About Me

My photo

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.

30 September 2014

PAIN MANAGEMENT TIPS -- Stretch

I have degenerating discs in my spine. In order to keep my back in as good shape as possible I do a half-hour of back exercises two or three mornings a week. When I have a really bad migraine, I can't do them, but when I have a mild migraine, I'll do a gentle regimen that's mostly stretching. And I usually find that, even though the stretching is for my back, the migraine pain is eased or I simply feel psychologically better afterward.

Photo by William Marsh
Below I provide links to an article from Prevention Magazine about yoga stretches for pain relief. Though the article speaks specifically about osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and fibromyalgia, these stretches are similar to those I do for my back and that seem to ease either the migraine pain and/or my mood.

Five Pain-Relieving Yoga Poses

I'm researching the benefits of stretching for chronic pain in general, not for specific physical ills. It's interesting to me that the back exercises help the migraine pain management to a certain degree. I'll post about this later.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.
 

28 September 2014

Painful Poetry

A Semi-original - if Awkward - Attempt to Find Humor in Pain

How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Migraine?
(Sung to the tune of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?; from The Sound of Music)

How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
How do you stop the vomit and keep it down?
How do you find a word that means a migraine?
A pain in the left lobe, ice pick to the head, a frown?
Many a day you know you're going under.
Many a time you cancel all your plans.
But how do you make it cease,
instead of the sure increase?
How do you get the throbs of pain in hand?
How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
How do you bear it once it has began?

When I have one I'm confused,
out of focus and bemused,
and I never know exactly where I am.
Any light will make me groan,
any movement cause a moan,
I can't stand it -
this pain, damn it -
it's no sham.
I'll spend hours getting rest
blindfold, dark room, no noise; lest
I should move and feel that stabbing pain again.
Don't come near me I might cry,
though I couldn't tell you why.
Nerves aquiver,
in a dither -
Let Me Die!

How do you solve a problem like a migraine?
How can you bear it once it has began?

Photo by William Marsh










26 September 2014

Opportunities Within the Pain

I have a lot in common with my my brother, William Marsh, whose photos you've seen here since last July. Lots of what we share is wonderful -- an understanding of the importance of mission into the world around us, searching for spiritual maturity and wisdom, and my appreciation of his ironic sense of humor.

Some things, like thinning hair, aren't so wonderful. And one, migraines, is downright awful. But yesterday, during a phone conversation, we got to talking about learning to recognize the good that can come out of having a migraine -- about things that happen, thoughts that occur, and wisdom that arises. He mentioned this photo specifically:
Photo by William Marsh

He had taken this strikingly dramatic picture one night when migraine pain awoke him and he walked out into the cool night in an effort to relieve some of his discomfort. He said that if the pain hadn't awakened him, he would have missed this gorgeous sight.

He calls it "finding the opportunities within the pain." He said, about the photo, "Out of the disorientation and pain came this opportunity to get one of the best pictures I've taken. And I sometimes have provocative thoughts, flashes of wisdom, and a unique and oft-times humorous perspective when the migraines are bad."

Although neither of us chooses or wants to have migraines, it's helpful to remind each other that there are these serendipitous moments that comprise the silver lining to the migraine cloud. Both of us would give up the migraines in a flash if we had the chance, but it's nice to be able to find the positive in them, to be aware that opportunity is there even in the pain. Plus, we get to complain with each other. Migraine misery wanting migraine company, as it were.

It's about taking the reality of your life and making the best of it. All of us, regardless of what kind of adversity we face -- physical illness or disability, emotional ill-health, devastating sorrow, loss of job or relationship -- need this skill, the ability to pick out the good amidst the bad. It's hard to talk about it without devolving into truisms and hackneyed phrases. So I'll stop, and we'll just look at Will's photo.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

24 September 2014

Resource -- Health and Spirituality website and magazine

Photo by William Marsh

The website for Health and Spirituality Magazine says this on its About Us page:

We cover a broad range of topics under the umbrella of health and spirituality, which can include faith, Eastern philosophy, meditation, and mainstream religion; nutrition, wellness, yoga, and holistic medicine; creativity, the inner life, social justice, and issues of conscience; and public health, the human body, and the environment.

