My parrot is more of a ‘sound effects’ bird than a talker. I often think, though, that if she ever added a phrase to her repertoire (other than “Hi Noelie”), it would either be “I’ve tried everything,” “It’s the texture,” or “You don’t know what it’s like.” (How do you know I don’t know what it’s like?) There is a glaring loophole in the idea that one has “tried everything.” The statement is like a bumper sticker for a certain mindset.
The loophole behind “I’ve tried everything” is that whatever I was doing before is the behavior package that created the problem. That means it’s defunct. Whatever I do wind up doing, I know going in that I’m going to have to say goodbye to my current comfort zone. If I’m dating someone who refuses to stop cheating on me, it doesn’t matter what I try, I just need to kick his happy little butt to the curb. If I’m trying to quit smoking, the base issue is that I started in the first place. If I’m struggling to lose weight, my default settings are where the extra weight came from. “I’ve tried everything” implies that I’m behaving in precisely the same way as everyone else, and getting different results, because I am a special snowflake.
(I used to work with a heavy smoker who had cancer and a stroke, and would pontificate about how these conditions were 100% genetic. Then he died of a heart attack. The gods, they are so cruel).
A Google search on “I’ve tried everything” turns up:
Let’s do the sleep one. Having dealt with pavor nocturnus for years, and beat it, I have a certain amount of credibility. Sleep issues are complicated. Changing one input is never enough. I’ve become a “morning person” who wakes up at 7:30 AM on weekends, I sleep 8 hours a night, and I haven’t had night terrors in a year. It feels better than you would even imagine. However. It took years. It didn’t all happen at once. Now that I sleep so beautifully, the greatest luxury in life (followed only by having sound digestion), I can easily recognize a very long list of inputs that have the potential to disrupt my sleep. (Alcohol, caffeine, eating too much, eating too late at night, paprika, red pepper flakes, curry, drinking any liquid after 8 PM, napping, looking at my phone screen late at night…) In the past, I would attribute my insomnia to bright light coming in the window, or loud noises, or genetics. Now, I can fall asleep even when there are bright lights or loud noises. My sleep habits were so stochastic that it was really hard for me to suss out any patterns. It turned out that they started to resolve themselves as a bonus effect of making other changes. My insomnia and parasomnias (bruxism, restless leg syndrome, confusional arousal, etc) were probably the result of nutritional (magnesium) deficiency, compounded by chronic sleep deprivation. I married a man who is a comically sound sleeper, an early bird, and a lifelong athlete. His sleep habits worked for him, and I got them by osmosis.
Me: Belief in genetic legacy of insomnia. Reading in bed. “Catching up” on sleep by sleeping late on weekends and napping whenever I could. Sugary snacks at bedtime (identified to be the prime trigger for my night terrors). Sedentary habits. Coping with exhaustion by drinking caffeinated soda or green tea. Chronically dehydrated and didn’t know it.
My husband: Upholder from family with early bedtime (9 PM; I am not kidding). Athlete. Wakes up at same time every day and bounces out of bed. Goes to bed, turns out the light, and falls asleep. Has pillow-arrangement system to prevent snoring, which I agree seems to work. It transpires that he taught himself, around the age of 6, some kind of Jedi mind trick to make himself fall asleep and program his dreams.
I had “tried everything” to fix my sleep problem (except going to a sleep lab – herp de derp!). In college, I went to the health center with a tote bag of sleep interventions and dumped them all out on the exam table. Earplugs, an eye mask, a white noise generator, various herbal supplements, chamomile tea, lavender-scented everything, melatonin, subliminal CDs, bath salts (the bath kind)… I was even taking a yoga class. The doctor said, “Wow, you must be really frustrated!” She referred me to the school psychiatrist, to make sure I didn’t have a brain tumor or something. He prescribed both Sonata and Ambien, neither of which worked for me. Fixing my nutrition, exercising, drinking enough water, quitting soda, changing my schedule, and learning to trust in my natural ability to sleep were what did work.
(Note: I do use melatonin regularly now. I take 5 mg every night. It took several months before it started working, and I have found significant variation in quality between brands. My mistake when I first tried it was in turning to it on isolated nights, after tossing and turning for hours. I now take it at 8:30 PM, after experimentation to figure out when it would kick in. Too early and it doesn’t work. The obvious skeptical response would be, What if melatonin is the relevant input and the rest doesn’t matter? I would respond, Try it for three months. If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, add in the other inputs, all of which have additional benefits to offer).
“I’ve tried everything” – except living an overall healthier lifestyle, modeling the behaviors of a successful sleeper, or consulting sleep experts.
“I’ve tried everything” – except being consistent and keeping records over a significant period of time.
“I’ve tried everything and still can’t poop.” Have you tried keeping a meticulous food diary for several months and tracking your water, fiber, and micronutrient intake? Do you even know the RDA for dietary fiber for your age and gender? Do you eat vegetables? Or are you looking at this as an isolated incident?
“I’ve tried everything and can’t quit smoking.” Did you go to a doctor and ask to be put on nicotine replacement therapy? Are you hanging around with other smokers every day? Are you still shopping at stores that sell cigarettes?
“I’ve tried everything and can’t lose weight.” I’ve been told by multiple people, “It is physically impossible for me to lose weight.” Oh? Did you get that in writing from a medical professional? Did you ask for a second opinion? I had thyroid disease and fibromyalgia and I lost weight. If I had it to do over again, I would ask to be referred to a nutritionist and put on a medically supervised diet. I don’t know anyone who has done this. I hesitate to mention this, but I follow a plant-based diet, and when people say “I’ve tried everything,” they generally have not tried that. Most have not tried keeping a food log, either. I resisted tracking what I ate for years, because it was the worst, most annoying thing I could imagine. As it turned out, the food log quickly revealed all my ineffective eating patterns, of which there were several. It’s hard to argue with greater self-awareness, metrics, and the scientific method.
Name a problem, and there will be a large segment of the population that does not experience that problem. Whatever those people are doing, it works for them. The secret is to figure out the parameters of that range of effective behaviors, and then imitate it completely. If you made a Venn diagram of my sleep habits and my husband’s, the only overlap would be that we both slept in a bed. The more my circle started overlapping his, the better we both slept, since he no longer has to chase me through the house after I wake him up sleep-screaming. People with retirement savings have a predictable set of behaviors; people with well-trained dogs have a predicable set of behaviors; people who are punctual have a predictable set of behaviors. People who are lean and fit have a predictable set of behaviors. People with clean, organized homes… You get the idea. “I’ve tried everything” except make a radical and systemic change to a completely different paradigm. “I’ve tried everything” except whatever it is that actually works.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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