Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Marijuana, Anxiety, and the Covid-19 Pandemic

Marijuana, it was nice knowing you, but it is officially over. 

I am no longer using marijuana. This is my third day without it, and I have decided to never use it again. It just doesn't agree with me. I still have some left, but I will either give it away, or throw it away.  It was messing with my heart rhythm, causing heart palpitations and an irregular heart beat. I did not have this problem prior to using marijuana, so I figured it must be the cause. 

I realized that I had to stop because I was starting to have panic attacks, just out of the blue during the daytime, when I wasn't even using it, but had the night before. If my heart rate went up naturally from either exercising or anxiety, it wouldn't come down right away like it ordinarily would, it would stay elevated for hours, but now that I haven't used for a couple of days my heart rate is stabilizing. 

The last episode happened when I was grocery shopping. I rode my bike a little too fast on the ride there, and so my heart was already elevated, and then I noticed that they were not restricting the amount of customers in the store like they were last week, although they were still requiring masks, but there were too many people in the store, and it must have triggered a panic attack, because my heart was pounding out of my chest, and I barely made it home, and had to work soon after, and was fortunately able to trade away some of my hours, but it was very brutal. I am still recovering. 

Then the next day I open my work email and find out that all the supervisors are returning to the center permanently this week. They had been working remotely for the past year like I had been, and I am worried that they are going to say I have to come back, too, and I can't. I won't, because it's not safe. I'm not vaccinated. I am not ordinarily anti-vaccine but I do not trust the safety of these particular vaccines. I just need more time to see, for them to work out the bugs, and develop a vaccine that is safer, and longer lasting. 

If I could continue working from home I think I would be okay, limiting my social contact, maybe even starting to have all my groceries delivered, and wiping everything off. But if I have to go back it will not be safe. My job is the worse place to be, even worse I believe than working in a store, because it's a call center, with hundreds of people crammed into a room like sardines, many of them college students in that 20-something super spreader age group, with no open windows, all breathing in the same air, and being open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, there is no assigned seating, everyone shares the same workstations, chairs, keyboards, and mouse, and on any given day, a person may sit in three different workstations, as you are expected to bring your belongings with you on your lunches and breaks, and no masks are allowed while seated at workstations because they believe the masks interfere with your ability to be heard, so if anyone comes to work with Covid, not knowing it because they are asymptomatic, they could potentially spread it to a lot of people. 

For the past year they've been at 50 percent capacity, spacing out the stations to enable better social distancing, but it looks like a lot of the restrictions are being lifted, and with widespread availability of the vaccines, they are acting like the pandemic is over. But it's not over! 

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/

Are you not paying attention to what's happening in Michigan? How about India and Brazil? At one point these places had a major reduction in cases, they had come down to hardly anything, and now they are skyrocketing out of control, and the new variants are to blame. The same thing could happen everywhere! It is just a matter of time! It's more infectious and it's deadlier. They are seeing an increase in younger people getting sick, children, and young adults, people in there 20s and 30s. Just like the Spanish flu, although maybe not as bad, but the similarity is that in the first wave of the Spanish flu it mostly killed the elderly and the sick, but the second wave it was mostly the young and the healthy. And I found out the reason for that is that the young and the healthy were killed by their own immune systems, being stronger and more robust, in the process of fighting off the infection, it also damaged healthy organs in the process, kind of like chemo, and that's what did them in, death not by the virus, but by their own immune systems fighting off the virus. 

Anyway, I really hope I'm allowed to continue working from home. Other than keeping my job, I gain nothing from going back. I don't make any more money, but I'll lose a lot of time and consume more energy to get there. Have to wake up an hour early to leave an hour early, and then because I ride my bike, I have to worry about somebody stealing my bike, and the hot weather is coming back, and I'm not used to riding in it anymore. I would probably have to take the bus, or a taxi, which would increase my monthly expenses, and at the same time increase my chances of getting Covid. It would be catastrophic.

A few months ago they talked about it becoming a permanent option for a select few, some working from home are only doing so temporarily, and would eventually go back, but others would be able to apply for a permanent work-at-home position, but I haven't heard anything more about it. So it is causing me anxiety, because I can't go back, and if they don't allow me to continue working from home, I would be forced to quit, without income, and would have to live off of savings, which I could afford to do for awhile, but it would set me back years my goal of saving to buy a house. So it really sucks not knowing what's going to happen. 

