Fixing me (allergies, part 2)

I’ve been doing a lot of health upgrade-y type things lately. One of them, which I wrote about previously, was around getting to the root of my allergy problem.

Perhaps it’s a sign of aging? I’m no longer content to just let health issues be — I’m approaching the age where it’s best to take care of the little things because they might lead into bigger things. (Or maybe I’ve become a hypochondriac.)

S’anyway, the past weekend I went to a specialist to ask about my jaw. I wear a splint when I sleep because I grind my teeth at night — I’ve been doing so for around 12 years now, but I suspect I must’ve been grinding much earlier. The past few months, however, my jaw had been becoming even more sore, and I was worried that I had been grinding my jaw joint down.

Well, it turns out that my jaw joint isn’t the problem — it’s just that the muscles around it are super tense. The specialist says that it likely started when, as a kid, I was blocked up due to allergies and resorted to breathing through my mouth. This “struggling to breathe” schtick threw my sleeping posture out of whack, causing the muscles in my neck and jaw to tense. Over the years it’s turned into a vicious cycle where bad posture, stress, and allergies caused me to grind my teeth and tense my muscles.

So now I’m on a drive to:

Do everything I can to get rid of my allergies. The specialist recommended using a nasal spray. I also ended up spending for an air purifier — just got it today. It’s gotten rave reviews from people who suffer from allergies saying they’ve slept better and snore less. (Because yes, I found out that I snore.)

Get better posture. Funnily enough, a week ago we ended up buying inexpensive posture braces to help us straighten our postures, haha! They’re still on their way, but hopefully they’ll be able to help. And although I’m not much of a yoga fan (sorry friends, I know this might sound blasphemous — it’s just that I find it boring! I’d rather be dancing or doing martial arts), I’m going to try and do a little yoga every day to fix it up.

Relax my muscles. So I need more massages in my life! Haha! Seriously though, I got recommended to go to a physiotherapist who can help me with my jaw and neck muscles.

I just find it really interesting how everything’s interconnected… but at the same time, I shake my fist at you, allergies!

I may be a morning person…

I read Dan Pink’s book “When” earlier this month. (It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it!) He linked to the Automated Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, which gave me advice about my circadian rhythm type.

I’ve written in the past about how I used to be able to wake up super early – I had early morning track meets (high school), hockey practice (college/first job), and from 7 AM to 4 AM (latter part of my first job) – until grad school came along. Since then, I’ve struggled to become a morning person again.

I’ve made strides in sleeping and getting up earlier but I have a way to go, still! Anyway, whilst reading the book, it made me ask myself: Why do I insist on getting up earlier? What if I’m really a night owl? Am I just caught up in the romanticism of being a morning person?

Anyway, I took the test and apparently my natural bedtime is at 11:15 PM. Count 8 hours from that, and I’m assuming my natural wake-up time is at 7:15 AM. (I may have to re-take the test cos I took it in a rush, but I’m still taking it as a sign that I’m more of a morningish person.) I’m not surprised. More of relieved, I guess. It was one of those “I knew it all along” moments.

The truth is, I do like waking up early in the morning. I like feeling like I’ve made the most out of the sunshine during the day (even more critical that it’s nearly winter and it gets dark relatively early). I like being able to be comfortably seated in the train without all the people crammed into the carriage like a tin of sardines. I like walking through the streets when it’s quiet, sleepy. And I like being able to leave work when it’s still light out, and catch the last rays of sunlight on my train ride home.

Besides the perks of commuting in less busy hours, I do feel more alive in the mornings. When S and I have breakfast dates in the city it’s at 7 AM — which means I have to get up at 5:45 AM at the latest. You’d assume that I’d be sleepy and groggy the rest of the day, but I’m actually fine. I feel more awake at 8 AM if I’ve had an early start.

It’s just so hard to stick to a proper nighttime schedule! I end up doing all these little things and before I know it, I’m waaaay past the time I wanted to sleep. I really should be more focused with my time. The next few weeks, I’m definitely going to put more effort into making sure my nighttime routine is solid. I’m usually pretty productive (and good!) during the day, but when it’s time to rewind… I waste too much time on the wrong things.

In summary – 11:15 bedtime: here I come!

I hate my allergies

I honestly don’t know exactly how it started… I do remember waking up one night in Singapore, unable to sleep, resolving to complain to the manager of the serviced apartment where I was staying that the sheets were super itchy and there must be bedbugs, before realising I perhaps had to take an antihistamine.

It got to the point where, three years later, I was taking one daily. I was now living in the US, and decided to go to an allergy doctor so I could figure out exactly what it was. After doing a prick test, he gave me a long list of things I had reacted to, with the ending statement of, “oh but there’s a 50% chance of false positive, so just keep doing what you’re doing and take an antihistamine daily.”

So I accepted that I was allergic to something, and continued taking an antihistamine every day. If I didn’t take them, I would get itchy hives all over my body, and I accepted that I was just one of those people who needed to keep allergens at bay.

