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With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90  days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.

20 August 2012

"The Power of Now" and Pain: Dreamless Sleep

In my June 25 post, I began to write about Chapter Seven of Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now."  In this chapter, Tolle writes about what he calls "portals" that take us to the Unmanifested.  Today, I want to speak of the first portal, dreamless sleep, as it relates to those of us living with chronic pain.

Please refer to my June 25 post (link in first sentence, above) for a brief review of how Tolle talks about the Manifested and Unmanifested Worlds.

I don't know about you, but just the sound of the phrase, "dreamless sleep," can make me feel calmer: it's an attractive concept, evoking a quiet mind, a peaceful heart.  Yet, as someone whose chronic pain often keeps her from deep sleep, it also can make me feel frustrated.  Some nights, I'd be glad just to sleep, dreamless or not, and not be awakened by pain. 

I'm dealing with this "portal" first because it's the one over which I feel I have least control, and assume others with chronic pain may feel the same way.  Since I cannot control it, I have to let it go.  Otherwise, I add concern about missing a portal to the list of other things I might worry about when I cannot sleep. 

But I do have tools for dealing with sleeplessness.  There are plenty of places to find good advice on how to improve your sleep experience.  Here are a few:

Advice on "sleep hygiene": Mayo Clinic; and How to Sleep BetterPlease note that even a helpful list can be frustrating for someone dealing with chronic pain.  For example -- it's hard to follow advice about keeping a strict bedtime/arising routine when pain interrupts sleep several nights a week.  But other tips are useful, like avoiding heavy meals late in the evening.

Information on insomnia: WebMD.

I have cobbled together a set of practices for insomnia that accomodate the realities of the migraines.  Advice that is impossible to follow I just ignore.  Advice that I can follow, I add to my practice. 

If you have other resources, ideas and tips about sleep, please let me know. 


I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.  Thank you.

13 August 2012

Resuming the Discipline

I have not posted since late June, partly due to loss of discipline after a week with no Internet, partly because I was preparing for a 2-week residency at Goucher College -- the beginning of earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree.  Having returned from the residency with a much better sense of the amount of work (a lot) I have to do between now and December, I'm not sure I can maintain the regular schedule of bi-weekly posts recommended by blog gurus.  However, I have decided to try.

Rather than launch immediately into the subject of my June 25 post (Chapter Seven of Eckhart Tolle's book, "The Power of Now"), I will write today about the two intensive weeks of workshops and lectures and readings and managing the chronic pain of migraines.

It wasn't easy.  And it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Before I'd left DC for Towson, Maryland, I'd purchased some items that I thought would help provide for my physical comfort and for migraine mitigation.  Some of these were expensive, yet there is not one I wish I had not purchased.

1. A study pillow with good back support, Cequal Bedlounger.

2. A pair of non-prescription, tinted and lightweight glasses for use in rooms with fluorescent lighting and when on the computer: TheraSpecs.

3. A thick and supportive mattress pad: Tempurpedic.

4. A plastic pot in which to boil water for tea: Hot Pot.

5. Plenty of my favorite tea bags (Mighty Leaf Breakfast Tea); fresh-ground peanut butter from the Yes! Market down the street; rice crackers.

The car was loaded with stuff in a way that was almost embarrassing.  Had I not been so sure that I needed these things in order to not just get through the residency but really thrive in it, I would have felt like a spoiled child.  But I did need them, they did help me through the residency, and I am glad for all of them.

I only missed one workshop and one lecture. That's not to say I did not have migraine pain any other day. That's to say there was only one day when the pain was so bad that I could not sit up.  On the other days, the pain was manageable if I rested and napped during the breaks and took great care with my diet.  Yet these practices would not have helped much had I not a pair of glasses that just about eliminated the deleterious effects of fluorescent lights and computer screen glare; a mattress pad that supported my ailing back and allowed me good sleep; a pot in my room for boiling water for tea; a study pillow that supported my head and so allowed me to work on the computer even when I had a migraine; and my snacks that tided me over to the next meal.

The point of this post is to say that we need not be ashamed of what is required to support our engagement with life.  After more than two years of resting and hoping the migraines would ease, setting out for school was exciting, affirming and good for me.  I could not have managed either the thought of going or the actual being there had I not planned so carefully to take care of myself.

Do what it takes to care well for your pain-filled self!  Perhaps you will find, as I did, that you will then be able to engage in life at a new level.


I would love to hear from you.  Please use the Comment link below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.  Thank you.