Sunday, November 27, 2011

Circadian Rhythm Disorder: Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome

It's been a long time since I've discussed my sleep disorder in detail. This is partly due to the fact that I do not wish to complain, and by writing this I do not meaning to go back on that desire. I am writing this because many people are unaware of just how complex our sleep cycles are and the existence of disorders pertaining to these complexities. At one point or another, I'm sure everyone reading this has had sleeping trouble. Maybe you're the type who can't sleep when you have too much on your mind. Maybe you have certain rituals you have to perform before going to bed such as taking a shower, putting on pajamas, and then tucking yourself into bed. When you don't get perform those sleeping rituals, you may find yourself having difficulty getting to sleep. In addition to the problem of staying asleep, there are a number of sleep disorders which encompass the problem of not being able to stay asleep. There are also disorders which are not directly inhibiting your sleep, but are symptomatic of sleep issues. Sometimes, issues with sleep point doctors to other issues like Sleep Apnea.

What is colloquially known as an internal clock is a series of chemical processes which the brain and body use to regulate when we wake up and when we go to sleep. These processes are called the circadian rhythm. My sleep disorder is directly effected by my unusual circadian rhythm. When I do not manage it, or when something throws off my regimen which I use to keep my disorder in check, my internal clock basically inverses the AM and PM. What is 22:00 for the rest of the Midwest feels like 10:00 in the morning. That is where the specification "Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome" comes in. There are numerous kinds of circadian rhythm disorders, but mine pertains to my phases of sleep and wake-time. Interestingly enough, one of the symptoms of a person with my specific type of disorder is that the required numbers of hours for sleep is greater than average for my age bracket. If a normal person of 21 years of age needs eight hours of sleep, a person of my age with my sleep disorder is going to need somewhere between 10-12 hours of sleep.

Treatment for such a disorder is a combination of herbal pills containing doses of natural chemicals like Melatonin, Retina UV light exposure, and a highly ritualized sleep regimen. Patients diagnosed with sleep disorders such as mine are advised not to watch television, smoke, drink alcohol or caffeine products, or engage in cerebral-intensive activities within a certain period before attempting to go to sleep. In the morning, the first 20-30 minutes of the day are spent exposing the eyes to UV light through a light box (known by patients treated for depression as a "happy box"). Medical science suggests that this particular disorder is not really a "disorder" at all, but rather a very calculated evolution of the human species to accommodate for the small percentage of people who were in charge of nightly fire watches. In today's society where life doesn't just end at 21:30 and resume again at 08:00, there is always a need people who are physically capable of handling working the odd night hours. Make no mistake, I'm not talking about your 24-hour convenience store clerk; I'm talking about police, doctors, medics, pilots, fire fighters, and then some.

For me, this has been great struggle. In my final year of junior high I nearly failed in part due to my inability to sleep properly. I had to see a specialist that was able to identify the symptoms and derive a diagnoses. Throughout my high school career it was always an uphill. Between trying to excel in my studies, I also wanted to have something of a social life, but in the end I would stay up late one night and that would break with my sleep regimen. I would then spend the week trying to balance school, my extracurricular activities, and regulating my sleep schedule. Frankly, I have always taken offense to people calling my condition a disorder to begin with. I only use it in this blog to help you wrap your head around how the medical world talks about it. Regardless of whether you believe in God, evolution, or a synthesis of both; I believe that I am the way I am and that they're is nothing wrong with me. I never wanted to be "treated", there's nothing to treat! I may not be a superhero, but I do have a special ability which makes it possible to do things which can cause other people serious health complications. I've digressed, my point in saying that was to say that I never really gave the whole "adjusting and adapting to normal people sleep schedules" a lot of effort. Sure, when it was in my best interest to do so, I'd make a fair effort, but I never really wanted it to stick. My condition is not a disorder.

Now I'm in college and the institution seems to encourage nearly every unhealthy choice in the book (except for unprotected sex, we get free condoms just by asking or knowing which book is really a secret storage unit). College is strangely very forgiving to someone of my disposition. The trouble is finding the perfect schedule that allows me to get enough rest when my body and brain is ready to rest. I am fortunate to have found a very accommodating job that allows me to pick my hours. The difficulty comes down to my class times. It's very hard for me to get just the right classes. This semester I have class at 11:30, 13:45, and 15:15. My 11:30 class seemed like it would be late enough in the day since last semester my 10:30 class was just killing me... On the contrary, I often struggle to be awake in time to go to class and on days when I don't have my 11:30 class I often sleep right through lunch and make it to the 13:45 class with just seconds to spare. This is really unfortunate because my 11:30 class is Natural Sciences 1, and I love science. I think it's really sad how, for whatever reason, throughout my entire educational career my science classes have been at the worst time for me. In the end though, I know that I must make sacrifices if I want to get the most out of my education.

