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 ran out of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) leave time, which meant that
I was warned that if I have any more absences I’ll be written up, which caused me to
Go to part time hours to help me not miss any more time, which led to the fact that
I no longer qualify for FMLA because I don’t work enough hours, so now
If I’m absent from a single shift I’ll get in trouble and I don’t have any recourse.
I thought working part time would help me with absences, and it has. I only work four and a half hours, five days per week. I’ve only had to come home mid shift one day since dropping my hours. But there have been days when I’ve really had to push myself to make it through. I’m sure my work has suffered a little, but you can’t go too wrong in retail, so I’m the only one who notices.
I hoped working part time would help me with homeschooling and housework, and it hasn’t. Since I have to force myself to go to work, no matter how I feel, I’m feeling worse at home. It’s like I have a limited energy reserve, and it can only carry me through half-way. Not being able to miss work, home feels the neglect.
One of my coping strategies is to hide how badly I feel and carry on. But it wears me out, and it shows in my dealings with the kids. I get short with them or I just don’t really notice what’s going on. They may have to tell me something 3 or more times to get my attention. I apologize or try to refocus, but the next day it’s back. They would probably say it’s not that bad. But I notice, and I don’t like it.
My goal is to improve.
I’m not sure how, but I’ll be praying, and trying to meditate. That seems like a good start.
Oh, and Botox is scheduled for next week. Hopefully that will bring some relief.
I’m going to take a brief break in telling my story to flash forward to how my days pass now.
In general I have two types of days: those in which a short nap gets me through, and those in which most of my day is spent lying in bed, or at least sitting around in the dark.
A good day’s routine:
Up at 8 am
Worship time with my girls
Teaching or helping with lessons (we homeschool)
It is a lot to do in a day for anyone.Factor in the headache and it becomes impossible. For us, something is always left undone. Schooling is a tough issue, but as long as I feel my girls are better off than in public school, I’ll be sticking with it.
On a bad day – which half or more of my days seem to be lately – we throw the routine mostly out the window.
I still get up on time(ish), mostly so the girls will. Without any parental presence they will hang around in pj’s until noon. (Think public schoolers on a Saturday.)
Then I either hang around in the dark and call instructions to them from the recliner, or I give them direction and go back to bed.
Sleeping is one of the best ways to escape pain. It is pretty hard to sleep with a headache, and harder still when your body says you don’t need any more. My favorite past times are also impossible when the headache has me down. I rarely feel well enough to read, being creative is out, and the kids just can’t stay quiet enough for me to enjoy board games. Sleep and watching movies are really the only escapes I have.
The headache interferes with my days off too. I’m reluctant to schedule outings with friends, afraid I’ll have to cancel. I push myself to be available to take the girls places and to help out at church. This often leads to worse headaches later.
I try not to live like I suffer from chronic pain. I think it makes a real difference both in my outlook on life and on my ability to take care of myself and my family. There are people who don’t know I have any issues. Then again, they didn’t know me before the headache.