This past week that my husband and I spent at my parents’ house was an epic achievement for me in that I did not gain any weight. This is good news because I’ve been working on keeping the momentum of staying active and eating less junk food that I’ve sustained since the beginning of May. Ever since I fell off the whole foods, no sugar bandwagon approximately 1.5 years ago (note the coincidental timing with my marriage), it’s been a struggle to release the addictive hold sugar has on me, but I’m here to say I’m still going strong.
The bad news, however, is that I enjoyed other foods that for me, personally, wreak havoc with my health. Night shades (i.e., white potatoes, peppers of any kind, including spices, tomatoes, and eggplant) all cause my narcolepsy symptoms to be significantly worse. Specifically, when I eat night shades the amount and intensity of the time I spend in REM sleep increases.
REM is the stage where dreams occur; for people with narcolepsy, we already have overly long, incredibly vivid and emotional dreams, as well as more frequent dreams throughout the night. During the week that I ate nightshades on a regular basis here are the dreams I had:
- I was driving someone else’s car (someone I used to work with at my former university) and the brakes wouldn’t work
- I kept missing my flight – where I was going, I couldn’t tell you, but in the dream, no matter what I did I couldn’t get to the airport on time.
- SNAKE! A long vicious snake, kept trying to attack while I had to hold its mouth at bay. It was all I could do to keep the snake from biting me.
- I was back in college and I had to turn in a paper that I was totally unprepared for.
- I was still teaching and I couldn’t find any of my work to turn in my final grades.
- I was at a high school dance, or perhaps a reunion, and I kept worrying about what I was going to wear (at least I think that’s what this most recent dream was about. Unlike my previous dreams, this one has faded more).
Any one of these dreams is enough to exhaust anyone, let alone having them six nights in a row. I’m convinced these dreams are my own personal ayahuasca experience, with nightshades serving in place of the illicit vine that so many seek out in the Amazon.
For the record, I have never used an illicit drug to alter my state of consciousness, as ayahuasca does, but having traveled for three weeks in Peru of course I met people who had. Their reported experiences were not unlike this video
so I’m not sure why anyone would want to have those experiences anyway, and, frankly, because of my narcolepsy I’m having these experiences of my own accord (though to be clear, not soiling myself).
I also realized that my nightshade consumption has bumped right up into the full moon. Thanks to my Fitbit (which my Mom gave me as a gift in May), I’m much better at tracking my sleep. Sure enough, during and around the full moon, I have trouble falling asleep, my dreams increase in vividness, emotion, and duration, and I wake up around 4:00am.
As you can imagine, after a week of this kind of sleep (though the 4:00am wake-ups just started this morning and I expect will last two more days according to my Fitbit records until the next full moon), I could really use some rest and recovery.
To that end, I am choosing to say NO, THANK YOU, to all nightshades and processed sugar for the next few weeks, I am striving to meet my daily 8,500 steps goal, and I am staying optimistic. Although in this moment it’s not as easy to stay optimistic, except that twice in the month of June I had really good sleep. Sleep where I woke up refreshed and enthusiastic about my day. The last time I got sleep like that (other than naps) was the last weekend in September 2015. No, that’s not an exaggeration, and yes, it was a long time ago.
I just wish I could remember these feelings in the moment when I’m about to eat those delicious hamburgers with ketchup, the crunchy and salty french fries that I love so much, or the spicy goodness of Chipotle. I’m not sure what it would actually take for me to commit to NO NIGHTSHADES EVER AGAIN but at least maybe these dreams are enough to make me commit to NO NIGHTSHADES EVER AGAIN for at least 30 days. I can do anything for 30 days, right?