As I slugged my way to the Christmas break, I started getting more frequent migraines (I’ve now had 12 days of migraine out of the last two weeks..I am struggling a bit). Despite this, I’ve had a proper break. I’ve been eating really nice food, drinking yummy coffee from my new machine and I’ve watched back-to-back-Netflix after telling myself I wouldn’t (Three Girls, Bridgerton and Home for Christmas). It had been a while since I had let Netflix just roll on and on and on. Sometimes I managed to allow myself that this was fine, this was GOOD. I clearly needed rest. In November I’d been getting really sick of my addiction to list-making, organising and ticking. So much of what I did was based around a bloody list. Now, I have gone the other way. Oh, I have sometimes looked at the lists. You can’t kick a habit like that so easily. But in comparison, it isn’t the conductor of my day.
It’s kind of like, rather than being relaxed, I’ve suddenly taken sleeping pills with my breakfast… The other day I half-heartedly started arranging a Zoom call with some friends I haven’t seen in ages and then avoided all of the responses for a few days as it felt like too much effort. Today I spent the afternoon waiting for my partner to walk in or near the room, so I could ask him to get me a glass of water or pass me something (possibly in the same room) as I was so cosy under my piles of blankets and warm laptop.
However, this extreme change seems to have come at a bit of a price. I’m not doodling in my notebook and sharing the pictures with friends. I haven’t been writing. I’ve occasionally read a few pages (I’m flitting between a dog training book, a book about a man who goes hiking with his dog and a graphic novel about psychotherapy). Nothing captures my attention for very long. It seems that in order to avoid the ‘shoulds’ about how I spend my time, I am also missing out on creativity or fun and my energy has gone.
Now admittedly, a lot of what is going on – particularly the lethargy – is likely to be related to the persistent migraines. The pain alone is quite debilitating, but a less-obvious impact of whatever brain-scrambling they do is low mood, low energy and generally, very low enthusiasm. One of my triggers for migraines seems to be relaxing after a period of stress. Bloody relaxing! This could explain the massive increase in frequency during this quieter month, after a sometimes tense and terrifying year.
Despite that, I find it quite embarrassing admitting this stuff. There are a few stories I’m telling myself – one, a longer-running one, is of the importance of being productive, positive and proactive. Get shit done. Do something useful. Be a useful human body. I have become somewhat more aware of this underlying necessity our capitalist society is built on but that doesn’t mean I now get to evade it. The second story is similar but directed towards my place in society. I look at the things I have been reading and watching and how that could have been about history, politics, social justice (ok, I guess Three Girls fits into that).. using my abundant privilege for something useful instead of moping around having migraines. The third way I like to berate myself when I take a break is around how I SHOULDN’T BE WASTING ANY BIT OF MY LIFE OR I WILL HAVE REGRETS. No pressure.
Every now and then I get a reminder about the importance of looking after yourself to be able to do anything useful in the world, I guess I am coming to terms with the reality of what that actually feels like. But, how much to retreat? How to give yourself a break from the world without shutting it all out? Or a question I often seem to reach; how to keep a good balance whilst knowing there isn’t a tidy, perfect formula?
But, I did experiment with something different. I kind of let myself wallow in how I was feeling and continued watching TV. If I didn’t feel like doing something, I didn’t do it and hoped I would feel like doing it later. I didn’t brush myself off and find some things on a list to tick off. I did things which aren’t perceived as valuable time spent. Maybe in that, I learnt something. I did have a vague idea that something would change at some point and I would feel like doing things again. I’ve also been able to take some preventative migraine medicine, which, with some unpleasant side-effects, is extremely reliable. So, I’ll have a break there too. Also I probably shouldn’t forget that I’m actually writing this blog.
What I want to make sure, when I go back to work in a few days, is that I don’t just go back to how things were before. I want to take more time off work (I spent most of last year saving my days off for ‘when we could go on holiday’ which, like for most people, didn’t come). I also want to take better breaks in my day (yes I have heard of meditation thank you). When I can see friends, I want to actually go and bloody see them unlike the last time the rules were eased and I had sunk into lethargy already. What I’d like to do is spend one hour each day reading, writing, drawing, whatever. Ahh bloody hell I’ve written another list.
I’m ending here abruptly: I don’t have an answer because there isn’t one and it is annoying. I hope you enjoy the drawings or the words or both.
Happy New Year x