Sunday, August 3, 2008

overcommitted and overwhelmed

I've been having a tough time lately. I feel like I say that a lot, but it's the truth. Dealing with my Migraine is difficult enough; add in the normal life stuff and it gets to be too much.

It is all I can do right now to go to work for 40 hours a week, and keep up basic maintenance of my health: sleep, diet, drugs. Add to that, the supplementary health stuff: doctor's appointments, phone calls to my doctors, managing my mental health, support group (MMC forums). Then all the "normal" stuff: relationships with DBF and my family, errands, bills, money, social obligations, email, reading blogs.

It's enough to make anyone tear their hair out, especially when it seems like tearing my hair out may temporarily distract from the pain of my Migraine.

I haven't even added into that list the things I want to do: vacations, trips, dinners out with friends, volunteering. Anything that will get me off the couch and out of the apartment.

Over and over, my body tells me: NO. You cannot do this or you will pay.

Back in February, the president-elect of our local chapter of AIA (American Institute of Architects) called me up and offered me the nomination as Associate Director of the Board. This is a very prestigious position, rarely offered to someone as young as me. My responsibilities include helping to steer the direction of our local AIA for my one-year term, participating in monthly meetings as well as meetings on hot-button issues, attending frequent AIA events, representing the young contingent of the AIA, and coming up with a project to work on during my one-year term. I accepted this position without hesitation, as it offers me an opportunity I've been dreaming of. Uncontested, I was officially recognized as one of the new Directors in June, and my term starts in September.

But how on earth will I be able to do this?

I had hoped, prayed, expected, assumed that by September my health will be better. But it won't be. It isn't. I can barely squeeze out a 40-hour week most weeks. How can I work as much as I'm supposed to and put in all this volunteer time? I don't think that I can.

When I was in college, pursuing my degree in architecture, I pushed myself beyond all reasonable limits to finish studio projects, finish research papers, finish courses. I graduated on time (5 years) with a double-minor, a year abroad, and enough credits for 7 years' worth of schooling. I look at that, I look at all I achieved, and I look at now. I should be able to just push through this, I think to myself. Look at all those all-nighters in school. Look at the impossible things I accomplished. Why can't I just do that now?

Because I'm sick. Even though my health first spiraled out of control in college (third year), the Topamax my first neuro prescribed worked within 2 weeks. And it worked for me the whole time I took it in college.

The obvious answer here is that when I'm healthy, I can just push through and accomplish anything I need to. When I'm sick, I can't. I need to lower my expectations and stop holding myself to such impossibly high standards. But it feels like I'm giving up.

I'm really torn about this AIA thing. I desperately want the chance to make a difference in the architectural community in my city. I would love the experience of working one-on-one with some of the (local) tops in the field. I already know what project I want to work on. But is it fair to myself, to AIA, if I don't have energy to dedicate to what I need to do? Will giving up on this feel too much like giving up? So many questions, and not enough answers.

I've already streamlined a lot of my life, gotten rid of many extraneous stresses. I've gradually withdrawn other committments, postponed my licensing exam schedule so I have more time to find a good treatment plan. I've given up so much and still my body says, not enough.

The one thing I want more than anything else, is a return to some bit of normalcy in my life. Everything feels chaotic, subject to the whims of my head. Will today be a good day or bad day? Will the Migraine control everything, or can I ignore it for a while. And the underlying question: when will I break this Migraine? When will the pain stop? Will I have to live with this screwdriver in my eye socket for the rest of my life?

If I don't do this now, when will it ever happen? What if I never get better?

(Much more to write, but my head is telling me it's time to get off the computer. The story of my life.)

Be well,


Leslie said...

Wow, MJ, I really feel you here! I had an experience the other morning where I was feeling pretty good health-wise, but all the "normal" person stuff was going wrong. And I thought, gee, I just can't win this game! I find it very frustrating too, to realize and accept that I cannot do all that I used to without compromising my health.

