(Here I Am) Stuck in the Middle

It occurred to me while talking with a friend this morning that it has been a while since I gave a headache update or just a post in general which I realize is due in part to life being crazy busy like that but also in part to being sick for the entire month of October. I was finally able to kick my cough the week after Halloween and was really hoping that with the end of that, I might also be seeing the end of my headaches but then this week came and reared it’s far-from-pretty head leaving me to realize that, nope, still in it, still plugging along and waiting for more progress.

To be fair, I was warned in October by the med office I’m working with that this was to be expected. What we had hoped would be an 8-12 week gut healing process is looking more like a 4-6 month process which means that I have to just keep going for, well, about twice as long as I had hoped which means I’m very much in the middle of this still and there have definitely been days as of late that I have felt that.

It’s hard to be doing so much to try to heal for so long and still be not quite there. And by not quite, I mean potentially still months away from full-time better. When a bad day comes or worse, a stretch of them, my mood and attitude tank out pretty quickly because, as I’ve said before, this can’t be my life forever. It just can’t. I just can’t. But as another friend battling a cold of her own this week reminded me, our words matter and I’ve got to keep trying to look at this (incredibly) difficult and drawn out process as healing, not just suffering. I am doing the best things possible for my body and it is worth it, even though it would be so much nicer if it could be faster.

One good thing since killing my cough is that I’ve been able to return to my walks. Not every day and not as far or as fast as I would like, but getting out and moving my body always feels good and it’s nice to get back to that. I’m also trying this totally crazy thing where I just go without any earbuds to connect me to a book, music, or podcast because one of my goals in the coming months is to use my movement time as a time for my mind to run free a bit too instead of distract, distract, distract as I’ve been doing for, ummmm, forever.

Today was a windy-as-shit day in NE (OK, that’s most days here, but it was also COLD and I had a kid home from school) so there was no walk in my plans until after supper when I took the trash out and realized the wind had dropped and while it was still cold, I could totally layer up and still go for a walk. I was moving along at a pretty good pace to keep warm, though, which always makes my shoulders feel super tense and that’s never good for my headaches which were, thankfully, better today, and which I obviously wanted to keep going. (Side note: why does walking make my shoulders and neck tight? Anyone? And, any tips for fixing that?)

Interestingly, even with the lingering bad head days, the desire to run has been itching at me most of this fall in part because even though my knees may beg to differ, jogging feels so much better through my (upper) body than walking so tonight I decided to go for it. After a bit of brisk warm-up walk, I started jogging and went a whole mile – my first in over a year due to the headaches and, prior to that, a bum knee last winter. And you know what? It felt amazing. I felt like myself and whole and those moments have been so far and few in the last six months that this one little mile felt the same as accomplishing a full marathon.

So am I really “stuck” in the middle? Good God, I hope not, even though a lot days it feels like it and quite honestly, may still very well be the case for some time. Thank goodness for a few glimpses of me in the midst of it all because those mean a lot. Here’s hoping for more miles logged, more days marked off the calendar of healing, and more of that return to wholeness and self.

Pee Problems, Part II

Right. So the first time I wrote about this (see bottom of this post for all that), I ended up not publishing it here but rather just threw it out there as a super long social media post and I’m glad I did because folks gave me some good feedback such as 1) this sounds like a sleepwalking issue and 2) I should get this product to combat the smell and potentially save our carpet: I agreed on both counts and ordered a bottle.

We also took measures to move some folks around in bedrooms hoping that might help the problem as well. This included strategically leaving the child we most suspected of the nocturnal-carpet-equals-urinal situation in the room with the already yucky carpe because, obviously, we didn’t want that problem spreading elsewhere. Literally.

Our bottle of spray arrived and I started using it on the floor each morning, not because there were new spots each day (hooray!) but because that’s how it works – you use it every 12-24 hours until it the smell is gone and they flat out tell you it might get worse before it gets better because, again, that’s how it works. I am still recovering from my stupid month-long cold but can smell OK and thought things were trending toward better this week until this morning when it definitely didn’t smell great when I went upstairs to spray. But nothing felt wet anywhere so I figured, well, OK – let’s just play the patience game by keeping calm and spraying on.

Decent strategy, right?

