Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Migraine.

It's scary when your head hurts so bad that you can literally FEEL that a vein IN YOUR BRAIN is swelling up, causing clusters of neurons to cry out in agony. It makes your stomach turn inside out. It totally exhausts you so that taking a single step requires an act of will. You lie there helpless for hours, for days maybe, and hopefully your special pills from the doctor will work. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes the headache takes on a life of its own, and it won't be controlled, it won't be reigned in, and your only choice is to huddle your poor head between two pillows, pressing an ice pack to your temple, and just pray for time to go by quicker.

I had a headache like this on Sunday. It really started Friday night, but it was late when I felt the first pulls inside my skull, so I took a prescription pill and went right to bed to sleep it off. Or so I thought. The next morning I woke up and, since it was Saturday I had time to myself while my husband played with my kids, so I ignored the slight ache in my head, and took myself to breakfast, and then took my dogs for a nice stroll in the woods, thinking a little food and nature would be restorative. But by the time I got back home, I felt shaky, so I decided I better lie down and take it easy. I figured I wasn't dealing with a migraine, I was dealing with a migraine hangover. And in most cases, I would have been right. I've never had a migraine last for longer than a day. That night I endured a headache while I put the kids to bed. (Hubby got to go out with friends, only fair after he took care of the kids all day, and I was glad he had the chance for some fun of his own.) I watched a little trashy TV before I finally went to bed myself.

The next morning I woke up, made breakfast for the kids, and realized by the shaking of my hands and the spike in my head: I had a full on migraine. I took a pill, which is usually enough to make it better, and lie down. Hubby took the kids out for some fun. And I waited for it to get better.

And I waited.

It didn't get better. And I had taken my last pill. And my husband was gone.

At some point, with a migraine like this, when you've run out of pills, you begin to cry. For about an hour, I let the tears come as I pressed an ice pack to my head. I called in a refill for my pills, and texted my husband to please go get them. He did, but I had to wait, and that was not an easy wait.

The second pill took the edge off. I was able to kiss my kids goodnight before going right back to bed. I slept through the night, and then had a weird migraine hangover that lasted another twenty four hours, which included foggy thinking, poor muscle coordination, and knock-you-down dizziness. But the worst was over.

There are supposed to be four stages of a migraine: the Prodrome, where you don't feel quite right; the Aura, where you might see things or have ringing ears; the Attack; where you lie helpless in all encompassing pain; and finally the Postdrome, or hangover, where you feel foggy, confused, and SORE. But I submit there should be a fifth and final phase, which is the Aftermath. Every migraine is so painful and scary and isolating that when you finally come out of it, the world looks different. You feel unbelievably lucky to be able to walk across the room without leaning on the wall. You can look out the window at a sunny day without feeling like someone with long fingernails is pinching your optic nerves. You feel grateful it's over, and incredibly relieved, and yet. And yet.

You will get another one.  Sometime in your future another headache is lurking. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. It's impossible not to feel afraid.

If you have a friend who suffers from migraine, or a family member, you can help, but just a little. Make the room dark and quiet. Bring them ice packs. Bring them cups of cool water to sip. Don't touch them. Don't speak. Above all don't make them talk.

If you suffer from migraines like me, I'm here, buddy. I know. I know.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On Politics

It's an election year, did you hear? This time around, it's scary.

Our Republican front runner is building his power with rhetoric that scapegoats vulnerable minorities. Muslims fleeing political upheaval and civil war, who have had their lives destroyed by extremism, are being told they will not be allowed in the country whose motto is Freedom and Justice for All. He wants to build a wall to keep people out because he is so ignorant of history that he believes walls actually work, when in fact they embarrass the nation that builds them. Remember "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?" If not, you should look it up. A Republican said it. He wants to register Muslims in the United States because their young men don't feel excluded and disenfranchised enough. He wants to deport millions of people from US Soil. Do you know what has to be built in order to accomplish such a feat? Internment camps. Sound familiar? Other Republicans are talking about carpet bombing the Arab world. These people are being cheered by thousands.