There's a lot on this website, yet it manages the variety listed above while staying focused. Here is a listing of its main pages and some of the articles on each:

MAGAZINE: This page gives you a few links to articles in the current issue of the magazine (which you can get print or on your tablet). There's an article helping you explore whether your caffeine habit is an addiction or not and another about counting your blessings.

SPIRITUALITY: Articles about praying to a loving God, vedic meditation, and how religion and prayer help mood in the elderly are just a few examples of how far-ranging yet practical is the information on this site.

HEALTH: This section explores ways that spirituality and spiritual and religious practices enhance physical health. There's an article about how meditation helps migraines (making me think I should query this magazine about writing an article!). And you can learn about ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) or, as it is more colloquially known, braingasm. It is being used for insomniacs and persons with PTSD, among others.

LIFESTYLE: There are many good articles on this page, but I want to point out one that I could bet we all need: Practicing Self-Compassion.

A great resource, on the whole, and one I hope you learn from and enjoy as I do.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


21 September 2014

Migraine Moon

I'm in the midst of a series of migraines that don't respond to medication, not even the injection that I save for the worst. So I'm hoping this post makes sense, but if it doesn't you'll know why.

In my last post was a link to an article I found on the website, Spirituality and Health Magazine. The article, an interview with Brene Brown, interests me because it's about vulnerability.

Though the focus of the interview is not on people with chronic illness, I think anyone with a mental health issue that is difficult to resolve, or pain that won't go away, or a disease that turns life upside down, needs to learn to live with vulnerability. And one aspect of vulnerability is shame.

We feel ashamed when we can't perform up to a standard we used to hold ourselves to, or that we imagine others hold us to. We feel ashamed because people our age are out there accomplishing things and it's all we can do to manage our condition. There's shame in being the one that has to renege on a promise to participate in a meeting or outing or group activity. There's shame in trying to participate because maybe this once we'll feel well enough to stay, but having to leave early anyway.

I could go on. But whether we suffer with depression or chronic pain or a disfiguring illness or schizophrenia or addiction or a debilitating condition, we probably deal with shame. Brene Brown's interview, here, talks about shame and how it interferes with relationship. Since the isolation of chronic illness is already a problem, it seems important to understand more about things that keep us from getting close to people.

That can sound intimidating when we're suffering, the idea of connecting to someone else when we barely have the energy to be with ourselves. But here's an example of a way to connect within vulnerability:

My brother, whose photos you see in my posts, gets migraines semi-regularly. He was up and in pain one night recently and wandered out into the cool night seeking relief. He saw this moon, got his camera and took the photo. He calls it "Migraine Moon."

Photo by William Marsh
He told me about the photo in a recent phone conversation. What a neat connection, and it came out of his vulnerability, his pain, which he then thought would fit a post on my blog. It does. And I'm still in pain, thought I couldn't write much today, but am so inspired by the article I read and my brother's example of reaching out, that I've written a much longer post than I thought I could manage today.






Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


15 September 2014

Resource: Brene Brown on Vulnerability, Shame and Intimacy

At the end of my previous post, I wrote that I hoped my sharing some thoughts and feelings that don't ordinarily see the light of day might help others. I know that sharing feelings helps me. As the 12 Steps saying has it, a burden shared is half a burden.

This morning I found a web site (Spirituality and Health Magazine) I've not seen before. I'll study it for a while and then get back here with thoughts and ideas about it, but for today I want to link you the article that caught my eye.

It's an amazing interview with more than enough to reflect upon and learn from to justify its own set of posts. But those will come later. To whet your appetite, here is a quote that comes early in the interview. And it just gets better.

 "There are two things they [those who Brown calls 'wholehearted'] shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness -- they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us."

Here is the link to the interview:


There are two things they shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness—they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy#sthash.pony2ys6.dpuf




Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.







