Monday, November 30, 2015

Love Notes as Stocking Stuffers

Today I will be doing what I always do on the last day of November. Making these:

It's a Christmas tradition between hubby and me. Instead of putting gifts in our stockings, we spend all of December writing little love notes to each other every day. Then on Christmas morning we sit together and read what the other wrote.

This little activity has quickly become my favorite part of Christmas. Spending a little time each day recognizing and praising hubby in a note helps combat some of the stress of the holidays. And reading 25 little love notes from hubby on Christmas morning feels wonderful. I feel like this brings us a little closer together, during what is usually a pretty hectic time.

And it's totally free.

I take some printer paper and fold in in quarters and tear along the folds to make small note-sized pieces.

And then I simply date each piece of paper. In the end we each have a stack of 25 dated sheets that sit on the counter ready for our daily attention. I'm excited to get this project done today and to start writing notes to hubby tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2015

A Migraine Day Untreated.

I've had a migraine since Monday afternoon. I woke and took my rescue med before even getting out of bed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving). As the meds wore off the pain from the migraine crept back in and so I've gone to sleep and woke up with a migraine every day this week.

I'm super thankful for the hours of pain relief (especially on Thanksgiving) the Imitrex has gifted me. I was able to spend some quality time with hubby and our little chi Gypsy. I'm so very thankful for these two.

Unfortunately, all the rescue meds I took earlier this week means I am without today. No shopping or baking on my schedule. Instead I plan to hide out at home and put all my efforts into preventing the pain from escalating - keep hydrated, stay in low light, move carefully, limit my activity, keep myself distracted... This helps me to feel like I'm having an impact on how my day goes but experience reminds me that I have very little control over how bad the pain gets. Sure I can guarantee the pain gets worse by having a big glass of wine or spending a bunch of time out on a sunny day but even on days when I do everything right the pain can still become overwhelming.

I do what I can and then just hope I chose the right day to back off my rescue meds.

Good thing I put up our Christmas decorations already. I would be super bummed if this activity had been delayed due to a migraine.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whimsy Wednesday

In honor of Thanksgiving here is a funny skit from the wonderful folks at Saturday Night Live.

Have a wonderful day and a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Power of a Thankful Frame of Mind

Seems impossible to believe that Thanksgiving is just two days away.

For the first time ever, I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Outside of a couple small unfinished details, I'm almost done for the season. With the house already looking like a winter wonderland my mind is already in the Christmas spirit.

Thankfully, Thanksgiving isn't about eating a big harvest meal, or watching football. It's about recognizing and being thankful for all the blessings we have - something that can be done even in the glow of a Christmas tree.

Feeling thankful isn't always an easy thing to do when you living with chronic pain. Sometimes it can be hard to see around the struggle. But isn't that the very reason we should be doing this and not just around Thanksgiving but regularly throughout the year?

Being in that thankful frame of mind can be transformative. It can cheer me up, change my perspective and brighten my spirit. No matter how rough things get, I still have so much to be thankful for. All I have to do is think about my blessing and the impact on my life - it's completely free and available almost anywhere, at almost any time. Powerful stuff.

What I want most out of this Thanksgiving is to spend as much time as possible in that thankful frame of mind. I don't want to stress or worry about anything.

I'm setting my intention and have decided I will be happy for any amount of success. No pressure.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Whimsy Wednesday

This husky does look very soft and comfortable - totally get why the cat wants to snuggle on him.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 16, 2015

3 Simple Ways To Help A Loved One Living With Chronic Migraines

There is no manual for living with chronic migraines or for living with someone with chronic migraines. Not because people haven't tried or because people don't want one. No, it's because we are all unique individuals dealing with varied social, environmental, economic and biologic factors. Plus many of us are also dealing with one or more comorbid diseases in varied combinations. We can't pretend that these things don't have a huge impact on our ability of cope and manage our chronic migraines. We also can't pretend that this complexity isn't hard for everyone involved.

Here's the thing - just because there is no manual doesn't mean we don't have some universal needs that our loved ones can assist us with. In fact I believe there are 3 simple ways to help someone suffering with chronic migraines or any chronic pain disorder.

1. Accept the simple fact that you can't understand what your loved one is going through AND know that you don't have to understand in order to be helpful, respectful, kind and loving.

2. Always believe them when they tell you what is going on. We are not exaggerating or lying to you. Just because you can't see our pain, brain fog, nausea, or exhaustion doesn't mean it's not real or serious. We deal with so much disbelief from the outside world. We need those closest to us to accept our truth and stand up for us. You can't imagine how helpful, respectful, kind and loving your belief is and the huge impact it has on our ability to cope.

