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December 25, 2020
Well, the day after I wrote happy new year, I got the most profound shock of my life yet. On December 25, I woke up, sat on the edge of my bed, and while deciding whether to face the day or not, I sneezed. That sneeze changed my life forever.
It gets weird for a bit. During the sneeze, something in my back popped out very painfully, like a rib bone hernia, but before I could reach back to feel what it was, it popped back in. Nothing felt out of place or broken, and despite the pain whatever it was didn't swell or bruise.
By the time I had someone else look at it, the pain was rapidly diminishing. No one else thought anything was wrong or out of place. All I could do was nurse the pain.
January 2, 2021
It wasn't until 8 days later, on January 2, that any bruising showed up. When it did, it was exceptionally worrisome. I had a bruise line around the left side as if I broke a rib, and I had a black-as-night line of bruises below it on my hip. I thought I was bleeding internally and blood was pooling in my hip. Everyone else agreed, and I went to the hospital to get it checked out.
My condition still weird, the doctors scanned me and examined me inside and out, but they didn't find anything causing the bruises. Furthering the weidness, there was no pooling; they were just bruises, and they weren't at all likely to kill me.
However, while being processed, waiting for the scans, then waiting for the results, the nurse asked routine questions about my health and fitness and took my pulse, temperature, and blood pressure readings. At that point, I was about 50 pounds overweight for my height and lifestyle, and I felt normal and well enough to drive myself in. I had no other symptom that anything at all was wrong.
They took my blood pressure an excessive number of times, both manually and with a machine, before they considered that they were getting an accurate reading. As I understand it now, systolic pressure above 180 or diastolic pressure above 120 is considered a life threatening "call 911" emergency. The first result they believed was 225/155. My status: "Dead man walking." I was having a hypertension crisis. I had no clue, and only in hindsight was this injury a warning. Because I wasn't showing or feeling any symptoms of hypertension crisis, the consensus is that my blood pressure had been at crisis level for days, weeks, or even months leading up to the mystery injury.
They wanted to transport me to Albuquerque and keep me under close observation overnight, but I declined. Yes, I was more likely to die if I declined, but if I accepted and survived, then I would've had a medical debt large enough to make meaningful recovery impossible. I had to make that decision because, unlike the rest of the fully developed world, health care is not a human right in the United States. They started me on a prescription to lower my blood pressure and discharged me, and I survived the night.
But I was very close to death and clueless up to that point. Had I not been able to go in and be seen, I might've gone to sleep on January 2 for the last time ever, and my lifeless body wouldn't have been found until January 4 at the earliest.
The Diet That Got Me into This Mess
I suspected malnutrition as the most likely cause of my crisis as soon as I accepted the diagnosis as real. Back in '07, I had another diet-caused surprise injury: gout.
My day job is basically Internet help desk at a small ISP. It's not a cushy job, and I constantly found myself with hardly any time to eat properly. Virtually everything I ate was an oversize portion or had way too much salt in it, often both. This left me eating only because it was the right time of day, not because I was ever actually hungry.
The job pressured me to make my daily diet a gas station burrito for breakfast, a McBurger and fries for lunch, a frozen dinner for supper, and bad snacks. If I was lucky, I could take the time to get a store salad featuring cured or fried meat and high-fat dressing, or a submarine sandwich whose healthiest meal option features oversalted meat and oversalted potato chips. All because I left myself no time to even make a sandwich at home.
The Diet Getting Me out of This Mess
I resolved to change my diet literally overnight. Normally, changing a diet so abruptly is a recipe for disaster or at least relapse, but let me tell you, there's no motivator quite like a medical consultation with the grim reaper.
The diet I switched to, after a few days of learning about it, is the DASH diet, or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Even before discovering it and learning what I needed exactly, I started buying, making, and eating food that was by chance almost completely compatible with it. Since then, as with any diet, I've run into challenges. I guess fortunately for my case, all of those challenges are time and competence related. Since starting, I haven't eaten a single thing that made me regret or question the diet.
Well, I did eat one thing: whole wheat spaghetti noodles. Whole wheat bread, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat dinner rolls, and whole wheat cereals? Delicious. But whole wheat spaghetti noodles? Never again.
I have spent the time since then relearning how to cook, how to properly make meals, how to shop for genuinely good ingredients, and how to find, adapt, and plan good recipes. I'm seeing and feeling improvement almost daily. The food portions I'm eating are just right, I've eaten more unprocessed fruits and vegetables in the last two months than in the last two years, and I'm going into every meal genuinely hungry while leaving every meal genuinely satisfied.
My blood pressure has dropped from hypertension crisis through stage 2 hypertension to stage 1 hypertension, and now it's flirting with just simply elevated blood pressure. I have also lost 20 of those 50 extra pounds.
The crisis has also further cemented my political views. I have a radical leftist agenda now, it's focused on supporting local farmers and gardeners while opposing industrial processed-food capitalism, and it's because the diet literally saving my life needs it.
Something not-fun I've been thinking about is the possibility that I might have died of something not COVID-19 → because I couldn't be seen → because the hospital would've been full of COVID-19 patients → because of covidiots refusing to stay home except for essential tasks or mask up when in public.
At any rate, I have had to steal time from virtually all of my pet projects including this website of mine. I'll get back to work on it once I'm able to, and it's looking more likely by the day that I can.