There are two things they shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness—they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy#sthash.pony2ys6.dpuf
There are two things they shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness—they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy#sthash.pony2ys6.dpuf
There are two things they shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness—they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy#sthash.pony2ys6.dpuf
There are two things they shared in common. The first is a sense of worthiness—they engage in the world, with the world, from a place of worthiness. Second, they make choices every day in their life, choices that almost feel subversive in our culture. They are mindful about things like rest and play. They cultivate creativity, they practice self-compassion. They have an understanding of the importance of vulnerability and the perception of vulnerability as courage. They show up in their lives in a very open way that I think scares most of us. - See more at: http://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/bren%C3%A9-brown-how-vulnerability-holds-key-emotional-intimacy#sthash.pony2ys6.dpuf

13 September 2014

25% Improvement

Earlier this summer I posted twice (here and here) about a new treatment that might improve the migraine pain.

The first post, on July 27, shared some startling feelings I had when contemplating the possibility that a new treatment (occipital nerve block) might give me a more normal life. The other, a few weeks later, shared a strong desire to be cured forever because the pain was sometimes just too much. It wasn't easy admitting, in the first post, that I had these strange feelings. I felt more than a bit ashamed of myself. And then, a few weeks later, I'm writing about feelings just as strong, though opposite.

What a roller coaster.

The update is that the nerve block has improved my quality of life by, I figure, about 25%. It might not seem like much, but it actually feels like a lot. I can hold my head up for longer and with a lot less fatigue and pain. Although the migraines themselves have not improved, eliminating the pain at the back of my head has made me more comfortable in general and resulted in better stamina as well as better ability to manage the migraine pain. What a relief. I am grateful.

I have no worries or fears like those I shared in the July 27 post linked above. I'm excited that maybe I can be more social. I'm ambitious to do more writing than I've been able to do. I have plans to begin talking to others about some sort of freelance work. Now, I know some of this may be premature, so I'm trying not to get too excited and I'm going to take it slowly. But it feels good to have some hope of a freer life.

Photo by  William Marsh

 We often have thoughts and feelings that we'd rather not bring into the light for others to see. We feel ashamed of ourselves and hide who we are. Yet the human experience is such that all of us have darker sides we're not proud of and that we think set us apart from other, nicer, better people.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to be honest about life and who I am in the midst of it. I dare to hope that others will relate to some things I say and may even feel comforted to know they're not alone.




Thank you for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


07 September 2014

Ferreting Out Those Hidden Blessings

Four or five times a year I have a period of many days with a particularly bad migraine that just won't go away. Wednesday through Saturday of this week made one such period.

People with chronic illness of any sort -- fibromyalgia, depression, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia -- experiences these particularly difficult times as part of having the disease. And we know how difficult it is to get through them. Having been through one, I'd like to write today about finding the (admittedly really hard to see) blessings or positive things present in the awful.

Part of the inspiration for this post came from here, a blog I read often: Migrainista. She is blogging about chronic migraine and fibromyalgia, both "invisible" illnesses, but I think all of us can relate to her list about what it's like to handle the realities of a chronic illness.

If we want to not just survive but learn from and grow within our chronic illness, it helps to remember that there are good things about our lives. I'm not saying we sit up and smile and hop out of bed, ignoring the pain we're in. This is not one of those stiff-upper-lip things, nor is it about what we hear all too often, that we're letting the illness get us down, or if we just [fill in the blank] we will feel better.

This is about having the courage or sheer doggedness to remember the good. Here's my list of blessings from the past four days:

1. My husband kept me well supplies with watermelon chunks and sympathy and humor.

2. I got a letter from a friend, who stays on the look-out for new info on migraines, with an article that told about a possible new treatment.


3. My little dog was especially cuddly and quiet.

4. I developed a new passion: a British television show called, "Sherlock." I don't watch TV or video when I'm in pain, I listen to shows like Seinfeld and The Office because they're verbal and funny. Sherlock, not funny but suspenseful, has great story lines, inventive plots, intelligent writing and, best of all, really good music and sound editing. 



 Today I'm blogging, doing wash, baking biscotti, and making myself rest between activities. I'm glad the pain is over, and I'm grateful for small blessings.


Thank you for reading my blog. You can comment below, or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.