3. Follow our lead and support us on our journey. We have very difficult decisions to make each and every day. We don't need you telling us what to do or that we are doing it wrong. We need you to love and support us through our decisions. Sometimes we push ourselves to do something that is highly important to us - follow our lead. Sometimes we need to pull back from an overwhelming task - support that decision. You can't imagine how respected, helped and loved we feel when you are our ally - steadfast by our side.

I don't doubt that those who love us want to help us but I think it can be hard to know how. I firmly believe that what we need most of all is to feel respected, steadfast support and loving kindness from those closest to us. It will buoy our spirits and give us a boost to deal with the onslaught of physical, emotional and mental horrors associated with a life of chronic migraines or any other chronic pain condition. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Is It Wrong To Decorate For Christmas Before Thanksgiving? Does It Matter?

Today, 13 days into November, I'm asking myself the same question I've been asking myself every day this month - "Is it too early to start decorating for Christmas?" Each day I've come to the same conclusion - yes. 

I'm filled with excited anticipation of decorating day. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my Halloween decorations and am still enjoying my Thanksgiving decorations but fall decor just can't compare to Christmas decor. For one thing, my Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff all fits into one smallish plastic tub, whereas I have 7 big tubs full of Christmas decor stuff. Another thing Christmas has over fall - twinkling lights. They are everywhere - on the trees, garland, wreathes, inside and outside. That's pretty hard to compete with.

I've always forced myself to wait until Thanksgiving to decorate but this year I'm actually considering decorating the weekend before. I blame retail Christmas creep. I've already been looking at wonderful Christmas items in stores since August. By now, almost every store has big holiday displays and even festive music. It's hard not to excited about decorating at home. Still, there is some small practical part of me that thinks waiting until Thanksgiving is the proper thing to do. 

Somehow this year proper seems a little less important. I love Christmas decorations. Why shouldn't I be able to put them up next weekend if that's what I want to do? It's not like I'm trying to decorate in September. Do any of you decorate before Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Whimsy Wednesday

Let's say it all together - Awww!

Have a great day!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why I Hate Going Out to Eat

I have many wonderful memories of going out to eat when I was growing up. From this young girl's perspective the food and service was always good. Plus, going out and doing something different was a fun adventure. Some places had a nice salad bar, where I could put as much cheese and sunflower seeds on my salad as I wanted. Some places had dress codes so I would get to put on my fancy clothes and have what I was certain was a very adult experience. I loved it. 

These days, going out to eat is rarely a pleasant experience. The food is almost always far too salty. The service is often a let down, either slow or the food comes out wrong. I'm always afraid to send things back to the kitchen because you never know what they are going to do to it because you had the gall to ask for the right meal. I've gotten sick more often than not after sending food back to be corrected so I'm pretty gun shy now. 

Becoming a vegetarian has made going out even harder. Most restaurants have NO vegetarian options at all and when forced to go to one of these places all I get to eat is french fries. While fries can be tasty, it is NOT a meal so I'll still have to go home and find something to eat. Some restaurants will offer a veggie burger but, if you are like me and don't like soy based veggie burgers (most of them are) then you are out of luck. Every once in a while a restaurant will have a couple meat free options to choose from but most of those options are tofu. If you don't like tofu, again you are out of luck. It's like the restaurant industry can't imagine food without meat and certainly isn't willing to be creative enough to make good meat free options that don't involve simply replacing the meat with tofu. 

That's why breakfast has become my meal of choice when going out to eat. Between pancakes, waffles, hash browns, toast, oatmeal and fruit there is always something I can eat at a breakfast place. I often still run into problems with food coming out wrong or the water smelling like dog but at least I can eat a satisfying meal. 

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still find the idea of going out to eat a romantic one. I guess my childhood memories of doing so were just that pleasant. 

What happened to going out? Did the restaurant industry change? Is it me and my desire for yummy, healthy, meat-free dishes? And how the heck do they get all that sodium in dishes that have no business being so salty? I don't remember food being so salty when I was young...

Home cooked meals are the best
When I think about it, most of the restaurants we frequented back in the day were local, independently owned and operated. We had a few chain restaurants in town but most were not. Nowadays chain restaurants are the norm. Perhaps the problem IS these chains, where food comes prepackaged and gets microwaved before arriving on your plate instead of being prepared by chefs. 

As much as cooking and dishes can be a pain in the rear, no restaurant dish can come close to a home cooked meal. Always fresh, tasty, cheap by comparison and never salty. I don't have to wonder what's in it or how it may have been compromised by unwashed hands or worse. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Misunderstanding the Difference Between Giving Up and Accepting Life With Chronic Pain

I wanted to repost this entry from July 2, 2014. This misunderstanding remains on my mind and certainly remains an issue when dealing with medical professionals.

