Personality or Illness?

Laurie at A Chronic Dose wonders if she’s type A by nature or by illness. “Too much energy wasted on wishing things were perfect and making sure everything unfolds just so?”, she asks.

Laurie’s questioning is similar to the questions I’ve been asking myself in the last week. Do my insecurities in social situations stem from pain preventing me from being fully engaged in conversations? Is my (generally) more laid-back approach to life because I can’t be the high-energy, high-stress person I used to be, or have I simply grown up?

These questions also lead to reflections on the path I might have taken without my headaches. Would I have found a career that was as fulfilling as blogging? Would I be so eager to do things that we dream of now instead of after retirement, like traveling? Since I can’t do it differently, I’m glad that I feel like I’m heading the right way. Still, I have to wonder.

Even Hart’s life would be different without his episodic migraines, albeit in minor ways. He’d drink more coffee and enjoy the occasional glass of red wine. He wouldn’t have the fear of being struck down out of the blue.

Do you wonder what your life would have been like without your headaches?

Posted in Coping. 3 Comments »

A Banner Day

I woke up at 6:30 this morning and am writing this post at 9 p.m. In between those times, the only times I sat down were riding in the car and for a 10-minute phone call with Hart. And I felt good all day.

I’m visiting my sister and her family this week. She has been likened to a hurricane. This combined with her kids’ (who are seven, nine and 11) energy can be overwhelming even on the best days. Not only did I take it in stride today, I kept up with them.

My pain level has been so low and my energy so high today that I didn’t think to worry about overdoing it. Just now, looking at previous posts that have mentioned my sister, I came across this from last summer:

. . . I realized just how counterproductive it was to push myself. (OK, I’ve
realized this a thousand times already, but it’s a revelation every
time.) I had made myself feel worse than when I started and I had no
energy for the rest of the day.

. . . And it reminded me again of the lesson I should have learned by now. Don’t push it. It always backfires. Always.

There it is in writing — I know I should know better. The temptation to squeeze a little bit more fun into a good day is irresistible.

Now I’m going to do my best to be sure I don’t pay interest on the time I took today. The kids don’t have school tomorrow so I can sleep in and take it easy in the morning. I even have a new pillow so maybe my neck won’t ache in the night.

I so desperately want to prove last summer’s proclamation wrong.

Posted in Coping. 4 Comments »

Grand Rounds at Envisioning 2.0

This week’s Grand Rounds is up at Envisioning 2.0.

Not familiar with this blog carnival? It’s a weekly glimpse into the medical blogosphere. You can find the Grand Rounds archives on Blogborygmi.

A Naturopathic Medicine Primer

While many headache sufferers consider naturopathic medicine, it can be hard to figure out where to start. Certain supplements are highly touted, but there’s so much more to it. Naturopath Stephanie Draus describes how naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice and how to find an ND in your area.

In describing the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine, Stephanie writes, “You see, it isn’t so much the natural methods we use that make us different; it is the way we work with our patients.”

To read more about Stephanie’s approach to naturopathic medicine, visit Nature Goddess Speaks, her new blog.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine provides an in-depth look at the many types and treatments of alternative medicine.

Nice to Meet You, I Have Chronic Headaches

Our new neighbors are coming over for brunch in the morning and I’ve been dreading answering the “What do you do?” question. I am now comfortable saying that I’m a writer (it took me a long time to believe this myself); it’s the follow-up questions I don’t want to answer. This is how the conversation goes:

Nice person: What do you write about?
Me: Health issues.

NP: Like what?
Me: Pain and headache disorders.

NP: How did you get interested in that?
Me: I have migraine and want to help others who have it.

NP: That’s too bad. How often do you get them?
Me: They are chronic.

I love blogging and am proud of what I do, but feel like a complainer when I tell someone I barely know about my headaches. It can start a relationship off in a funny way. I’ve said that I don’t have energy to be friends with people who can’t understand what my life is like, but I want to be friendly with the next door neighbors.

