Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011

It was a year of doing.

I was tired of feeling like migraines were dictating my life, so I took every possible opportunity I could, and most of them turned out pretty well.

I went to Hempcon, and I started learning more about marijuana and how to use it.

I had myself a garden again. I love growing food.

I practiced creativity, sometimes in odd ways.

I went back to school!

We wouldn't have made it without help, more than once.

I saw a migraine specialist. And decided his treatment plan wasn't for me, at least not right now.

We moved from the bustling city to the secluded mountains, and it's been amazing!

In 2011, I made my life about more than migraines. I don't know what 2012 has in store, but hopefully it's more school, a work-from-home paying job, and improved health.

I can't wait to see what happens next.

More...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sauerkraut, Eggshells, and Popcorn

After spending the last two months in these remarkably restorative mountains, I thought christmas would be easier on me this year. Nope.

Not to say it wasn't a lovely holiday, because it was fantastic in that I spent time with family and friends, ate some amazing food, and soaked in the all xmasy ambience I could find. I was loving on the decorations this year, I wish we could have another month of trees and non-blinking lights.

Christmas music was, however, a major point of weakness for me. It sent me into a total meltdown of epic migraine proportions on xmas day, and I wondered if I'd even make it to the big family party. But, I rested for a while, medicated like a boss, and I went to that huge party, albeit a little late.

I had both earplugs jammed in my ears to combat the roar of 30 voices, the tail end of a jam session (guitars and full drum kit, natch), and more christmas music, and I had to avoid talking to anyone because trying to make out a single voice in that din was like looking for a contact lens in a bucket full of enraged jellyfish. So, I just smiled and nodded and only really participated in about half the conversations I had, which were only with about a quarter of the people there. I used to try and make a point to talk to everyone, but I didn't have the small talk in me. I did my best, though, and tried not to act too weird.

We gave everyone a small jar of homemade sauerkraut and a baby spider plant. Some people looked at us strangely and others clapped their hands gleefully upon receipt of our somewhat odd gifts. Sauerkraut can be a polarizing topic.

One notable thing was that the few people who asked how I was, I told them, "Oh, rather terrible, but glad to be here!" It just came out. I've been grudgingly telling everyone I'm fine or ok for the past few years, and this is the first time in a long time that I've admitted when I'm doing poorly in such a casual manner. Not sure how much it matters, but it felt relevant at the time.

So, it was painful, exhausting (two days later and I'm still moving at a snail's pace), and horrible at times, but I'm looking back on the weekend with mostly good feelings.

Since then, my head has been worse than it's been since we moved. I'd already forgotten the finer details of the hardcore migraine life I'd thought I'd left behind. I remember now how I'd spend most of the day laying down, alternately encouraging and bullying myself to get back up and do some laundry. How every noise above a whisper made me feel like my skin was crawling off my limbs and my eyeballs were trying to escape via my forehead. How my temper flared. These are things I did not miss.

My poor boyfriend is trying to find his footing with me again. He'd just stopped apologizing for every loud noise, was just starting to relax around me again, and now we're back to eggshells and mood swings and me feeling like a useless burden lump of misery.

I suspect that I just have to wait it out. The quiet of these woods will lull my migraine back to sleep, and I'll be back to hiking in no time. I hate wait.

We've got no plans for new year's eve, and I'd like to keep it that way. Maybe we'll take a drive to look at the stars, or something simple like that, but there will be no parties, no midnight firecrackers or pot-banging to hide from and no worries about playing spot the drunk driver on the way home. Nope, my honey and I will be tucked into our little house in the mountains, cuddling with our dog and maybe watching a movie marathon with some tea and popcorn. That sounds damned festive to me.




More...

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kicking Ass and My Haunted Washer

I'm done. I've finished this class and though I'm pretty sure it took a piece of my soul with it, I can't wait to take another one. It looks like I'm getting an A, too, which makes the whole thing really addictive. Like I hear happens with childbirth, I'm quickly forgetting the pain, tears, frustration, and the sky-high stress levels that sent me into some seriously torrential migraine activity. All I can see is my beautiful baby, Accomplishment.

At the beginning of the quarter, when we were in the middle of moving and my internet connection was dodgy and we had no chairs to sit in so I aggravated my sciatic sitting on the floor for hours doing homework, I was feeling like moving to the mountains whilst in my first quarter of school was the dumbest thing I'd ever done. By the end of the class, when I was spending every cognitively acute second on writing my research paper, I couldn't imagine being able to put in that time and effort back in the city. So, sometimes, things just work out.

Now that school's done for the calendar year and, barring a dramatic change in circumstance, I won't be attending the upcoming quarter, I expect to settle into more of a routine around here. School put everything else second, so now I'll be able to help my boyfriend finish up the construction our place, and maybe I'll finally get on top of the kitchen. I hate dirty dishes.

Since I've been hiking nearly every day, I'm starting to be able to identify the trees that surround us, redwoods are obvious, but oaks, madrones, and douglas firs also pepper our mountainside. I'd like to learn to spot edible mushrooms, since I see enough for a hearty (though probably poisonous) meal on every walk. As a recent city-transplant, I'm fascinated by the idea of foraging for food. And I really, really, really love mushrooms, you guys.

My head is doing pretty great, now that my stress level has slacked a little. Up here in the quiet and the trees, it's almost possible to believe I'm normal again. I can hike a quarter-mile uphill and can jog a bit on the way back down, I can tolerate irritating noises for extended periods of time, and I can get more than one thing done in a day. I'm relishing in my productivity, and am tending to push myself harder than I probably should, but after four and a half years of not being able to do hardly anything for myself, this small measure of independence makes me feel all weepy whenever I think about it too much. I'm still not great in the city, and a trip to the grocery store reminds me harshly of my limitations, but I'm grateful for what I have.

Okay, so this just happened and it's weird and I'm not sure if I believe in ghosts but if I did I would be convinced my clothes washer is haunted. I just went to put in a load and there was water all over the floor, apparently leaking from the washer. I shrug, it's a semi-functional, very-used washer, so I figure it's water that didn't drain from the last load, and go to open her up. As soon as the door opens, a flood starts pouring out. The washer is empty of clothes but totally filled with water. The thing is, the hoses aren't hooked up. They're loose in the detergent slot and I just add water manually by turning on the faucet at the other end. The faucets were off, and there wasn't any water leaking from the hoses. I have no idea how the washer got filled, unless my boyfriend was sleep-laundering, which... he doesn't wake-launder, so that's unlikely.

So... haunted.



More...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let Me Sum Up

Hello. I'm currently submerged in writing a paper, so all I can manage for a blog post is a weird list of topics that I don't have time to elaborate on at the moment.

1. My head.

My stamina is continuing to improve, and even when things got markedly worse one day, I recuperated in record time. However, every trip to the city or prolonged conversation with a neighbor reminds me that I am not a well person. But I'm getting better.

2. School.

Is almost over. I've been working at top speed to get this final paper done on time, and am mostly neglecting everything else, like my boyfriend, my dog, the dishes and this blog. (Hello!)

I, again, can't afford to pay the fees to attend next quarter. I'd ask for help again, but I'm just not sure of myself or the situation right now. We've lost power a few times already and we've only lived here two months. We have a generator now, but when the power goes down, so does the internet. Can I commit to a class when I'm fairly certain I'll be an unreliable student?

Also, this quarter was HARD. Well, no, most of it was fine, but writing big-ass research papers is not on my list of skills, and I discovered that when I've got a migraine, there is absolutely no way around it. I need to get a better support system in place and I need to figure out how to more adeptly navigate the school system while disabled. I know I love school, and I know there's a way for me to do this.

3. Christmas

I've finished my shopping, but not my wrapping. I'm not even thinking about it until after my final assignments are turned in, on Saturday. But it looks like we'll be doing some kind of present/meal thing with my parents and then the usual huge dinner shebang at my uncle's house on Christmas Day, with a white elephant exchange. I expect it to be loud, bright, perfumed, and really high stimulus, so hopefully I survive. I wrote a pretty awesome breakdown of my holiday prep last year, so check that out if you're needing some holiday-migraine strategies.



And that's all I've got. Wish me luck with my paper, I've got to get back to it.


More...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Projects, Progress, Promise and FOOD

So, I turned in that very stressful project.

I have not a guess as to what grade I'm going to get, only that it'll only be worth half the points, since it was so late. And there's another project coming for me already. Hopefully I'll get this one done in a reasonable amount of time.

I'm not sure if I should register for next quarter. It's $50 this time, and I can't really afford it without dipping into the food budget. I'm also somewhat disillusioned about my current school's support services, so I've looked around the internets a little for self-paced online courses at accredited colleges with decent financial aid and disability support services, but I haven't found anything yet. Yes, the bar is high. Classes fill up fast, though, so I need to decide. Should I stay or should I go?

