Breaking Up

The following is a letter to the things that are cluttering up my life. I’ve started a 21 day declutter challenge. And this post may be all you hear about it from me, because others are so much better at explaining it.

Dear stuff,

         It’s been a long time. Some of us have been together for years, others of you are new to my life. Still, you all found a place with me for a reason. Some of you were cast offs from other people, and I just couldn’t bear to let you go. What if you were needed a month down the road? Others of you helped me when I wasn’t feeling up to doing more. (3DS, I’m talking to you.) New games, you provided me with distraction too. Some of you just made me feel better in the moment. Why else would I have felt I needed yet another notebook. It couldn’t possibly be because I thought I was going to become more organized. Books about how to do things I will never do, you too helped me through, though you may have done more harm than good.

       I’d like to think you have served your purpose. As I have grown and changed, some of you are no longer necessary. You take up space in my life. You remind me of times when I wasn’t coping so well. You sit untouched, while I need to focus on becoming healthier and more fit. I believe we’ve come to a parting of ways.

       It’s not you, It’s me.

       Have a good life, wherever you end up. May you be more fulfilling in somebody else’s closet.

 

Love,

      Otter MacAilein

 

(Many thanks to Courtney Carver at BeMoreWithLess.com for her inspiration)

 

 

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Did you ever wonder why authors tend to skip the narrative during long journeys? I guess the answer is pretty obvious: there’s nothing to tell. Unless the party gets attacked by highway men or captured by trolls, there’s really no point.

When I began this blog, I was pretty sure I was in for a long journey. I’d read enough about other’s battles with chronic pain to have just an inkling of what I was looking forward to.

Looking back I can see that I really didn’t know what it would be like to still have this headache now. I’ve gone through a huge range of emotions trying to learn to live with it. And I think I’ve done a good job. At some point I switched perspective from getting through the pain until we find something that helps, to living a full life with the pain.

So to all of you who are on a similar journey, let me just say this: We are not travelling just to get to a destination. We are meant to experience every moment of the journey. Try not to wish the time away. Let yourself, instead, find moments to savor on even the toughest of days. A hug from a loved one, petting a dog or cat, a warm bath, the feeling at the end of a difficult workout, a held hand. Life is found in the little everyday things.

Still Adapting

I’ve had this headache for a long time, and yet I’m still making changes to my life, still adapting to the limitations dealing with chronic pain has given me. And, yes, still fighting against those seeming limitations.

Something I have to be on constant lookout for is depression. It can really sneak up on you. I recently made a lifestyle change that left me feeling depressed. I’ve homeschooled most of my children their entire school careers. One decided on public school after we had her try it out last year, and one just went on to college. That left a high schooler and an elementary schooler at home. Looking back at how this past school year has progressed, I really was not happy with the results. My kids are smart, not geniuses or anything, but capable. I really felt they weren’t getting the opportunity from me to challenge themselves. The younger one started school a month ago and is adapting well. The older one will start in the fall.

Not homeschooling may not sound like a big deal, but this has been my identity for a long time. I stopped working almost two years ago. The homeschooling community has been my only source of social activity outside of my house. Although they still value my input, I now feel detached.

I am not the same person I was just days before. Suddenly I feel alone.

This identity crisis and the disappointment I felt from not being able to do for my children something I had promised myself led to some serious insecurity and low self-esteem.

So here’s my advice to myself, and to anyone who suffers from depression due to chronic pain:

  1. Practice mindfulness This link is to the Zen Habits website. He gives a great plan of 9 mindful things you can easily do each day.
  2. Daily write three things you are grateful for. Or more if you choose. Happiness can be cultivated. When we are in pain, it is easy to forget the good things in our lives. By writing them down, you remind yourself to be happy.
  3. Hug someone, or pet a dog or cat. Don’t forget you need physical contact even when all you want to do is stay in bed in your dark quiet room.
  4. Play a game. You may not be into board games, but I am a total game geek. Even if I really don’t think I want to play, playing a game with my family makes me feel better. It helps me reconnect and feel like I am a part of things.
  5. Last, and possibly hardest; Get some exercise. It may hurt, but your body needs it more than ever. If you have to schedule a nap afterwards, do it. If you can only manage a few minutes, do it. It may take time to work into it, but your body will thank you.