It’s so odd that this is a topic that I’m more than willing to talk about, but I don’t want people to identify me as my headaches. Honestly, I worry about becoming my headaches and thinking that others see me that way encourages my harsh self-criticism. Sometimes I feel like I’m over it, but I know that I’m not.

Is this my own strain of neurosis or are you plagued by these thoughts too?

Posted in Coping. 8 Comments »

Ripe for Failure

Are your goals realistic? Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t set yourself up for failure!” ChronicBabe editrix Jenni posed this question Monday. Little did she know that I was on the verge of doing exactly what she warns against.

I mentioned to friends on Sunday that I’d really like to walk a marathon someday. Naturally, I looked up marathon training schedules on Monday and found the routine for me.

With Jenni’s message echoing in my mind, I set out knowing I had to reign in my overachieving self. Instead of setting the marathon as my goal, I focused on making the first week’s training schedule the target. Once I maintained that program for awhile, I could move on to the next week.

Sounds reasonable — except that I can’t trick myself into believing the marathon isn’t my ultimate desire. The first week’s schedule looked achievable on Tuesday and even Wednesday; today it’s nearly inconceivable.

My head hurts and it hurt all night. I’m exhausted, but am trying to conserve energy because I’m meeting one friend for doughnuts tonight and another for breakfast in the morning. Two miles, which is normally an easy distance for me, looks like a cinch until I consider that my body has to participate.

Despite numerous attempts, I can’t ignore that the very same body holds the brain that’s in the rut of having a headache every single minute of every single day. Today it tells me that there’s no way am I walking two miles. I could push myself to do it, then be sorry that I had to pass up the chance to catch up with a dear friend (and eat a killer Boston cream doughnut).

However, I can take Jenni’s lead and go for a 10 minute walk. I could even reward myself with a latte at my current favorite neighborhood coffee house, ensuring that I get a half mile of exercise today.

Instead of berating myself for not reaching the goal today, I can be proud that I attended a yoga class on Tuesday and walked 3 miles (including a steep hill!) yesterday. Maybe I’ll go the distance tomorrow, or maybe I’ll take a leisurely stroll to admire neighbors’ houses. Whatever I do, I’ll try to remember that I’m doing the best I can.

Friends, Family & Illness

The canceled plans, dirty kitchens and general grumpiness that go along with having headaches, whether episodic or chronic, puts strain on even the best of relationships. With all my experience, you’d think I’d have some suggestions for dealing with this, but my brilliant strategy is to feel guilty. Not too productive, I know.

The new blog How to Cope With Pain highlights “family issues” once a week. Last week’s post answered questions that family members might have, like “Is the pain real?” Here’s part of her response:

“Faking pain, on purpose, to get out of something or to get a reward is known as malingering. While it does occur, it’s rare. Most patients feel very guilty about not being able to do the things they used to do, whether working at a job or taking care of their family around the house. Very few patients with pain make more money out of work than working.”

On her blog, migraineur Nicole offers tips for friends of chronics, including: “[P]lease do not decide for us what we can and cannot do. If you are having a party, let us know. Let us decide if we can or can’t make it to the party, movie, or what have you.”

This anonymous letter to people without chronic pain begins with, “These are the things that I would like you to understand about me before you judge me.” It goes on to explain what many chronics wish their loved ones understood.

If your friends are wondering what they can do, direct them to 50 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. Many ideas focus on encouraging the sick person talk about things that most people don’t want to hear about, like the massive changes that illness has brought to their lives. [via ChronicBabe]

What I fight with the most is being honest. It’s much easier to say that everything is OK than to admit that it’s not. When I do have the courage to tell people how I really feel, I worry that I complain too much.

I’ve finally accepted that my friends and family understand the best that they can. I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way. Although hard at the time, I’m better off for it. I don’t have the energy to convince other people that I feel terrible or deal with their insecurities when I cancel or don’t call them.

Because of my illness, my faults are in plain view. It’s simply too hard to hide that I’m selfish with my time, can be terribly insecure about the most bizarre things, and have great intentions with little follow-through. My friends and family accept me for what I can give now — which may be different than I gave three years ago or will give two months from now.

That’s the beauty of love.