Migraine trigger #248

“In January it might seem like teachers would return from a vacation and feel rested, ready to jump back into the classroom with energy. That’s partly true, but Aguilar has also found that the time off can decrease people’s tolerance for stuff they have to deal with in the classroom. They’ve felt like a normal human for a few weeks and they don’t want to go back.” 12 Ways Teachers Can Build Resilience So They Can Make Systemic Change

Oh, y’all.

Did you see that last sentence? “They’ve felt like normal humans for a few weeks and they don’t want to go back.”

So much there to unpack. I mean, what is “a normal human” anyway? What is normal existence? Seems to me that for more and more people “normal” life is some combination of low wages, various forms of oppression, unaffordable housing and healthcare, corrupt government officials, insecure/inadequate retirement, and fear of rising authoritarianism/the deep state/what crap white people are going to do next in response to their fears. (I’d put in links to substantiate those claims, but: migraine.)

And, do you see that assumption that not feeling like a normal human is just part of what it means to be a teacher? I know the article title implies that we’re to develop resiliency strategies so that we can remain in the system and the fight to change it–to which I can’t say anything but, Yes, of course. But can we for just a minute acknowledge how that’s such a tricky line to walk? How it may be counter-productive to keep patching ourselves with band-aids when what we really need to be well is surgery? Because then no one sees that we’re bleeding out, maybe until it’s too late?

I’m under no illusion that a teacher’s life on break is “normal” for any but a privileged relatively few of us (and I’m deeply grateful for the breaks I get, because I know many people don’t have anything like that kind of respite), but c’mon. I don’t think that’s what the Aguilar means.

I’m guessing she (and all of us) might define “normal human,” as one who is reasonably healthy with manageable stressors.

Since coming back from break, feeling so healthy and determined to stay that way (as opposed to the exhausted, brittle, fragile way I felt in the weeks leading up to the break) I have been self-caring the shit out of myself. I have been practicinggoodsleephygienemealplanningeatingplantsavoidingcaffeinestayinghydratedtendingrelationshipsreframingstoriesholdingboundariesowningwhatsminenotowningwhatsnotdoingcreativeworkpracticinggratitudeshiningalightonwhatsgoodkeepingabudgetbeingmindfulstayinginthemoment, and…

…my self-care is stressing me out, which I think is the opposite of its intended outcome. At the end of too many days, I’m just too depleted to do much of any of those things. All I want to do is to pick up a pizza and collapse on the couch in front of mindless TV and numb the fuck out.

But I’ve been doing them anyway, because I really, really want these things to work. I really, really want to be/feel healthy more of the time. I want that more than I want to numb out.

And it’s not like I have unreasonable standards or am trying to win some gold medal in the self-care Olympics. I cut myself slack as needed. On Thursday, recognizing physical and mental depletion, I realized I could not spend time with a friend and make my scheduled session at the gym and make/eat a healthy dinner. I chose friend (social connections/relationships) and healthy dinner and cut the gym (and doing laundry) and felt just fine about that choice. But migraine came anyway, sending me home early on Friday and messing with my weekend as well as my head.

What I’m trying to say is…hell if I really know what I’m trying to say. I’m too damn tired to figure out what I’m trying to say, and I need to get off this screen so the migraine doesn’t show up for a third day.

So, just 4 more things:

  1. This isn’t just about teachers. I spend most of my time with teachers, but this struggle isn’t limited to teachers. It’s about systems and conditions that touch many of us.
  2. I know I’m relatively privileged. I know I have it better than many, many people. (That doesn’t make it OK or OKer.)
  3. I don’t want any advice. I’m already doing all of the things Ms. Aguilar and so many others advise to build resilience. I AM DOING ALL OF THE THINGS. Your experiences–including things that have worked for you–is very welcome if you’d like to share that.
  4. Sorry for shouting there. It’s just, I know, OK? I know the things. This post isn’t really about the things. Sorry if I haven’t taken the time to express what it’s about more clearly.

