Oh my gosh, you guys and gals. I was sitting in a restaurant, and a wall hanging came loose from the wall, fell, and hit me on the head! I was stunned, but felt okay. However, the next day, my head started hurting badly, and I went to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with a mild concussion and have been recuperating ever since. I’m finally feeling well enough to tell you all about it! Well, actually, I’m only feeling well enough to tell you a little bit about it. I’ll tell you more next time. But not to worry, the doctors say I will be completely back to normal very soon. Hope your September has been treating you better than it’s been treating me!
There was a Very Important Task (V.I.T.) that had to be completed by 8am on Wednesday morning. And only the inquisitive one could do it.
The inquisitive one was up for the job! The inquisitive one was a trooper!
However, the truth is, the inquisitive one had been experiencing some health issues over the past week and a half. (Quite coincidentally, I have been experiencing health issues of my own. But that is irrelevant to this story. I only bring it up because I want to express that I empathize with the poor inquisitive one.)
The inquisitive one valiantly endeavored to work on the V.I.T. However, whenever the inquisitive one was feeling perfectly healthy, the inquisitive one’s boss sent over work. And whenever the inquisitive one was not feeling perfectly healthy, the inquisitive one was unable to work on the V.I.T. And so it was that 7am on Wednesday morning rolled around, and the V.I.T. had not even been started!
The inquisitive one, realizing that there was no time to complete the V.I.T. as planned, quickly completed the V.I.T. in a different way. And so the problem was resolved! There is a happy ending to this story!
And the inquisitive one, resolving not to think about the V.I.T. that was due at 8am on Friday morning, curled up in a little ball and fell asleep.
This week I’m experiencing a flare-up of an old health issue. So I’ll keep this post short. Send flowers and love. Digital flowers and love work perfectly fine. They are perfectly beautiful.
And tell me: what setbacks are you coping with this month? We all experience them. It’s not a matter of being weak. It’s a matter of being human. So tell me your woes. And, my dear, here are some beautiful flowers and love, all for you.
Until next time,
Schizophrenia runs in my family. To learn more about this mental illness is, for me, a way of trying to understand a piece of my family history. So when I saw a book called The Collected Schizophrenias featured at my local indie bookstore, cute cover and all, I had to buy and devour it.
The Collected Schizophrenias is a collection of essays by Esmé Weijun Wang. Each of the essays puts a different focus on her experiences as a woman living with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. The writing is fabulously direct, concise, and honest. This book, like A Mind Unraveled by Kurt Eichenwald (which I previewed earlier this year), does a great job of dispelling common myths about the illness at hand (Eichenwald writes about epilepsy), while offering insights into how to thrive in the face of the illness’s difficulties.
I admire Wang’s strength in writing and speaking about her experiences. Mental illness is still, despite great strides forward in this area, stigmatized. One of the first and most important steps in fighting stigma is to hear and to understand. What is it like to live with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type? Wang endeavors, in this book, to explain.
It’s important to hear her. Wang points out that most information about the collected schizophrenias is presented from the perspective of an observer witnessing the words and behavior of someone else. For example, referring to a statement as a delusion implies that one does not believe the statement oneself. But the helpfulness of the outsider perspective goes only so far.
What does it feel like to be the person herself? Wang shares a few of her worst times in this passage:
“I’ve seen myself forget to feed my dog. I’ve seen myself remember, and then not care enough to do it. Sometimes I can’t even say more than two words or move. There are periods when I know that my husband has been replaced by an identical robot.”
To fully understand this passage, it’s important take into account the rest of the essay. For the essay is about some of Wang’s worst times . . . and best times. She tells a touching story about serving as a camp counselor for children with bipolar disorder. She was instrumental in helping a boy transform from hating the camp to loving it—from feeling all alone to feeling that he had friends. Here’s a passage about one of Wang’s best times. A camper was feeling sick:
“I told him to try and relax. I stroked his bangs with the palm of my hand. I hummed Chinese lullabies, and the longer I stood and stroked and hummed and whispered, the stiller he became, until he was asleep.”