Yep, sure, that is until this evening when Ben went into the bedroom ACROSS THE HALL to adjust an alarm clock and STEPPED IN A FREAKING WET SPOT ON THE FLOOR.

So yeah. It didn’t smell worse because the spray wasn’t working, it smelled worse because the problem child we tagged and kept in the room with the old carpet WAS THE WRONG CHILD. And seriously, he has no recollection of it whatsoever and is horribly offended by our “accusations” and clearly ordering just one bottle of the spray wasn’t enough because this is far from done and for the love of God and all things holy, HOW DO WE MAKE THIS STOP?!

I’m sorry for all the shouty caps, but this is just too much. Life is hard enough with out a sleepwalking pee-er in your house.

ORIGINAL POST THAT DIDN’T END UP ON THE BLOG, JUST ON THE FACEBOOK:

An excerpt from Chapter 317 in my new parenting book/memoir with the working title, You Can’t Make This Shit Up*: For a while now, we’ve noticed an unpleasant odor upstairs. We attributed it to weird late summer/sort of fall weather when the air doesn’t know if it should run or not because is it hot (yes, way too often)? Is it cold (no, not really)? Is it stuffy (seems to be all the time)? But the funk just wouldn’t lift so we got to investigating (i.e. literally sticking our noses in places and sniffing deeply if also unwillingly) and found a spot in a bedroom that smelled. like. PISS.

EWWWWWWWW. And also:

WHO peed on the (carpeted!) floor? WHEN did they do it? WHERE did it all land? WHY didn’t they tell us? WHAT can we do about this? And, HOW does shit like this (OK, grateful it was just pee and not literal shit) happen?

Clearly I had so many questions but the real task was to clean it and try to make it better. We tried the carpet cleaning function on our vacuum and then two different types of spray cleaner and folks, I’m not sure we made a dent in the problem because I’m also not sure how damn old the problem is and that is FREAKING GROSS and doesn’t bode well for the carpet’s future, you know?

Also, it would appear that the problem is NOT done.

This morning I was up in that same bedroom looking for dress up clothes for the oldest for an upcoming spirit day at school and happened to step a literal foot in the same spot I spent days trying to clean. It was wet. WET. And yep, another hesitant sniff indicated that it wasn’t just a stray glass of water that got spilled.

But here’s the kicker. No one who sleeps in that room (and there is more than one) will fess up to said damp carpet. Other sniff tests in beds, because surely they crawled back into their bed and so it too should smell because I just cleaned their sheets yesterday, also gave no clarity.

So now, not only did I have to spend another 30 minutes this morning cleaning in vain (that carpet is gonna have to go; we know this, right?), I’m now left to wonder if maybe we have a random peeing ghost roaming the top floor of our house because, for the love of God, who is peeing on the carpet and how do we make it stop?! I can’t rip out or replace carpet if this is just going to continue. Someone, please, tell me how to course correct here!

(*yes, ending with a preposition drives this ENGL teacher nuts, but so does piss carpet, so, you know, let’s roll with it)

The October Getchas

I realize we’ve had historical months of struggle in our house in the past…April comes to mind from several years ago when it seemed that month was always out to get us a wee (or a lot) bit. What I’m learning this year via Facebook memories and current happenings is that October has often been the same. And while the struggle is often with schedules and To Dos, it also frequently comes in germ form, too, which we know complicates everything.

Having a Rough Go with germs in October is definitely not new to our family. Even without the assist from FB, I can still remember three years ago when I had just gotten back from my DC trip and walked into a weeks-long struggle with fevers and crud that just wore us the eff down. And then, of course last year’s October was a whirlwind of COVID-life plus pre-election insanity. Thankfully we didn’t have any big bouts with illness in Oct. 2020 but the general sense I have from that time is “nuts” so yes, I guess October can officially be added to the list of Sneaky Getcha Months.

For October 2021, the hardest hit by the Getchas is me. All three Welschie girls (plus Ben) have been struggling with a cold since early in the month, but I am the one who just can’t seem to kick it/is feeling that struggle the most. Maybe that’s a sign of age being closer to 40 instead of under 10 like the other two girls, but wow, I can’t tell you the last time I had a cold that lasted 17 days.

