Migraine Days

Somedays aren’t yours at all / They come and go as if they’re someone else’s days”

Somedays by Regina Spektor

 

Waking up with a migraine is the biggest bummer. Like waking up and finding out your car has a flat tire and you’re out of coffee and you have a big presentation first thing in the morning. It’s a harsh reality that cannot be avoided or put off. It requires immediate resolution.

Migraines have been part of my adult life since I was 26. At first, I suffered through them. Three days of pain while hiding in darkness, lying as still as I possibly could, putting off my life. Day 1: the onset, sharp pain that can still be worked through and thought around. Day 2: the main battle, no movement, no work, only intense, exhausting, inescapable pain. Day 3: the hangover, the pain is gone but in its place a tenderness, a bruise that slows all thoughts and actions.

Then I figured out that the headaches followed periods of intense exercise as well as the general pattern of hormones. I wish I could say that I demanded pharmaceutical help sooner, but like a good, guilt-ridden young woman I thought it was simply mine to bear. My wife and my family encouraged me to see a doctor. This resulted in two medications, one to thin my blood on a daily basis, another for when a piercing pain above my right eye begins to curve behind my ear and nestles under my skull. I now lose only half a day at most to a migraine instead of nearly half a week.

I woke up with a migraine today. I did not take medication immediately because sometimes it just needs water, caffeine, a shower to clear the pressure away. So I followed the usual morning procedures: glass of water, cup of coffee, toast.

The pain continued but at a low frequency. This is the worst trick that a migraine plays because I have to weigh giving up my morning but squelching the headache against trying to work through low-grade pain but being productive. I have to weigh the risk that a migraine becomes full-blown and possibly forms a lesion on my brain against sleeping through a morning of work.

Hindsight, it always makes sense to swallow half of an oblong white pill and sleep while my brain sorts itself. In the middle of the choice, it is difficult to give up the belief that maybe I can power through it. Maybe it’s not really a migraine. Maybe I’m being weak or lazy.

Migraine days appear and demand that I practice self-care. Like a meditation practice, a yoga practice, a running practice. I often don’t want to take the time to care, don’t want to slow down, don’t want to admit that I am at the mercy of the blood flow in my brain.

But there it is, and here I am. Taking the time to care for me. Taking the time to heal.

No Excuses Solo Travel

When was the last time I traveled completely alone?

I went to Oklahoma for my mom’s birthday in 2017. But I traveled with my sister and stayed with my parents, so that doesn’t count for these purposes.

No, when was the last time I went somewhere completely by myself? I visited my best friend when I was in high school and flew alone to Louisiana. But her family picked me up at the airport, and I stayed with them the entire time.

I can conclude then that I have never traveled completely alone. I have always had family or friends with me for the better part of a trip. I’ve never been in a position to independently plan my days and activities. How strange to be in my late 30s and only now contemplating solo travel.

My favorite excuse for my inability to travel alone has been Motherhood. In fact, Motherhood has been my most-used excuse for the things I’ve said no to in the last 14 years. Motherhood was at some point somewhat of a hindrance, and it still offers limitations. But I am not so limited as I pretend.  

What would it be like to go to Portland, Oregon on a solo trip for four days, three nights?

Getting only myself onto the plane, off the plane, then to my accommodations. Taking some time to settle in first then go walking and exploring, getting a feel for the neighborhood. Finding my bearings and a cafe. Dinner. An early night to rest up for the next day.  

Choosing the day with the best weather to go to the beach. Walking the shoreline, exploring, turning over driftwood, rocks, feeling the cold sand, breathing the brine. Lunch. Finding another coffee shop or quiet bar to write and read.

Another day I would go to Powell’s Bookstore and make that my epicenter for exploration. I would walk in ever-expanding circles (or more probably rectangles), discovering the nooks and crannies of the high streets. Looking in at boutiques, used bookstores, pastry shops, Thai places. I would get a tarot reading, a massage.

I would go a whole day without speaking more than necessary pleasantries. I would be eyes and ears, hands and feet. I would tunnel into the thoughts these sensations evoke. Slip out of expression except through movement and writing. How interesting to be, without being forced to emote or communicate outside of oneself. Only for a short time, but what a pleasure to vacate the land of speech.

I’m going out to find new stories, my own stories, and bringing them back to share.

Fewer excuses, more stories.