Yesterday’s Migraine Message: Received

Yesterday I woke up with a migraine just before 6:00 a.m.  It was the pain that woke me, in fact. 

At first, I thought it was just a sinus headache.  With all the time spent indoors in dry air lately, my sinuses have been giving me fits.  Then, my vision started going, my right hand went numb, and I knew what was happening.  I took a tablet of Imitrex on an empty stomach because I didn’t want the migraine to get worse while I gobbled breakfast, though I really shouldn’t do that since it provides over 24 hours of heartburn and nausea when I do that.  (Not that I particularly felt like gobbling breakfast, either.)  The symptoms progressed as usual, a numb tongue making speech very difficult, though the worst my vision got this time was tunnel vision rather than full blindness.  I called in to work when I could talk again,  as I knew I’d be worthless even once the Imitrex reached its full effect.  It effectively renders my brains to all the usefulness of thought of scrambled eggs or a big ball of cotton, and that sticks around to a lesser degree the next day.  (I don’t feel up to my usual thought capacity today, even after 8 hours of sleep last night and sporadic naps yesterday.  That’s one of the crap parts of the medication, the sort of hangover I have the next day.)

As for what caused it this time, it was not my usual trigger of a sudden, bright light hitting me in the face.  (Light-related migraines make up about 90 to 97% of my total migraines.)  This time it was other triggers, which, I think, break down like this:

continuous stress at work + sporadic stress at home + stress I’m putting on myself + crappy sleep lately (nightmares!) + PMS-related hormonal fluctuation – proper self-care = the perfect recipe for a migraine

I’m actually surprised I didn’t have one sooner.  It’s been quite some time.  When I started getting the severe kind, at first I was getting one or two a month, then every week for a while, and now I have maybe one or two a year.  That’s a HUGE improvement, but I’ve been careless lately.  I’ve not been taking very good care of myself, and I should know better. 

The few migraines that I have gotten the past few years have been at times when I’ve been careless about self-care and under a lot of stress.  They’re my body’s way of forcing me to notice that I’m worn down, I’ve discovered.  In my case, I use them more like mindfulness bells at a temple than harbingers of doom.  I don’t fight them anymore or try to do other things while I’ve got one.  I take my medication,  call in sick to work or leave work if it’s a work day, lie down, and spend time resting or sleeping.

With yesterday’s migraine, I took notice.  I can’t control the stress that comes at me at work  or from my family at home, but I can do better about letting that stress go.  I can’t do much about the hormones, either, though that component of the storm should clear up soon.  The crappy sleep is directly related to stress.  One thing I can definitely do something about is the stress I’m putting on myself.

While I laid around yesterday and sporadically thought, and thought some more this morning, one of the ways I’m putting stress on myself is trying to read too much, especially non-fiction, at once.  This is what my current reading list looks like, and I’m actually part-way through all of these books:

  1. Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison  (One short, devotional-style reading daily.)
  2. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
  3. Prayers to the Great Creator by Julia Cameron
  4. The Essential Rumi translated and compiled by Coleman Barks
  5. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translated by Mukunda Stiles
  6. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  7. Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat by Richard Faulds, et al.
  8. Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation compiled and edited by Susan Piver (with CD of guided meditations)
  9. Being Vegetarian for Dummies by Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D.
  10. Book of Blues by Jack Kerouac (poetry)

I joined an online women’s group last week, Flock, and they’re reading through Style Statement:  Live by Your Own Design by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte, which I ordered when I joined.  It arrived today.  I am already behind, and now I’m second-guessing trying to catch up and do this one with the group.  I think I’ll try it and see how it goes, so that ups my original list to 11.

Something else I’ve been mulling over is dropping The Artist’s Way.  I know that a lot of people really love and swear by this book, but I have been so stressed out by and over it.   It seems to be stirring up my Inner Critic more than any other book I’ve ever read, and not in a good way!  I’m not kidding!  It’s not just this past week’s reading ban, though that was particularly hellacious.   Every set of exercises and tasks has the Inner Critic coming out, going for a knockout blow.  Some consider this a good thing, being forced to face their own Inner Critic as it goes for a knockout blow, but with everything else on my plate right now, I don’t need that kind of stress week after week.  At the same time, there is a lot of good information scattered throughout the chapters, and I like morning pages and artist’s dates.  I like the guiding principles and creativity affirmations.  Those are all good things.  I think I’m going to finish this week’s exercises and tasks, and see how it goes.  If the Inner Critic is still as active as in past weeks, then I’m either going to change tactic and only read the chapters and apply them in my own way, or drop it down to one of those back-burner books.  I realize in some circles that will catch me criticism, not all of it constructive, but the people who would mete out such criticism don’t live with my Inner Critic, with my day job, or with my housemates.

Given that reading list, are we seeing a problem here?  For one–and I agree with Julia Cameron here, it’s something I learned during the reading ban–it leaves little room in my head for my own thoughts.  It’s just too much.  I want to cut down the list of what I’m actively reading by half, and put the rest on the back burner.  I want to read a novel just for fun again.  I’ve been sorely missing that.  So, here is my revised reading list:

  1. Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates & Katrina Kenison
  2. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translated by Mukunda Stiles (I’m almost finished.)
  3. Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation compiled and edited by Susan Piver (with CD of guided meditations)  (I’m almost finished.)
  4. Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte  (Probationary basis)
  5. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Probationary basis)
  6. Novel to be determined.  (I’ll be browsing my shelves this evening.  It may be something I’ve read before, and it may not.)

These may change, but, for now, that’s how the list shakes out.

Another thing I’ve been feeling internal pressure and stress about is still not having any kind of concrete plans for the future.  (And glimmers of plans are not logical.)  I could go on about this, but I’ve been over and over this before.  It’s nothing new.  It’s the same old, broken record of second-guessing and doubt.  I think it just boils down to following the breadcrumbs my intuition throws down for me to follow, as scary as that may be.  Any way I go, I’m going to have to make a leap of faith.  Anything I do differently from what I’m doing now is going to take a leap of faith, even if that leap is later rather than sooner.  (And that terrifies me.  I’m the kind of person who likes all their ducks in a row before they make a major change.)

Anyway, I’m going to start treating myself gentler, practice letting go of things beyond my control more, and giving myself more head space.  The migraine’s message: received.

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