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Swords of Damocles

Published: 03.09.2018

Thursday night I was kept awake for a few hours by abdominal pain. I am wearily familiar with that and many other symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but that doesn’t make an episode any more fun. I know what caused it and I know how to help fix it. Same goes for when I have a period of poor sleep. I know why it’s happened and I technically have the knowledge of what to do to improve things. The problem is when human beings are in pain or tired, our memories are worse and we are less likely to make good decisions.


I had a conversation with a friend several months ago where I mentioned how frustrating it is to have my sleep schedule messed with over and over by my own choices. Only a couple of nights of sub-optimal sleep can have repercussions for me for days or weeks to come. Part of my problem was I kept expecting to eventually reach a state where I’d have perfect sleep forever after. This is doubly laughable given that one of my biggest dreams in life is to be a parent.


Through this conversation with my friend I realized that no, sleep would continue to be a challenge for me, my whole life. So I had the idea of writing up a set of instructions. The “standard operating procedure” for when my sleep falters. This set of instructions is labeled “Swords of Damocles” because there are a handful of issues that seem to hang over my head, just waiting to fall.


Now I have a set of instructions to follow when a sword does fall. Four nights ago both the sleep and digestion swords fell on me. Ow. So now I open my document and my past self advises the following:


  • Schedule time to do any task I’m committed to finishing in the next week.

  • Any task that has no commitment is considered suspended for at least a week.

  • Prioritize routine/sleep/relaxation.

  • Place all brain-numbing activities on lockdown (delete Netflix/YouTube apps from my phone, sign out of Facebook and Pinterest on all devices, make sure Twitter has limiting software active).

  • Consider changing the password on my tablet to one only my husband knows so I need his help to access it


The digestive sword instructions are the same as the sleep ones and also include switching to easy-to-digest foods for 48 hours. I also have a list of those foods in the instructions. The idea is to make these steps as easy as possible so no matter how bad I’m feeling, I'm still able to take action on them.


So for the next several days, I’ll be trying to get the swords back up above my head where they will dangle, just waiting for the next time I slip up. And when I do, I’ll have these instructions to save me time and trouble.



What swords constantly hang over your head?

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