Monday, November 25, 2013

Boob Tube

18 months later, I’m still a little surprised by how much back surgery altered my path. Major surgery shifts your focus, reshapes your train of thought, and causes you to look at every moment within each day differently. Ironically, eye-opening revelations and recovery progress seem to be balanced out with equal parts reversion and regression. You’re in many ways stripped of the habits that make you feel strong and normal, and as a result you unwittingly revert back to familiar, comfortable ones.

For the first six months, I had to spend A LOT of time prone. I went back to work almost immediately, which was too soon, and as a result had to come home and counter the sitting and standing in meetings and at my desk with solid “rest” hours in the evening. I wasn’t pleased with having to “rest” before I went to bed each night, so I attempted to keep those hours productive. There are only so many productive things you can do while lying down. I worked, read, scribbled in a journal, wrote blogs, meditated and occasionally researched random things on the internet. About 50% of the time, however, I was too pissed at my inability to move like a normal person and I sought comfort in an old friend.  TV. I knew it wasn’t going to help anything, but it felt so right. It soothed my anger and quieted my mind. The New York Times or obnoxiously sunny wedding blogs did neither.

Before I knew it my “productive” prone time dwindled to 30 minutes or an hour at most and I was watching HOURS of TV every night. After a few weeks of indulging in the deliciously dirty habit of watching shows intended for 15 year old girls and terribly bored housewives, I noticed I was starting to feel more lethargic and more discouraged about my recovery. Sure the TV comforted me at first, but I developed a sneaking suspicion that watching so much of it was making me more depressed. I decided to do a little experiment.

I went entirely TV-free three days/week (except for my husband’s sports on in the background while I read.) I allowed myself 30 minutes of TV two days a week, but only AFTER I had done at least two things from my “productive” list. The remaining two days of the week I could do as I pleased.

After one week, it was painfully obvious that I felt optimistic about recovery, clear-headed, energetic and good about myself on the days when I watched one hour or less of television. I felt lethargic, “meh” at best and pessimistic at worst on days when I watched the most TV. Days with about 30 minutes to an hour of TV time were just fine, but not quite as happy as days when I watched none. Overall, I ate more and later and snacked mindlessly into the night when I watched more than an hour of TV. Damn you “Pretty Little Liars!” Damn you!

The “AHA!” moment around TV was one of the many silver-lining lessons I learned during recovery. We know so many things to be true, but until we experience them for ourselves, it never really sticks or becomes a practice. Sure I knew that TV “rots your brain,” slows your resting metabolic rate, and is linked to depression and obesity.  Did I think about restricting TV time when I just wanted a little “Beverly Hills 90210” sunshine in my day? Nope! Did I care about the links to depression and obesity while I was snickering at Victoria’s contorted facial expressions on “Revenge?” Absolutely not. But after my little experiment, I couldn’t ignore that watching too much TV was making me feel worse about myself and about recovery. I realized the negative effects of too much TV are as real as a hangover after a night out with my 24-year old little sister.

TV is like that promiscuous party-girl friend you had growing up. She’s easy, pretty, exciting, fascinating to watch and you always kind of feel like you’re doing something wrong when you spend too much time with her. She doesn’t expect much more than your time and in return you get pure entertainment. Like your friendship with said slutty friend, watching TV does absolutely nothing for you. It prevents you from spending time nurturing more mutually beneficial relationships (with my husband in my case) and replaces healthier and more fulfilling activities.  As with any delicious form of escape, TV is best consumed in moderation. Take it from me, excessive consumption truly has the potential to turn you into a dim-witted chub.  

P.S. I will go to Pilates after I post this blog. When I get home, I will have some dinner, take a shower and chat with my husband about our days at work. And then, I fully intend to dive head first into my cozy bed and switch on the latest episode of Scandal.