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Making Room for Restorative Activities

Baking. Attending yoga classes. Dancing to live music. Traveling with Hart. These disparate activities have a vital common thread: they restore me. How bad the migraines are, money, time, concert schedules, and even which migraine diet I’m on influence how often I do each thing, but at least one of these activities has to be a constant in my life for me to remain emotionally stable. They’re so crucial that I prioritize them unwittingly. Until this summer.

After I went off antidepressants, I was feeling off-kilter. I kept trying to pinpoint why. Was it because I’d stopped the drugs? Was it the weather? Was I homesick? Missing Hart? Bored? Lonely? Grieving my migraine losses? I finally figured it out this past week when, after returning home from Seattle, I went back to yoga for the first time since April and felt a deep calm that’s been elusive: I’ve barely engaged in any of my restorative activities in months.

How I Got Off-Kilter
In April, my yoga studio moved to a newly remodeled building. Even though they used eco-friendly materials to create the beautiful new space, the outgassing was too overwhelming for this sensitive migraineur. I looked for other studios, but couldn’t find another within a 30-minute drive that had frequent gentle classes.

Part of the reason I love to bake is that I love to eat baked goods. There are no “safe” baked goods on my current diet, so I haven’t been baking much. I still bake for others occasionally, but instead of being a relaxing endeavor, it feels fraught with danger.

Funk, world music, and jam bands are pretty rare occurrences in the Phoenix area. Having a band in town on a night I feel up to dancing and playing early enough it won’t wreck my migraine-dictated sleep schedule is even rarer. Hart and I have traveled to shows and festivals in the past, but that’s on hold while we’re launching TheraSpecs.

In fact, all travel is on hold while we’re living on an entrepreneur’s shoestring budget and dedicating all our time to TheraSpecs. Hart did spend a great week with me in Seattle, which was our first vacation in a couple years. Yay for frequent flier miles and friends who let us stay at their houses!

Prioritizing Rejuvenation
When I was desperately ill, I managed to work at least one of my necessary activities into my life. Now that I’m feeling better and more functional in years, I let them slide. This seemed ironic at first, though it makes sense upon further reflection — I’m no longer constantly craving rejuvenation. But, whether I’m aware of it or not, I still desperately need it. In fact, it may be even more important now that I no longer focus all my energy and attention on taking care of myself.

Unless tickets for this weekend’s Phish shows in Colorado fall out of the sky, yoga will be my revitalizer for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping to rejuvenate and get back into shape. Thankfully, the yoga studio has aired out enough to no longer be a migraine trigger.

What About You?
What activities restore you? Does your headache disorder interfere with them? Do you have to make time for them or do you do so without even realizing it?

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Birthday Goodness (and the Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe)

In response to All Migraineurs Are Different — So Stop Judging Me!, a reader (who happens to be my mom) commented that I share with you my frustrations and failings, but not what I do manage to achieve. I was ready to dismiss it as just my mom being a mom, but then another reader of no familial relation backed her up. Sadly, I realized that I don’t share my accomplishments because they are so often miniscule. I compare myself to “normal people” and come up way short.

I’m trying to overcome my feelings of inadequacy and share the good with you. This is made a little easier since cyproheptadine is reducing my head pain and the fatigue that has drug me down all summer suddenly lifted on Monday (fingers crossed that it lasts!). Also, today is my birthday. This week has been less about accomplishing and more about having fun. And eating foods that aren’t on my migraine diet, though only ones that I’m pretty sure aren’t triggers for me.

Here’s my week in food!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream — My first time making caramel was successful thanks to the fantastic tips from David Lebovitz. The ice cream is superb. Now I want to try making caramel candies. Can anyone recommend a good recipe?

The Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookies — These really are perfect, especially with a couple tweaks.

  • After rolling the cookies into balls, refrigerator for 36 hours. (If the dough is too soft to form balls, refrigerate it for 20 minutes and try again.) This step is a must. From the famous New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe, it allows the dry ingredients to fully absorb the liquid, resulting in a better texture. Either bake or freeze the dough after the 36 hours is up; it starts to dry out if left in the fridge too long.
  • Use a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flours or all white whole wheat flour to add a little depth and nuttiness.
  • I vary the cookie size depending on the recipient. However, the ideal size about the size of a golf ball (3.5 oz), according to the New York Times and me.
  • Use real, unsalted butter and real vanilla. And be sure to use dark brown sugar for the fullest flavor.

Yellow cupcakes from Baking Illustrated are in the oven as I type. I haven’t made this recipe before, but Baking Illustrated has never let me down.

Quinoa Porridge — My new migraine-diet-friendly favorite. Quinoa mixed with a little plain rice milk and sugar, then frozen in 8 oz. canning jars to pop in the microwave for an easy breakfast. When I want dessert, I add some more sugar and call it pudding.

Happy birthday to me! Hope you have a lovely weekend full of delicious food and as little head pain as possible.

 

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Testing My Limits With Cookies

In my struggle to decide if I’m sick enough for the couch or giving into the pleasure of reading a little too soon, I’ve found the million dollar question: Can I bake something?

As much as I love to read, baking will always win out. If I feel well enough to bake, I will do it. Because I always, always want to do it. There are plenty of times that I want to bake and have to talk myself out of it because I know I’ll totally wear myself out. But if I am physically capable of it, I will.

So I ask myself if I want to — and can — bake. If the answer is yes, then I know I’m well enough to do the minutiae of life. Sometimes I’m even clever enough to choose to baking over minutiae.

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Choosing Pleasure on a Good Migraine Day

Yesterday was a good migraine day. The pain was mild to moderate all day and I wasn’t nauseated, dizzy or lightheaded. Did I read e-mail that’s been languishing in my inbox, put things on eBay, pack up stuff to donate or buy groceries? Nope, nope, nope and nope. I baked gingerbread.

It wasn’t even a simple “Hmm, I want gingerbread” thing. I haven’t been to the grocery store in so long that I was limited to a recipe that used no more than one stick of butter and one egg and didn’t require milk. What a triumph when I found the recipe winthin my parameters!

After a short rendezvous with my Kitchenaid and some help from the oven, I had tasty, fluffy gingerbread within an hour. I even cleaned the kitchen when I was finished.

I’ve been too sick to do the chores I have to do. That means I’ve also been to sick to do what I want to do. It’s practically instinct to work first and play second. Instead, I chose pleasure over work and have no regrets. I took a a huge step yesterday and am pretty proud of myself.