Friday, October 25, 2013

What Matters

What matters changes over a time, it may seem gradual but so many moments in our lives alter us forever, and we rarely notice. What mattered then is irrelevant now, uninteresting, or embarrassing. What will matter may not seem interesting, or desirable, or may not even be conceived of yet, and what does seems like it always will.

They say people don't change, but people are constantly changing. Our experiences bounce us off each other like pinballs, and every hit is a change in trajectory. BING a migraine BINGBINGBINGBINGBING chronic migraines, and my life has gone off in the most unexpected direction.

I may still be the girl I was at 8, at 15, at 27, but I'm a whole lot more than that, and less. I've lost some things along the way, enthusiasm, naivete, ignorance of pain, but I think what I've gained keeps me whole enough, temperence, perserverence, and how to fight fear aren't bad spoils of age and illness, if I do say so myself.

It's just that social media is so shiny, and my life could sometimes use some sparkle and I just can't help the envy I feel at pictures of smiling, laughing, hugging groups of people. But we all travel our own road and everything on display is for display purposes only, anyway.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's Always an Adventure

How can I possibly still have symptoms I haven't talked about here? Apparently, migraine is so varied and complex, a person can spend years writing about it and still have new material from which to draw.

I was preparing dinner the other night and a fork happened to scrape along a plate just so, and I got that "nails on a chalkboard" feeling. A shiver runs up my spine, my teeth and jaw go tense, a vibration seems to run through every cell in my body as if I'm being electrocuted, and my head - if it wasn't already up and running - flares in response. The effect can last for several minutes to hours, and can be triggered by almost any scraping noise. Metal, glass, ceramics, rock, even wood; if it hits a certain vibration, I just can't tolerate it. Like motion sickness, this is another sensitivity I've gained with the onset of chronic migraines. For most of my life, it would have been an easily ignorable unpleasant noise, but now, the sound of that fork on the plate hit me so hard I had to sit down for ten minutes, wait for my head to stop ringing.

Loss of coordination is something I know I've talked about before, but not recently. Many of my symptoms wax and wane and being particularly stumbly seems to be coming back. It's funny because my body continues to grow stronger, I'm exercising nearly every day, and my coordination should be improving, if anything. But no, I trip over cracks in the road, veer wildly while trying to walk a straight line, I'm shoulder-checking the door frames, and generally walking into every perfectly visible, large object that happens to be in my path. And I've got the bruises and scratches to prove it. I'm just grateful I've been able to work out so much these past few months, I'm not getting hurt nearly as much, and my injuries are healing much faster than they used to, I can't imagine the world of hurt I'd be in right now if I was as out of shape as I was and falling all over the place.

Another infrequently-mentioned but often-experienced symptom is the chills. More than once this summer, it was more than 90 degrees outside, and migraine had my skin covered in gooseflesh and my feet freezing. Hot tea and a heating pad on a hot summer day? Please and thank you, when I'm migraine-cold I will cut someone for that heating pad.

And then, there are the brand-new symptoms. Yesterday I went to the beach, and it was low-key, but still: the sun, laughing and talking, walking in the sand, sitting in a moving car. I was plummeting straight down migraine-hill on the way home and later that evening, it got weird. I realized it was worse than usual when I kept being stopped in mid-sentence, mid-thought, and mid-movement by not exactly pain, but something certainly disabling and certainly on the right side of my head, near the temple. It hurt, but it wasn't the pain that stopped me, it was like a spasm or as if everything had stopped everywhere else except for this one spot in my head. There was nothing to do but clasp my face and wait it out.

My brain was clearly not working right, so when I saw my boyfriend in pain, I offered him a massage, not even thinking about my already advanced migraine situation. I worked on him, and worked on him, and then looked at my fingers and had the horrifying feeling that they didn't appear shorter because of the way I was kneading into my boyfriend's flesh, they appeared shorter because there was nothing where they disappeared. My logical side was totally weirded out, perfectly aware that the situation was entirely impossible, and maybe I should just stay calm and it would resolve on its own. But the hallucination wouldn't pass and after several seconds, I was having trouble not freaking out. I held my hand in front of my face, seeing the length of my fingers, nails and all, but part of my mind was still so focused on the idea of short fingers, that it was sort of overriding my real vision. I could see both at the same time.

I, of course, started to cry and told my boyfriend that I was having "visual problems". He immediately, bless him, tilted his head so I could see his face, directed me to look at him, and told me it was ok, which was really the best thing he could have done. It took a few minutes for the image to pass, and I still get the heebies just thinking about it.

I slept well last night, but the weird head-pain-spasms started up again this morning, a few hours after getting up, and today has been a struggle. I've managed to feed myself twice (once before it really set in, but I'm still counting it, so nyah), did some homework (slowly, but surely!), and finished up this post, but otherwise, I think today is a wash. Another one lost to the abyss that is migraine.

At this moment, I'm ok with it; migraine's frustrating, annoying, painful, and sometimes scary, but I've made some sort of peace with this ever-present albatross of weird, which makes it easier to endure, somehow. So, I'll be riding it out quietly, like a survivalist in a storm, secure with my knowledge that the migraine will end and I'll still be here. Fingers and all.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Another Food Post

Grocery shopping is the worst.

