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A Year of Change – January

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As you may remember, I chose the word “Change”” to focus on this year, because there are a lot of things changing in my life at the moment. So I thought it would be helpful to try and make a record of the changes that happen, as well as the changes I’m making, month by month. By doing this I hope to see progress even when it feels like none is being made. Because let’s be fair, change is messy, and often it feels like you’re getting nowhere.

I’m glad that I decided to do this, as January has already brought with it multiple challenges. I find it hard to believe that we are only just ending the first month of this year, because it feels like we must be in at least March already! So, without further ado, here’s what’s been happening this month.

The Flu and Labyrinthitis

To say that this year has started on a bit of a sour note would be a massive understatement! Having struggled through Christmas with a stinking migraine, I was gutted to start feeling what I thought was a cold brewing a couple of days before New Year. Only it wasn’t a cold, it was full blown flu! I’d forgotten just how ill that makes you feel, and spent the first week of January feeling rotten indeed.

Image of Amanda (a mid-30s woman with dark hair and dark eyes) looking into the camera. She has bags under her eyes and is sitting in front of a Space poster in her son's bedroom.

I then felt like I was recovering pretty well, but then last week I started to feel rough again and last Thursday and Friday had what I thought was migraine related dizziness and tinnitus. Until I woke up Saturday morning to the room spinning, tried to sit up, and face-planted the bed as I was hit by such awful vertigo that I lost which way up was. 6 days later, still battling ongoing dizziness, I went to the GP suspecting labyrinthitis (the last time I felt this bad was when I had it in 2008) and sure enough the GP agreed with my suspicions.

So, all in all the first month of 2020 has been a pretty rotten one. And the only changes healthwise have been to add nasty viruses on top of my already rubbish day-to-day experience.

Seeing the Neurologist and Changing Meds

Despite the awful start to the year healthwise, I did have a reasonably decent week mid-month when Tim and I travelled over to Nottingham to see a neurologist about my chronic migraines. I was so worried about how I’d cope with the journey and staying in a hotel (because I knew I couldn’t do two journeys in one day). And the first night was rough, as I had forgotten to pack my Cyclizine somehow and we had to find a pharmacy open that evening, leading to a major panic attack around how much of a burden I am. But we turned the trip around the next day, had a good appointment, and even ate at a pie shop on the way back to the hotel!

Image of two pies on a table, both sit on a bed of mashed potato on a plate, with accompaniments in separate dishes to the side. The side dishes have peas, beans, and gravy in them.

But back to the Neurology appointment. In terms of shedding light onto why my migraines have become so bad, it was a bit of a bust. As the Neurologist said, sometimes they don’t know why this happens in people prone to them. But as I used to get them as a teenager and then didn’t get them for years, there is hope this spate will eventually ease off too. And until then, there are different options we can try.

I told him I had stopped taking Pregabalin over New Year (faster than recommended, but as I’d missed some doses anyway I decided to just go for it). I felt as if it did nothing for my migraines, and wasn’t sure if my dizziness and fatigue were actually worse on it. And I did surprisingly well coming off it, to say I also had a flu at the time. He actually said he doesn’t know why it is prescribed for migraine prevention anyway. So I felt better knowing I had made a good choice in stopping it.

We talked about how I’d previously tried things like Amitriptyline (I did not cope well on even a tiny dose of that), Gabapentin (no effect), and Propanolol (caused my blood pressure to drop way too low). So he has recommended Pitozifen, with another couple of options to try if that isn’t successful. He did say it may not stop all my migraines, but should reduce the frequency and intensity. And he’d rather prescribe that as it is generally better tolerated than something else which I’m likely to struggle with given my past history with medication.

Image of a box of Pizotifen 0.5mg tablets

We also talked about limiting my use of OTC painkillers to no more than 10 days in a month. I knew that painkillers can cause rebound headaches in migraineurs, so had been trying to take small doses rather than hitting them with everything I had. But he said it’s frequency rather than dose that causes the issue, so he’d rather I take everything I can on the really bad days and try to avoid painkillers the other days. So we’ll see how that goes.

Finally, he’s recommended Riboflavin (vitamin B2) as that has been shown to help, so I’m adding that the to Co-enzyme Q10 and Magnesium I’ve been taking to try and help. Here’s hoping that once I’ve recovered fully from these viruses and got these new meds in my system I might see some improvements!

