I woke up yesterday with a dull ache at my right temple. I could feel the migraine coming, and I would have taken my onset migraine medication right then except if I take my migraine medication at the same time as my fibromyalgia medication, I’m destined for a day on the couch or in bed. Yesterday was not supposed to be a day on the couch. I made my choice and waited to relieve the pain.
I worked a little in the garden, but I found it harder to concentrate. I walked out into the side yard and wondered why I was there. Which project am I working on? I’d ask myself each time I walked into the garden and scanned the trees and raised bed looking for my visual clues. Why am I here? I felt increasingly as if I were moving through molasses, slow and becoming stuck in weird crevices I didn’t know existed. I made breakfast and helped prepare our small coop for the arrival of the baby chickens this week. Which part have I already finished cleaning? I felt weak and sat down.
As we began preparing for the ballet, my husband came to hug me. His shirt was so white that it was painful for me to look at. That’s right, a ratty projects-outside t-shirt caused me pain to look at. I took my migraine medication and got ready for the ballet. Standing was now tiring, and I decided against any makeup because I didn’t want to stand in front of the mirror and put any on. I wear makeup rarely, but a day at the ballet is usually a good occasion for it. Not today. I briefly considered not going to the ballet, and I remembered other occasions where I missed things because I wasn’t well—including the Dracula ballet. But, no, we were going, damn it. Our foster kiddo had never been to the ballet before, and I wanted to see Shirley Jackson’s short story the Lottery performed via dance. So, I do what I do every day with my illness, and I made my choice.
I dozed in the car until my husband woke me up for help navigating downtown Kansas City. When we pulled into the parking garage for the Kauffman Center, the place was nearly empty. I was confused. I looked at the tickets and realized I had had the wrong time. All week and morning long, I had had the nagging sensation that something was wrong about the time I had said we needed to leave at, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. We had arrived an entire hour early. My husband suggested walking around, and the thought was so exhausting that I made my choice and quickly demurred. They walked around while I laid back in the car and rested longer. They returned far too soon, and I rallied my tired body and got up and walked into the Kauffman Center.
I beelined for a coffee and then promptly sat back down. The emphasis on sitting may seem strange, but most days, my back hurts if I sit for too long—especially on places like benches or seats for the ballet. The fact that I was choosing to sit on a bench is admitting that I was choosing pain over the energy it took for me to stand instead. I can endure pain; I do so every day. But my energy is finite, not a fount.
I watched the ballet with joy, but I also felt the desire to rest. I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and sat through the first intermission after a brief back stretch. My head no longer hurt; my migraine medication had done its job admirably. The rest of me, however, felt increasingly achey and exhausted all over again. My brief second wind was fading fast. I popped my afternoon pain pills during the second intermission.
We went to Costco for our grocery run, and I felt hazy and fuzzy and just plain exhausted. By the time we were headed to the car, I couldn’t keep pace with my husband and our foster kiddo. My husband hurried ahead to begin unloading the car. I tried to help a little and then sat down in the car. As we were driving, my husband said that he’d drop me off at home and finish the last leg of the shopping himself. Apparently, I looked as tired as I felt. Still, once we got home, I fuzzied through helping him unpack some of the groceries. I feel like I have to try to help, a little. Still, I was right back to the fuzzy feeling of trying so hard to think about each task. What can I pick up? What am I holding? Where does this go in the pantry? Why am I looking at the pantry?
Afterwards, I sat in the recliner a little and tried to read for an hour. Sometimes, reading becomes so difficult that I stare at a paragraph and can’t understand it. For someone who loves to read and who works in education, these days are hard. I was lucky that yesterday was not one of those days. I could still read, albeit more slowly than normal. More breaks. I would read a few sentences or a paragraph and pause for a mental break, or I’d pause and reread to make sure I had gotten the right gist. I sat in the recliner too long because then my evening fatigue hit me. Hard. Really hard. I had to fight to make the decision to get up and go to bed. Now, I told myself. I stumbled a little down the hall. I had to think so hard about the combination for getting my evening pills out of our lockbox (we need to lock up medications as foster parents). I downed the pills and made the choice to skip brushing my teeth because it seemed like it took too much energy. I would have liked to collapse into bed, but I didn’t. I had to unmake the bed to get into it. Pulling back the blankets felt like an effort. It was.
I listened to an audiobook for about ten minutes and then fell fast, fast asleep. I am lucky I slept through the night. I woke up this morning still feeling the lingering fatigue of yesterday and the aftershadow of my migraine, a dull throbbing in right corners of my head. I will have to be careful today that I don’t push myself to far, that I rest sufficiently, or I could spend more time in my recliner this week than I want. This morning, I decide to take the day off of work and to write myself a to-do list as I do every day. I have to make careful choices about what I put on the to-do list today that won’t overwhelm me.
These are the choices I have to deal with, the choices I have to make every day. Every day requires different choices, different navigations. Sometimes the choices are simpler, and I have to balance fewer things. Some days, like yesterday, each choice is a deliberate act, a force of will.