My physical stamina is growing, and I saw my first evidence of it on Thanksgiving. We traveled back to the city to spend the holiday with my family. After dinner, I rallied a few people into getting out for a walk, and I made it much further, much faster than I would have even a month ago. I still pooped out after about a quarter-mile, but it felt good to be moving that quickly, even if for only a short time. It gives me hope for the future.

Turkey day was pleasant. It was just us and my immediate family, so there were no cologne barricades to dodge or awkward small talk to be made. It was nice and relaxing and very, very filling.

But what, you may ask, does a mostly-vegetarian eat at thanksgiving? Oh, I eat well, my friends! Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, herbed roasted veggies, citrus sweet potatoes with an amazing oats/sugar/butter crust, cranberry jelly and crescent rolls, and The Hippie Stuffing. My step-dad is the cook in our family, and he makes me a special stuffing every year, sans animals. This year's was brown rice and wheat bread cubes with dried apricots, mushrooms, pine nuts and cranberries. Divine. Being a mostly-veg certainly hasn't cramped my thanksgiving style. However, in case you have concern for the meat-eaters in my family, they just wouldn't shut up about the the turkey (which was grilled on the Weber this year) and the ham (which had a lovely curry to it) and the gravy (with the mesquite flavor from the barbie, it was apparently amazing), so we were all pretty spoiled this thanksgiving.

We got some laundry machines from a guy up the hill. They're... rustic. The dryer dries, but while making terrible noises. And the washer washes, but only if someone resets it every five minutes. And there seems to be a water inflow issue, so I've been filling it manually with a pitcher. But it's better than nothing, which is exactly what we had unless we came up with $30 for the laundromat or I started washing clothes in the tub. I'm not sure which of those is more likely, they're both so outrageously impossible right now.

And speaking of laundry, it felt like a firecracker went off in my lower back yesterday while I was bent over the dryer. Good thing I'm seeing a spine specialist today. That post is coming.


Taking long walks in the forest with my dog is about the greatest thing there is. Finding new trails, taking pictures of moss and branches and relics of the old mill, I still can't believe I live out here.





More...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Failing Myself, and Maybe School

That project is due tonight. And there's no way I'm going to make it.

I emailed my teacher a few days ago, explained my situation and asked for an extension. I understand that she has no obligation to help me out, but when I saw her reply, that she "couldn't have a different set of rules for me and another for the rest of the class", I broke down. And I continue to break down.

I feel like giving up. Just walking away with my quitter's badge and never, ever trying again. Maybe I'm just not cut out for school anymore, not like this. I asked for a week extension, but honestly, I could use a month. My brain doesn't work like it used to. I've made some progress on this project, I've been working my ass off on it, but it's just not good. I can't organize my thoughts, and finding parallels between my work and others' for the required citations is confusing. I've been doing really well with the quizzes and shorter assignments, but this project is just too complicated for my addled brain.

I'd requested a tutor, when I was first registering for classes. My counselor glossed over it, said that we'd see how it went and to just keep her informed as to how I was doing. But when I emailed her over a week ago to tell her that this project was kicking my ass, she suggested I just take it one step at a time. VERY HELPFUL, THANKS.

I feel really defeated right now. If I can't handle school, I don't know what to do to improve my life. I thought I had a better support system here. I thought they would help me if I started to drown.

And then, my teacher ended the extension-rejecting email on this note: "I want to remind you to work ahead on the [other, even huger project we have due at the end of the quarter] which will require more time and effort than [this project that you totally suck at]. In addition you will be unable to get an extension on that."

Fantastic. Panic attacks all around.


More...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eye-Crossing, Irritations, Being Content Anyway

I still haven't really gotten anywhere with my school project. It's due in only a week, so I finally caved and emailed my counselor.

I've been trying, is the thing. For the past few weeks, almost every day I've sat down at the computer to look for resources and I'll make it through maybe one possibility before my eyes start crossing from my total inability to make pdfs migraine friendly (I don't know why, but no matter how I change the color scheme, they still hurt). The academic databases we have to work with are really confusing to me, and I'm having trouble finding resources that are current and relevant. Also, I'm having a lot of trouble organizing my thoughts, I was hoping that I'd find some scholarly resources that would help me define what it is I'm trying to say, but with all the confusion and eye-crossing, I'm not really getting anywhere.

All this struggle is triggering some serious emotions, and I think I'm going through more of that grieving they say we all go through when we get ill because for the past several days, every time I sit down to try and work on this project, I end up crying. I'm frustrated, I'm tired of not making any progress on something I'm working at every day, and I'm scared that I can't handle school, that this is how every class I attempt will go. It wouldn't have been this hard before migraines, of that I'm acutely aware.

I have no idea what my counselor's going to say. I don't know what would help. An extension, a tutor? I just hope she has some amazing words of advice because I really don't want to fail. It was the fear of failure that kept me from school so long, if that fear comes true, I'm not sure how I'd handle it.

But, I'm going to keep trying, because I might just pull it out. And if I do fail, I want to have failed while trying my hardest. There's no shame in that.

---

Otherwise, things are good! The cabin is still progressing, though I think we need one of those time-lapse cameras to see the changes. There's so much to do, and new things pop up every week. Right now, it's the stovepipe to our wood-burning stove. Yeah, it's pretty cold until that gets fixed.

My head's been pretty steady. I still have symptoms every day, from mild to severe (which has been rare since we moved), which last from seconds to hours, but I'm not totally debilitated every day, which is incredible. I can get so much more done here; take a good walk/hike with the dog, do the dishes, some homework, some cleaning or unpacking, and I'm still standing, ready for what's next. There's much less daytime resting here, and when it does happen, it takes much less time and/or drugs to get me back to moving. Though, every time we go back to the city, it's just like old times. I get about an hour before the constant noises, pollution and glare make me irritable, nauseous, overwhelmed, in pain, and totally useless.

The obvious difference in my health since moving up here has made the transition a lot easier. So what if we see our breath in the kitchen every morning? I can wear gloves in the house. And all the mud? Irritating and everywhere and sometimes scary, but dealable with preparation. This place is small, and the neighbors who've seen the inside are baffled by our willingness to live in such a confined, unfinished space. I smile broadly at that; it'd be nice to have a home that required no painting, no roof climbing, and no brush-clearing, one that came with doors in the doorways and unrusted laundry machines, but I'm so grateful for what I have, being able to leave the house every day and be active is by far worth these inconveniences.

---

How is it November?? I remember looking forward to Halloween, but I seemed to forget this year that it's the only thing holding back the flood of the holidays and now the waters are rising and I haven't even started making my gifts. I wish I could get an extension on Christmas.





More...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anxiety Balls

Oh, school. Why do you have to be so amazing and so intimidating at the same time?

So far, it's been so good. I've completed our weekly assignments on time and with good feedback, I've gotten A's and B's on all my quizzes, and I've felt pretty confident about the material and my grasp of it.

But now, there's a bigger assignment. It's worth more points and requires more time and effort, not to mention some creative thinking. And I'm stumped and flailing. The assignment is to create a project that explains an aspect of media. I could make a short video or powerpoint presentation, or write an article and submit it for publication, I could take a survey of people and present some findings... I have no idea what to do. I had to pick a topic by the 31st, so I went with Feminism in Media because it's something I've been fairly obsessed with lately and it's a nice, broad topic, so I'd have plenty of room to find my niche.

But I'm having trouble focusing. I thought about making a video that touches on the stereotypes of women and minorities in the media, but I have no experience with any video editing software of the last 15 years, and am worried about the learning curve. Besides, where do I begin? Television? Movies? Advertising? I've chosen too broad a topic, maybe.

I've been feeling like I'm only keeping up by the skin of my teeth, and have only been doing so well by luck, even though as I write it, I know it's not true. I've made my schoolwork a priority and have pushed through and have worked hard and I can continue to do well if I just keep moving. This insecurity is coming from the larger scope of this new project, plus the research paper that was just introduced yesterday (so I've a whole new ball of anxieties to play with until the final week), and I've recently had a few inconvenient migraine days that left me less than my intellectual best for a week or so.

I'm starting to feel a little pressure.

I wish we hadn't made this major move in my first millisecond back at school. I wish migraines didn't make it so hard to think. I wish I could get a handle on this project. I've got two and a half weeks to pull it out.


More...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fill 'er Up

My life has changed, and it seems to be for the better. As long as we don't get smashed.

We're improving the driveway as we speak. There's a guy in an awesome little tractor-type machine digging and moving and filling and spreading rocks outside my house and I am wearing an earplug for the first time since being up here, but it's fine by me. It's supposed to rain later this week, so it's great timing to get that Dirt Pit (nee Mud Bog) filled in and safe for the inevitable winter sog.

