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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I just watched the movie All Is Lost, starring Robert Redford. It’s not the best movie, pretty sad, a bit slow, and all about survival without the hoped for character developement.
What I did get from the movie was that it could be an accurate depiction of life with chronic illness.
Watching Redford’s character struggle to survive kept making me think of my own struggle with chronic headache.
As he conquers a new problem you are filled with hope that he might just survive.
The same happens to us all while fighting our headaches. Each new medicine gives a new sense of hope.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I do hope your journey to wellness isn’t as trying as the character’s journey in All Is Lost.
How many times have I thought “I wish I was a witch in the world of Harry Potter.” So many things would be easier. Never mind washing dishes, there’s a spell for that. Mowing the lawn; I bet there’s a spell for that too.
But a cure for migraines, even the healers at St. Mungo’s haven’t managed that. I imagine they struggle with the same issues our own beloved neurologists do.
So they may have spells for aborting migraines:
Spells that help you deal with the pain of migraines:
Then of course there are the daily preventative potions:
Draught of Peace
Essence of Butterbur
Hopefully one day some great wizard will invent a spell to cure migraines, but until then, even the wizarding world faces the issues we do in the muggle world.
(Sorry this is a day late and I’ve been out of the loop for a bit. Blogging daily just isn’t my thing.)
There are days when odds are my head pain and related symptoms are going to get me down. Some days I can even the odds for the day. Some things I do help me to work towards lowering the odds for the coming years, not just the coming days.
Things I do on a daily basis:
Take care in my meal choices, if I drank too much cola yesterday, I’d better watch it today.
Eat when I’m supposed to, not waiting until I finally feel hungry.
Lie down for a nap when the pain starts to creep up on me, don’t always weather the storm.
Keep the lights dim and the noise level low.
These sound like trivial details, but they add up to an altered life. How can you keep the lights dim while you expect the kids to get lessons done? How do you keep the noise level down but still spend time playing games with friends? I can’t always follow those simple rules. Life gets in the way.
While I’m busy balancing my illness and my life, there are some things I can do to help myself get healthier. While these won’t cure my disease, they may help with the severity and they may prevent symptoms from worsening or new symptoms from developing.
The things I strive to do (but may not always manage) for a healthy life:
Relaxation exercises my neurologist suggested. I’ve being doing this nightly and it has helped me to get to sleep at least.
Physical exercise, which is a big challenge. I’m not good at taking my exercise nice and easy, but my head can’t handle the pace I’d like to set. So this I am constantly struggling with.
Spiritual practice- this is one of the keys to my ability to cope. I may be doing a small amount daily, but I try to keep God always in my heart and mind.
Truly these three things are beneficial to everyone, not just a migraineur.