It is important to remember, about oneself and others, that we all have our good and bad days. A diagnosis is not a life sentence. I don’t think it should be one, anyway. A diagnosis is, or should be, a tool to help people understand some of their personal roadblocks and look for ways to move forward.
I can personally identify with the worst-times and best-times passages. I know what it’s like to have terrifying thoughts along the identical robot theme. I also know what it’s like to sometimes want to reach out and help others, but other times feel removed from any reality except what’s in my head. It is unclear to me whether almost everyone has such thoughts and feelings, or whether it’s in my blood. That second possibility would not surprise me one bit!
On the other hand, reading this book drove home to me the seriousness of this illness. A recurrence of philosophical musings and doubts, even when they become obsessions, is a very different beast than a persistent feeling of utter certainty. Wang notes that on her bad days—which can last for months—she is incapable of doing things that others can easily do on their bad days. She also notes that powerful psychiatric drugs have given her a stability that she would otherwise lack.
But to return to the original hand . . . I suspect that we human beings are a lot more alike than we usually admit.
What are you like at your worst and best?
Hey folks—things change. The lowest of the lows cannot last forever. When you’re at the bottom, there’s only one direction in which you can move . . . and it’s not down. Never in million years did I think I would be sitting on this balcony in Paris, enjoying a glass of wine provided by a charming Airbnb host, along with a French baguette, while taking in a spectacular view of the Sacré-Cœur, a church situated on top of a hill in Montmartre.
Why did I not think this was a possibility for me? Because, not too long ago, I was suffering from a severe physical injury that was causing me to have major psychological issues. I was also suffering from severe anxiety that was causing me to have major physical issues. It was a vicious circle; I was a mess. Furthermore, and separate from all this, I was suffering from periodic, ten-day, completely debilitating migraines, as I had been for my entire adult life. And, as if all this weren’t enough, my marriage was falling apart. So Paris didn’t really seem in the cards. Nor did writing anything ever again, least of all a blog post about a trip to Paris.
I want you to know that there are very often unseen solutions. I want you to know that when things seem hopeless, you can still reach up and grab hope. But I also want you to know that forward progress requires hard work, and even that is not enough, for forward progress also requires persistence. While enduring my worst days, weeks, and months, many people gave me advice that was counterproductive. Most, though sadly not all, of these people had good intentions; but they were wrong. It took me a long time to understand that I am the best judge of whether a particular treatment or strategy is working for me. It also took me a long time to understand that sometimes—but only sometimes—a piece of advice you’re getting is spot on, though you might not yet be prepared to admit it.
I just made it home from Paris. I’ll write more about my experiences in France soon. But now that I’m home, I’ve received some emails from friends and had some conversations with family that reminded me just how far I have come in the past few years. Truly, truly, I thought that life as I knew it was over for me. But it was not. After much trial and error—years of trial and error—I found some treatments and solutions that worked for me. And I made a complete recovery.
A Cool Paris Concert Venue and Other Migraine Triggers
So as to give you some specifics and eschew too much generality, below in this post are some of the solutions I found in regard to one of the many problems I experienced in recent years: my migraines. I know for a fact that I would have gotten a ten-day migraine in Europe, had I not stumbled across a miraculous solution last year. There were simply too many moments while traveling when I was on a jolting plane, train, or bus, having not gotten a lot of sleep the night before, as the sun was angling through the windows: these are huge migraine triggers for me.
There was also a notable evening in Paris when I was in a crowd of people in a confined space, as noise was thumping and lights were flashing: more huge triggers. I snapped this photo at an Aldous Harding concert, at a venue called La Maroquinerie, during the opening act . . . before the crowd got even denser, and the sounds and lighting got even more intense. (It was a great and interesting performance. Harding is a New Zealand singer/songwriter with a grandly unique stage presence. This was my first encounter with her music, and I intend to listen to more soon!)
So many triggers; but they had no effect.
How to Prevent Migraines, or at Least What Worked for Me
I take a magnesium supplement, and this has, astonishingly, worked for me, whereas fancier drugs did not. I have not had a ten-day migraine attack since beginning my daily regimen. The magnesium must be in a form that is easily absorbable by the body; many pills sold in drugstores have no effect, because they pass straight through the body without being absorbed.
