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.

The truth about today

This being my blog, you read about my experiences, my thoughts and reactions. All told, of course, from my point of view.

But, I’m not as nice as I’ve led you to believe.

I can give great report of my patience and love for my family and friends. I can offer my advice to pray, meditate, be kind.

But I’m not always able to live up to it.

Sometimes I feel downright dis-compassionate. Often I lack the patience a situation deserves. I frequently don’t pay attention to the people around me. And I get snappy when my head hurts too much.

Today someone was venting to me about her migraines. She’s missed some work and doesn’t want to be reprimanded for it.

Understandable.

But her attitude seemed like so much drama, and her problems seemed over exaggerated. I wanted to vent right back at her about my issues. Mercifully I was able to hold my tongue.  I told her work policy and that’s it. When I should have been able to be supportive or at least share some advice, I was unable to do so. I felt no compassion for her. Just frustration.

I can’t really know how migraine has affected her life. It’s not a contest of who has suffered more. But there’s this attitude in my workplace that if you want the freedom to miss work whenever you like, just say you have migraines. People don’t treat it like it’s an illness, but rather an excuse.

I feel badly about it now. I hope another opportunity will present itself and I can make up for my failings.

I just wanted you to know, I don’t really have it all together…

I just act like it.

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Good Intentions

We’ve all had headaches. As a shared experience, everyone has some understanding of the pain a headache sufferer must endure. As such, this leads to my hearing many anecdotes about others’ migraines, concussions, stress headaches, and even back pain. Along with the story always comes some sort of advice.

Often this advice comes in the form of have you tried “x”? Such as:
Excedrin
Vitamin d
More activity
Less activity
Chiropractic
Yoga
Essential oils

My favorite suggestions that I haven’t tried come from a very kind Indian couple that has adopted us as a second family. He has a special blend of teas for me to try, plus a daily dose of saffron. Her advice is yoga, specifically a head stand.

The great thing about all of these ideas is that they really do help with some types of headaches. Even more important to remember is that each of these ideas comes from someone who cares enough to share their wisdom.

Other times there is less advice and more admonishment. It goes something like “I had a sinus infection, and I didn’t miss work.”
Or there’s another type of encouragement: “I used to get migraines, they quit when I hit menopause.” (I’m too young to look forward to menopause.)

So what should you say to a headache sufferer?
I’m not entirely sure myself. We all get uncomfortable and tongue tied when faced with another’s disability. Just be supportive. Feel free to offer your advice, but don’t be disappointed if it isn’t taken. Last, but not least, offer your support with a willing ear to listen and shoulder to lean on.
Oh, and a steaming cup of hot tea.