Another tree fell, this one at 3:30 in the morning, but our power lines weren't taken down, thankfully. I'm not a fan of the falling trees. (Good name for a band.) It's been said that we aren't in the direct line of any trees that are in danger of succumbing to gravity, but still. Whenever I express my worry to my ever-patient boyfriend, I inevitably use the word "smashed", as in: "I'm afraid that tree will smash us in our sleep", or "These trees are falling down all around us and we'll all be smashed!!!" It's odd that I'm using that word, I think. Crushed would be more accurate, killed would be less graphic. Smashed, in this context is almost childlike, and that's the heart of it, I'm sure. The things I'm afraid of up here, I've never been afraid of before (unless in a past life, of course, heh) and they make me feel like a confused and scared little kid. Hopefully as I become used to the dangers and better prepared, I'll start talking like a grown-up again.

We went back to the city for Halloween festivities, went to a party and scored some candy. We went as the 99%, silly-style. We wore our regular clothes and I made some cardboard signs for us from slogans I'd found while googling, one read "Occupy Halloween", the other, "The top 1% shouldn't get all the candy." Then, I attached a sign to the dog that said "Tax the Big Dogs". We got a few hearty laughs, a few tight-lipped smiles, and quite a few confused looks. Don't people consume news anymore?

My head is stabbing me in the left eye and temple today, and my back has been off and on pissed off and my hips have been steadily aching since we moved. We're sleeping on our foam mattress on the floor, which my boyfriend thinks may have something to do with those last two and I'm really hoping he's right, but I won't know for sure until we get the box-spring up here, which, maybe this week? Bleh, I'm trying not to dwell on the stuff I can't control and just focus on what I can take care of.

For example, I've been going for hikes very consistently. I have to take a lot of breaks, but my head is dealing with the exercise very well. It's the lack of noise, of pollution and other people being creepy that's making it so much easier for me to move. In the city, leaving the house for a walk was much more stressful. I can relax out here. The dog and I pant our way up a hill, stop at the top and sniff the air triumphantly. It really does smell better up here.




More...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stuck/Unstuck

Then, there's the mud.

Like I mentioned, the cabin we've moved into wasn't inhabited for a quite a few years. Runoff from the rain runs right past our little house, and our driveway, which then becomes some serious mud. Past tenants have filled the driveway, there's evidence of a few types of rocks and gravel, concrete and pottery pieces, but without maintenance and regular refills, all the bits and pieces that were put there to increase traction simply washed away.

So, we moved in. Immediately, it rained. The driveway became a huge bog, and we got stuck more than once. This would have been merely frustrating and annoying, but for the hill we live on. The incline makes mud absolutely terrifying, and more than a little dangerous.

The rain runoff path? Well, it's carved a little ravine just to the side of our driveway. When we got stuck in the mud the first time and were spinning our wheels to get out, we started not-so-subtly sliding towards the ravine.

Let me interrupt with a little background in the inner workings of steph. When I was very young, I had a memory of hiking some huge rocks with my parents. We were edging along on a narrow cliff, when I slipped. I started to slide down the rock and my parents grabbed my hands. I was so scared, I couldn't find purchase for my feet. My parents' hands were losing their hold, and I was sliding down the rock face. And then... nothing. When I asked my mom about this memory, starting it off with, "Remember when...?", I was wondering what happened next. She looked at me like she wasn't sure if I was normal and called it a dream. I was no more than seven, but I'd seen Shirley MacLaine on TV, and decided it was my past life.

Now, I don't know that I believe in past lives nowadays, I don't believe in much besides what's in front of me, but I also don't know that that memory was a dream. My very-young self was certain: It Happened.

Regardless of the source of the memory, I can trace that "experience" as the source of my horrible fear of sliding. I'm also not a fan of heights and falling, but sliding is a special kind of terror, for me. (Also, spiders.)

So, that day, sliding in the mud (thankfully, sans spiders), I was in the passenger seat with the dog buckled onto my lap and I was holding onto her for dear life and trying not to scream, because that's certainly not going to help my boyfriend get us out any sooner. I put my hands over my face and felt my panic coming out of every pore. Sliding, sliding, spinning wheels and sliding. Finally, we found purchase and made it out, back to the relative safety of the cracked and pitted asphalt road. But I refused to sit in the car on the driveway for a week, until I'd witnessed several slide-free arrivals and departures.

And unfortunately, with the trees blocking out the sun, it takes a long time for a good mud bog to dry out. It's been two weeks since the rain, and I still have to watch where I walk. We need to get some fill here, pronto.

---

But, speaking of being stuck, lately I'm feeling absolutely UNstuck. School is making me feel like a real person again, one who can accomplish things and finish assignments on time, one who has interesting thoughts and observations and can share them with a class without feeling (too) afraid of being misread or saying something dumb.

And then, our first trip to the laundromat in years didn't kill me. I guess I have to rejoin society now.

My house is still a work in progress. Most of the boxes are gone, but it's still rather... undone. Most of our furniture is still awaiting a truck, so we've got clothes and electronics and bathroom stuff all co-mingling on some unfinished, swedish-made shelves that have made it through five moves with us. They come in handy, but they aren't terribly pretty. However, I'm practicing my patience, because I know we'll eventually get there, one step at a time.

My head still seems to dislike me, the sun, noise, and smells (no miraculous recovery upon leaving the city, the boyfriend is disappointed). But I'm happier here, despite the natural disasters that seem determined to take me down. (I forgot to mention the earthquakes last week. Those are scarier in a house on stilts.)

The best part of having moved out of the city is that it's monumentally easier to be active, without the constant triggers. I've been taking regular walks up our very steep hill, and some little jaunts into the woods to explore. My legs and butt ache from the exercise, and it's fantastic.

More...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Move and The Fire

So, this is how the move went down, as well as I can recall it:

Our landlord's been raising the rent on us as often as he can, as much as he can. We were in this weird place financially where we couldn't afford to move out, but we certainly couldn't afford to stay. We've been trying to find a suitable place to live, but that's harder than it sounds when you've got a chronic migraineur in the mix.

Enter Grampa. In conversation one day, it came up that he has a cabin in the woods. I listened with interest, but it was my boyfriend who really pushed forward with it. The place needed some serious help. It was rented in the past, but not for quite a while and has been neglected for several years. In that time, all sorts of critters made the place a home, so there's been holes to repair, insulation and cabinets to replace, poop to clean up and more. We started the work before we moved, but ran out of time and had to move in before basic repairs were complete. We got our stove two days after we moved in and our fridge two days after that. It was very much like camping.

We've moved a lot, the boyfriend and I. We've been together for 11 years, and we've changed residences 11 times. We're good at it, usually. I can be a real workhorse when I have a short-term goal in mind, and my boyfriend has an ever-energetic superpower that keeps him, and by association me, going, no matter how long and exhausting the move gets. But this time was trickier, with me being all migrainy and us having very little money to work with, getting ourselves and our "necessities" up here was definitely an adventure.

We've acquired a spanking-new '91 Chevy Caprice that was pinky-promised to make it up our mountain. It has, several times now. Up and down and up and down and up and down. Thank goodness my motion sickness just gave up after a few days. I was running out of ginger.

We didn't have the time or money to get all of our belongings up the hill, such is moving without a truck, but we were incredibly lucky to have our now ex-neighbor offer to house some of our less immediate stuff. Then my wonderful bestie helped us one day, packed and loaded his car full of what we couldn't live without and hauled it up our twisty roads. And even my mom, who wasn't feeling well enough to physically help us move, brought us some basic food staples to help us get over this hump of having zero dollars. We are so grateful that we're surrounded by such generous people.

With the kitchen now almost fully-functional, it feels a bit more like home, despite the boxes that still crowd every corner. The bathroom is still unfinished, but that should be remedied shortly, and most of the floors need to be replaced, but that's a little further down the list. Also, I have no laundry facilities, and that's a source of anxiety for me. Though, the rumor is that the local laundromat is much nicer than the ones I've been to in the past. Fancy mountain people like a fancy laundromat, I guess.

I have plans to do some planting around the house, but we're pretty limited since the canopy filters out most of the sunlight. I'm thinking I need to set up a plant light for a few of my potted guys, the basil is already legging-out and my romaine looks sad. Really, really sad.

------

So, the fire story.

A few nights ago my boyfriend was working on the bathroom and I was taking a break from homeworking when we heard a sudden crashing noise and everything went black. For just a second I thought, "Earthquake?" But that thought was a habit, and the real source was immediately apparent. A tree had fallen close by and taken down our power lines. This was alarming in itself, but the fear really set in when the dark only lasted a moment before the trees outside our windows started flashing bright and dark.