Perhaps in the near future I'll write a follow-up entry about the misguided perception that my condition is a disorder and how everything our culture holds true is in my favor.

Hoc est verum,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Politics: The Left, The Right, The Wrong

This entry is not meant to share with you what I believe politically. Frankly, I find politics way too mind-boggling to say with such definitive language where I stand. I also find it nigh-impossible to limit myself to the preexisting political platforms. Some people would hear bits and pieces of what I think and call me a socialist, a communist, or just a liberal. Rest assured, I am none of those things. In fact, I think Jesus was much the same way. People tried to put labels on Him, saying who they thought He was, but in the end they missed the mark. Jesus didn't operate inside the guidelines of any political or religious party of the time. He didn't even conform to what the Jews expected of their Messiah. He was completely embedded in the issues of the day, but instead of fighting fire with fire; He turned everything on its head while still staying true to what it was that made Him who He said He was.

The problem I have with politics is that it divides us all. Fellow believers in the Lord who have strong opinions that differ from mine often seem to feel as though they're being targeted when I talk about politics. Brothers and sisters, this should not be. As with any family, there is bound to be disagreements and things we don't see eye to eye on. We should not be so stuck on these differences so as to assume that one is wrong and the other is right. If the Democrats were so great, don't you think Jesus (or at the very least Paul) would have stuck a footnote in the Good Book telling all of us to vote Democrat? Likewise, if the GOP was "Right" wouldn't Jesus have taken an elephant into town with a giant "Bush-Cheney '04" sticker on it's right cheek?

Recently, while browsing Facebook I discovered this group called the Christian Left. Basically, they're a bunch of Christians who feel like being liberal is more Scripturally sound than being conservative. It's very easy for me, as someone who got slapped in the face with reality, to want to polarize to the Christian Left. The more I think about it (and the more I look through their pictures, which are pretty scary); the more I realize that wouldn't be counter-cultural the way Paul talks about Romans 12:2. Going from conservative to liberal isn't counter-cultural, it's just falling into a pattern of the world that's totally different from what I'm used to. I believe that there are genuine Christians who are a part of this "Christian Left" movement, just as there are among TEA-party Christians. When we make villains of the other side, then we make villains of our own brothers and sisters. That to me is the most disgusting kind of political ideology. Any idea, philosophy, political agenda, or any such notion that would have you think less of an individual simply because they do not hold the same views as you is a completely flawed and broken rhetorical narrative.

I do not say all this to passive-aggressively point fingers at others. The more I write on this, the more I realize I am guilty of doing this. Shortly after becoming disenfranchised with my ultra-conservative grassroots, I was pretty angry that I had been misled to believe complete falsehoods about certain things. I took it out on the people who I knew would have a very polarized viewpoint on the subject I was referring to. Often times, I would insert my wrathful quips into even the most innocuous responses just to stir up trouble. Problem is, I hurt people in the process and now they won't talk to me. There's a lot to be said about that that shall remain unspoken here and that I have said elsewhere.

All I'm saying is, politics as the American sees it: a two-party system with many third parties that are hardly ever given a serious chance to offer their voice is not what Jesus was promoting as the way to deal with the situations around us.

For more information about where my ideas are spawning from, I suggest you check out: Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

In Christ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Struggle of an Honest Christian

In previous blog entries I have talked about this concept of "making your faith your own". We are taught doctrine and theology as children, for those of us that grew up in Christian homes, and at some point we do one of three things. We make this faith our own, we become content with what we know and stay the same, or we reject the faith and walk away. For me I feel that I have been trying to make my faith my own. Little did I know just how hard it would be. Everyone has an opinion on what Christ taught and how we should interpret it. There are people who have been dead for centuries and their thoughts on the faith are studied still today by Christians and non-Christians alike. Does that mean I should fall in line with that group of thinkers? Does the survival of their writings mean it is the best?

Then there's my personal experiences and knowledge of the world. All the things- good or bad- that I've seen and experienced factor into how I want to make my faith my own. Add to that all the books that I've read that have given me ideas about the world and the way I perceive it. For example, patriotism. I used to be a "card-carrying" Republican that bled Red, White, and Blue. I had opinions on everything economic and social. I was adamant about what I believed and defended my positions to the point of absurdity. I had some very not-nice things to say about liberals, communists, socialists, and pretty much anyone who I didn't agree with. Then I started reading more, I studied more, and I talked with people on the other side of the fence with the attitude of listening instead of trying to be heard. Suddenly things were not so simple. The politicians who claimed to be for me were starting to look like massive hypocrites right alongside the ones I had already condemned to one of the circles of Dante's Inferno. That's just scratching the surface of the topic of politics. It barely even makes a glancing scuff mark on the subject of patriotism.