One Word 2015

It’s about to be a new year. I’ve never taken the new year very seriously. I don’t typically set resolutions, so I also don’t break them. But this year my husband came across oneword365.com. The site remakes the idea of a new year’s resolution into something much more reflective. Each person chooses one word that describes what they want to do or be in the coming year. My word:

Refuge

  • I want to remember daily to take refuge in the Divine. The life I live and the things I experience have a purpose, and that is to bring me closer to God.
  • I need to allow myself to take refuge in my family and friends. They are here to support me and help me through even the hardest of days.
  • I want to be a refuge for my family and friends. I want to be the kind of person they can talk to about anything without fear of judgement, or even fear of sounding stupid.

I have a few ideas of things to do to help me remember my word daily.

  • Make wallpapers for my computer and phone that feature my word.
  • Create a reminder on my phone to randomly tell me to think about my word.
  • Use my word in my daily prayers.

If you like the one word idea, give it a try. Leave me a comment telling me what word you chose.

And, check out my Husband’s post about his word and why he chose it.

Long Journey

Happy anniversary to Cracked. This blog has been running for just over two years now. I’ve tried to share with my readers any aspect of my life I thought might help. To a great extent, that has meant detailing my medical journey. I’ve kept this blog focused on how I deal with chronic pain. Since nothing has changed much in my medical treatments, I haven’t felt the need to post as much.

I’ve lived with this headache for five years, and I’m done focusing on pain. There’s so much more to my life. Originally I hoped this blog would provide clues to better treatment for someone dealing with the same problems as I have. Not yet having found a successful treatment for my pain, It’s time to move forward. But, don’t worry, I don’t plan on leaving my readers behind. We can undertake this new journey together too.

So what can you look forward to from Cracked this coming year?

Thoughts about parenting and families.

My experiments in being more minimalist.

A glimpse into my spiritual life.

And, I’ll still keep you up to date on where I am medically.

Working Towards Fit

In August I joined a gym. It was my husband’s idea. Heretofore, I’d thought I wouldn’t like a gym unless it had a pool – swimming feels like play, treadmills feel like work. It’s one of those small franchise gyms that have popped up in every town. It’s equipped with everything you need to get your aerobic exercise and body building done in one place. I haven’t tried any of the classes they offer; Zumba, PiYo, Insanity. I’m still intimidated by some of the weight machines. What I have tried, though, is working well for me.

Unfortunately, exercise does increase my headache pain. It’s a challenge to work out knowing I will hurt more afterwards. I’ve handled this in two ways. One, by reminding myself that the pain is a nerve disorder, so it’s not really hurting anything, it just hurts. Two, by working out at night so I can go home and sleep it off. I’m not able to push myself as hard as I’d like, and some nights I just can’t handle exercise at all. Still, any exercise is progress towards being fit.

At my latest primary care check-up my cholesterol had dropped into a healthy range and I’d lost five pounds. My doctor was thrilled that I wouldn’t need meds for the cholesterol, and proud to see that yes, you can get into a healthy range without medicine. I was doing so well, I started thinking not so much about being healthy, but about reaching my ideal weight.

This shift in outlook was a tremendous mistake. I had a rough week, my workout suffered and I starting feeling badly about myself because I wouldn’t reach my weight loss goal. This, only days after setting the goal. I realize once again, that my goal needs to be health, not weight.

So, I encourage you, my readers, to look towards being fit. Embrace your lovely body, with its pain and imperfections. So often, when our bodies betray us we disconnect. We live in our heads and leave the body to its own desires. Reconnect with your body, stretch, open up, move! Even if it’s slow and difficult at first, every movement is progress. Every step gets you one closer to being fit.

It won’t cure you, but it will give you other health benefits and a big boost of self-confidence.

Adjusting

I’ve now been out of work for over a year, while I’ve been living with chronic pain for about five years. I’m still adjusting.

This year I’ve learned a lot about my own limitations. I’ve learned to listen to my pain. It often tells me when to slow down or stop. But I can’t always listen.

Life Demands to be Lived

I have been working on finding a balance. That means not spending too much time focusing on the headache. (Sorry blog world.) For awhile after losing my job I just had to acclimate to being a stay at home mom. How much house work could I do in a day? Could I keep up with planning the girls’ homeschool lessons. Eventually I found a routine that works for me.

At my last neurology appointment my doctor told me I had to stop living in pain and learn to live with it.

I’m managing that pretty well.