The power lines are supposed to be hooked up to a breaker, which would cut electricity to the line in this exact scenario. But the breaker didn't break and we had a live wire spitting and crackling into the otherwise pitch-black forest.

My boyfriend ran for his dry extinguishers and put out one small fire, but he couldn't get close enough to the live wire to douse it properly. He called 911 and I leaned on the car horn to let the neighbors know we needed help.

I haven't been that scared since I don't know when, maybe never. My whole body was shaking, and I kept doing this painful dry sobbing.

I watched the sparks fly off into the forest, willed them with all my might not to catch. They didn't. One neighbor arrived, parked in front of our house and left his hazards on. The blinking and flashing and fear made for a surreal scene. The trees were strobing, the smell of fire was in the air, and disembodied voices were calling to each other from the gloom beyond the reach of the bright flashes.

The lights and noise and everything were starting to affect my head, despite the adrenaline, and panic was starting to set in. My boyfriend walked by, saw my face and gently suggested I take a valium. I did, though fumbling around in an alternately black and brightly-blinking house for my pill bottle was a challenge and a half, but I think that valium is the only reason I slept that night.

It took more than half an hour to get the power turned off, and an hour after that for the forest to go back to its normal quiet.

The next morning, the power company was on top of it, and we were back on around noon. A tree guy came out and advised us of a nasty fungus taking up residence in the douglas firs, which is what caused our little friend to fall in the first place, and that a serious survey and take-down of rotting tree corpses needed to be scheduled.

For the first time in my life, I look forward to the sound of chainsaws.



More...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

School Stories

I was a little worried that once we got up here, into the quiet and calm redwood forest, that I wouldn't have as much to write about. I wouldn't be trapped in the house nearly as much, so I might not feel the need to write out my every waking thought. Well, surprise, surprise! Because it's been nothing but action around here.

Let's start with the school stuff.

Last week, I had to call my disabilities coordinator to go over an accommodation form, but we have no reception up here. We found a payphone in town (read: on the one street with stores), some change, and I made the call. And then it started to rain. I tried to understand what she was telling me. Come to the office and have her sign this paper, and then my teacher. Or maybe just give it to the former and she'd have my teacher sign it? My brain couldn't make sense of it. Then the rain really started dumping buckets on me and my textbook and oh, I was trying not to laugh at the situation, I had to keep a straight face so we could get to all the pertinent points before I ran out of change, so I did the silent laugh/cry while trying so hard to focus on what she was saying but also trying to save my book from the serious downpour I was suddenly in the middle of and finally the call was over, but I still don't have much clue what was said, and let me tell you, I was wet. And my poor book is rather wrinkly now, despite my best efforts.

But it worked out in the end because my total lack of retention of the phone call has only solidified my need to communicate via email. Which is what I've been saying since the beginning, but no one seems to believe me until they've properly wasted their time trying to make me understand anything on the phone. I say ok, and uh-huh and yeah a lot, but I have no idea what y'all are talking about. Seriously, just email me.

So, we made sure to connect the internet before we actually moved up here, since my class is online and I can't do homework without it. But when we got ourselves in and I tried to log on, we had no connection. Panic! But then a lucky break: the teacher couldn't upload the quiz, and I'd have another two days to square away our situation and get it done. Which I did.

And then I had to submit a rather intimidating project, my very first in 13 years. I worked hard on it, went over it so many times to make sure there weren't any typos and that I'd answered everything thoroughly. I got my feedback on it yesterday and, I quote:

Grade: 20.00 / 20.00

Clear, well written and descriptive analysis. Great descriptions and excellent analysis. Well done.


WELL DONE. HELL YEAH.

So, school is going well. It's not easy, the reading is difficult for my migraine brain, I have to go over everything at least twice to make sure it's soaked in, and the videos we have to watch aren't captioned, for the most part. I'm working on remedying that situation with my disabilities coordinator, she should be able to get me some transcripts, but in the mean time, I'm fighting to understand the content through a wall of background music and overlapping chatter.

Despite the challenges, it's extremely rewarding to know I'm doing well.



Next time: Mud, fire, and other natural disasters.


More...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trees

We're surrounded by coastal redwoods, trees that tower over our little house and filter the sunlight so efficiently that I can usually go outside without a hat or sunglasses. I haven't done that in years.

The country is so quiet. There are a few neighbors above us, who use the road that runs right past our place a few times a day, but otherwise, there's not a soul around.

We've still got a lot of work to do up here. Construction, cleaning, unpacking, and organizing are going to keep us busy for a while. I'm doing my best, but it's slow-going.

Besides all this, I'm keeping up on my schoolwork pretty well.

I'll be back soon with some stories. I'm pushing myself hard, and I'm constantly exhausted right now. I've been near a breaking point several times a day over the past week, but since we've gotten up here, into the quiet, I've moved away from the edge quite a bit. These big old trees put things into perspective.

More...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Moving to the Mountains

My head is being pushed to the absolute limit right now.

School has started. I'm keeping up so far, and I'm really liking the teacher and the class, so that's been pretty great.

We're moving to the mountains, which is going to be a big change for this lifetime city girl. Before moving into the the new place, we're remodeling quite a bit. My boyfriend's doing the bulk of the demolition and rebuilding, with some help from friends. And I'm in charge of things like painting and layout planning. Those are much more head friendly.

So, I don't have much time to write at the moment. My head and packing and trying to focus on my schoolwork when I can sit down to do it are eating up all my attention, so I'll be back in a week or so, and hopefully I'll have something more substantial to say.



More...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Defending My Eyes

Outside of my home, I wear sunglasses pretty much constantly. So, I'm rather picky about them. They can't be too tight or too heavy, lest they trigger a migraine. They must have large lenses and they must be adequately protective from light. Doesn't sound TOO hard, does it?

I know many of you are rolling your eyes right now, you know what it's like. The cheap sunglasses at the gas station and Target are mostly useless, maybe one of every fifty pairs can be worn for more than ten minutes. Cheap sunglasses are usually cheap for a reason. And even if I do find a good pair, I make up for the monetary savings in migraines, because the acts of donning and removing frames, and looking through different colored lenses, are all very migraine triggery. Head pain, nausea, confusion, dizziness; I don't enjoy shopping for sunglasses one bit.

So, I started looking around on the internet, and saw quite a few interesting possibilities that I couldn't afford. I wanted polarized lenses, but comparing lens size, weight and fit of each pair was impossible. I didn't find a single online sunglass retailer that had this information available on their website. Disappointing.

What I did find was Polaroid Sunglasses. At my inquiry, they sent me a pair of sunglasses to review, free, but rest assured, my opinions are never bought.

A little background on the company: Polaroid Eyewear has been around since 1937, and their first item ever sold was actually not the camera, which is the popular understanding of the company, but sunglasses! Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, was also the inventor of polarization, therefore every pair of glasses they produce are polarized. It's widely recognized that polarization protects your eyes, decreases glare and increases visibility. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give their glasses a try.

Of the many beautiful styles offered by Polaroid, I picked Miriam.

Hello, Miriam.

After I chose my favorite style (it was tough! SO many cute looks!), I was able to choose between two lens colors, and I went with gray over brown. The polarized lenses are really fantastic. My vision is clear, but the light is significantly dimmed. There are days I wish they were darker, but usually they're perfect. The fit is better than average, and they only make my face ache on my worst days. They're comfortable over my ears and are a little tight some days, but a gentle stretching of the arms usually makes them workable. The style is very attractive and I wear them almost every day. I'm amazed that I haven't yet managed to scratch them, and that's a real testament to their durability because I've been using them all summer, have dropped them at least six times and last week I carried them in a pocket with my key ring for a few hours. I'm not saying that they're magic or anything, but... they might be.

The flaws with these sunglasses are few. Like I mentioned, on my bad days they are a little too heavy and can be a little too tight. My arm-stretching technique is often effective, but isn't necessarily sanctioned by Polaroid. And while these aren't nearly the most expensive brand on the market (as of the writing of this review, Miriam is only $50 on the website!), the cost would still require some intensive financial planning and saving on my part.

The pros outweigh the cons, here, and I can definitely recommend these glasses for everyday migraineur use. If I had the cash, I'd try several other styles. Check out these lovelies!

Shonda

Carol

Rachel

Thanks Polaroid! It's been a pleasure.


All of the above images are courtesy polaroid-eyewearstore.com.
More...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall is Coming

This last week or two has been the most active I've probably been in four years, maybe excepting christmastime, but this was all voluntary! I think it's a combination of getting better at anticipating migraine problems and planning for them, and the excitement of new experiences that's making it easier to stay moving. In the past week, I've:

-Gone to my NEW SCHOOL OMG to get my asb card. I keep looking at it. It's just so incredible that I'm finally doing this.