If you decide to try this treatment, be careful to ramp up your dosage slowly, over a week or two. Otherwise you will likely experience diarrhea. Stop increasing the dosage when you get to the ideal dosage for you, which is when your stools are neither too hard nor too loose. (Sorry if that was TMI.) Also note that magnesium is a natural relaxant, so it’s best to take it at night, just before bed.
This is the migraine-preventing product that works for me. I am not affiliated with this company.
The above is all I have to share about the specific techniques I use to prevent migraines. For anecdotal information about my migraine-related experiences, see these previous blog posts:
- Read the full story of the solving of my migraine problem.
- Read about the aftermath of this miraculous solution.
How to Solve Whatever Health Issue You May Be Experiencing
Everyone’s body is different, but the above is what worked for me in preventing migraines. Your body is likely different than mine. You may be experiencing migraines that don’t respond to magnesium supplementation, or you may be experiencing a different physical or psychological problem. The thing you must do when experiencing a persistent health issue is to try lots of different techniques and treatments, while being careful not to do anything too risky, at least not without first exhausting all other possibilities.
It is very important to be persistent and communicative with your doctor. Explain your problem and ask your doctor to give you an idea. If it seems reasonable, try it. If it doesn’t work, be persistent in asking your doctor for another idea. Your doctor will not magically know that the first treatment idea isn’t working unless you communicate that fact.
If your first doctor doesn’t seem to be helping you, no matter how nice the doctor is, and no matter how inconvenient it is for you, you must try going to different doctors. It is likely that another doctor will have ideas that your original doctor didn’t have.
You can also look for ideas by talking to people, searching the Internet, and reading books and magazines, as long as you are careful to distinguish between who is providing factual information . . . and who is just trying to sell you something. Take every idea, no matter its source, with a grain of salt. Don’t believe everything you hear and read; but also be open to new ideas.
Never in a Million Years? It May Be Sooner Than You Think
Folks, I made it through all that trauma and somehow got to Paris. You can make it through hard times, too. Don’t give up. While not every problem is solvable, I promise, more solutions exist than you might now realize. Who knew that a painting of sunflowers could ever be so perfectly painted, until Van Gogh painted it?
Are you actively, persistently, searching for possible solutions to your health problem?
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- Something Fell and Hit Me on the Head! September 23, 2019
- The Inquisitive One Completes the V.I.T. Just in Time September 11, 2019
- How I Learned to Write (Part 1: Was It in College?) September 9, 2019
- A New Name: One Aspect of Transition September 6, 2019
- A Health Interlude September 4, 2019
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The Gift Hafiz
The Collected Schizophrenias Esmé Weijun Wang
Your Duck Is My Duck Deborah Eisenberg
Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari
Milkman Anna Burns
Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer
Waiting for Bojangles Olivier Bourdeaut
A Mind Unraveled Kurt Eichenwald
Eugénie Grandet Honoré de Balzac
The Body Keeps the Score Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
The Bookshop Penelope Fitzgerald
Digital Minimalism Cal Newport
The Sisters Brothers Patrick deWitt
Dare to Lead Brené Brown
My Year of Rest and Relaxation Ottessa Moshfegh
Almost Everything Anne Lamott
Born to Run Christopher McDougall, Bruce Springsteen
The Ladies’ Paradise Émile Zola
The World Beyond Your Head Matthew B. Crawford
All the Birds, Singing Evie Wyld
Barracoon Zora Neale Hurston
Dandelion Wine Ray Bradbury
Home Fire Kamila Shamsie
The Weather Detective Peter Wohlleben
Play It As It Lays Joan Didion
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Mark Manson
Convenience Store Woman Sayaka Murata
Perfect Me Heather Widdows
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace Patty Yumi Cottrell
Why Buddhism Is True Robert Wright
What Is Real? Adam Becker
Kudos Rachel Cusk
The Days of Abandonment Elena Ferrante
F*cked Corinne Fisher & Krystyna Hutchinson
Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine Alan Lightman
Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys
Infinite Jest David Foster Wallace
A Room of One’s Own Virginia Woolf