Misunderstand the Difference Between Giving Up and Accepting Life With Chronic Pain

A few years back (2010) I spent several months going to a physical therapist in an effort to better control my pain. I wrote about it atime or two or three. All this time has passed but I still think about something she had said. Here's what happened:

I had been trying to explain to her just how debilitating the migraines and my other physical issues were (I already had fibromyalgia but this was before I got the diagnosis). I told her how much I missed working and how not being able to was both financially and psychologically challenging. I told her that hubby and I were considering having me apply for disability.

Her response was to tell me that the patients she sees who are on disability are all people who have given up and she didn't think I was a quitter.

I was pretty surprised by this response and didn't even know what to say at the time but I did think about it a great deal. In fact, I still think about it. What she said disturbed me.

1.  It sort of felt like a backhanded compliment. On the one hand she was sort of praising me for what she deemed a determined spirit but on the other hand she was also being sort of manipulative in saying "you don't want to be like these quitters on disability do you?"

2.  I find it impossible to believe all her patients on disability have given up and she didn't give me any examples of what made her think this. The fact that these people are seeking help from her to improve or manage their symptoms indicates to me they have NOT given up.

3.  Being a healthcare profession with extensive education and experience, her opinion could impact the quality of the care she provides to people on disability, potentially the care they receive from other professionals who are part of their team (assuming they communicate), and also could impact the future disability renewal process of these patients.

I can't help but think she must have been misinterpreting what she was seeing in these patients. Back then, despite being in chronic pain for several years, I was still behaving and speaking like someone in acute pain. My brain could acknowledge I was in chronic pain but I was still trying to figure out what went wrong so I could fix and get my life back. I was still desperate and willing to try anything. I was still wasting a tremendous amount of energy and time on finding a cure instead of trying to figure out how to manage my symptoms and do the best I can despite my chronic pain. Don't get me wrong, I was certainly trying to live my best life at the time but that wasn't my primary focus.

Only after coming to the realization that years of trying anything and everything hadn't made a meaningful
improvement in my conditions or my ability to function that I really start to focus on improving my quality of life. I started approaching my medical appointments with more intention and purpose. I started being more thoughtful and discerning about the treatments I was receiving. I started accepting the fact that I was living with chronic pain. I stopped looking to the doctors for a cure.

Maybe this is what my physical therapist was seeing. Maybe the patients she spoke about weren't as slow to come to this realization as I was. Maybe they were already focused on pain management instead of the futile search for a cure. I can see how this might be viewed as giving up to someone who doesn't understand how chronic pain works. But shouldn't someone in her line of work understand this? Shouldn't all health care professionals understand this?

This is NOT giving up. How do we communicate the difference between giving up and accepting that traditional medicine can't cure us  - especially to those who practice medicine?  I would like to explore this more but maybe another day. Right now I just need to lie down.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Whimsy Wednesday

This is video is so darn cute. May it bring you a smile and brighten your midweek.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Shortening Daylight Helps My Migraine Prone Head

I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but I love falling back to standard time. In fact I think we ought to do away with the annual craziness of daylight saving time completely - not that my opinion on the subject matters. 
Still, I love that it gets dark earlier, especially as we approach Christmas because that allows me more time each day to enjoy my lights. However, the biggest reason I love the shortening of daylight this time of year is much more pragmatic - the sunshine is hard on my migraines

I'm very light sensitive. I've set up our house so that I can control the amount of sunlight that gets in but there is isn't much that I can do to control it when I'm not at home. No matter how dark my sunglasses and how wide brimmed my hat, I can't spend much time exposed to bright sunlight without triggering a migraine and causing my eyes to become inflamed and painfully angry. 

It can make being a guest in someone else's home tricky. Everyone I know loves light and their homes are brightened by big exposed windows and bright overhead lights. I certainly don't begrudge anyone their bright rooms. I know it's completely normal to want your house that way. But those bright spaces that please all the normal healthy people is hard on someone like me. 

So while the daylight hours are getting progressively shorter and troubling most people, I'm over here celebrating. Happy as can be about the relief darkness brings to my eyes and my head. Okay, so I don't have fewer migraines this time of year or anything like that. But I definitely feel the muscles around my eyes, forehead and temples relax a bit when the sun goes down. And when that happens at 5pm instead of 8pm, well that's 3 extra hours of that improved state. What's not to love about that?

I hope the shortening of daylight is bringing all of you migraineurs out there some relief as well.