-Traveled to see a cabin in the woods, that I am very likely to be moving into in the next month.

-Picked out some basil and romaine at the home and hardware store, because prices at the end of the season are fantastic. And then I fought off a migraine while sitting in the hot car, waiting for my man to finish finding lumberish things that had nothing to do with me. I stroked my new basil for comfort, and actually recovered when a breeze kicked up. Usually, heat-related migraines knock me down for at least a full day. This was a shock and a thrilling success. I planted my new lovies in their pots when I got home and even walked the dog a little! Amazing!

-Went to the beach! Where the sand meets the sea is my favorite place, and I seemed to be blessed this summer because every time I braved the perilous glare of the shore, the clouds would descend and hide the sun and I was free to frolic in the glorious beachy gloom.

-Set up a cafepress store for my photos! It's still a work in progress but I'm really proud of myself for putting my photography out there. It feels simultaneously scary and fantastic.

The only downside to all of this activity is the huge pile of laundry that's waiting for me, and the dishes I have not done. I've wittled at them frequently, but 10 minutes at a time barely makes a dent when the sink is full. It's a lovely cool day today, so I'm hoping to catch up on home stuff before the heat comes back this week. Fall may be coming, but Summer is the party guest that just won't leave.

So, the migraines have been pretty livable lately, meds and rest reliably bring me back to functional, and I've been hyper-vigilant about my known triggers, way overpacking for every place I go or event I attend. But if it works, I'll lug the kitchen sink around with me. My nausea is back, though, and with a vengeance. Ginger is my best friend. There's also been some dizziness and motor discord, and some difficulty with words when my head starts flaring or I get tired. For the record.

Oh, and here's another bizarre dream I had last week:

I was sitting in a pew in a crowded church. I was supposed to be up at the front, lighting candles, but my head hurt, so Milla Jovovich was standing in for me. She was wearing an aluminum conical asian hat, and a slinky, yet structured white dress that was short on one side and long on the other. She was wearing an earpiece and after lighting a few of the candles (awkwardly, with a bic) she touched her ear and spoke in an urgent whisper, "You guys, is there a bathroom back there? Because I really have to pee."

Story of my life, Milla.

More...

Monday, September 19, 2011

At A Wedding Reception

I made small talk with a cousin of a cousin, an acquaintance since childhood. We hadn't seen each other in years, so she showed me pictures of her kids, and I told her they were cute, as you do. She asked me what I do for work. I really need to plan an answer that doesn't leave the door open for asshat remarks, because when I said that I don't, that I'm disabled by chronic migraines, she straight-up said, "OH. THAT WOULD BE GREAT."

And I was just dumbstruck. It was a wedding reception, hardly the place for a ableist privilege check. I was already in pain and woozy. So, I pretty much just shut down and turned away from her, mid-conversation. But there were plenty of other people to talk to, so I don't know if she even realized what she said and what it meant.

Otherwise, the party was really nice. I was exhausted by the end, all the talking and smiling and 800 trips to the bathroom because I was guzzling water like it was 1000 degrees, and I feel a little hungover today (despite my non-consumption), and a little like I was in a fight with several small but strong children, their vicious little fists seem to have pummeled my back and head while I was sleeping.

But everyone complimented my new haircut, which I cut myself, again, so that was pretty great. And I also got to wear a skirt that I'd made out a pair of my boyfriend's old shorts, and the only person who commented specifically on it was shocked (SHOCKED!) that I had made it. That felt pretty nice.

And then they sent us home with jelly-belly favors. So everything turned out okay in the end.

More...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Busy As A Slow, Quiet Bee That Only Goes Out After Dark

This past week or four has gone by quickly. I've been as busy as a chronic migraineur can be, and have been productive, in my own quiet way.

Cooking has been a prominent activity, as often as I can tolerate the heat required for most projects. I've been making my own yogurt, sauerkraut and veggie broth long enough for them to feel like comfortable habits, and I like being that person who can make these things. I want to learn to make more things.

Which brings me to the sewing. I'm still pretty slow-going in the skill department, sloppy seams (from a bizarrely stubborn refusal to press them before crooked-sewing them down) and ill-conceived necklines abound (I'm in denial about my bust size, apparently) in my projects pile. Every failure is an opportunity to grow, however, so I don't feel too bad about my goofs. And the good news is: I've had successes! Oh, the joy that is the wearing of self-sewn clothing. I LOVE it.

And school is fast approaching. My brain is kind of mean and keeps trying to bully me with taunts of failure. I'm honeybadgering that noise as best I can, but I can't help the flutter of anxiety in my chest every time a facebook friend mentions that they, or their cousin/friend/sister, has started classes. So, I haven't really told anyone. Sort of. Well, you guys know, and my boyfriend, mom and brother know, so my step-dad probably does too, and my closest friend knows and I'm sure he's mentioned it to his boyfriend, so it's not like it's a huge top-secret situation but I've got about 30 other relatives and whoever else I'm friends with on fb who are still in the dark, so it still feels rather undercover. I think I'm scared to tell people because I'm afraid of the shame of failure. I keep saying it out loud, knowing it's self-defeating and ridiculous, hoping it'll lose its power. So far, no dice. Failure is not an opportunity to grow when it's school-related, I guess. Then, it's just terrifying. I swear, once I get the syllabus and can have an organization orgy and micro-manage myself with calendars and reminders and a maybe even more hyper-vigilance with my counselor, I'll feel better. Until then, I'll just have to ignore myself.

I've been getting out with the dog as often as possible. Short walks up and down the block, or longer ones to the shady cool of my parents' backyard, I'm trying to get as much exercise as I can, but I have to be up-and-at-em before the sun starts microwaving my asphalt jungle into an intolerable inferno, and I just can't move that fast every time I want to. I have a good chance on my good days, but too much rushing to beat the heat can trigger head pain and whatnot on its own. However, looking back in my handy-dandy notebook, I'm pleased to see that I've walked the dog 24 days out of the last 30 and 14 of those days were at least a quarter mile. Though the furthest I walked was only two miles, and some days walking the dog was all I did, this is still good, because summer is kicking my ass, in case I hadn't mentioned it. Go me.


More...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Heat, My Head, The Usual

My self-prescribed physical therapy has been so difficult to keep up this summer.

It's too hot and too bright to go outside whenever I please, and when I try, I don't usually last long. I start feeling mentally removed and physically smothered. I can't think, I'm irritable, my skin itches, my clothes are weighted and suffocating, and I start feeling heavier, almost flu-like. I can extend my stamina somewhat by being prepared like I'm going on safari, but all that gathering and carrying is a whole other ball of triggers that I have to do my best to take in stride.

When it's hot, I have to carry water, then maybe extra water, an umbrella, and an extra, wider-brimmed but ugly hat, in addition to my normal bag of migraine supplies. I have to wear stinky sunscreen and even maybe shave my legs. (Maybe. I'm caring less and less about this lately.) I'm working on building up my wardrobe with clothes that are breathable, light, and non-constricting, but it's slow-going when I have effectively no budget for it. (Though, I have successfully made and altered some of my own clothes to suit my needs. I am so happy to have learned this skill, as clumsy as I still am.)

So, exercise is a serious challenge. I walk the dog in the mornings and evenings, when I can, but that's about all I can do when the temps climb higher than 80. Though, I am super lucky to have friends and family who have volunteered their air conditioning to me on the hottest of the hot days, which is a blessing and a half, let me tell you. Even being still in my sweltering little house can knock me down for days, so the cool reprieves are really saving me right now.

What I am managing to keep up is yoga. Not vigorously, and not more than a cumulative hour a day, but it's something to keep my muscles from totally withering. I can only do a few poses lately, and nothing inverted or too reliant on balance, but it keeps me feeling active, even when it's really hot and I'm really not.

I am so ready for fall.

More...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cannabis Product Reviews

As I mentioned, the cannabis is going pretty well. There was another Hempcon a few months ago, but I wasn't able to go, since the $20 cover was a little out of reach and it's just too chaotic a scene for me. But, my boyfriend, the amazing extrovert, made some interesting contacts and gave me the opportunity to try some new products.

First, my very favorite marijuana consumable company, Electric Chocolate Factory (ECF), makes this magical extract which they sell by itself (as an essential oil), but they also combine it with a lovely chocolate to make a pure, reliable method of medication.






Their chocolates taste good, and they have low and high dose options, which is really nice, but I simply can't eat these all the time. They use maltitol instead of sugar, and while it's one of the safer artificial sweeteners, it did give me some mild GI distress with frequent consumption.

So, we started experimenting with their extract. ECF's method of cannibinoid extraction is extremely accurate, which definitely makes proper medicating easier. It's 100% pure, and is made using a patent-pending cold-extraction process that maintains CBD and prevents THC from being converted into CBN. (Honestly, I'm not the most knowledgeable, so just give it a good google if you're curious about cannabis science.)