Daily Chanting

I began the year with a 7 day global meditation live streamed by Deva Premal and Miten. We did the Gayatri Mantra, and it was wonderful. I’d forgotten how much I love chanting for peace of mind. You can find the 7 days’ recordings here, or join in with the final day below. The songs at the end had me in tears, something was definitely shifting emotionally at that point in time.

After that I continued to do a chant each day, and then I joined up with the Angels 11 group to do a live meditation with them, this time the Chiaa Kriya. Angels 11 is one of the tiers offered by One Woman Revolution via their Patreon, and if you want to explore kundalini yoga in more depth I can thoroughly recommend joining Shiv and Ceemaj that way. However I know money can be tight, and so you can find so many free videos from them on their YouTube channel, including this short introduction to the Chiia Kriya.

Even though I had internet connection issues for the live meditation, I still enjoyed it. And after that 3 of us decided we’d continue to make it a 40 day practice, supporting each other via Facebook. We’re reaching the halfway point of that practice now, and it has held me up so much over the past week during my awful bout with labyrinthitis. Even when I could barely move without feeling the world was spinning, simply tuning in and chanting for 3 minutes made me feel like I was doing something to keep myself going strong.

I’ve just started doing the basic spinal series for kundalini yoga to help with my back spasms from sleeping in a weird position thanks to the vertigo this week. You can find the session I have been following on Amazon Prime, or if you don’t have access to that maybe try this sequence by Shiv.

Changing My Habits

One of the things I wanted to change this year was how much time I spend scrolling on social media or watching Netflix, opting to read more books and listen to more music instead. I can’t say I’ve been massively successful in this during January (I binge watched the entire 9 seasons of The Middle* this month!) But I have definitely reduced my time on social media, which has done wonders for my overall mental health.

I’ve avoided being sucked into news items which I’m just not in a good enough place to deal with right now. That’s not to say I’m not aware of issues in the world, it’s just I’m not getting too drawn into the details which just make me feel so helpless. I will step back into being more active around that at some point, but this month I definitely needed to prioritise my own self-care.

I’ve also enjoyed starting several new books (there was a time when I was a “one book at a time” kind of reader, but now I dip in and out of different ones all the time). I used my Christmas money to buy a range of books, many spiritual and health related ones, but also some fun reading ones too. I’ll try to write more about these in other posts, when I’ve finished each one.

Image of 4 books, top left is eat, feel, fresh a contemporary plant based ayurvedic cookbook by Sahara Rose Ketali, top right is The Spirit of Yoga by Kathy Phillips, bottom left is The little book of Self Care for Taurus, and the bottom right is Hand Reflexology and Acupressure, a natural way to health through Traditional Chinese MedicineImage of four books - top left is The Universal Christ by Richard Rohr, the top right is Inspired by Rachel Held Evans, the bottom left is The Almanac a seasonal guide to 2020, and the bottom right is Water From An Ancient Well, Celtic Spirituality for Modern Life by Kenneth McIntoshImage of a book called The Complete Arrows Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey

The Power of Nostalgia

One of the things I’ve felt pulling on me very strongly this month is nostalgia. I want to re-read books I loved as a teenager, and listen to music that reminds me of being in the 16-20 age bracket, when life felt so much simpler. Back then I was still struggling health-wise, often very badly, but I had more time to rest and recover. And I honestly thought the world was my oyster. After years of feeling beaten down by life and wondering if things will ever get better, I need a bit of that hope.

I’ve made a playlist on Amazon Music that is essentially made up of all the Acoustic Folk style singers I adored listening to at that age, like Jewel, Dido, Eva Cassidy, and Beth Orton. I already had various songs from the first three artists in playlists I listened to in the shower, but realised there were many of their later albums I have simply never listened to. And then I remembered other artists I had totally forgotten about, so added them. Listening to the beginning haunting sounds of “She Cries Your Name” by Beth Orton took me right back to my late teens! Isn’t it amazing how powerfully music can do that?

Anyway, the whole reason I even remembered Beth Orton (and that song in particular), was because I was thinking about the TV show Roswell*. I had rewatched the series last year but suddenly wanted to re-read the books too. So I bought copies of the Roswell High books* I loved when I was in Sixth Form. They were written at the same time as Roswell was on TV, but despite having the same characters there are many differences between the two. And as a writer I find that fascinating. At some point I’m going to have to bring myself to watch the new version of the show, Roswell, New Mexico to see how they approach the story in yet another way. But right now I’m in nostalgia mode and not quite ready for a new version!