There's what some might see as lesser issues, like why I'm growing out my hair and letting it dread. It may not be to the taste of some folks, but they're not going to get into a huge argument with me over it. My choice to become a vegetarian also falls into this category. But there's also the abstract issues; how I feel about Christian music, what to wear in church, hymns, drinking, smoking, or just living life in general. They're abstractly surreal because it's nearly impossible to come to consensus about these things. Yes, there are very authoritative figures out there who say one thing, but there's also very compelling little-known people preaching the opposite. When I look at that, I think of Jesus. He was a very compelling little-known person who said something contrary to what the authoritarian figureheads were saying. Instead of just taking the guy in a suit with all the fancy titles at his word, I think I'll listen to the community-advocate who sews many of his own clothes and doesn't have any titles to his name.

The struggle for this honest Christian is to not burn bridges as I go the direction I feel God is calling me to go. But why would anyone intentionally burn bridges? Well, I don't, not exactly... Many things I rejected and pruned from my lifestyle and faith were things that I perceived as emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually unhealthy and/or unsound. I didn't just decided I didn't need them. I decided that I could literally be harming myself to keep them as a part of my life. Problem is, many of the friends I have made prior to these realizations still hold the views I have rejected. They take offense to what I have to say, even when I try to say it without the fiery passion behind it. After a time, they grow weary of hearing what I think... Funny, they didn't get tired of hearing what I had to say when it agreed with their views... Oops, did I type that out?

Anyways, listen, folks who knew me from the days when I was known as Nathan; those days are gone. My faith is not gone though, and while we may not see eye to eye on all the issues we are called to love each other. Why should anybody believe us when we say that Jesus loves them when we can't even demonstrate love to each other? And yes, I realize that I am guilty of instigating a lot of strife between us, but I have tried to clear the air with each of you on an individual basis. I have also made blanket apologies, and still there is unforgiveness and bitterness. Still, many seem to refuse to accept that I have different views. It's like people won't accept me if I don't revert back to the old me. That's kind of shallow, isn't it? Is that all our friendship was? Shallow?

The questions continue...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Modern Cold War

My heart is breaks quite frequently over the spiritual apartheid between the GLBTQ community and Christians. While I could go into all the misconceptions Christians have about gays and lesbians and provide clarity on the issue, there is already a great book which goes to great lengths to talk about the great divide and where it comes from called Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. I will instead make a few personal remarks and draw parallels to historical events from which I hope we, as followers of Christ, can objectively realize the gross injustices and stop the damages before things become irreparable.

The idea for this entry came about from a class discussion when the conversation had somehow deviated from the main subject of the text and children being raised with two male or two female parental figures came up. The class used the words "gay" and "lesbian" with the exception of my roommate who awkwardly coughed out the word, "homosexual". Don't get me wrong, I don't believe my roommate was trying to be awkward about it, but it definitely came out that way when everyone else simply used the terms gay and lesbian. It got me thinking about a time when I used to do the same thing. Ignorantly, I used to think that "homosexual" was the innocuous term for gays and lesbians. Little did I know that this term is the adopted label that anti-gay groups adopted and branded everyone who strayed from heterosexuality.

For me, I see the vast expanse that is the distance between Christians and the GLBTQ community like a cold war. On one side we have the McCarthy-like Christians who are ready to persecute anyone and everyone who even looks like a "faggot" as well as fellow Christians who aren't outspokenly bigoted are then labeled, "sympathizers". On the flip-side, we have angry gays and lesbians who equate Christianity with a fascist State that needs to be brought down. The problem is that there is so much fear and ignorance surrounding the issues that those somewhere in the middle without an opinion quickly get swept up in the propaganda of either polar opposite. It's a sad state of affairs, one that history records as a dark and tumultuous time. I would like to remind my Christian friends who may try to argue that America, in a way prevailed with Reagan and the Berlin Wall being torn down, that McCarthy was a paranoid alcoholic. He is not remembered as an American hero or a champion of American vigilance, but a crazy nut who drunk himself to death.

I cannot address gays and lesbians, because I have no real "in" connection to the community and therefore no real voice. I do have a voice to my fellow believers in Jesus. When did, "come just as you are" turn into, "come only if you agree with my doctrinal interpretation of Scripture and aren't gay"? Sure, the GLBTQ community has made some very hateful remarks of Christians and there have been some very nasty things said about us, but since when did the words, "love your enemies" and "pray for those who persecute you" turn into procedural precedent for discrimination and bigotry? It's true that not all of you, perhaps none of you who will read this are going to Pride this year and holding up signs that say, "God hates fags" or anything like that, but by being silent regarding the prejudice aren't you passively consenting to the perpetuation of hate? We can do better than this.

Believers in the calling of Christ, I love you all, but I love my gay friends too. I love my androgynous friends. I love my bisexual and pansexual friends. I love my friends who reject the gender binary system. I love every last one of you and I will not tolerate my God and the Word being used as a mechanism of hate, which is the polar opposite of what its true purpose is for.

Food for thought anyway...