I mentioned in the comments a week or so ago that according to my brother Tom (to whom Louisa’s book is dedicated), he knows something is a problem when… it regularly interferes with his sleep.
Tom’s rule of thumb got me to thinking about many of the foster children I represent. One of the ways we know they’ve been through significant trauma, even if they’re too young or limited to talk about it, is if they’ve lost the ability to connect things like, “If I’m hungry, I should eat. If I’m tired I should sleep. If I’m full, I should stop eating. If I need to use the facilities, I should find a bathroom.”
These kids have endured environments where nobody took their most basic needs seriously, or where the sense of danger was so pervasive, it wasn’t safe to turn their focus inward even for a few minutes at a time. They have a lot in common with combat vets and those afflicted with severe mental illness.
I don’t live in that sort of environment, thank heavens! But I have my sources of stress, too. One of my “warning lights” that I’m not managing that stress very well has gone dark in the past few years, in that I no longer get many migraine headaches. Time was, if I was too tired, too anxious, too thirsty, too hot, too hungry, around too much pollen… I’d get a headache, and though it might start out as an allergy headache or a tension headache, it would soon morph into a migraine.
Avoiding those three day splitting headaches became a priority, and because a zillion medications had no effect on them (except to add to my symptoms), I became zealous about avoiding the triggers. And—what a coincidence!—life is better if I get enough sleep, regular food and drink, some relaxation and so forth.
For my dad and grandma, the headaches disappeared with increasing age, the theory being that a bit of hardening of the arteries provides protection from the migraine. I don’t want the headaches back, but I do need to identify my warning lights more effectively now that my headaches are gone.
Tom’s rule is a good one for me too, but so are these: If I go a week without writing a new scene, I might be in trouble. If I go a month without a social outing, I might be in trouble. If I drive past my turn off, especially on the way home, I might be in trouble. If I bounce a check and had no idea I was flirting with insolvency, I’m in trouble.
What are your warning lights? What sets them off that surprises you?
To three commenters, I’ll send a $15 Amazon gift certificate (which ought to be enough to cover even a print version of “Nicholas” due out on May 6.)