One of the things I promised myself I’d do is write more regularly here. (Suggestion #10: Play and Create.) And I gave myself permission to sometimes do it quickly and to live by William Stafford’s wise counsel to lower my standards if that’s what’s needed to get words on paper. Or screen. Whatever. Practicing that hard with this entry in the notebook. (See: migraine.)

OK, just one more thing:

  1. Thanks for being here. Human connection really is one of the things that makes a difference.

Off to meal-plan and get to the grocery store early enough to avoid the crowds.

Learning Swedish is my current zoning out method of choice. It’s something I’m doing with my daughter (building relationships, being connected), and as I told her this week, it’s cheaper than therapy and healthier than drinking. I always feel better after a few lessons.

18 thoughts on “Migraine trigger #248

  1. Josh Klauder says:

    Given that wonderful word above ( practicinggoodsleephygienemeal…) maybe you should be learning German! Sorry about the migraine, I have some experience of those. Thanks for writing. There are people like me out here listening, and it means something to us.
    Talkeetna, AK

      • Josh Klauder says:

        I ended up here thanks to the randomness of the internet. Back in the day when you were blogging about home projects, I typed “sawhorse design” into a google search. And found you. And I built your sawhorse. I have been following ever since. I would like to talk to you outside these comments, but I don’t see any way to send you a message. I am sending a friend request on FaceBook, you can check me out there. If I’m a nutcase, you can always unfriend! Or feel free to email, if this setup shows you mine.

        • Rita says:

          Oh, I remember that now! See you on Facebook–though I’m experimenting with being there a lot less. And so far liking it. 🙂

  2. Stephenie says:

    I AM DOING ALL OF THE THINGS spoke to me and made me laugh (in my head), Rita. It is so true that self-care is exhausting in its own way, like we have a checklist to which we are adding.
    1. Eat good food (Not just bread)
    2. Meditate (it doesn’t count to put the meditation app on your phone if you never open it)
    3. Go to bed earlier (which doesn’t mean read until midnight in bed)
    Etc etc etc.
    Reframing is big for me. In some ways even if I haven’t done anything in the self care department, if I can at least reframe my frustration for the day into SOMETHING positive, some modicum of good in the day. Like yes, I was on the road a lot today but I got to listen to 3 episodes of my favourite podcasts!
    More than any other thought over the past year, I have pondered how naive I was when I was younger to think that by my 40s I would have life figured out, and be in some particular stable place in life, and now I have no sweet clue where that place might be…
    Stephenie recently posted…Grand MananMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      First of all, I think good bread should count as good food. Second, what does it mean if you fall asleep every single time you try to meditate? And third, what’s the solution when it doesn’t seem to matter what time you go to bed because after six hours, tops, you’re wide awake. Waking up at 2:00 (or 3:00 or 4:00) really isn’t doing it for me. 🙂 I’m glad this made you laugh. If you could hear my tone of voice in the words, laugher is a totally appropriate response.

      I work on reframing all the damn time. It does help. All of the things help. I just wish they did more than they apparently do. So far.

      And finally, I cannot even get started on the depths of my previous naivete. Because it would take me so long to hit bottom on that. Keeps me awake wondering what it is now that I don’t have many clues about.

  3. Marian says:

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been ill with a migraine, Rita—I hope it’s lessened as the day has progressed.
    This post has made me think of the Dutch saying: “Just be normal; that’s crazy enough.” I think the problem is that we define normal by the environment we live in. So what is normal in The Netherlands (or in Sweden, which I remember you said was quite laid-back) isn’t normal in the US (or, for the most part, in Canada either). I don’t think we’re built (evolutionarily speaking) for North America’s “normal,” and that leads to way too many of us feeling burned out and having to squeeze in self-care. As though eating well and sleeping well needs to be defined as SELF care. Really, it’s just CARE, it’s just the basics of what you need to be a healthy human being, and it’s something we all should be able to have, no matter what our level of privilege is. We’d be healthier all around, not only as individuals but also as a society, if we decided to redefine our notions of “normal.”