We have another candidate using facts and figures to build his argument that the middle class in America is in danger. He is only saying what economists have been saying for decades. He wants to give free college to everyone, like they do in Europe. He wants to bring single payer health care to America, like they already have in Europe. He wants to readjust the tax structure to pay for it. The numbers work. Independent agencies have vetted his math and approved it. He wants to bring prosperity to the middle class again, and how is he dismissed by the media? Not possible. Can't do it. Pie in the sky. Vote for the one who is in bed with Wall Street, the one who will uphold the status quo, won't rock the boat too much, won't piss off those powerful billionaires who are really running things, including the media. They try to prop her up. They try and try. Maybe they'll do it, and she'd be so much better than the fascist orangutan, but only because she's not insane.

Please don't bother posting your defensive comment spewing hysterical fear, and rage, making some veiled threat like, "You'll feel differently when the scary brown people come for your family!" No they won't, so no I won't. And I won't feel differently when people are forced into long lines where they have to register, and ushered into camps where they await deportation, and become more angry, more embittered, and more sadly aware that the land of Freedom and Justice for All was a mirage.

Let's not go down this road, America. Let's remember who we are. For the love of all that is holy, if you are capable of empathy, if you believe that violence and oppression are not the answer, if you don't buy into the easy scapegoating being touted by a bullying braggart who inherited his wealth, if you believe that hope is a worthy cause, vote. Please vote. And remember what Edmund Burke said:  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

On Loving Yourself.

I was always a little uncomfortable with the phrase, "Love yourself." Aside from it being a bit touchy-feely, I feel it puts too much pressure on a person. Love myself even after I said something I deeply regret to someone I love? After I embarrass myself? After I tell a lie and betray trust?  The truth is it isn't always easy to love yourself. We all make mistakes, some of them disastrous, and living with the consequences can be crushing.

Besides, how do you really love yourself? When you love someone there's a certain polished sheen we give them. We forget the nasty sides of their characters, and see only their glossy goodness. Parents love children this way, often blind to their character flaws, sometimes to damaging effect. And romantic love might be the most blinding of all, sometimes making us vulnerable to a malicious personality, or simply a careless one. Love is blind. Familiarity breeds contempt. Both are phrases coined by the Bard, and they've taken hold in the English language because they perfectly express profound truths about human nature. Don't we all know ourselves far too well to see ourselves through love goggles?

I think what the phrase, "Love yourself," really means is that you must treat yourself lovingly. Think of yourself during that embarrassing moment when you did a social belly flop in front of your peers. Oh, you're probably pretty angry at yourself for the way you undermined your social standing, sure, but try viewing the scene with the compassion borne of love. If your best friend did the same thing, or your child, or your lover, wouldn't you wrap your arms around him? Wouldn't you give her a kiss on the cheek, try to say something encouraging, and maybe run her a nice fragrant bath where she could relax and put it behind her? Instead of those self-punishments, try a little self nurturing.

Or think of the stranger who is being attacked by a group of mean bullies. This type of thing happens all the time in school when you're a kid and at your most vulnerable. Most people walk by, trying not to get involved, and sometimes this is the best thing to do if the situation seems dangerous. (An even better thing is to run and find an adult who can put a stop to it.) But those silent observers are not on the side of the bully. Most of them are on the side of the person being attacked. So if you're the one being attacked, and you have no choice but to be a silent observer in your own humiliation because you're outnumbered, or in physical danger, try compassion for yourself. Instead of admonishing yourself, even hating yourself for being the target of a bunch of knuckle draggers, try being the kid who, when the whole thing is over, picks you up from the ground, gives you a hand, tries to say something kind and comforting, and buys you a chocolate sundae. Because it's not your fault what some troglodyte decides to do to you for some random reason in his own twisted mind. You can't control how he treats you, but you can control how you treat yourself. If you can't love yourself in this moment, at least be loving.

Be your own friend. Never be a bully to yourself.

That's what that silly, touchy feely saying is all about. Maybe you can't love yourself the way you might love that beautiful girl or that handsome boy. Maybe you can't cuddle yourself the way you cuddle your dog, cat, guinea pig, lizard, what have you. But you can be kind to yourself. Instead of being malicious in your internal dialogue, catch yourself, notice when you're repeating some cruelty done to you by a peer, or a parent, and reverse it. Be loving. Give yourself a nick name. Call yourself sweetie. Give yourself a hug. Go ahead and be loving toward yourself.

It's the first step toward a better life. I promise.