I've learned to adapt, for the most part. For the glaring overhead fluorescents, I wear a hat and have my sunglasses handy. For the obnoxious piped in music, shrieky fellow customers, and inter-store announcements, I bring earplugs. For the nausea triggered by the car ride to the store, and then the stench of the laundry/cleaning/air freshener/perfume sections and other patrons, I keep ginger or mints on me. For the overstimulation of all of the above, plus deciphering product labels, I medicate liberally beforehand. I always bring a sweater, in case the air conditioning is too cold.

Besides physical preparations, there's some mental prep involved in even simple trips. I have to stay focused, go straight to what I need most because there's no telling how long I'll last. I have to stay as calm as possible, so I can't let the guy who was weirdly aggressive about getting around me to the soup bother me. Once I've finished getting what I need to get, I skedaddle the heck outta there and wait in the car for my man to check out. Thank you, Man, without you, I would surely end every shopping trip by crying or threatening to barf on someone.

Our local CSAs don't come to your door, but they sometimes have a "local" drop-off point, which I may or may not be able to make it to every week, as migraines and gas money would dictate. If I missed it, I'd lose my food, having already paid for it. There's a chance that they'd accommodate me, make an exception and deliver to my door, or allow me to pick it up on off days, but I haven't yet explored those options, because there is one more hurdle to the CSAs that I have to overcome and that is money. I just don't have enough.

In a perfect world, food stamps would be redeemable for all the fresh, local, organic produce a person could eat. (When the government isn't shut down and people are actually receiving them, that is.)

But in the real world, we make do. Which, in our case, means making the most of our local (within 10 miles), but rather pricey grocery stores, the slightly cheaper chain, Safeway, that is more than half an hour from home on winding roads of barf, and costco -- which is the furthest distance, at about 45 minutes from home, but it's the best option when we can make the trip.

And, we are so incredibly, astoundingly lucky that we have the option to visit a free farmer's market three times a month, and we usually make it to at least one. It's hosted by Mountain Community Resources, an amazing organization that helps people with all sorts of services, but these farmer's markets are the best thing I've ever seen a charity do.

We've visited food pantries before, and while we'd usually come away with enough food to live on for at least a week, this wasn't food that keeps people healthy. It was all cans and cereals and processed meals and more than one time there wasn't a thing in the bag that didn't have hfcs or some kind of preservative in it. That food was depressing and unhealthy. I would almost have been better off not eating at all. Almost.

Of course, I needed to eat. So, I did. And I felt terrible all the time. I clearly remember the despair I used to feel on nights when the fridge was lean and I struggled to make a dinner that would actually nourish us.

I never, ever forget how lucky I am now to be able to take advantage of all this donated fresh food. Sometimes the produce is less than stellar; one time half the strawberries were moldy, and another the tomatoes were about to burst, they were so ripe, but on the whole, they offer quality produce, and you can't beat the price. Last week, they had massive, perfect portabello mushrooms, and brightly colored, delightfully misshapen bell peppers of all colors, and it was better than christmas. That haul inspired me to make some phenomenal vegan enchiladas.

Oh yeah, I've cut out even more of the animal products, and I'm happier about it than I thought I would be. No cheese at all anymore, very few eggs, and little dairy otherwise, I feel better without it, and don't miss it at all, surprisingly.

I've been thinking in a more conscious way about the products I buy and where they come from, and what effects those products have on me, the economy, the environment, and what impact I'm personally having on this planet. I'm a little obsessed with personal responsibility right now. I want my impact on this world to be beneficial, not harmful, I want to leave a positive mark, if any. So, first I stopped buying the regular eggs (because I'm against chicken torture), then I stopped eating cheese (made with rennet, which is baby cow stomach enzymes! WHY!) and my gut started working much more smoothly, and my skin got this unreal glow to it that I haven't seen since I was a teenager, without the zits (well, still a few, but that's ok) and then I dropped a pant-size or two within two weeks and my energy BOOMED.

I'm hiking our hill most days now, and every now and again I'll go up more than once. Pushups, situps and yoga are happening more and more frequently as well, and even on bad days, I'm trying to do low-key stuff, just to keep my body limber. I even ran in place for like, ten minutes the other day! Unbelievable!

Baked goods are still my dairy-downfall, because I'm not eating them often enough to warrant searching out and testing vegan recipes. I've been indulging in the standard fare, whatever my boyfriend brings home, save for the ice cream. But let me tell you, vegans aren't missing a thing when it comes to ice cream. We have this stuff in our local grocery:

It's called Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss and every flavor I've tried of their delightful coconut ice cream has been an impossible pleasure. The chocolate doesn't taste like coconut at all to me, but the less powerful flavors will definitely have at least an undertaste (if that's a thing? I think it's a thing) of fresh coconut, not that I ever complained. It's pricey, so it's not a frequent treat, but oh is it worth every penny. It's better than dairy ice cream and everyone should eat this. Unless you have a coconut allergy, like my poor boyfriend does. Doomed to a life of dairy ice cream, that one. More for me.