In the meantime, I'm trying to stay strong and to eliminate sources of anxiety from my life, starting with marijuana. I enjoy the positive effects, of thinking about things in different ways, having unique insights that perhaps I wouldn't have had otherwise, but for me, the negatives outweigh the positives, so starting today the marijuana experiment is officially closed. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

High in Extroversion, Low in Conscientiousness Equals Covid Super Spreaders

A few posts back I wrote about the relationship between personality and being anti-mask and pro-mask. It was just an observation I made from personal experience, hadn't read anything about it previously, but apparently I am not the first to have made this observation.

There have been several scholarly research studies published online since the pandemic started, analyzing the connection between how a person scores on the Big Five Personality test, and how likely they are to be for or against wearing masks, social distancing, and sheltering in place. I'll add some links later, probably in another post, with some added commentary.

In my blog post about the subject I focused on conscientiousness being the most important factor in determining whether a person is more likely or less likely to be in favor of wearing a mask, but I left out the equally important factor of how high a person scores on extroversion. 

I believe those are the two primary Big Five personality factors that are most likely to influence how a person responds to Covid-19 mitigation strategies, and whether they choose to heed the advice of epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists, or choose to ignore them in favor of the more shortsighted hedonistic, extreme libertarian viewpoint, who is going to party whether you like it or not, and if you don't you can fuck off. 

Well, that's not very conscientious, is it? 

The data is in, and this is what has been found to be true: 

People who score low in extroversion and high on conscientiousness are more likely to support mask wearing, social distancing, and sheltering in place, and not only that, they will actually thrive under those conditions, too. 

On the other side of the coin, people who score high on extroversion and low on conscientiousness will have the biggest problem with mask wearing, social distancing, and sheltering in place. It's not just that they have a problem with it, but limiting social contact is actually more likely to adversely affect there mental health over time, simply because the entire fabric of their existence is so inextricably linked to being with people, seeing their faces, breathing the same air, and having close personal contact, talking, touching, and sharing the same space.

These are the people flooding the bars and the beaches of Florida and elsewhere, the wild and crazy Spring break super spreaders, who would rather die, or even risk killing grandma, then be forced to wear a mask and to stay home alone and to miss going to another Covid super spreader party. Because to them there is no life if there is no party. It's all about people, and the idea of minimizing contact with people is just unthinkable to them. 

Those people make me sick. Those are the people I live around. Those are the people I fruitlessly complain about more than I should. Those people are what I would call the ugly American: loud, obnoxious, selfish, and stupid. 

It is what it is. Most people are extroverts. Not all extroverts are assholes, but most assholes are extroverts. We live in an extroverted world, a world that usually looks down upon introverts as either being shy or autistic, or just generally having something wrong with them. 

I myself am an introvert. I'm not shy and I don't think I'm autistic, whether there is something wrong with me is debatable but I feel fine, but there's probably some people that think I am, and they are most likely extroverts. I can sometimes be very talkative and sociable, I also don't live alone, so I'm not completely isolated, but usually I find people to be draining to be around for any extended period of time. It is absolutely vital to my mental health to have some alone time, especially after socializing with people, and to me the worst living situation I could think of would be to live communally in a large household of people, such as a prison or an army barracks, because the thought of not having any personal space and living in close proximity to a lot of people would be hell. 

Introverts are not necessarily anti-social, but they just need some personal space and some peace and quiet. 

Extroverts are the complete opposite to that, they love noise, and crave social stimulation, they thrive around people, and the more the merrier. 

So extroversion is a very important factor when looking at how personality shapes a persons response to Covid-19 mitigation strategies, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and sheltering in place. But conscientiousness may be even more important, because it's the primary personality trait that will override all others, causing an extrovert to modify their behavior, to be less sociable, to wear a mask in public and to socially distance when appropriate, if it serves the greater good of slowing the spread of disease and protecting the public health.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Sickness

I was sick for five days a little over a week ago. It started the night of my last bad experience with marijuana that I wrote about here. That night I had vaped a very very small amount, probably less than 1/10 of a gram, and took two relatively shallow puffs off of already vaped herb, which I had smoked the previous night with no ill effects, and within minutes had a racing heart beat which lasted for nearly an hour and a half.