To make sure it wasn’t something else I went to the doctor yesterday and found out that I’m somewhere between a sinus infection and bronchitis which doesn’t surprise me based on symptoms (which are not and have never been COVID-like, thank goodness). But what I also learned yesterday is that those are typically 95% viral which means antibiotics do nothing for them AND because of my gut-reset protocol, antibiotics are super not my friend right now, anyway.

So. Here I am, still miserable and trying to figure out how to turn around this ass- (nope; sinus-) kicker month. That looks like going through fluids and tissues and sinus rinses like it is my job, while also trying to rest and trying to recover because let’s face it, even though we survived five weeks of five kids doing fall sports, life isn’t slowing down any time soon and this mama has to keep the plates spinning, even when her head and chest are filled with 10 lbs. of snot for weeks on end. (And seriously, we’ve gone through so many tissues this month, I single handedly killed four different boxes yesterday. Gross.)

The point here is that one, I need to get over this crud and sooner than later would be great, please and thank you. But also, two, I want to remember that October is out there in the future. I realize making plans is a good way to make the Universe/God/the devil laugh, but it is my sincere hope that next year I can remember, in say August or September, that the October Getchas may be lurking just around the corner and maybe I can come up with some way to fortify myself, be it in prayer, Vitamin C, or sage – whatever it takes to keep this month from taking me/us down with its whirly/swirly madness. That or invest in Puffs stock; that could work, too.

Just Keep Going/Don’t Know How Long

“Just keep going/keep going strong/just keep going/don’t know how long/just keep going/going strong/we don’t know what’s ahead of us just hold on. Just keep going/going strong/just keep going/we don’t know how long/just keep going….”

Sometimes a song comes along and plants itself not just in your ear but in your brain, heart, or spirit. Such is the case right now as I continue to navigate my gut reset protocol and my headaches with the above lines from a new-this-summer song from one of my faves, Rising Appalachia, titled (shockingly) “Keep Going.” Because whatever the case may be, I am still in it, where I have to keep going, and really still don’t know how long I’ll be at it before I really feel like me again.

To recap, I haven’t written in almost a month, in part because we went down in the trenches with sick kids for 10 out of 14 days and also in part because my situation is one that can ebb and flow, shift and shade its status at any given point on any given day. I can start out with a clear head for the day and be doomed by nightfall or I can sometimes manage to keep myself from tipping over the edge of the headache abyss and end up with a quiet night instead; I still just never quite know what the day/evening will bring.

I did learn, however, that the setback I wrote of in my last post is actually quite typical when going through a gut reset. It’s like the bad thing that brought you to this point is trying really hard to make things suck, even in the midst of all your trying, so you give up and let it stay. So kudos to me, I guess, because I have stayed the course and am still here, this many weeks later, still committed to the protocol, the diet, and the plan of slow and steady to get me through this. See why the reminders to keep going, to hold on, no matter how long, have latched onto me? I need them.

Because headaches or not, life continues. I’ve got kids coming and going and doing a million different things each week (OK, not quite, but even signing up each kid for one extra fall sport for five weeks made our calendar darn near combust with practices and pictures and games). New grades also mean new opportunities and with new opportunities come new tasks, like getting the cello home along with the siblings and back packs all amidst the end-of-day chatter, which you know, falls to the mama pack mule more often than not.

The kids have also had their own health waves to ride (including an ear infection for the littlest that we had no idea was there because she just kept popping nightly fevers but never once complained about her ear/head hurting) and their own big feelings about life and the world and school and all the things. I can’t shut that down (even though I do get after them so much more now about noise levels than I ever did prior to six months ago).

Instead I have to find ways to rest when I can, embrace the quiet when it comes, and find the strength to just keep freaking going, hoping that I’m closer than ever before to getting a hold on this, or, even better – to putting it behind me. Because eventually I’d like to have kept myself going so long and so far that this is all a distant, faded memory of perseverance, not my daily reality.

Too Soon?

Ugh. I sort of hate to admit that I’m a superstitious person because it goes against the logic and reasoning that I use to guide so much of my life, but also, I am a total kook about knocking on wood which I totally should have done when I posted my headache update last weekend. Because, this week, it would seem that in doing so, I jinxed the heck out of myself because not only have the headaches been back, they’ve been as bad as they ever were this spring.

