I recently started working for a company in Sacramento. I fly there every week for 3 days, and work from home the rest of the days. It’s a good balance between needing to do stuff on-site that requires my physical presence, and doing stuff like documentation, planning, sync-up meetings, which can all happen off-site. The project is massive and complicated, and there’s tons of pieces to juggle. The flight itself is rather short, about an hour long, so it’s not as taxing as longer flights.
A chain of mistakes
The first mistake was mis-reading how Southwest display the time on their tickets. The time most prominently displayed, in the largest font possible, is the departure time and not the boarding time. In fact, boarding time is not displayed anywhere on the ticket. In a temporary lapse of judgement, I thought it was the boarding time and I planned my taxi trip accordingly, only to receive a push notification from the app that the plane was now boarding.
Mistake #1: I missed my flight
There were no other flights that day, or even the next day, forcing me to drive back home to Santa Monica and missing spending the evening with my kids. The trip took 7.5 hours, and I arrived home late at night after the kids were already sleeping for a while.
Next Monday I had to drive up to Sacramento. I was tired before I even started driving the 7.5 hour trip. Somewhere in the middle of it I purchased a large energy drink. I arrived at the house in Sacramento around 2:15am, and tried to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow but the energy drink prevented me from falling asleep. I think I somehow managed some cat naps but nothing lasted long enough for proper sleep and I finally gave up around 7am and left the house. I arrived at work around 7:30am and started a long and stressful day of work.
Mistake #2: Drinking an energy drink
The day was so hectic and stressful, and there were no more paper cups next to the water machine. The wonderful lady who typically keeps that stuff stocked was off that week. I kept thinking I’ll go get some cups soon from one of the other trailers, but I never got around to it and before I knew it, it was 4pm and I decided enough is enough and I went to the nearest fast food joint to grab some “food”. It was as bad as you can imagine, and I barely ate it. I did buy a drink with the meal, though, but that too had some caffeine in it! After that drink, I again neglected drinking water.
Mistake #3: Not drinking any water
That evening, I went to a coffee shop to meet someone who was recently laid off. I figured I should stay away from coffee, so I bought a Chai tea instead. I thought it was going to be some fake American stuff from a tea bag, but that coffee shop made their own. They must have put a lot of cardamom in it, too. I know because the last time I drank Chai, it was a home made one that I prepared myself from an authentic recipe. The instructions were vague about the cardamom pods vs. seeds. It said to use 10 seeds, and I thought the pod was the seed so I put 10 pods instead of 10 seeds. 5 minutes after drinking that Chai, my heart started racing and I had to sit down on my sofa for an hour, taking deep breaths and trying to relax. Except I was 25 back then, and I am 47 now, so you could say I learned the hard way about the difference between a 25 year old body and a 47 year old body.
Mistake #4: Drinking a strong Chai tea
Me eyes were red and I felt exhausted, so I ended the meeting and went home. All I wanted at that stage was to sleep for a year. I remembered that one of the people in the house threatened violence against me, so I decided to talk to him about it. We went outside and I told him it wasn’t OK, and instead of apologizing he blew up on me and launched a series of verbal attacks at me, making stuff up about me as he goes. I decided I didn’t want to stay at that house that day, so I grabbed my things and drove to a hotel nearby.
Mistake #5: Wrong priorities (I should have just gone to bed)
At this point, something’s clearly wrong with me. My heart is racing, and at first I did not make the connection to the Chai. My Apple Watch was showing peaks of 160bpm. My typical rate while being active is 120bpm, and 80bpm while at rest. I took a shower, and tried to fall asleep but I couldn’t. I drank water, it didn’t help much.
I called a friend who was at another hotel nearby. He came over and figured I was just stressed and gave me a Xanax. I’ve never taken a Xanax before. I was panicking about my situation, so I decided to chance it and took half a Xanax. It somehow helped and I was able to sleep for 2 hours before waking up again. I took the other half, and was able to sleep for another two hours. I woke up, and decided to just go to work again. Maybe the work environment will help me relax.