I also had terrible nausea and vomited a small amount, though mostly dry heaves, and also had the chills. It was like 70 degrees in my apartment, and I had on a fleece pullover, two sweatshirt jackets and a blanket, and I was still freezing. I thought I was possibly having a medical emergency, but I forced myself to wait it out, laying down on my bed in the darkness, drinking lots of water, and thinking it was just a panic attack, and it would get better once the drugs worked there way out of my system.

Well, the heart rate finally came down, I was too afraid to check it when it was at its worst, because I thought it would cause even more anxiety, but when it finally felt like it was coming down it was around 120 bpm, and eventually normalized within two hours, but I still felt sort of out of sorts, but at least not feeling like I was going to die. 

The next morning, which fortunately was my day off from work, I woke up with a terrible sore throat, probably one of the worst I ever had, thinking maybe it was caused by some acid reflux in response to the vomiting the previous night, but then I wondered if maybe it was caused by the vaping, you know maybe it damaged my throat or lungs or something. Which is weird because I bought a vaporizer thinking it would be healthier than smoking, but maybe it's not. I did learn though that vaping marijuana increases its potency, which means you can get high with less than you would have to smoke, which means vaping is more economical, will last much longer, but you've got to be careful that you don't overdo it, which I don't think I did. 

It's weird because I only had a micro dose, and had the same amount the previous night, and many other times before with no negative effects, so wondering if maybe I was already starting to get sick, and the marijuana, by way of heightening my senses, made me more sensitive to the sickness. 

Well, the sore throat got better after having several cups of herbal tea with honey and lemon, but by evening time I developed a bad barking cough, a runny nose, was coughing up super sticky yellow phlegm, and the sore throat returned, along with the chills. Unfortunately I didn't have a thermometer, though I've since purchased one, so don't know if I had a fever, but I probably did.  

I treated primarily with lots of ginger tea with honey and lemon, lots of water, and mega doses of garlic mixed with hard boiled egg (which I've found works the best to conceal the garlic and make it more palatable). I also had Greek yogurt for the probiotics, because garlic, being a natural antibiotic, and a blood thinner, also kills the beneficial gut bacteria, which can be balanced by eating yogurt, a probiotic. 

It took five days to get back to normal and I missed three days of work. It felt like I had a very bad cold. Could it have been Covid? Maybe. I don't know, but it's the sickest I've been in years. I've tried vaping marijuana since I've been better, and have had no ill effects, but the strange thing is is that now I'm having no effects, like the result of getting really sick has made me immune to marijuana, though I'm not going to test the theory by consuming a larger dose, because I'm afraid of what could happen, but I think it's safe to say that my days of experimenting with recreational marijuana will be soon coming to an end. And what a long, strange trip it has been. 



Friday, April 2, 2021

Random Insight - 2

Insight cannot be forced.

While sitting here pondering what to write, I was thinking about how much I really like this new series of mine, of posting random insights, profound insights that spontaneously occur to me, and how great it would be to do so on a daily basis.

I really liked my first post in the series, even though it was a very simple and obvious observation. What I think gives it power is the fact that it is grounded in an experiential truth, that is actually quite profound, but due to its simplicity is so often overlooked, which is what makes the observation all the more meaningful.

So once again I'm pondering what to write, but I'm drawing a complete blank, and realize that I've got nothing. Which is when random insight number two occurred to me: that insight isn't something that can be forced or deliberately invented, but is more of a gift that is received, like a creative blessing that is divinely inspired.

Reason and concentrated thinking can certainly expand upon the insight, but the initial insight seems to appear spontaneously out of nowhere.

For me, it is not something that I sit down and logically invent, but rather it just comes to me when I am not looking for anything or thinking about anything at all. Most of my insights, just pop into my mind out of the blue. And if I'm fortunate enough to have a piece of paper and pen handy, or a computer to record my thoughts, I may capture the insight in its fullest details.