Thursday night was the worst. After feeling the pressure and tension build throughout the afternoon, by evening I knew I was in complete hot mess mode. Still, I watched some AGT with my Bigs because we got hooked on it this summer and we’re still trying to work our way through episodes even though school is back in session. But by the time we paused the show and put a couple more kids to bed, I was just done and nothing was helping. Not a heating pad, not a shower, nothing. I finally gave up and crawled into bed just after 9PM, in so much pain that my stomach hurt.

Thankfully the next morning things were better, but there were more bad days than good ones in the last week which was rough physically. And I’ll be honest and tell you that when those bad days hit, the physical pain slides pretty quickly into being tough mentally, too. It’s hard not to fall into despair when my head goes sideways on me, especially when I’ve been doing ALL the things to help correct it and actually thought some of it was working. I mean, it really was better so why the sudden and severe setback?

Unfortunately, as has been the case this entire time, there’s no way to know. We’ve never been able to determine the actual cause of this shit show which thereby means we’ve never been able to target it with 100% confidence that we were doing the right things. And yes, I keep using “we” because this is not just a “me” effort but that of Ben and my family and the care providers that I’ve been working with for months now.

The takeaway? Chronic pain sucks. It’s awful to have to push through each day because what other choice is there but then, when you get a glimmer of “better” only to have that go away, too? That sucks even more because you start to think that life is always going to be this way and that’s a sad, hard, lonely place to be. It’s hard to tell people when you are hurting and then, when the pain does clear for a bit, it’s hard to get hopeful or excited because what if more bad days are lurking just around the corner?

Thankfully the weekend has been more so on the side of “good” (*knocks on wood* *knocks over a tree*) and because I’ve got that good, strong, and stubborn Scandinavian blood running through me, there is still some hope left that I am indeed on the right track and overall am making progress with my health. But if it seems like I’m reluctant or slow with the updates it is because this roller coaster just isn’t telling me when the ride is going to stop and I never really know from day-to-day where on that good v. bad scale I’m going to land. Plus my other takeaway from this week is, goodness graciousness – don’t jinx yourself!

Gut Check

In my last post I said I’d do a headache update here soon and apparently I have officially reached the age and stage where I blink and whole days and weeks and almost months can go by just like that because I had no idea the “here soon” would take quite this long, but sure enough, I am just now getting to that promised post.

In early July I changed a lot in my life, and that’s on top of all the things I had previously tried since April to help curb the chronic headaches. We’re talking new physical therapy, new supplements, new pillow, and even a whole new diet with going gluten free. While we’re not entirely sure what part of that helped the most, the good news is that since early July, my head has been improving. While I’m still not 100%, my light/sound sensitivity is better and I’m hovering between a 1.5-2 instead of a constant 7-9 on my pain scale. I say “my” pain scale because I’ve come to learn that those are super subjective and that I can both fortunately and unfortunately smile through a lot of shit. It’s not that everything you see that seems happy is fake but it’s also 100% true that there is always more to the story than we’re ever really telling each other and dealing with chronic pain touches all aspects of one’s life, even the happy bits.

Because I’m still not totally out of the woods, I’ve embarked on a 8-12 week process to reset my gut with the hope that in doing so, I can kick these headaches for good. This gut check included just that – a test to see what was going on with my body and now I’ll spend the next couple few months continuing the GF diet and taking gut-health supplements to clear out/rebuild my system.

The GF stuff is both not fun or easy but also not nearly as hard as it would been five years ago, for which I am grateful. There are a lot of GF products out there to try and now that the kids are back in school, I’m hoping to have an ounce more free time to plan and work out my meals so I’m really nourishing my body and not just cobbling this together to make it work. Crazy at it might sound, I am hopeful that the anchor of school will work in our/my favor and I really can get back to feeling like myself completely even though I’ve had to let so much of me go this year. Seriously, if you’d asked me in January if I thought I could give up coffee, alcohol, AND all things pizza, pasta, bread, and baked goods this year, I would have said you are freaking nuts. But here I am, doing what needs to be done and taking this gut check in my life not just in the stomach but in my head and heart, too.

May it all be worth it in the end. May that end mean no more pain. May it please come soon.

