Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mastering the Gathering

Easter was surprisingly spectacular. I like to semi-joke that I expect (and plan for) every situation to turn out terribly. Then, when things don't end in third-degree burns and a divorce, I'm pleasantly surprised!

The party was at my parents' place, which is a little less than a mile from our house. So, we walked over early to spend time with the immediate family, and it worked out really nicely. When I arrive somewhere later than the bulk of the other attendees, I end up exhausting myself in the first few minutes because I walk in the door and immediately have to talk to someone, then someone else comes up, then I meet someone else on the way to put down my bag and then three kids run by shrieking and someone else walks up and gives me a bone-crunching bear hug, then this person wants me to know what food is "safe" for me and so on until I've talked to everyone in my family within a 20 minute period. It's really not good for my head. But by arriving early this time, and greeting people as they came, I had a trickle of activity that gradually worked its way up to a dribble and a light flow, instead of the flood that can wash away all my brainpower and energy.

I tried to maintain a relaxed attitude. "I'm just happy to be here," was pretty much my motto of the day, and I think it helped my pain management a great deal. For example, instead of feeling uncomfortable while standing during the obligatory group family shots (like last year), I sat down, and started a trend!

I also had a nice, quiet place to rest, where I could take a few minutes and even medicate if needed. And, oh yes. It was needed. But, I had a blast, really. There was lively conversation and laughter and good food and lots of sugar. And after the party was over, I even walked home. Slowly, and with breaks, but by my own locomotion.

This was the best family event I've had in so long. I was the first to arrive and one of the last to leave. I've been feeling very separate from my family lately, though we all live very close, I don't socialize with any of them much besides the several gatherings we have a year. I feel like I reconnected with them a little, and have reclaimed a niche for myself.


Sunday, April 24, 2011


Last week, I went (with my trusty boyfriend in tow) to see the disabilities coordinator at my local community college.

There was an hour-long bus ride, each way. It was rather horrible, but I actually thought it would be worse. A woman who stank of perfume sat next to us for 20 minutes, I sucked mints and breathed with my sweater over my face until she got off the bus. (I could have moved, but I figure, the devil you know...) And of course, it was noisy. There was no shortage of passengers, many of them talking, some very loudly. A professionally detached woman's voice was constantly piping up on the overhead speakers to remind us all of what stop was coming or of major intersections, and to please exit to the rear and take all refuse when you leave. (ATTN: WE ARE NOT YOUR MOTHER.) And the bus itself was so loud! It whined and groaned with every change in speed, and rocked as it pulled in and out of traffic, which left me totally disinterested in my book, because I suddenly found it imperative to focus on the breeze on my face and not puking. I've never vomited from motion sickness or a migraine, but it always feels like I will and I worry that if I ever do puke, it'll be a breaking dam of vomit, and from then on, every little nauseous migraine or bumpy car ride will result in my clocking quality cuddle time with a crapper.

But, happily, getting the disabled fare wasn't awkward at all (just showed my medicare card) and having the window open and blowing fresh(er) air into my face was a lifesaver on the way home.

When we pulled up to the school, I realized I really didn't know at all where I was going on campus and I had just willingly put myself into a recurring nightmare. There I was, at school, and I had no idea where I was supposed to be, but I was definitely supposed to be somewhere. At least I wasn't naked.** So, we walked into the closest building, which was prominently labeled Student Services, and the very first door we saw had a sign on it that read Disabilities Services. I nearly peed my pants. That was partly because I had to pee, though, so I did that first and then went in the office, checked in, sat down with some forms, filled them out and then waited for a bit until a woman walked up to me and quietly asked me if I was me and if I was ready. I answered that I was, and we followed her to her office.

The appointment itself went pretty well. I like my counselor a lot. She's informed and understanding and sensitive and direct in her concerns and suggestions. I think she can help me make it work.

I've checked out the summer schedule and found a few possible classes to take. My counselor suggested being picky, and even waiting until fall if something doesn't feel right. The summer quarter is shorter, thus more intense, and I wholeheartedly agreed with her that taking a very challenging class right off the bat might be self-defeating. I should take something that's easy or fun for me, something that I won't struggle too much with. I see the advantages in waiting until fall, a longer quarter and wider course selection, but I'm afraid that if I wait, I'll lose all of this lovely momentum I've built up.

BUT, the other problem with taking summer classes is that it's going to be, you know, summer. Which means it'll be hot. Which means that my migraines are automatically more excitable and my capacity for schoolwork may be fatally compromised. Maybe I'm being dramatic. I really don't want to fail.

I'll be thinking on it.

**Fun fact: During my naked dreams, I inevitably have a moment of self-awareness when I recognize that what is happening is likely not actually happening (Naked in a huge blonde wig frantically wandering a costume shop looking for a toga? Not too often!) and then I think to myself what a dreadful cliche naked dreams are and I start analyzing the dream while I'm still dreaming. I don't even know what that says about me.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Movies and My Migraines

We don't get out much around here. I used to be a huge drive-in movie lover, but can't really tolerate the big screen experience anymore, even when I'm safely cocooned in my own car.

The first problem is that we don't actually have a car right now. We can't afford to insure, register, gas and maintain our old one, so it's sitting at a dealership, just waiting for just the right family to scoop it up and give it a home. Until we get a new (used) car, we're not going to the drive-in anytime soon.