We've made all kinds of goodies with the extract: lime gummies, brownies (of course), a cheesecake, and cookies of various sizes and flavors. I like making my own medicated treats, because I can use whatever ingredients I like, and make each piece as strong as I like. I much prefer eating a two-bite peanut butter cookie, for example, than having to hork down a huge, fudgy brownie when my head is making me feeling like puking all over the place.




Sugar cookies


A lime gummy

Cheesecake

Truffles, vegan, with a coffee, peanut-butter ganache. These are intense.

Sugar cookie with a kiss

Grapeseed oil mixed with extract. This is okay for lower temperature cooking, but it's really lovely as a massage oil.

Which should in no way suggest that I never eat medicated brownies, because I surely do, and I've actually just finished up quite the edible tour, sponsored by one of my local co-ops, Canna Culture. And I have some thoughts I'd like to share. I'll just make a list for you. With pictures! Don't you just love lists and pictures?


The Bud Barber Brownie: This tasted really unappealing. It was vaguely chocolatey, but with a very weird companion flavor that made me make faces. The upside is that they pack 6 doses, 120 mg of thc, into each small brownie/muffin, so they definitely get points for efficiency. However, I find it irritating to try and divide a product up into six pieces to make sure I'm getting the correct dose. It's a waste if I eat too little, and I'll fall asleep for fourteen hours if I eat too much. I ate about half of this guy at a time, since my head was flaring high and it was too small to break it much more anyway, and the three doses were a tad strong. I was still functional, but I was a little loopier than serves me.




Chronic Tonic Compassion Fruit Punch: Tasted exactly like hawaiian punch. The labels says it contains two very strong doses and I would agree. This one hit fast, within 30 minutes. Unfortunately, it also tapered off more quickly than I would have liked, similar to a sugar crash. Also, there was a sugar crash, which my head didn't approve of in the slightest. This one wouldn't be my first choice, but it is definitely effective.


Auntie Delores Medical Cannabis Savory Pretzels: Tasted like soy sauce-soaked pretzels. Bleh. And a whole package, which is about a cup of pretzels, is only one dose, and a light dose at that. The label says that it contains 1 gram of cannabis. That's a lot of snack for so little medicine. I felt very little effect from their one-dose and would try doubling it next time if I could stomach the thought of eating them again. Since I burped the soy sauce flavor for an hour or two after eating, that's unlikely.


Jack-a-roo: Per their labels, one dose is equivalent to 470 mg of cannabis flowers. I tried quite a few of their products and didn't find that the effect was consistent across the product line. I controlled my variables as much as I could, but it's very possible that the ingredients of the edibles themselves may play an important role in the product's efficacy. Or the brand may not be a reliable one. More testing may be required. Lots, lots more testing.

Of their products, these are the ones I tried:

- Anzac: I've never had an anzac biscuit before, so my dislike of the flavor and texture is very likely not exclusive to the brand, especially since the rest of their other products tasted great. Weird, because normally I am ALL about the coconut, but here: meh. However, this was a perfect one-dose item, and helped me keep moving happily for a few hours.





- Tazadu Brownie Bite: The flavor was good, very brownie-like, but with a definite marijuana tang. This one was labeled 2 doses, but it affected me like one. I had two of these, so for the first try I ate half, then ended up chasing it with the second half an hour later, when I found myself looking for my pipe. Another hour later (time is the major downside to edibles), the effect was pleasant, and I got the dishes done. For the second try, the next day, I ate the whole thing at once. And yup, this two-doser acts like a one.




- Butterscotch Potcorn: Tasty! For once, I wished the serving size was bigger because I could have eaten this stuff all day. It's a perfectly sweet and buttery caramel popcorn, with just the lightest undertone of pot flavor, and there were peanuts! The dosage was right on, too. This is one of my favorites.

- Jackmanian Devil Brownie: One large-ish brownie packs 10 doses. I've already mentioned I'm partial to disliking high dose items that I need to break up, and I did dislike that about this brownie. But otherwise, it was pretty great. It tasted like a brownie should, moist and chocolatey. I took just a bite, and an hour later, my pain was a distant memory. I ate this over the course of two days, and it came out to about 8 bites. I should have cut it up, I suppose, for the most accurate testing. Sorry.


- Queensland Mudslide: This fudgy, chocolate dessert was really very tasty. Rich and decadent, I would order this in a restaurant, without the cannabis. This piece is ten doses, so I did my best to estimate one dose. But despite a portion on the heavy side, it had no noticeable effect. I ate another chunk, estimating I was up to five doses, and still, only a slight effect. Disappointing, but I wouldn't want to eat something like this all the time anyway. It was delicious and amazing, but WAY too rich for everyday.


Kannaroo Kitchen Spliffy Smooth Peanut Butter: Love! One dose was two tablespoons, I couldn't taste the cannabis unless I concentrated on it, and then, it could have been a brain-induced flavor. This was a good dose, a healthy smear on a piece of bread and an hour later here I am, typing away like I didn't spend the morning in the hot sun. I highly recommend this one.





Alto Pharma Gold Capsules: The directions say to use one to two of these capsules as needed. These appear to come in two strengths, 10 and 25 mg thc per cap. I had the opportunity to try the 25 mg, and I think I would have liked this better if I'd had access to both dosages. The problem with the capsule medium is that it's impossible to split if the dosage isn't just right. That may not be a problem for someone with other pain, but for migraines, being able to dose accurately is critical. One 25mg cap was almost adequate medicine, but two would have been much too much.



Another interesting cannabis consumable I've come across is infused honey. The sample my boyfriend snagged for me at that Hempcon wasn't labeled, or I'd give them a plug, too. It wasn't very strong, and since I prefer not to have my tea taste like I'm sucking on a honeycomb, it was more a novelty than really useful. But this is something I'd definitely try again.

I obviously enjoyed my edible adventure, I've learned a lot about what I like and what I don't, how to medicate and definitely how not to. I really prefer making my own medicinal treats, but it's good to know that I can get positive results from items off the shelf.


Full disclosure: I was able to try the ECF products, and edibles from Canna Culture at no expense to me. However, my opinions are firmly my own.


More...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Medicating

I've been experimenting with marijuana, and it's been good.

The last time I wrote about my cannabis consumption, I was pretty pleased with my experience. Most of the pills I've tried (painkillers, triptans, preventatives of all shapes and sizes) haven't worked, and any relief I did have was short-lived or overwhelmed by negative side effects. Not so with the pot, it's amazing to me how much it helps.

And now that I've added edibles to my repertoire, I've got a whole new migraine weapon. It's a very different effect than smoking, with some serious benefits and just a few drawbacks.

Let's start with the bad.

One time, I ate too much of a brownie. I felt mild nausea and some euphoria, and was more intoxicated than I was comfortable with. The effects lasted almost two hours, then started to taper to more sober levels. It didn't adversely effect my head, though, which smoking can, if I overdo it.

Another time, I ate accidentally ate WAY too much high-dose cookie dough and I slept for 14 hours. I spent the next day feeling sluggish and hungover, also foolish, but then again, rather proud that I had survived my first thc od. Again, without a significant migraine fallout.

When I've had to use high doses often, or even moderate doses frequently, I've built a tolerance to the effects and have had to stop all usage for a few days to sort of reset my system. Those few days are generally uncomfortable, with the sluggishness and hungover feeling accompanying a higher sensitivity to migraine triggers, but once those two or three days have passed, my tolerance and head are back to zero again, so that's pretty cool.

During a painful and busy week or two during which I was using edibles almost exclusively, and liberally, I had a rather dramatic episode of depression when I cut back my intake. It was brief, thankfully, but I've been careful about keeping my consumption moderate since then and I haven't had any further issues. But if you're sensitive to medications, or are prone to depression, this is definitely something to look out for.

I do get the rare rebound headache from over-usage, but those are situations I walk into, knowing how it's going to end. I do the same thing with caffeine and soma, overdo it in the short term and risk paying for it later. How else would I go to doctor's appointments, the beach, or make that holiday party? Drink a cup of coffee and take half a soma every two to four hours with applications of thc as needed, that's how.

Cannabis laced edibles take quite a bit longer to kick in, from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, in my experience. This can make accurate dosing difficult because there's currently no industry standard and every manufacturer thinks "one dose" is something different. Accurate and detailed labeling is coming more into fashion, but trying a new product or method of ingestion can still be a crapshoot. And by the time you discover you haven't medicated enough, it's difficult to catch up because you have another hour or wait time to find out if you got it right the second time. But this becomes easier with experience.