    I LOVE that you are learning Swedish and that it’s your current zoning out method of choice! I, too, don’t want to numb out (as much) by collapsing on the couch in front of mindless TV come 8 p.m. I’ve been reading more, and knitting more (which is also cheaper than therapy), but I admit it often takes enormous effort to do these things instead, even if I know damn well—as you do, with your Swedish—that I will feel better in the end.

    Thank you for putting these words out here.
    Wishing you a good week, Rita.

    • Rita says:

      Wishing you a good week, too. I haven’t been to Sweden–my only personal knowledge of that culture comes through my daughter. What she appreciated about that culture is the value placed on balance and lagom, a philosophy of “just enough.” I see those as being intertwined, and I think they would appeal very much to you and your concerns. Imagine how the world might be different if we all consumed only just enough.

      And I’m now pondering your distinction between care and self-care. It makes sense in two paradoxical ways that we’d even have such a concept in this part of the world. We’re so all about individualism that, of course, we’d value self-care. At the same time, we think any focus on the self is selfish, so we can’t see care as just plain care. We’ve made it into this weird thing that we both take some kind of pride in and feel we have to defend. (And then we do use it to justify choices that are selfish. argh) I’m with you: let’s just practice care–real care–for ourselves and for those around us.

  4. TD says:

    Rita, I’m always glad to receive a blog post from you! I don’t know if this is truly possible, but I seem to feel so much emotion in your words. Although we have never met in person, I do appreciate your writing.

    True, I’m glad that you noted this: “This isn’t just about teachers. I spend most of my time with teachers, but this struggle isn’t limited to teachers. It’s about systems and conditions that touch many of us.” I’m not a teacher, but I’m struggling similarly.

  5. Kari Wagner Hoban says:

    You know I can relate, so I am sorry. For real. I hate migraines more than anything. And once I get one of the big ones (I have stopped counting the little ones), it takes me weeks to stop the panic attacks about getting another one. This isn’t about me so…..

    I love your writing and I love that you are trying to do more of it. Writing is self care for me but I have to be careful because that can be a trigger as well…..posture and shit.

    I love you my friend.
    Kari Wagner Hoban recently posted…Sore o nejikomu, watashi wa teitātottsu o tabete iru – pāto 10 (Screw It, I’m Eating Tater Tots- Part Ten)My Profile

    • Rita says:

      I think it was migraines that we first bonded over. So, there’s that for the plus column on migraines. It’s an otherwise almost empty column, but I’ll take it, gratefully. I understand those panic attacks. This was a relatively OK episode (only needed meds two days, and it wasn’t as horrible as it’s sometimes been). When I have a really bad one, it takes me awhile to get back to what passes for normal. I hear you on the writing, too. I gave myself permission to not-write/post this week, but I woke up early on Sunday and finally felt like writing, so…

      Thanks for the love. Hope you can feel it coming back at you.

  6. Laura Millsaps says:

    I’m pissed off about self-care. We live in a society and culture that runs people so ragged that it produces a desperate need that only capitalism (of course) can fulfill and whoop–there it is, labeled like a product they can sell you, “self-care” in the easy-open packaging right there on the shelf between the booze and aromatherapy oils. I know. I KNOW that it’s more complicated than that, and that there are things we actually should be doing for our own well-being. But in a lot of cases they’re selling back the peace of mind they extracted from us in the first place. I don’t think we always realize how long we’ve just been polishing turds and trying to convince ourselves it’s an improvement; when the real problem is that we keep getting handed turds.
    Laura Millsaps recently posted…Trees I Have LovedMy Profile

  7. Kate says:

    Oh Rita! This post made me laugh. It’s not funny that you were hurting, but you’re take on everything did have that dark comedy to it.

    It makes me so angry that we live in a time and place where just taking care of ourselves has to be scheduled and structured.

    I hope you can find some rest and peace.

    • Rita says:

      I am glad it made you laugh! And that you get my dark humor. I just keep thinking that it’s not supposed to be this hard, you know? And I’m not even taking care of dependent humans any more! Ah well. It’s all information, right? And a work in progress.

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