Friday, April 5, 2013

Hope: how do we do it?

This is a great, juicy topic

My masters thesis in the bad old days, long, long ago was actually on hope. My thesis advisor and head of the Occupational Therapy Dept. at USC was a crusty old Irish dame named Mary Reilly.  She made it clear that what I was to focus on was 'lowly old hope' - the kind that gets you from one day to the next, and not on 'self actualization' or the like, one of those buzzwords for the latest self-help or self improvement fad that came out of the 70's.  My task was to suss out what keeps people going in spite of the worst possible circumstances like a devastating stroke or spinal cord injury that leaves you paralyzed.

One day at a time

Fast forward 40 years or so and here I am with the same topic under the microscope.  How do we do it when we're having daily or near daily headaches, when we lose our jobs, social life, the ability to care for our families, when we lose not only entire days, but sometimes entire weeks or months or even more?

La te da da da.......

All I can do is tell you how I do it.  As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, just take it 'one day at a time.'  My personal strategy is, in a way, the same on the bad days as the good ones.  If I'm heaving into the toilet at 7:00 am, then running back to the futon with an ice pack on my head, I tell myself that all I have to do is make it through the next few hours or the day.  Tomorrow will be another story because things never stay the same.

When I'm pain free or the pain is tolerable, I make it a point to enjoy those good days or pieces of days and then to affirm or remember that morning or afternoon hanging out with friends or the great time I had taking care of Liam, my 2 year old grandson just a couple of days ago.  I take advantage of my up time to do many things:   hang out with friends or family, do art or write, walk or be outdoors, tutor English, work on low key projects or chores.

UH Oh!

On bad days I hope for the seemingly relentless pain to ease off by midday or later in the afternoon so I can enjoy a piece of the day.  I lie there planning my next trip while assuming I'll be able to take it.  I know it's not a sure thing, but the process of planning it makes me feel better, like things are still possible.


There are times when it all seems overwhelming, like I've just had the rug pulled out from under my
feet yet again.  When that happens, it's hard to maintain hope.  Then I try to keep in mind that I have yet another plan or just an idea of what to try next.  I keep a series of these in mind, not written down anywhere.  I change or prioritize them at will, add one, take one away.  This has been a particularly difficult couple of months for me, the slap down period for sure.  A severe virus in Jan. set me back, made the headaches worse.  Just as things were beginning to look up a little, I got pneumonia.  I'm still recovering.  But I have plans.  A road trip with my husband in a van we don't yet have.  (How's that for speculative!!)  And I have treatment options including neck injections, a couple of possible new preventatives, some body work and, if all else fails, a possible return to the Michigan HeadPain and Neurological Institute.

Planning what to do next presumes, requires hope, hope that something or someone, some idea or form of therapy, treatment or practice will improve the quality of your life.  It requires that you be self observant, creative, persistent as hell, critical, selective, and that you prioritize among all the possibilities, the one to try next.  For example, I've had an idea, for years, that I might take a class or go on a retreat to Hawaii and do music therapy with Kimba Arim.  She is a renown musician and therapist, and for me, sound is such a key to my responsiveness to both negative and positive stimuli.  But I have not yet chosen to pursue this idea for a variety of reasons.  My budget is limited, and other ideas have always come before - so far.

Simple Hope

Is not so simple.  But, I try to keep it basic. One step at a time, and stay open to possibilities .........


  1. I loved your post. All of us that have suffered long enough with the pain of daily chronic Migraines have come to realize what is most important in life and how to SURVIVE! Keep surviving and hanging in there. :)

  2. Thank you for this! It's something I have to keep in mind, and I'm always very good at it. Thank you for reminding that good times always come!

  3. You're welcome. I'm not always very good at it either, so this piece is by way of a reminder to myself too.

  4. Hi Candy

    Great piece, thank you! I'm trying to tweet the carnival and would like to tweet yours, but don't know (or worse can't remember :() your twitter account.
    Do you tweet?
    Nancy Harris Bonk

  5. Hi Nancy,
    Many thanks. No tweeting for me, but more power to you.