The villain in my head…

I wake up, on any given morning, to soft sounds or loud alarms.  For a moment, one brief moment as sleep leaves me, I am free of pain.  That minute between sleep and wakefulness is a peaceful, blissful, break.  Then in a slow but steady wash it begins.

My nape begins to pulse, a slow throbbing that spreads up the back of the left side of my head into my temples. A sharp stabbing hits my right temple, jarring any remaining sleepiness away and the villain I live with comes to life.  It roars into my ears, seeps into my skull, pounding more loudly with each moment. Before too long I have no choice but to get up, sleep will not come back, lying here will do nothing but hurt.

I get up. Movement makes me dizzy as the pain moves around, front to back, side to side.  I stumble downstairs, brush my teeth, use the bathroom. The light is too bright, the sounds are too much.  I breathe.  Moving my head from side to side trying to pop my neck, stretch the muscles. Each step brings stronger pulses of discomfort.
Distraction time. Something, anything to give me a chance to push the villain behind something else in my mind.  A book, a blog post, a t.v. show. Anything.

Some days it simply will not be ignored.  On those days I struggle not to snap at my children when they hug and touch me.  Every time they jar me my head pounds, every happy laugh is a sharp stab.  I hate the kind of mother this villain tries to make me into.  I breathe.

I know they can see it in my face if I am not careful, so I do my best to mask the discomfort they cause.  They deserve a mother who loves their touch, they deserve praise and kind responses when they notice I have a headache and lovingly pat my head, unaware that the very gesture of love they give makes it hurt more.

I want to be the mother who wakes up and make pancakes, laughing and smiling in my froggy apron, joking around and bringing them smiles.  Instead I head for the coffee, and sometimes, an illicit cigarette.  The combination brings some measure of comfort, reducing the villain to a manageable background roar.  Other times I try the Cephaly, it’s electric medicine slowly spreading the sensation of thousands of ants across my head as I sit and pray this time it will work and bring relief.

I don’t take pain killers.  While they bring me an hour, maybe two of rest, the resulting kickback headache will be so much worse than the one they were meant to fix.  I drink water.  I breathe.

I eat something, as my stomach protests the coffee.

I remind myself, as my forehead demands attention, that the day will have work or play, family or friends, rest or peace, and that I can focus on those things, use my mind and strength of will to drive the villain into the background where it can just sit and be quieter.  Other days I despair, wishing I had a different morning experience. Wishing a cure could be found.  Wishing I could keep that one moment of waking pain free and stretch it out to last the day.

A New Year’s Letter

Dear friends,

It was a lovely holiday, though busy enough to tire me out to an unusual degree.

The children enjoyed sledding, snowball fort making, too much food and sugar, and a satisfying pile of presents. We focused on games for the kids this year, ideally those we can play together.  Ms. Marlena got Gloom, a cheery game focused on making your family as miserable as possible before killing them off.  Oliver got a TMNT version of Trouble.  Together we got Whowasit? and Castle Panic, both of which turned out to be rather fun.

I got several intense headaches due to the winter storms but I managed to enjoy the freshly falling snow in spite of them.  I am hoping the new year will offer some resolution to this ongoing issue, but not counting on it.  Instead I am focusing on breathing through the pain and managing a good life where my headaches, though unwelcome guests, don’t intrude overly much.

I have been enjoying my time away from Facebook.  For the first few days I kept looking at my phone to check my feed but eventually I stopped and instead, brought my new Kindle with me wherever I went.  I have read 7 books in the two weeks since I dropped Facebook. I think it is time better spent.  I do miss the regular updates from people’s lives but I got a chance to see most of the people here over the holiday and instead caught up in person.  My plan in the future is letter writing, both on physical paper and here.

Dan’s dad showed me some of his stamp collection and we enjoyed a discussion about the stories stamps carry with them.  This got me all fired up to send out some stamped stories of my own.  I shall have to purchase some attractive stamps to use as postage and some satisfying new letter paper, but I am set for pens. A caligraphy set appeared in my gift pile this year and I am looking forward to using it.

