Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Am I Now?

Change comes with episodic, then chronic migraine

I have had migraines for as long as I can remember, and that's a long time.  They began in childhood and continued off and on into adulthood.  They were pretty infrequent in the beginning, not requiring any real conscious adaptation except going to bed when they occurred.  Then, as I grew up and had a family, they began to have a real impact, especially with my second pregnancy.  I started taking both over-the-counter and prescription pain meds and ergot-based abortives.  They began to interfere with my kids and my work in my 30's and 40's as I developed headaches toward the end of a work day.  I took my first (of eventually several) leave of absence in about 1993.
  

Coping

At first, the changes in my life developed around strategies to cope with the headaches and then just keep going.  As my migraines increased in frequency and severity, I began to realize that I had some triggers, like florescent lights and cigarette smoke, so I avoided them as best I could - and kept going.  

My kids were young; I had a profession, actually 2, and then a third profession; I had family and in-laws near and far; I had a home and responsibilities and things I wanted and needed to do, which all came first.  I was an occupational therapist, and for 30 years I evaluated, treated, cared for children with disabilities.  I was and am a weaver and fiber artist, and I worked hard at both occupations.  At age 55, knowing it was time for a change, I went back to school and got a certification to teach English as a second language.  I went to work teaching at a local community college, loving my new profession.


The older I got, the more frequent the headaches became, and the harder I struggled to keep me and my life on an even keel.  Twenty years ago, I went to my first of many neurologists in an attempt to get better control.  In 1998 I took 3 months off and went to La Paz, Mexico to see if a change in climate might effect my migraines.  It was a great experience, but it didn't do anything to alleviate my headaches.  By this time, they were chronic, daily headaches.  I have had many ups and downs in terms of episodes when my headaches were under better control and then once again under poor control.  They history of all my attempts to bludgeon my headaches into line and to beat back the pain is long and complicated and continues to this day.  It includes a long, long list of preventative meds, abortive drugs and rescue pain killers as well as a long-term yoga practice and many other alternative treatments.  But there are other more internal changes that have taken place.

What?  Me change?

Gratitude

Today has been a good day, and it still is.  For that I'm thankful.  It's not that I wasn't grateful in the past for the good things and times in life, but now I'm much more aware of each one when it happens or occurs to me.  I'm still afraid sometimes and pissed off, sad and anxious, but like Scarlet O'Hara, I somehow believe, "tomorrow is another day."

Grace and hope

I'm not really a practicing Christian, but I believe in grace.  I believe in the gift of a good day or even a good hour.

And I believe in hope.  I always have.  I was reminded of those two important words recently by a close friend.  I hang on to them, and I try to remember them.

Staying tuned in

I pay more attention to how I'm feeling right now and try to honor those feelings and do what I need to do to support myself.  I don't always succeed.

Yesterday, Saturday, I left the house at 9:30 am to meet and share with a group of artist friends.  I was feeling so so, a little headachy and nauseated, but I wanted to go.  After I got home at 2:30, I really wanted to go prowl my local beach for beach glass and sniff the salt water, so I went for a walk.  After I got home, I just had to see what I could make with my collection of found objects, so I played around intently for an hour or more.  When I finally came up for air, I realized I was about done for, with headache and fatigue building.  I needed to eat NOW.  So I threw some dinner together and ate.  This was all good stuff, but it was just too much on a day (like all days) when I needed to pay close attention.

This is, still, a tough one.  Because when I'm in the timeless flow of working on a project, it's a fine thing.  The work takes the upper hand and I'm enveloped in the process without any sense of beginning or end.  This is important moment to moment, and to interfere or step back means you lose a creative opportunity.


Leaving blame behind

When I mess up like this, I don't blame myself although I used to.  Overall my inclination is to forget myself, so to speak.  I am learning, ever so slowly, to remember myself moment to moment.


Honesty and openness:  baring my chest

I'm more open now about how I'm really feeling.  When people ask, I usually tell them, the short form.  Most people don't want more.  Writing this blog has become a way for me to tell the world who and how I am.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  While there's much about my life I leave out, my family for instance, the migraine part sees the light of day now.  I'm not hiding it or behind it.