Altitude Sickness

Some bad days and consequences

For the last few weeks I have been driving all over hell and back for work, skiing in the mornings, getting myself into shape, and singing with the choir. All in all—break-up aside— things should be going well. I am busy, I am active, I am fit, I am paying my bills.

But things haven’t been going well. Trying to focus or use my mind has been like shaking a paper bag full of broken glass. I don’t know how else to put it. It has felt like I am on drugs. More like withdrawal actually, without the puking and diarrhea.

I have tried to look back, and see when things changed, and it was near the time of the break-up, but that wasn’t it. I have been traveling to Bennington regularly, and eating at a Chinese buffet there to save money. There are certain foods that are generally safe for me (I don’t eat gluten or dairy, but a little soy sauce very rarely bothers me). But it turns out (and I really had to look hard to see this) that all of the foods that are safe for me at other places were dusted very lightly with wheat flour before being cooked.

For those of you who don’t know, gluten has a series of effects on me that I was unable to isolate until I stopped drinking (I tried being gluten free, but was still drinking whiskey, and that created a whole different set of problems), but once I stopped drinking I was clearheaded enough to notice that when I quit eating gluten a number of problems melted away: mania/depression, OCD, and a nasty temper among them. I noticed that I was having trouble staying away from gluten, and noticed that I had an easier time with it when I stayed away from all starches.

Staying away from starches, dairy, and booze caused me to lose about 85 pounds, so when the emotional incentives of being gluten free aren’t enough, vanity is. The difference was so distinct that people noticed my behavioral change in a matter of weeks.

The last few weeks have been like that, only backwards. My usually clear, rested and controlled mind dissolved into anguished nightmares, anger, confusion, dread, fear and loathing, straight up.

I am starting to surface— it takes a couple of weeks to clear—and I am well on my way. But today my fatigue, confusion and lack of focus bore results, and not the kind of results that I would like.

The first result was a crashed car. I have gone off the road before, but in more than a million lifetime miles of driving I have never damaged a car. This time was different: I dropped my tea in my lap, swerved, hit a guardrail, and shredded two tires and wheels. I was unhurt, aside from my pride, and my car was back on the road functional the next morning.

The second result was more than my pride getting injured. I was ripping groomers one morning over the past weekend, came over a roll, got out of position, caught a wobble in my ski, and faceplanted hard at somewhere between 55 and 65 mph, bouncing my face off the ice and popping my left MCL. I was headed for the trees, so I dug my skis in despite the pain and stopped myself. The person who brought my pole to me (I haven’t lost a pole in a wreck in years) didn’t remark on seeing blood, so I skied away before I could decide I hurt too much, and went to my car.

I went home, put a brace on my swollen knee, and hobbled through my day with swollen lips and nose, my outsides finally matching my insides.

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!