I started suspecting something was wrong when, now in Oz, I had a few blood tests where I mentioned that I was allergic to shrimp/prawn (I had a few ER visits when I was younger after eating ’em), but the test results showed no reaction. One time, I was given steroid pills, and was told that since the steroids were more powerful than my antihistamine, I wouldn’t need the antihistamines, but I still broke out in a rash.

Plus, my symptoms didn’t abate when seasons came and went — seriously, shouldn’t things be better when the pollen count was low? But alas, they weren’t. I thought maybe I was reacting to something I ate — I spoke with a nutritionist, we cut out some foods and I was feeling better but the itchiness was still there.

So, one night, staring at the angry rash covering my torso and reaching for an antihistamine, I resolved that I no longer wanted to be a slave to a stupid pill. I searched and found that Cetirizine (the antihistamine I was taking) withdrawal really is a thing. Yes, I’m aware that all the evidence is anecdotal, but other people’s experiences were just so similar to mine. The unbearable itching if I didn’t have my regular dose. The angry rash, the hives. If other people were to be believed, it seemed like I had developed a dependency on the very pill I was using to treat my symptoms; my antihistamine was both my cause and my cure.

Some people recommending weaning themselves slowly, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do. When I started getting serious about weaning, I had been taking the pill every second or third day. Now I’m taking half a pill every third day. I’m hoping I can cut down more, but lately the last couple of hours in that three-day period is agony and I end up caving so I can at least get a decent amount of sleep.

I’ve been drinking a lot more water. I’m pretty desperate at this point so I’ve added a few other drinks, too — I’ve been drinking a turmeric tea and dandelion root drink. They’re supposedly good for liver cleansing and anti-inflammation. I even tried adding bentonite clay to clean my system, I’m not too sure what it does (haha) but apparently some people do it to beat drug tests, so I figure it must be a pretty good detox option…

Anyway, here I go. Hoping that by this year’s end I’ll be off this stupid antihistamine!

Meeting an Australian icon

I always wanted to go to Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock), and I finally had my chance! My friend T and I booked a four day trip during the Easter break.

Yulara, the closest town, was developed by the government for the sole purpose of tourism. Previously, the un-monitored tourism industry was wreaking havoc on the environment, so the government stepped in. As a result, arriving there was like walking into one big resort (which it actually is).

(Although it was at the tail end of summer when we went, it was still really hot! We ended up buying insect hat nets to keep the mozzies away and spraying copious amounts of bug spray. Apparently, there are no mozzies during winter, but I imagine it’d get really cold during that time…)

My highlights of the trip were:

1. Uluru.

To buck the trend, I’m not going to post a generic photo of Uluru. 😛

But yes, it was really good to finally see it in person. We did the base walk, which goes all the way around. Although it was advertised as a moderate walk, it was actually an easy walk — flat land all through out, tracks clearly marked. Even ran into a guy running it!

I think the only reason it was graded harder was because of the heat. There were a lot of exposed areas with no shade. Though every now and then, there would be lean-to’s where you could stop and rest and even a tap to refill your water bottle.

2. Kata Tjuta.

I’m going to admit my ignorance in saying that I didn’t know this existed until shortly before the trip. I’ll also admit that I enjoyed this hike more than the Uluru one. While it’s graded as a hard walk, it’s not super hard — there is just a bit of clambering one way, but after reaching the second lookout it turns into an easy walk. While the trail isn’t as clearly marked as Uluru, there are still arrows marking the way so we didn’t get lost.

But anyway, hiking this was like walking through the Land Before Time. There was so much lush greenery throughout, and it was nice seeing the variations in scenery.

3. The sunrise(s).

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park probably has the best sunrises I’ve ever seen.

And I was lucky I saw them. Because the weather was still getting pretty hot, we had to start the walks early — they recommend finishing walks by 11 AM in hot weather. This meant we were up at 5, and at the parks at 6, 6:30 AM… the perfect time to watch the sun rise.

Some realisations:

I got to learn a bit more about Aboriginal culture. The place was peppered with plaques, and we got to listen to a few talks about Aboriginal culture. Most of what I previously knew was from things I read — it was amazing getting to experience a little bit of it during the trip.

The food was surprisingly good. (Hah, I always have to write about food somehow!) Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much — I thought that since Yulara is isolated town, the most I could expect was decent-ish food at exorbitant prices. Granted, prices are a little bit more expensive because everything has to be imported, but otherwise the food was delicious. It wasn’t “we have no choice but deal with this because this is all that’s available, let’s make do” kind of food, but a sincere “this is pretty good, let’s come back tomorrow.”

I was initially worried that having only two full days to explore wasn’t enough time, but it turned out to be perfect. To be frank, there wasn’t much to do after exploring both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, unless we were to go off to Kings Canyon (around a four hour drive away). At the end of the fourth day, we’d smashed most of the free activities available at the resort, haha!

But yeah, I’m glad I got to go. It was a great first experience with the outback and getting to know my adoptive country a little bit more.