Mistake #6: Not going to the ER
While at work, I felt a bit better but still not 100%. I worked another stressful day, and again did not drink enough water! I also again neglected eating a proper meal. Stupid, right? right!
That evening, I told my HR manager I was not feeling well. I had nausea, felt weak, and on the verge of passing out. She called 911 who forwarded her to an emergency nurse, who told me to quickly chew on 375mg aspirin while the ambulance was driving over. The ambulance came quickly and the medics checked my vitals and then hooked me up to an EKG machine and concluded I need to go to the ER immediately.
My HR manager drove me to the nearest ER. They were super nice and within an hour I was seen by a doctor. I did a urine test, a blood test, and a chest x-ray (they suspected a blood clot in my lungs). Everything came back just fine. They gave me Ativan (a.k.a Lorazepam, which I think is a smooth muscle relaxant), hooked me up to an infusion (two bags!), and gave me some food. I was feeling a bit better after a couple of hours, and they discharged me with a prescription for two types of medication, both for nausea (one for day time, one for night time).
I flew home the next day, which was very comforting. I sleep better in my own bed, surrounded by my family. For the next two weeks, I kept feeling nauseous when going to bed. The Zofran helped with that. Symptoms would come and go, sometimes even during the day. My blood pressure was fine most of the time, but once in a while it would suddenly spike, which is kinda scary. I do not want to end up having to take blood pressure medicine for the rest of my natural life.
The rescue stack
I decided to do adopt a “stack” to avoid blood pressure medicine. The stack is not just medicine/supplements, it’s also how I behave, what I eat, how much I exercise, and how well I sleep:
- L-Theanine (200mg/day)
- Low dose aspirin (82mg/day)
- Black seed extract
- Milled flax seed mixed in oatmeal / yogurts / smoothies
- Reduced sodium consumption overall
- Prosta-strong (with Nitric Oxide), to avoid waking up to pee
- Beets & Blueberries, naturally reduces blood pressure
- Coenzyme Q10 for overall heart health
- No coffee (I used to drink one a day for prostate health)
- Plenty of water during the day
- 4~5 prunes after dinner, to help with bowel movements
- Walking at a brisk pace for at least 20~30 minutes a day
I’m now reading about “The Root Cause” protocol which I find is very interesting.
The L-Theanine miracle
This one is very interesting to me because while it helped me the most, it was also an accidental discovery. The HR manager at my workplace recommended I take it for stress, just in case some of my symptoms are stress induced. She gave me a few capsules (200mg each), I took one, and within 30 minutes I felt better.
I have to admit I was not ready for that. I used to hold this view about supplements that they are “watered down” medicine that does very little, or has effects that are rarely felt, if ever. When this compound made me feel better, or I should say, “normal”, I was taken by surprise.
Why did it work?
Stress & Anxiety are more complex than I thought. I used to think they were a feeling that a person is very much aware of, in the moment. Turns out this is not exactly the case. There were signs that I was under stress, for sure, but not so much that I could put a finger on it and say “I’m experiencing stress!”.
For example while working in Sacramento and staying at a house that is not my house, I was not enjoying my showers as I usually do, and my sleeping pattern was different. When I am in Sacramento, I wake up around 5:30am ~ 6am. I can’t fall back asleep so I take a shower and go to work. I also can not wait to fly back home. While flying, I have to worry about catching SARS-CoV-2, and I have to go through the unpleasant experience which is flying in the age of terrorism. I hate airports, and I hate the flight experience. I hate the smell of airplane bathrooms, and I hate how crowded the planes are.
Anyway – I’m not sure how L-Theanine works, but I’ve been tracking my heart rate and blood pressure, and with L-Theanine they are absolutely normal. I can say with absolute certainty that L-Theanine is the compound that helped me the most with my recovery.
Perhaps by forcing a relaxed state of mind, it is a catalyst for recovery. We do know that stress impacts our immune system, which increases our risk of catching something and getting sick, as well as slowing down recovery when we are sick. It is therefore possible that by relaxing the mind, L-Theanine allows our immune system to recover, which speeds up our recovery.