Anyway, it’s funny re-reading these books as an adult, remembering how differently I felt back then. And I’m hoping they will remind me of what I loved about reading as a teenager, given that I’m writing a YA novel myself. Because, let’s be fair, the past 20 years of my adult life have been pretty crazy and I’ve forgotten a fair amount of what it feels like to be a teenager.

Image of all 10 Roswell High books written by Melinda Metz.

Speaking of YA novels, at the end of last year I finally discovered the joy of audiobooks by listening to various series set in the Tortallan universe written by Tamora Pierce. Those books, and in particular The Immortals Quartet*, were what inspired me to want to write in the first place. I have always loved the combination of fantasy and strong female characters. I go back to them regularly, and listening to them brings a whole new perspective. It’s particularly fascinating listening to the audio versions recorded by Full Cast Audio, as the actors make the characters come alive in such a magical way. And I cannot wait until the books are finally brought to the small screen, as it seems they may well be doing. It’s about time this wonderful world was brought to new audiences, like so many other fantasy series have been over the past couple of decades.

But, back to the books. Having listened to the series I already knew well, I decided it was time I began listening to the books written in the Circle Universe. It took me a while to get into them, but I finished Sandry’s Book* and am just now listening to Tris’s Book* and loving the characters and world they live in. In many ways the magic in this world is more like the magic in my own novel – based on everyday workings with plants and sewing etc. It’s such a joy to listen to them.

Screenshot of Audible showing the book Circle of Magic Tris's Book by Tamora Pierce and read by Full Cast Audio

Beginning to Write

I’ve also picked up my pen and paper and started working on The Brethren some more. At the end of last year I was given some incredible feedback by L Baumgarten on my novel’s outline, and have been eager to work on it some more. (As a quick aside, if you’re looking for some feedback on your writing, I can highly recommend getting in touch with Laura). But life was so busy at the end of last year, and I have been struggling with my health so much, so I haven’t really had a chance to do anything with it since then.

But this week I printed off The Ultimate Novel Planning Workbook*, so I could scribble all my notes and ideas in one place. I actually got this as part of The Writer’s Craft Super Stack on Infostack, but you can grab a copy via Amazon clicking on the link above. Anyway, I find writing notes and ideas down on paper really helpful, especially when I’m struggling to look at a screen for any length of time thanks to the dizziness and vertigo. So having this workbook to keep my thoughts and ideas in some kind of order is perfect, and I can’t wait to work on it some more.

Image of a printed A4 document entitled "Ultimate Novel Planning Workbook" with a hand holding a fountain pen over the top.

I have other projects I want to work on this year too, including my kids’ stories, some more eBooks and guides explaining things like yoga to kids, and even resources for chronically ill people like us. I just need to feel a bit better first! Seriously, the ideas are there, as is the ability to put those ideas down in ways that reach others. The only thing holding me back is my health at this point.

Hopes for Change in February

I’m really hoping that things will settle down a bit over the coming month. I’m keeping everything crossed for the easing of my Labyrinthitis, and that the Pizotifen and supplements combination will begin to reduce my migraine frequency and intensity. Because if that happens I’ll be able to do even more to help myself, such as going for short walks and building up my core strength again via yoga.

I’m also going to have some reflexology, and am really hoping that it will begin to have an impact too. As I’ve written before, I am trying to learn to trust in my body’s ability to heal itself. Having lived with chronic illness all my life, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is just my lot in life. But I don’t want to live that way, and so I’m making a concerted effort this year to try and change that perspective by actively doing things to help turn things around.

I shall continue with my daily chanting, and try to balance living in the moment with hope for the future. I want to be able to dream about the things I will work on, the life I want to build, without getting so caught up thinking about some far away future that I don’t notice progress being made right now. I know I still have a long way to go before I find a new balance that works for me, but step by step I am making changes.

So, how about you?

Tell me, how has your January been? And what do you hope February brings?

3 images side by side, the left is of prochlorperazine tablets, the middle is of a couple of health books {eat, feel, fresh and self-care for Taurus), and the right is of a hotel bed. Underneath the words "A Year of Change, January: health issues, books, nostalgia, and a trip.