Home Sweet Home
At times, I am actually relieved when I get a migraine. Fellow sufferers will be up in arms when they read this, but it's true. As soon as I sense my pre-headache aura—flashes of light in my vision, like a television screen after the national anthem has been played, remember when they did that?—I retire to my bed, and, more importantly, I decide I am immediately absolved of all present responsibility. Also, ever since my doctor and I came up with a workable solution for the pain (read: narcotics), I just take a little pill, lay back, and say to myself: Relax, take the day off. You deserve it; you have a migraine. When my husband comes home I tell him "I have a migraine," which in our marriage is code for "Feed the baby, make dinner, hand me the TV the clicker, bring me an icepack, do we have anything good for desert?"
Anyway, the whole thing is repulsive, I know, but what can I do? Sometimes I just need a day off. I am a freelance writer, I work at home, there's no one from whom I can request a personal day. I can't even fake a sick day—I could ask myself, but I'd know I'm faking. What I need is a brief but legitimate non-life-threatening illness, and a migraine is perfect. I can't work, but I don't have to be in pain either. Sure, I still despise the headaches, but I hate even more that I am unable to cut myself some slack.
Once in a while, after a particularly stressful project, I think about how great it would be if I had nothing on my plate for a couple of weeks, or even a month. No articles to write, no scripts to read, just me and, occasionally, the husband and kid. One easy month, a summer month, maybe. Of course, I have never taken a month or even a couple of weeks for myself. How could I, when I am so neurotic I need a migraine just to get the day off?
Two months ago, I was suddenly confronted with the just the sort of opportunity I'd been hoping for. Early in my second pregnancy, my doctor placed me on bed rest. I was only six weeks along, which was just before the nausea, the exhaustion, and my funky mucous nightmare (don't ask) set in. I still felt reasonably well, happy to be pregnant and not too worried, having been told that as long as I was careful, the problem would resolve itself. There I was, flat on my back! Lifting, pushing, and straining of any kind were forbidden, and I was to spend as much of the day lying down (read: watching television) as possible. And that's how things went the first week.
Unfortunately, what followed were two weeks of horrible nausea, which culminated in a stay at my parent's house in Connecticut, during which they nursed/tortured me to death. I'd be curling up in a chair and closing my eyes when my mother would ask, "Do you want to take a nap in our bedroom?" I'd be asleep in the guest room when my father would open the door and look in, just to see if I was all right. (I was, except then I was also awake.) Or I'd be supine on the couch and my mother would appear in the doorway and say, "Is it OK if I sit in here with you?" "Yes of course," I would answer, and then she would proceed to sit smack next to me and ask, "Do you ever comb your son's hair?"
And then there was this:
Mom: "Honey, what do you want for dinner?"
Me: "What? Oh, um, I'm pretty nauseous right now, so, whatever you make is fine. I'll just eat what I can."
Mom: "How about barbecued chicken and a salad?"
Me: "Fine, really. I'm just saying that I can't talk about dinner right now."
Dad: "Would you like to grill?"
Me: "Really, I mean it, you decide, I don't feel—"
Dad: "I could grill some lobsters. Would you like that?"
Me: "Please, stop. I beg of you."
Mom: "Would you like corn on the cob?"
Dad: "How about some of those big shrimp?"
It has been a while since I read Dante, but I'm pretty sure the 17th circle of hell is being confined to your parents' house as an adult. If you go to the kitchen for something to eat, they follow you in and hover at your shoulder until you choose something. Then they criticize your choice: "I have some of those Pepperidge Farm——oh, you know, they're only thirty calories. Wouldn't you rather have one of those?" They remind you five times an hour where the extra towels are, even though the number of times you've showered in their home is perhaps in the tens of thousands. They give you updates about their friends' children, as if you were wondering, which you weren't, right at the climax of the movie you were watching. Basically, your parents have got you right where they want you, and have wanted you, since the day you were born: home. Home, safe, under their watchful gaze. There is nothing wrong with that, but it goes to show that all those annoying cliches about having your health contain some truth. I am reminded of a time when I was fourteen or fifteen and I pretended to be sick in order to avoid a math test. In school the next day, I really did feel sick. My mother picked me up and took me to the doctor, who diagnosed me with mononucleosis. I spent a month at home. A month. Before cable TV.
Be careful what you wish for.
In the days since the bed rest episode, I have come to the conclusion that the only way to have a real break is to write it into your calendar and then just take it, the hell with everything else. Shop, go to the movies, lie in the sun at the park, ice-skate, bird watch, or throw pots. Take a real, live vacation. People do it all the time; why not you? Time off is essential to your mental health. (It is too late for mine, but I have high hopes for yours.) As for me, well, if I may borrow the old saying about Paris: I'll always have migraines.