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.



      Otter MacAilein


(Many thanks to Courtney Carver at 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.

Keep on Keepin’ on: Migraine Awareness #4

Keep onWe often seem to live as though we are moving from checkpoint to checkpoint through life.
As children we look forward to being teens; as teens to adulthood. As adults we move from college to establishing a career to marriage to parenthood. These milestones vary between individuals, but we all move forward through life with one or more of these in mind.

Then there are the goals we set to motivate ourselves between milestones: reaching a promotion, losing weight, saving money for a vacation.
When you suffer from chronic pain the milestones may be similar, but the goals must be adapted to your new capabilities. (I won’t say limitations because that creates an invisible barrier you feel you cannot cross.) My goals may be to make it through the month without missing work or to walk 15 minutes on the treadmill. I homeschool my girls, so one of my goals is to grade their work at the end of every day and to get them out of the house at least once a week.

Moving forward in life, I try to keep in mind that there is nothing that can prevent me from reaching the ultimate goal. Each day in my spiritual practice I pray to be filed with love for God.

As for my migraines, I keep on keepin’ on. God can do the rest.

Long Day

We spent the day celebrating my daughter’s thirteenth birthday. It was a great day, filled from beginning to end with family time.

So how does one cope with a day that starts early and ends late; a day that is non-stop?

  • First, eat well and stay hydrated. Meeting your body’s basic needs is step one in avoiding a massive headache.
  • Second, Ask for help. I’m usually the kind who sees what needs to be done and gets to work on it, at least when it comes to planning a family picnic. Even without headaches, in a family of 8 one person can’t handle everything. I’m always having to remind myself to delegate. Else wise,  my excellent husband comes to the rescue and tells me to stop and let him and the girls take care of it.
  • When it gets to be too much, take a short break. How do you do this in a van full of people? Close your eyes, lean back on the headrest, and try not to look miserable. Two reasons: briefly taking yourself out of the action quiets you down from the inside out; trying to stay positive and smile actually helps you feel better. Stress makes headaches worse. Take a moment to de-stress.
  • When you get back home, but it’s too early for bed, take a 30 minute nap. Or, if getting up after 30 minutes of sleep is impossible, take 30 minutes to sit quietly in the dark. Listen to calm music, pet a cat, whatever relaxes you.
  • Repeat God’s name, or a memorized prayer. Or if you are non-religious a self-affirming mantra.
  • Keep pushing through.
  • You can always rest tomorrow!

That being said, I don’t suffer as badly as some others I know of. I don’t usually have nausea or dizziness. I can manage my light and sound sensitivity with sunglasses and frequent pleas for calm. There are days when this list just can’t be accomplished. On those days: Pray for sleep and to wake with less pain and more wisdom.

Sometimes you just need to indulge.

I’m five days into a bout of severe pain. I expect it to ease some any time, these usually don’t last this long. In the mean time I’m stuck coping.

For the first day I went on about life as thought nothing was wrong. I may have been a bit slower to get things accomplished and quicker to get stressed, but I got by. This is a coping mechanism we all use consistently. It may even be inherited from out ancient ancestors. In a world of survival of the fittest, one wouldn’t want to appear weak. You can only go on like this for so long, though.

Pain is exhausting. It drains your energy for both physical and mental activity. Reading is one of my favorite past times, but the headache renders it un-enjoyable at least and impossible at worst. A good audio book or podcast helps keep me from feeling to out of touch in the literary world.(I just finished listening to Life of Pi by Yann Martel; it was excellent.) Eventually, even paying attention to a story or podcast is too much.

That’s when it’s time to indulge. Time to set aside responsibilities:

  • The girl’s lessons – we can catch up later, besides that’s what big sisters are for, tutoring counts right?
  • House work – it’s a never ending job, it will be just as never ending tomorrow too
  • My job – they won’t be missing anything by me not coming in today, I feel like I’m barely coherent

I’ve tried over the past few weeks to kick the nap habit and pay more attention to my responsibilities. Today was not a good day for that. Today I indulged in a nap. When you are in constant pain, sleep is a welcome relief. Sometimes it’s hard to get, but eventually it comes.

Sometimes the pain lasts and lasts, and alas, you can only sleep so much. Then my indulgence changes locale. Instead of my bed, I choose a comfy spot on the couch, dim the lights, and put in a movie. If necessary, I then put in another movie. Here’s a link to a list of some of my favorites. You’ll notice they are all pretty calm and quiet, just right for dozing. Any suggestions to add to the list? Let me know in the comments. Between the pleasant distraction of the movie and the time spent dozing I find some relief.


That’s what coping is all about. Finding enough relief that you can live your life even in the midst of pain. It may take some hours or days of indulgence, but as long as I am there for my family in between, I’m getting by okay.