Or if the insight is powerful enough, such was the case in Random Insight - 1, where it was an understanding that was inspired by direct experience, then I may remember it very well without needing to write it down immediately.

Insight cannot be forced. This isn't to say that you shouldn't actively pursue or brainstorm ideas, because ideas come all the time, whether you are actively engaged in them or not.

But for myself I have found that the most innovative and creative insights seem to come to me when I'm not seeking anything at all, when my mind is a blank. Or if I'm thinking about something else, sometimes interesting ideas just come to me in a creative flash, totally unplanned, unrelated and out of the blue.

Four techniques that help open up and deepen your capacity for creative insight.

1) Stream of consciousness writing.
2) Drawing, painting, or some other artistic activity.
3) Playing a musical instrument/Listening to instrumental music.
4) Meditation.

Note: Techniques 1-3 all induce a sort of meditative state of mind. Therefore, meditation is truly the key factor here. So when I say that insights appear to spontaneously occur out of nowhere, it is very likely that these random insights of mine occur when I am in a mildly meditative state of mind. That is, when I am extremely relaxed, focused and aware, I tend to be much more insightful.

Meditation is the doorway to insight. To relax your body and momentarily clear your mind of all thoughts, so as to be completely open and receptive to the direct perception of truth that exists beyond the boundaries of words.

*Originally Published 1/2/2011

Random Insight - 1

The more people that are focused on the same thing at the same time, no matter what that thing may be, gives it power. 

I wanted to write a poem about the lunar eclipse that occurred a week ago, but no words would come. Though I did manage to see it, went outside a couple times after midnight, but it was partly cloudy and pretty cold outside, so I did not observe it for very long. 

One notable observation that came to mind while I watched the lunar eclipse, was that there's probably thousands of people all around the world looking up at the moon at the same time. So if you happened to catch it, there is a real possibility that you may have been looking at the moon at the exact same second that I was. 

Could it be that the more people that are focused on the same thing at the same time, generates power by way of a sort of collective group meditation, which energizes the experience and object of attention, giving it more power, inspiration and influence over the minds of all those sharing in that experience?  

The same thing happens with holidays, they have power because people give them power by way of popular consensus (collective observation and mutual agreement; or people focusing on the same thing at the same time). The fact is that even if I don't celebrate Christmas, it's next to impossible not to be effected by this holiday in some way, simply because so many people do celebrate it. 

The more people that are focused on the same thing at the same time, no matter what that thing may be, gives it power. 

What events in nature are visible to the greatest amounts of people at the same time? Astronomical events. The sun, sunrise, sunset, the moon, the stars and constellations, and meteor showers. All other natural events are pretty much localized events. For example, if you see a rainbow, that is something that only a few people in your area are going to see. But if the moon is full, that is something that can be observed by people all over the world, or at least half the world who happen to be in the same hemisphere, and in a time zone that is not too far apart. 

Anyway, the insight I obtained from observing the full moon lunar eclipse of 2010, was the realization of the fact that such an event is collectively experienced. I mean of course you know this right, but did you ever stop to really consider it while actually watching the moon, especially if you are alone or only with a couple other people? To really soak in the awareness that thousands of people located in different cities thousands of miles away from one another, are looking at the very same thing at the exact same time as you? 

This is most likely to occur on a more widespread scale during special (rare) astronomical events that occur at an exact time, such as a lunar eclipse, comet, or meteor shower, rather than the typical monthly full moon. Sure they'll be people watching that too, but when the event is of a greater magnitude, especially when receiving a great deal of publicity, that's when you know for sure that there are a larger percentage of people watching it at a given time. 

What else holds that sort of power, to attract the attention of thousands, and possibly millions of people, all over the world at the same time? Television. Radio. The internet. Newspapers and other media outlets. But nothing else compares to television, in terms of making it possible for great numbers of people to be focused on the same thing at the same time. And if you look at the TV, what types of programming dominate the airwaves? Idiocy. Dumbed down entertainment. Excessive violence. Glorification of greed and immorality. Lying, stealing, cheating, betrayal, adultery, jealousy, envy, pettiness, immaturity, superficiality, impulsiveness, undisciplined weak minded behavior. 

 I'd rather watch the full moon than a television that is full of shit.

*Originally published 12/29/2010