Tag Archives: Chronic Pain

So not self-helpful…

I think I may have PTSD when it comes to self-help books, books on migraines, or generally any written device intended to explain to me how to make my current state in life better.

I have been trying to unwrap why I loathe self-help lately and I have hit upon a theory. It’s a relatively new theory so bear with me but here we go.

Ours is a society of the quick fix. If we have a cold and can’t sleep we take NyQuil. If we have a cold and need to go to work we take DayQuil. What we don’t do is rest long enough for our bodies to battle the cold on their own.

Due to our quick fix mentality we have a tendency to offer solutions to the people in our lives who express problems. We rarely actually commiserate. It’s not because we don’t feel sympathy or even empathy for them, but our language of caring has morphed over time from listening and empathizing to offering solutions.

As a migraine sufferer I have had a lot of experience on the receiving end of solutions. It doesn’t bother me from friends or family but it’s the complete strangers that make me crazy. Usually when I meet someone and they find out I have migraines I get asked my entire medical history by someone without a medical degree because their fourth cousin once removed has migraines and maybe they can mention something my nationally recognized neurologist hasn’t thought of yet. It is exhausting and not a way I want to spend one of the rare times I actually leave my house to go out into the world.

I think this is why I hate self-help mechanisms. Rather than listening to each other, talking about our feelings, and creating deep, strong bonds of friendship we are offering other people’s takes on our interpretations of someone else’s problem.

Meet someone at a party going through a divorce? Offer them this book. Got a brother with MS? Here’s a book on how one person worked through their experience with it. Children being… children? Here’s a book on how to parent in a way the person who wrote the book likes most.

Now I am not saying seeking self-help is a bad thing. Personally, if you want to read books on parenting, relationships, investing, whatever medical diseases you may have, and that helps you handle life, go for it with my blessing! There is nothing wrong in my mind about seeking out information.

What upsets me is offering these unsolicited solutions to others in lieu of care.

I get it, caring is hard. It’s time consuming, it takes real listening and empathizing to truly succeed at it and none of us have the time or the energy.

Is that last part true though? Would we find consoling someone less tiring if we did it more often? Could it be we are out of practice and therefore it seems more tiring and time consuming then it truly is?

Here’s my truth: My best memories are from times when I opened up my mind and heart and joined someone in their hardships. Really joined them. Crawled down into the hole they were stuck in and sat with them for a while. I have been blessed enough to build truly amazing relationships with people because I was simply sitting with them and listening when they were having a hard day.

Sometimes the way to be the most helpful is to offer no help whatsoever.

Misery loves company…

I met another migraine sufferer last night and he and I spent a few hours discussing various symptoms, treatments, and attitudes about migraines.

It was wonderful.

It puts me in an odd place to feel happiness at learning someone else is going through this. I recognize it’s not that I would wish this on anyone so much as it is having the opportunity to discuss my situation with someone who truly understands it. Talking triptans and DHE derivatives and triggers with anyone who doesn’t have migraines doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Truthfully, discussing migraines with people who don’t have migraines isn’t usually a good plan. I either get the infamous “Have you tried…” or I get “Wow. How do you do it? I couldn’t do that.” The former is something I sit through because everyone means well and is trying to help. The latter just makes me feel badly. I’m no superhero. I do it because the other option is to die.

I don’t want to die.

So having a discussion with another person who understands aura and triggers and the crazy side effects of all the weird medications they try on you is awesome, even though a part of me feels like a bad person for celebrating that another person has this too!

It just goes to show you that misery truly does love company. It’s so nice to find another person who feels your pain.

Bee calm and garden on…

Pink flower bee Copy (1)

It’s been my newest project and my reason for being offline so much lately. For the first time in my life I am building a garden. Day in and day out I dig and plant, hammer and staple, water and weed. There is something soothing and, well, down to earth about gardening.

I can feel my connection with the earth healing some deeply hungry part of me. In the garden I am capable and strong, I am able to work for hours and not make my headache worse. I don’t know if it’s not straining my eyes on a computer screen or just that gardening is as replenishing as it is exhausting but my spoons don’t seem to be at risk when I am in the sun and communing with all the bees and plants.

And boy do we have bees!! There is a house a few doors down with a hive and their happy little bees buzz around my Gerbera Daisies, Blueberries, Blackberries, Strawberries and Tomatoes. It’s possible that they love the herb garden even more. Best of all, the big blue fountain in my planter garden gets teeny buzzing visitors who fly over, settle on the rim, and delicately sip at the water in the bowl.

I can watch the bees for hours.

I put up a hammock under the tree and when I am not gardening or working I lie there smelling my spearmint, magnolias, and tomatoes while the bees buzz around me, resting from time to time on my knees. The sun is warm and the sound of the busy birds and insects is soothing.

I seem to be coming back to life with the plants, growing stronger and standing taller every day. The long lonely years of pain and hardship look as though they may actually be in the past. I work, I garden, I walk, I swim. I take the kids places. I am once again living an outside life. I am not confined, alone with my cat, to a dark and quiet room watching the world pass me by on a dimly lit computer screen wishing desperately that I could be free. I am no longer a useless partner, mother, daughter, or friend. I have things to offer the world again. I have people in my life who walk beside me and encourage me to do what I can while reminding me to not overdo it. They value and cherish my contributions even though they are not what they used to be. I am learning to do the same. I suppose I am being cultivated as much as my garden is.

I love how responsive plants are to my labors. A drooping plant will perk up within minutes of being watered, a seed poke through the earth within days of being planted. Every day I see the results of my labors blooming around me and I can’t help but bloom with them! I laugh and dance and sing again. I wake up early, even though I hurt, to take my medication so I can get to the garden faster.

I have more energy now too so I can cook and walk to the grocery store and clean. I make delicious food for my family again and get pleasure out of seeing them gobble it up. My kids are eating vegetable soups and meatloaf and guacamole again, thrilled I am back in the kitchen making it. Dan is touched each and every day I make his lunch for work, happy I have thought of him and taken the time to insure he has a gracious plenty of healthy, delicious food while he keeps the peace in the brutal heat. My parents enjoy the food I cook and my mother loves that she is not doing the cooking.

I am slowly learning that no matter what my professional future holds, whether I can litigate again or not, whether I can earn a decent living or not, I can contribute to the family in a meaningful way.

I can be a goddess of hearth and home if I cannot be the career woman I dreamed of being. I find joy and a profound sense of accomplishment in the tasks I once deemed menial. Now they are the example of improved health.

So my life is blooming again. I think it’s time to bee calm and garden on.