COVID, to reduce my sleep medication to every other day as soon as all the COVID symptoms are gone, and to resume weightlifting and keep bulking through the end of the year. I'll begin leaning out again in January.
Also, a very important closing note: in order to make more content about how individuals can get better from chronic health problems, I'll be moving my health updates to regular short YouTube and Instagram videos. I think this change will provide more insights than these once-per-month updates can, and it'll bring the fun of open commenting and questions by my audience. I'll still occasionally point to the updates in emails, but if you want to know the latest on how I'm doing and what I'm doing to continue to recover, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here and my Instagram here. I'll start posting the video updates in December, and I hope to see you in the comments! I'll announce it via email when the first one is up. Thank you for reading these updates. I hope they've been helpful to you! May you achieve your best health!