Firsts and the (Calendar) Flip Side

As my Facebook memories have been showing me the last few days, this is not my first end-of-July siren song post. In fact, that one I wrote five years ago had portions that I could easily cut and paste into today’s writing as our family prepares for all that is August and the not-so-slow shift out of summer mode. And now that I think about it, with our risk dial creeping up these last couple weeks thanks to the Delta variant of COVID-19, last year’s post could also unfortunately make a reappearance here today, but I am not ready to wrap my head around all things school + pandemic again, so I’m just not. I’m. Just. Not.

Instead, I’m standing in my general awe that we’ve landed on the last day of July. How did that happen? Where exactly did the last nine weeks go? Does anyone know?

I know that we were busy. I suppose anything would have felt busy after an entire summer (and spring and then some) at home last year, but even setting aside that, this summer had new obstacles, activities, and adventures for us.

For one, Ben taught summer school for the first time ever. I thought that sounded like a good idea until I realized how much it complicated the summer music program two kids were playing (three instruments) in, not to mention running various kids hither and thither for summer camps (yay for summer camps! they are great and this was also the first summer of all FIVE kids being old enough to participate in something somewhere!). We also had two boys back in city league baseball in June and my own online teaching and yeah, that month flew by.

I also continued to have approximately 237 appointments each week in June and most of July as I have continued to navigate my headaches which did not help lighten the calendar load. Fortunately the last few weeks have been a shift to more better days than bad days (hallelujah!!!) which is hopefully a trend that will continue and about which I’ll write an honest update for here soon.

Other firsts this summer included Colorado trips, both as a family of seven (first time there for the kids and first time in RMNP for all of us) AND as just a couple. Here’s the crazy part about that…we haven’t been away from the kids for more than one sleep in FOUR YEARS (NICU stay does not count. That was the farthest thing ever from a vacation)! Can you believe that? Um, I’m sure you can because it’s not hard to understand that it’s a big freaking ask to have other people watch this many kids so yeah, leaving them has been tough. But obviously that was way overdue and we took advantage of outdoor venues to see two beloved bands on our long weekend getaway, incidentally marking another first – our first live music post-pandemic (please; can we please be post-pandemic?).

During all that Ben had a ton of meetings for education association stuff and there were more hither/thither camps and we spent a week nursing sick kids through a nasty summer cold (and then damn near a week for me to recover from the same even though they were only down for two days each; I have learned that kids germs are a bit harder to kick when you’re breathing down the neck of 40).

So, yep. Just like that tomorrow is August. We celebrated by getting everyone’s school supplies this morning, which again – a first – includes all FIVE kids as Wilson finally gets to join the school schedule with her first year of preschool. About this she tells me that she will miss me when she’s gone and she’d like it to start tomorrow, please and thank you. You’ve gotta love the duality that is a 3yo!

But, actually, I get it because I’m feeling that flip side of all this, too. I’m excited for the new adventures and new schools (OK; maybe? One of those is middle school and I have not yet wrapped my brain around having a middle schooler either, but I am hoping for the best all the same). I’m looking forward to a return to routine and having, for the FIRST time ever since becoming a mom, a couple hours to myself each morning to work and be a person while they are all out of the house. But also there’s just a lot looming this fall and I like our summer bubble so I don’t really want to see it burst just yet.

I guess the good thing is, it doesn’t have to for a couple more weeks. Not officially, anyway, even though I know that first week of August is coming for us with a lot of To Dos. Hopefully it will just be good practice for what’s to come and can also give us a wee bit more time to just be before the real flip of the school year begins.

In the Weeds

It’s a whole new month today and time for an update, but before I go any further, let me clarify that I do know “in the weeds” is a restauranting turn of phrase that maybe seems like a stretch here but I’m applying it to my own life anyway as with the calendar flip comes another milestone in this mysterious health journey of mine….the three month mark of this head pain roller coaster.

First, a quick side note: big thanks and much appreciation given to those who have reached out with questions, possible therapies to try, and just general concern. That means the world to me and thanks to you all, I’ve been able to learn about and try some new-to-me treatments and approaches. I still haven’t tried every tool sent my way but it’s good to know I still have tricks up my sleeve if this sh!t continues to persist beyond current attempts in process.