I have also been enjoying Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries this holiday, a show about a lady detective set in the 1920’s.  I fell back in love with the fashion of the era and much to my delight discovered a nearby consignment store with a dizzying array of cloche’s, scarves, and tops that will allow me to add a touch of 1920’s glamour to my day.

For my part, I gave out gift baskets full of wine from and chocolate treats from Swiss Colony.  I made some bookmarks and wine glass markers as additions to the baskets and my parents added their own presents as well.  The baskets were pleasing to deliver and sparkled with glittered branches and poinsettia blossoms.

Dan and I spent a number of days resting together as he transitioned into his new day shift.  Moving from nights to days has worn him out but I am sure we will both enjoy having him home after four p.m. instead of after three a.m.  We will be happy to have more time to socialize with people and attend evening events together.  In the meantime, we have enjoyed days spent reading to each other, watching television, playing with the cat and dog, and generally relaxing.

Before too long we will have to get moving on getting him moved in.  I have been clearing out things I no longer need to make room for his things and we have been putting our heads together with my father to renovate the largest room in the basement for our own private sanctuary.  We are going to put in recessed lighting and sconces, new wood flooring, and a wet bar for entertaining.  We will miss sitting before the cast iron stove fire in his basement abode so we may be getting an electric version for our new space.  Our hope is to have a place we can play board games, role playing games, and quiet conversation that is separate from the rest of the house.  For now, we will share the large attic garrett that has been my living quarters.

The children are excited about the transition, though initially some trepidation was expressed.  Oliver wanted to make sure he could still snuggle in with me at night if needed and Marlena wanted to establish that she would maintain her hard earned responsibilities and liberties with a new adult in the house.  We explained that we were all making this up as we went along and promised to make it up all together.  That seemed to set them at ease.  It helps that Dan is very supportive of their relationship with their father and has made it clear to both of them that he does not see himself as a replacement.

It will be interesting staying in a multigenerational household but I already see how much happier the children and I are here and how much more closely they have grown to their grandparents.  I treasure the relationship I see building here and am so happy we have this chance to spend so much time together.  While I am sure there are roadbumps ahead, and I acknowledge the bravery of a man willing to move into a multigenerational family home, I think we will all be very happy here.

My father has already created a new parking space for Dan and is happy to have another man about the house.  My mom is excited to have another person interested in cooking, as it means yet fewer meals she has to prepare.  She isn’t very fond of cooking and Dan and I are.  Further, Dad has become quite the cook since his retirement, so the once onerous job of preparing family meals has lessened significantly.

Both Mom and Dad had some health issues this holiday, with mom having cataract surgery in both eyes and Dad having a sprain in his leg from all the home improvement work.  It’s been paining him a lot.  We have all been trying to muddle through our various ailments but I am not sure the three of us all together yet make a whole healthy person. Still we are solicitous of each other and work hard to help out when we can.

Work has been lovely.  I am really looking forward to the coming work year. I really enjoy the reading, writing, and designing I get to do and am excited to get our new website up and our newsletter out.  Then I suppose it will be time to study for, and take, my certification exams.  If for no other reason that I need more paper hanging on my office wall. I bought a new bookshelf for the office and have been bringing books into it.  I enjoy the process of filling that space with my own work things and getting them out of my house! This is the first time in ten years that work will be somewhere other than my home, most of the time, and it is very relaxing to shut the light off at the end of the day and go home to read fiction, crochet, make earrings, or play games.  I think I might be finally achieving some sort of work/life balance.  Hooray!

On that note, I am signing off to make the bed and prepare some tea.  Dan is on his way home to me after a cold day enforcing the law and I am sure he would love to revive himself with some lapsong souchong and snuggle by the fire.  For that matter, so would I.