Effectiveness can also vary greatly depending on factors like the method of ingestion, potency of the product, what's already digesting in the stomach, and individual metabolism. This also becomes easier to predict with experience, but it can be frustrating when your medicine has a learning curve.

As for portability and discretion, it's no big deal to carry around a piece of chocolate (as long as it doesn't melt), or a cookie or even a bottle of tincture with a dropper. Smoking may have a faster effect, but it can also make you (feel) very conspicuous.

The effects of eating cannabis usually last longer than smoking and it's a gentler, less intoxicating experience. Bonus: no coughing! But if I've got a slamming headache and need to medicate immediately, smoking is the only way to go. Actually, I've been happiest when I can use a combination of the two methods, eating a pot-snack every few hours and compensating with smoke if needed.

I've actually been eating my medicine quite a bit lately, and I've been working on a detailed review post of some really great products I've been able to try. That'll be coming up in the next week, with pictures!


More...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Loudly And Proudly Is The Goal

I had a dream that I was singing for a group of people.

It was going badly and I was embarrassed, so my song went quiet. But when I looked at the faces of people around me, they were all smiling, rooting for me, enjoying my terrible music. I shucked off the embarrassment as I flung my head back and sang loudly and proudly. As my confidence grew, my voice started sounding amazing, and I hit notes that made me laugh and cry in the same breath.


I remembered the dream suddenly, several hours after waking. At first, I thought it was a memory, when did that happen? But I quickly recognized the feeling of it, it was recent, but so faded. A dream. Just a dream.


I think it's about stepping out of my comfort zone (by starting school again after more than a decade) and learning to trust the people around me to support me. Also, maybe I need to learn how not to take it personally if they don't.


More...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

With A Little Help From My Friends

I'm officially a student again.

Summer quarter was a bust. Between money, the classes that were available, the shorter quarter (say shorter quarter out loud several times, it turns into shoulda coulda, which totally screwed with my head), and the effect the summer heat has on my migraines, I just couldn't make it work. It was pretty depressing to make all that progress, and then to just stop. But with fall approaching, my hope renewed and I tried to make it happen.

I was hell-bent on scraping money together, but every time I'd get a little ahead, something else would come up and we'd be back behind. Early registration came and went. I realized that I was running out of time and checked class availability online; the one I really wanted was already full, and other possibilities were quickly dwindling. I emailed the disabilities secretary to make an appointment with my counselor, but she was out of the office until way after classes started. I could see John Stranger, who may or may not be saturated in cologne. At least, that's what I read. I panicked a little, but made the appointment anyway.

The appointment approached, as appointments do, but the funds still weren't adding up.

I asked for help.

Sue answered. She paypal'd me a hand up and my heart grew three sizes. Thanks again, Sue!

And then, at the last minute, I was able to call on another irl friend to cover the difference. This friend also gave me a ride, and then sat in the meeting with me, saved us time and frustration when he caught a miscommunication between me and the counselor, and listened to me squee for a while afterwards, while we ate sweets and drank coffee. Thanks again, my dear irl friend.

And the people in the disabilities services department, they've been great. Both of the counselors I've seen were patient and knowledgeable, they repeated things I didn't understand, and reassured me without patronizing me. When I asked, "Which class is easier?" with faked nonchalance, I was deeply relieved when neither of them batted an eyelash. Apparently, it's ok to need an easier class.

Even their office is fantastic. I was waiting to see my interim counselor and was delighted to realize I could take off my hat because ALL of the overhead lighting in the office was covered by a glorious diamond patterned shield that kept the lights bright enough to be efficient, but took away all direct glare. Brilliant. We just need to make one of those for the sun and I'll be set.

I am so grateful to everyone who helped me that day. Saying thank you doesn't seem like enough, though. I'm hoping that this step will be the first of many that take me somewhere better than I am now. How do you thank someone for helping you change your life?

Only with help have I gotten this far. I won't ever forget it.


More...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love and Pain

Some days, I have no idea why he stays, others I'm not sure why I do. Chronic pain can make us intolerable, hateful, ugly people. It can make us retreat into ourselves or explode, give up and give in, cry and scream, check out or check ourselves in. It's hard to be around myself sometimes, let alone someone else with his own set of pains and the accompanying baggage.

But I need the company. I need a teammate, a friend, and someone to talk to. The upside of both of us being in pain is that we always understand what the other is going through. Maybe not exactly, since I don't need a back brace and he doesn't wear earplugs every time he leaves the house, but we're fighting the same war, just on different fronts.

Some days we barely connect. We're both struggling so hard to lead our separate lives that we neglect our joint existence. Other days, we rely on each other totally. His sciatic will flare so he can't walk without a cane, or I'll migraine so hard I can't feed myself for two days and when you can't take care of yourself without assistance, it makes you think: we're all we have. We check in on each other, call out to each other when we need help and work together to make our home as safe and comfortable as we can.

It's a difficult thing to think about on those bad days, how would we survive without each other? We're both reliant on others for help in daily life, and we both have family that we absolutely wouldn't want to task with those responsibilities. Could I live alone? I'd have to handle meat, for the dog. I'd have to deal with my own spiders. I'd have to take out the garbage. Eh, that last one's not so bad. Could I handle my migraines alone? No, I don't see that happening. Transportation, communication, medicare, ssi, going to the grocery store, getting my medications... these are some things I just can't do on my own. And there are more. If I'm alone, who helps me?

Relying on my boyfriend as a caregiver isn't easy. This type of intimacy is strange. It's embarrassing and humiliating and frustrating to let someone else be in control. It takes our relationship places I didn't think we'd go until we were old and gray and it sometimes feels like all this pain could destroy us. But surprisingly, it mostly makes us so much stronger.

This post is very contradictory, isn't it?

It's both wonderful and horrible to be able to empathize with your partner's pain.

I hate my dependence but love, so much, that I can depend on him.

Life is so complicated. No, life is really very simple.

It's all true.


More...

Monday, August 8, 2011

I've Hit a Snag

I'm trying to go back to school. I'm severely disabled and can hardly leave the house, but I want to get an education, and hope to be able to support myself again someday. Until then, I'm resigned to asking for help.

Help.

I can take an online class this quarter through my old community college, and take that first step towards an AA, but I need $60 to register. I'm told all of my other costs will be covered by financial aid, but not the $60. I don't have $60.

In fact, we're low on food, behind in rent, and bills in general. We're drowning.

If you're so inclined, here's how you can help: There's a donate button on the right there. If you like my blog and can afford to sponsor a budding academic's first try in 13 years (hey, that's lucky!), feel free to throw me some monetary assistance. And there's no too-small donation, because if more than one person donates less than $60, there's a better than zero chance that the total will be $60. Which, again, is better than zero.

And if someone wants to donate more than $60, well then, I'm going to get me some medicine, treatment, food, and I may even pay some rent and finally have the freedom to move somewhere quieter and cheaper.

But most of all, I want to go to school. I've been feeling so powerless since I became disabled. I want to make myself better. If you can help, thanks.

More...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Please Don't Rubberneck My Painwreck

A person in my vicinity complains of a headache**. Then:

1. They shoot me a guilty look and apologize. I (try to) smile and say something like, "I don't have a monopoly on headaches, you go right ahead."

2. They shoot me a look of sympathy and start praising me like a martyr-saint, super-strong, amazing-inspiration to us all. I (try to) smile and say thanks and change the subject.

3. They shoot me a look of sympathy and start complaining about my life for me, asking me for all the gory details of chronic pain and disability. "How can you live like this?", they almost always ask. I don't have a quick line for these people. I don't want to make a joke, or give them a lecture on conversational etiquette. I don't want to be the ambassador of migraines, chronic illness or disability. I don't want to get mad, and I certainly don't want to share intimate details of my life with every looky-loo wanting to rubberneck my painwreck. It's uncomfortable.

4. They shoot me a look of disdain and ask if I'm still "having issues", with that tone that implies I am a hysterical woman who just needs to pull up my bootstraps.

5. No one says anything. This can continue in one of two ways.

a. A so-helpful third person pipes up to inform everyone that there is a STRANGE MIGRAINE ILLNESS in the room and then we're back to situations 1, 2, 3, and/or 4.

b. I hold my breath and try not to make any sudden moves. Maybe they know, and maybe they don't. I exhale as the moment passes without comment. This one is my favorite. I love not having to talk about it.



**I could easily exchange the word headache with migraine, or sound/light/scent/motion sensitivity, or being young, legally disabled, and/or sick; they're all the same, for the purposes of this post. But the common headache is the most frequent prompt of these exchanges, so I went with it.

More...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Cups Runneth Over

Hand-washing the dishes has changed how I do things lately. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and some thoughtful planning goes a long way in increasing efficiency. Like life!