I think it's especially hard for those of us who went through a rigorous undergraduate education and did very well, and then are hit with health issue, and our worlds are turned upside-down.

Congrats on the acceptance to the board, though. That's a pretty great honor, no matter which direction you decide to go with it.

And I hope your birthday is/was good, since I'm not sure when it is/was!

Migraine Chick said...

I can't remember the last time I had a normal day. I long for normalcy and I have a lot of the same questions you do, like when will this pain end. Hang in there!

MaxJerz said...

Thanks for your comments, Leslie and Migraine Chick. Leslie, my birthday was July 30. Thanks for the birthday wishes!

Be well,

Anonymous said...

Were you ever tested for gluten sensitivity? Enterolab can tell you if you're still getting exposed unawares. Even small amounts could matter with your genetic background. Apparently they test every child in Italy in kindergarden for celiac.

My husband is trying to determine if he needs to be truly GF or just not eat the stuff.

Leslie said...

Thanks for your comments. I think it's sad that you can so closely empathize with my experience, but it is nice to know that I'm not alone in all of us. It seems like there is never an end to these struggles. Hope you are well!

Ellen Schnakenberg said...

What is normal? What are our priorities?

Your post really hit me. I had to change my definition of 'normal' years ago. I have good days, and I have bad days, but I am still mourning the loss of the person I was to the one I have become. I think maybe I am a better person now tho, than I was before I got sick.

While undergoing a treatment for Migraine in the hospital, I nearly died. I was always a positive person before then. Always enjoyed sunsets and walks in the woods and appreciated watching my children play and hearing their laughter.

That day changed me tho. I learned that you don't always get a second chance to do what you want, and that what you want to do is just as important as what someone else wants you to do.

Volunteering remind me that there are things I can STILL do despite my health. Without that part of my life I would be a mess.

I hope volunteering is high on your list of priorities, as we would miss you terribly if you left us. Speaking for myself, I would understand your reason if you felt the need for a 'leave of absence' tho.

When I was a kid I rode horses. My parents didn't understand or approve. I was given a special merit scholarship that was designed and given directly to me because the instructor saw such potential. At her request, I lived with her for the duration of my time at this prestigious school. I was very, very good at what I did. Unfortunately a kid needs family support and I had to quit. I was always told "you can do it later, when you're grown and on your own."

I never got that second chance. My bad health kicked in and I lost that opportunity forever. I will go to my grave wondering how far I could have gone. Part of me feels that this was another thing stolen from me in this whole process, and that is hard for me to wrap my brain around. It is one of the hardest things for me to forgive.

I learned to prioritize my life, on paper if necessary. This really helps me see things differently.

Don't put off the things that are terribly important to you. If you wonder now if you could have done it, you will probably always feel that way. You don't need that additional stress on top of all else you are undertaking.

We will all be anxiously waiting too see what you decide, but I for one hope you will keep up with us in the Migraine world to which you have added such insight and zest.

Ellen Schnakenberg
my Blog

MaxJerz said...

Ellen, thanks so much for your thoughts. I definitely will not be abandoning the Migraine community any time soon. All of you are too important to me to stop participating.

I hope to post an update in the next few days, but the brief version is this: I did resign from my AIA position. Among everything else I discussed in this post, I didn't want to give up my available time for blogging and keeping up with our community.

While I don't have much energy for volunteering with the architecture community, it is still very important to me that I'm an active part of the Migraine community.

Thanks again, everyone, for your comments!

Be well,

Laura said...

MJ, I'm LauraSue from Teri's forum. I know you're off the computer for a while, and I know this is an older post, but I just wanted to say that this post really rang a bell with me. I was also a high-functioning, successful professional. Now I can barely get out of bed. What the heck happened?! Oh, yeah, I got sick, just like you said. We can't expect to run marathons if we have broken legs, and we can't expect to do everything in life perfectly when we have migraine disease. Hang in there, sweetie, and know that you helped me today.