Thursday, April 18, 2013

Picking up the Pieces (of Trash)

Regrouping from the lost days of migraine is never easy.

So it goes. I spent a few hours at the beach with friends, or I hiked too hard or too far, or I paid a visit to the city, in all its stimulating glory. Maybe I didn't actually do anything, but my head is flaring because of pollen or chainsaws or mercury is in retrograde. Whatever the reason, it happens. My head aches, I can't think, I'm suddenly cold and irritable and hungry but nauseated, and if I move, it's a quadrillion times worse, so I'm as still and quiet as I can possibly be until it passes. After the worst of it is over, and I'm trying to refocus my eyes, and my brain, on the world around me, I remain sensitive for days, and righting myself can be a challenge.

The most frustrating thing is how much neglected chores and work build up around me while I'm down. I can barely take care of myself when my head is on high; sleeping and hydration are my number one goals, but school, eating, hygiene, and especially housecleaning are often left by the wayside while I deal with the pain, discomfort, and emotional toll migraines take on my body.

So, what happens is: I start to feel better, I take a shower, I put on a bra, and I start looking around at my surroundings and I'm appalled. Where did these mountains of dishes and laundry and dust and grime even come from? (No really, WHERE? We're only two people!)

I've learned not to marathon the cleaning, that will always drive me back into migraine, but to work in mindful spurts, when I can, and to stop at the first sign of migrainous consequences.

It's a lot of mindfulness and practice and patience with myself, but when I get it right, life is so much easier. For example, when I got up to get a cup of tea a few minutes ago, I grabbed everything within reach that wasn't where it was supposed to be. I grabbed my empty mug, a few pieces of trash, a plate from a snack a few hours ago, and a book that needed to go back on the shelf. I put it all away on the way into the kitchen. Then, while I was waiting for the water to boil, I took those five minutes to wash a few dishes, put a few spices back where they go, and throw away that empty wrapper that was wedged behind the toaster. I do this type of accidental cleaning as often as I can, and it's astounding how quickly the efforts of just a few minutes at a time add up, and a cluttered and messy house can be brought to a much less frightening level of cleanliness.

This has been working for me, most of the time. Even on my worst days, I can usually put in at least a few minutes' effort, and though it may cause me pain at the time, being productive - even in a tiny measure - can do wonders for my mentality when I'm in the throes of a downturn. Though, if I'm going to share the good, I should absolutely articulate how bad it can get.

It's embarrassing when my house is messy, I don't want anyone to come over, it makes me feel out of control and gross, and my usually rather mild anxiety goes through the roof when there's too much clutter. If I'm not able to stay on top of the mess, put in the daily maintenance and hold others to the same task, the mess can evolve into an impossible feat of claustrophobic proportions, which makes it a migraine trigger (or at least, an exacerbator), by virtue of the stress it causes my mind and body.

Now, it becomes a matter of getting myself out of this perpetual motion anxiety/migraine machine and breaking the cycle, which is so much harder than sticking to the small-scale, daily maintenance, because not only is it a bigger physical challenge to tackle a less-controlled mess, it becomes a mental weight, too. When every effort hurts my head, an intimidating task like a sink full of dishes can feel like a sentence of years of hard labor.

Sometimes, I get right to it, I swallow my anxiety or resentment, put on some happy music and do what I can for as long as I can, basically my maintenance routine, but kicked up a notch. Sometimes, it takes me an extra day to work up to it. Sometimes, I can't even get started without help.

I've definitely got some weird emotional issues with cleaning, especially cleaning up after other people, and while I'm working on those issues, they've gotten worse since I got sick. It helps to keep to my little maintenance schedule, and I continue to subscribe to UfYH via RSS, and the daily reminders and before-and-after shots keep me inspired and motivated on hard days.

When the migraines first started, I spent so much time curled up in bed, I wouldn't have noticed a mess if it was piled on top of me. So, it's really a testament to my improved health that I even have the energy to care so much about having an orderly home. I'm going to count that as a win.