When our dishwasher first broke, I was pretty distressed. I hadn't hand washed a dish in a while, was out of practice, and resented that it was MY job to wash the dishes when I'm not the one using every single cup in the house every single day. Then, I remembered that I'm 32 years old, and getting pissy over who does the dishes is a little childish, especially when the compulsive cup user does a lot of stuff for me with minimal complaint. So, I started doing the dishes without complaining. Without stomping or clanging things extra loudly (which, hey, not a good idea when you're migraining, anyway) or grumbling or feeling like I was being forced into doing something for which I would never be repaid. I just washed the dishes. Like a grownup. Go me.

And I made a routine out of it. With the dishwasher, filling and running it depended entirely on how many, and which, dishes we had used. It's not the same with hand washing at all, and that threw me at first, as silly as it sounds. Instead of waiting for the sink to fill, which was about when the dishwasher would be full, I now wash the dishes once or twice a day, regardless of how many there are. If I let it go longer than that, then I have to wash them in shifts because I can't stand there more than half an hour without some repercussions.

But even after I got my rhythm, it was a rare day that I could get all of the dishes done and on the drying rack in one shot. Even saving space as well as I could, I'd often fill the dish rack before I was even halfway done emptying the sink. I could have called over the Excessive Cup User* to do some drying and putting away while I finished the washing, and sometimes I did, but usually he wasn't available and I'd have to stop washing and switch to drying and putting away and then back again to washing, which, NO. Washing dishes (standing, holding and not dropping, soaping, inspecting for particles, leaning) and putting them away (reaching and bending) are very different head triggers and can NOT be done together because that is a recipe for pain. I need a sit to reset everything in between, or better yet, I do one and someone else does the other.

So, the dishes were never really DONE done, for a few months there. I might be able to get all the dishes clean, but I just couldn't put them away for a day. Or I'd have most of them done but would have to stop because migraine symptoms were flaring. Learning how to manage the dishes with chronic migraines is a lesson in patience, in compromise and in acceptance.

Other life lessons I've learned from my dirty dishes: Great feats can be accomplished step by plodding step, working with limitations can still produce results, and not everything has to be done right now. These lessons are good for me, sometimes I really need to let go of my expectations.

But a happy solution to my dishwashing dilemma was found a few weeks ago when my mom cleaned out some old storage in their house and discovered TWO dish racks, both bigger than the one I had. I pretty much pounced on top of them and growled at anyone who looked at my preciouses, then ran home with them and put one on either side of the sink and did a dance of glee.

I can almost always get all of the dishes done in one standing now (it's unfortunately not a sitting), even if I leave them for a day. Which I did yesterday. Which is why I'm typing up this ode to dish racks because I am TIRED now, y'all, but all of my dishes are clean!



*If you've seen the last Harry Potter movie, imagine my dirty cup problem to be reminiscent of that certain scene in the vault. Shudder.



More...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lately and Michele Bachmann

Did I mention that my bike was stolen? People suck.

The weather cooled off a little this week and I've been wanting to celebrate by trying not to fall off a bike again, but since we have no money, we can't afford to get me another one. My boyfriend is going to try to cobble one together, he's got some junk parts and an old frame he thinks he can use, but I really wish I could get a bike that fit me. Even my last one, I had to lean forward too far and it made my neck and shoulders cramp up. Not only did I feel every bump through my butt, but so much of my weight was on my hands, any jolts also traveled straight up my arms, and bored into the back of my head. I really want bike riding to be fun.


I had a migraine last night that was low on the overall pain, but I kept having these spikes that felt like my brain was dry heaving. Each heave was triggered directly by sound, and each sound would trigger several heaves. It was almost like a painful orgasm in my head. And though I quickly sequestered myself in near-silence, a feeling of tense fuzziness continued to shroud my skull, and I knew those heaves could be triggered again, easily. So, I typed quieter. But, hey, brain heave. That's kind of new. I think I've felt it before, but it was always accompanied by other brain feelings, like stabbing and throbbing. And the stabbing is an attention hog, let me tell you.


I've been getting into fermentation. I've successfully made sauerkraut and yogurt, and now I'm giving kombucha a good up-and-down and may I say, it's looking mighty enticing. I hear improved gut health can also improve migraine health and it's worth a shot when I already love sauerkraut and yogurt and haven't tried kombucha yet, but darn if I'm not fascinated by the whole thing.


Oh, and we got our food stamps reinstated, but they cut our benefits by almost $100. It's like they hate me. BUT, I finally found a farmer's market nearby that takes the stamps, AND they'll give me $5 for every $10 I spend, making my dollar go so much further! I'm really excited to try it out, alas, I have to wait two weeks until they refill the card. I hate wait.


Michele Bachmann's migraines and the resulting media frenzy of ableism and sexism has been filling up my blogroll all week. My response is to concur with Jon Stewart, who said on the Daily Show:

"Of all my issues with Michele Bachmann's brain, migraines- not even in the top 20."

I kind of want that on a t-shirt.


More...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Today Was Good

I walked to my parents' house this morning.

They live about three quarters of a mile away, crossing two busy streets and three residential. It was very warm, already well into the 80's at noon. The sun was high and hot, and I carried an umbrella as shelter. My head started throbbing with every step only halfway into the walk, so I stopped and sat on some benches to rest. The heat can wear me down fast. I medicated with marijuana and drank water. Caught my breath. When my head had settled down a bit, about ten minutes later, I resumed walking, but at a slightly slower pace.

As I meandered, I looked at everything around me, trying to absorb the moments. I have weeks when I can't leave the house alone, so every second of independence is precious lately. I read the posters on the utility poles, admired the front-yard gardens, took pictures of flowers and things on the street, and generally tried to be of the world. My head was nagging at me, I felt weighed down, nauseous and still had mild head pain with every heel-strike, but the moments distracted me.

I saw someone walking toward me in the distance. I stared as they approached, trying to make out the figure. Is it a man? Nope, don't have to worry about being street harassed, at least. OH, she's smoking. SHIT. Crossed the street, passed the smoker, crossed back. Caught a whiff anyway, but at least I didn't have to suffer a toxic cloud. Turning my head to check for cars triggered some short-lived wooziness. Someone else approached, but they looked safe. I couldn't have anticipated the haze of cologne that surrounded the teenage boy. I went dizzy, ill and a little gray around the edges immediately, and I held my breathe in a panicky bid for survival. He passed, I exhaled and tried to regain my composure before I fell over from the brain overwhelm. The world slowly came back into focus, over a few seconds, and I continued on.

I arrived at the house without further incident and plopped into a shaded, breezy chair in the backyard. A walk in the heat is always taxing, and this one was a little worse than usual. My nerves were fried and I felt irritated by the playful shrieks of nearby children. I was sweaty and achy-tired and still vaguely nauseous, so I took another toke and drank some more water while my body cooled itself down. Luckily, after about twenty minutes of quiet and water, the bad mood lifted and my symptoms died back down.

It was a long, relaxed visit. I talked with my mom about our lives, joked with my brother about Doctor Who, laughed a little too hard more than once and looked at the lights a few too many times.

I medicated with an iced coffee (seriously) a few hours in. The caffeine made me hyper, which can be dangerous. In my chemically-induced fits of activity, I can easily hurt myself and not really feel the effect until later. Caution is my friend with caffeine.

I used the coffee buzz to do some light, mostly seated, gardening. Still, it knocked my head up a few points, so I needed another long, quiet sit with water and marijuana. Then we baked. They baked, really, I only assisted a little, and was starting to feel rather confused and nauseous again, after only a few minutes of hand-mixer whirring.

I got a ride home not too much later. I was very thankful for it, since I could hardly walk straight at this point. I could medicate some more, but overdoing it can trigger repercussions, so I opted to hold off until I could be back home, in my comfies, with minimal triggers undoing all the magic the pot can do.

Upon arriving home, however, I realized the dog needed a walk. Not giving my brain the time to protest, I grabbed the leash and a baggie and headed back out the door, followed by the happiest little dog you'll ever see. It was a short walk, but still spoon-sucking. Bend to attach the leash, walk down the stairs, walkwalkwalk, bend to pick up poop, walkwalkwalkwalk, back up the stairs, bend to detach the leash. It sounds easier than it is, despite my yoga-inspired bending techniques.

Back in the house, and safely in my comfies, I'm bone-tired, but cheerful, in pain but coping. A good day can go a long way for pain management.

Now, a shower and some light yoga to keep my body from curling up into one big fetal-shaped cramp. My head will hurt for the rest of the night, I'll sleep with an icepack as a pillow, and might wake with a migrainy hangover that could bloom into something really spectacular if I happen to catch the morning rays wrong, or if our neighbor walks past my window smoking a cigarette (AGAIN).

But it's just another day in my head.

More...