But besides the obvious lacking of drive, the drive-in is still fraught with hazards. The huge screens can be hard for me to focus on, and the picture quality tends to be terrible. I'm pretty sure there's a projector up there from the 20's. And then there are the cars who merrily go about finding parking twenty minutes into the show with their lights blazing through all six screens and into everyone's mirrors and eyeballs. Annoying as it is to the average driver-inner, it's torture for me.

The movie's sound comes in over the radio now, which is much better than those speakers that used to hook to the car window. I would always get a crackly one. Over the radio, though, sometimes the frequency goes wonky and it's STILL crackly! Or the reception is bad and it's too faint to hear the voices without the sound effects blowing my head off every five minutes. Last time, I just wore earplugs and had no idea what was happening. That dramatically reduced the enjoyment of my movie-going experience. And it's not like I could mute the sound and have captions, because they aren't available at the drive-in.

I don't know if/where captions are available in the walk-in theaters around here because I can't go anywhere near most indoor theaters anyway. They are crowded, smelly, busy, loud, and way too expensive for my SSI-supported self. Even the drive-in is beyond my budget right now, and they have Family Bargain Tuesdays! Darn this economy!

So, we watch at home. There's hulu, and various network websites. We watch some cable online, due to a borrowed account, and we have a redbox nearby for super easy renting. They don't have the greatest selection, but the convenience is pretty stellar when we have a buck burning a hole in our pockets.

And the movie selection process is a whole other thing, too. Before migraines, I could watch anything. Violence, horror, or psychologically disturbing flicks, I could shrug off the images or ideas that bothered me and move on with my day. Not so anymore. I am deeply bothered by this kind of material now. So, I tend to seek out spoilers; I want to be prepared if there is a rape scene, or if there are long, drawn out gory battles. I can handle those things easier if I know they are coming. And some movies are worth a little emotional and physical pain, but most are really not.

I still wish I'd skipped Sex and the City 2.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forward Movements

I've always been resistant to change. It scares me. But things have got to change for me. I'm not happy. I feel useless and uninteresting. My life is aimless and painful. And it's suffocating me.

So, I'm still moving forward, very slowly, on the schooling front. I'll have an appointment with the disabilities folks in the next week or so. It still may not pan out for several reasons, and I still don't have any kind of a plan in mind for my education, just that I want to get one. I'm hoping the appointment will, at least, give me some clarity.

And I am applying for a from-home volunteer job in a field I've never worked in before. There's no pay, but it'd be a fantastic learning experience, so I'm really hoping that the company can see past my limitations and understand that I really want to do this job for them.

It's exciting to have prospects, and terrifying. I've been out of work for over three years, and out of school for over ten, it's not hard to imagine myself flailing and failing.

So, I'm just going to imagine myself kicking ass, instead.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Metamorphosis and Frida

I just read Kafka's most famous story, The Metamorphosis, for the first time. If you haven't read it yet, I'm about to spoil it to death.

I went into the book (It's free here!) only knowing that the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes one morning to find himself turned into an insect, something very similar to a cockroach. I didn't anticipate at all how much Gregor's change would remind me of my own with migraines. He's suddenly unable to function as a normal person. He is stuck in his room, unable to care for himself, alienated from his family, and becomes unrecognizable to even himself. At first, the story reminded me of the past few years, his sister cares for him as best as she can, and he tries to keep up with family goings-on even though he's been imprisoned in his bedroom. But then it turned into my nightmares of the future. Everyone he loves hates him, and he wastes away in his own filth until he dies.

I did some minor internetting for more information and apparently the author, Franz Kafka, died of tuberculosis, but the sources I've found say that he wasn't diagnosed until a few years after The Metamorphosis was published. So it's probably not really all about illness or disability, but that's what I got out of it anyway.

Also, I recently saw the movie, Frida. (More spoilers abound!) It's a gorgeous film about the life of Frida Kahlo, a talented surrealist artist who lived most of her life with chronic, often crippling pain. I always think biographical movies will bore me, so I only watched it initially for Selma Hayek, who plays the title role. But just a few minutes into the film, a teenage Frida is injured, badly, and I realized that this movie was going to speak to me in a totally new way. Frida was strong. She was in pain, and sometimes her body failed her, but she didn't let that stop her from creating beauty and making people think.

While Gregor Samsa is the repellent burden I am afraid I'll become, Frida is the inspiration I hope I can be.


Sunday, April 3, 2011


An artist I am not, but I've been having some bedtime anxiety lately and have found drawing to be an excellent calming activity. I simply crawl into bed with my (handy-dandy) notebook and pen and doodle whatever comes until I fall asleep. Here are a few of my more interesting (and oddly violent) drawings.

Arrow through the eye and axe in the skull. Also, some fruit!

I've been obsessed with drawing my face half-happy, half-strange. It's about one-sided migraines and weird symptoms, and living a double life of pain. This one is my favorite of a dozen variations.

A fishhook in my eye, a hammer to the head and occipital drilling.

A closeup of the occipital drill.

Electric hotspots. The text reads: All this pain is really putting a damper on my good time.

Self portrait. Heh.