The good news is, I have had some not just good but CLEAR days. 4.5 of them, actually, which probably sounds awful to most folks but after 2.5 solid months of a headache, I gladly welcomed that little window of relief. The crappy part was, it didn’t last and so the last couple weeks have been back on the roller coaster of up and down days with me still left to wonder what is going on, what can I do about it, and when in the world is it ever going to go away. As an uberplanner this unknown (that comes with chronic pain, no less) is incredibly hard on and frustrating for me. Hence the weeds and the continuing of trying of all the things to get out of them.

Since I last wrote I’ve started some new physical therapy techniques and exercises that seem to be helpful. Acupuncture continues to offer some relief and hopefully in time may get me to more and more clear days. I’ve also been toying with the idea of an elimination diet to see if my food is working against me more than for me, but that seems like such a daunting task, I’m pretty much dragging my feet on starting that just yet.

One thing I have been able to give up with ease has been alcohol. Turns out that when you already feel like you have a constant hangover, the thought of drinking something that could add to that pain is not appealing at all. I can’t say that this will stick beyond the headaches (see, still clinging to hope that this will all someday be behind me) but for the last two months I have been perfectly fine to take beer/wine out of rotation and feature sparkling water, kombucha, and hops water instead.

Here’s hoping that both the path forward and the pain clear soon and for good. I would give a huge, HUGE NA cheers to that development, for sure.

Headaches and Hiding

As if the last March-to-March didn’t make me enough of a hermit and homebody, the nearly constant, 90% daily headaches I’ve been having since early April of this year (that means I’m nearing the two month mark with that) have left me in very slow, very reluctant re-entry into the world.

OK, let’s be real. That’s not all the fault of the headaches. I’m one who would have come out of COVID life more slowly than most anyway but they certainly haven’t helped me feel up and ready dip a toe, really, much less dive back in to whatever life is these days. <– clearly I still have some feelings about this, eh?

But it’s been several weeks since I’ve written or done an update on the health front, and some folks have been checking in which is a good reminder to get on here and do some writing as part of the healing process, too.

After close to six weeks of constant headaches, I ran into five glorious, beautiful, wonderful days of Feeling Better. Not perfect but so much more myself that I was so relieved. Then came the backslide and it was not good. It also wasn’t a return to the height of pain, but still, to go backwards at all felt so defeating and even though things have improved somewhat since then, I still haven’t had another chunk of (or any) good days resurface. As a semi-side note, the level of awareness this has brought me about those living with chronic pain is huge. Being in pain every single day discolors and impacts every other area of your life, not just how your body feels. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, ever.

The good news is, my MRI came back clear. I’ve since sent off some samples for hormone testing and our house is currently being evaluated for mold due to our leaky roof over the last year (that’s a post/update all on its own, I believe). Either of those could easily be the culprit and I’m very curious to know results on both. I’ve also continued with chiropractor and acupuncture and some other therapies, all of which remain hopeful and positive that we will get this figured out/fixed. I’ll be honest that I struggle more days than not to keep that same faith, but I also know there has to be some resolution because I can’t accept this as my new normal. I just won’t.

Having the kids home for summer is both lovely and an added factor of difficulty in all this because in case you haven’t met them or realized from me yet, there’s a LOT of them and they are NOT quiet. Even when I’m feeling 100% I think my kids are loud, so imagine how it is with a constant headache. They’ve gotten way too used to me shushing them and also trying to find space from them somewhere, somehow in our very full house, now affectionately called The Pancake Stack. Thank goodness Ben is also home for the summer so I can indeed “run” and hide from time to time which I’ve been doing in some odd, creative, and unique ways. One of those is this crazy looking cool-pack headache hat thingamajig that arrived yesterday and requires me to sit for 15 minutes when I wear it. It’s freezing fricking cold for the first 6 minutes and I can’t tell if it actually works or just makes my head feel better because eventually I take it off, but again I tell you – trying alllll the things because somewhere an answer and some relief await me.

This is an odd start to summer vacation. It’s a rough patch after an impossibly difficult year. At some point, something has to shift because as much as I like to internalize and introvert, I miss my people and I miss myself.

I Don’t Know How to Do This

The last few weeks have been the perfect storm of All the Trying, All the Things, All the Info, and All the Changes…to put it another way, life has been a lot and much of it has been overwhelming, in both pleasant and painful ways.

Let’s start with All the Trying…my headaches have persisted since I last wrote about them which puts me at a solid FIVE WEEKS of a non-stop headache, sometimes with only a few hours “off” during the day but really most days have had ache involved at varying degrees the entire day and night. Since my last post, I have added in acupuncture and been back to the chiropractor. I also went to the dentist to get some adjustments made to my mouth guard (because, Holy Hannah, nighttime jaw clenching has been bonkers for me lately). I don’t fault myself one bit for being overwhelmed by this never-ending pain as I don’t know how anyone is supposed to be OK with a five week headache. That’s just insanely hard, full stop.

During these weeks of headache, however, I’ve had no choice but to keep going and doing through the other season of overwhelm that is also known as May. Even though we aren’t out of the Pandemic yet apparently May is back and ready to throw down in 2021. There have been a ton of fun things and end-of-year things and Big Exciting Things happening with the kids and their spring sports and their school and headaches or not, I didn’t want to miss any of it. I wasn’t entirely successful on that front and did end up missing some things, but for the most part I got to be there and be involved/spectate which made my mama heart happy even if my head was not always on board.

I’ve also continued reading throughout this last month+ which brings me to the All the Info and All the Changes portion of this as I’ve now finished several resources on the Enneagram and feel like I’ve landed on that at a very interesting time in my life and in our world. From these books I’ve learned more about myself and what drives me and also what’s potentially contributed to my stress levels over this last year as I am very much a One, The Perfectionist, and let me tell you – a One in a Pandemic is a tough place to be. I’ve spent so long trying to do the right thing and freaking out about other people doing/not doing the right thing or politicizing the right thing that I can’t believe my body waited until now to also freak the frick out. To clarify, I’m not saying I gave myself these headaches but also, I can look back over the last 14 months and very much see how I was numbing/stuffing my anxiety (hello, 42 books already in 2021) and how perhaps that stored tension over time has contributed to pain in my body. To make sure it’s not something beyond that, my doctor wants me to have an MRI next week and I’m very much on board as that helps eliminate or shed light on any of the potential scary causes behind this.

So now, after getting all this info about myself, we’re at the end of the school year which comes with All the Change in and of itself, but this week’s unexpected turn also included a sudden removal of masks in our classrooms and, just yesterday, the CDC announcement that fully vaccinated folks can drop the masks and go back to life essentially as normal.

Sorry, what? That’s a huge bucket of change to dump on this exhausted, perfectionist mama’s head and I’m not quite sure how to process it. In fact, not knowing how to do THIS (life this last year+two months, plus life with a five-week headache) has indeed been a huge source of the problem for me for some time now.

I thought getting vaccinated was going to make me feel so much better. I thought having masks go away would be a happy making announcement. I thought I’d be ready to do this but it turns out I’m a little stuck and a whole lot unsure of how to proceed. (PS: if you are a podcast person, check out Episode One of “We Can Do Hard Things” from Glennon Doyle; it’s all about anxiety and she spoke to this unease with coming out of Pandemic Life and it was like she was in my freaking head when she spoke about this because those are exactly the struggles I am having right now. Who knew I wasn’t alone in this?)

At some point I have to figure out how to navigate back in the world in a way that works for me but I have yet to come to an understanding of what that might look like. Will I stop wearing masks? No, I will not because my state, my health department area is hovering around the 40% mark of fully vaccinated folks and that doesn’t feel like a super great number even though it is definitely something and something that I hope continues to increase. Will I be more comfortable in outdoor gatherings and seeing vaccinated family and friends indoors? Yes, I’m trying but please understand that this shift is a big one and it’s going to take some time for folks like me.

If I’ve learned anything from the last five weeks, it’s that I’ve got to give myself some grace and self-forgiveness for not knowing how to do this. It’s going to have to be OK to not perfect this right out the gate because, frankly, none of us know how to do this, so why should I place sure pressure and expectation on my own tension-filled shoulders? The not knowing of what re-entry and recovery look like for me simply just has to be because clearly I can’t force this. I can only give it time and continued trying.