Today I woke up to an overcast sky and a slight chill in the air. I was still entirely contained by my blanket, a rarity in this heat wave. Usually I wake up sweaty, already exhausted, and linger in bed not wanting to start my day. Something about the sun's brightness and the heat has been exasperating a string of headaches (sometimes with auras) and fatigue and dizziness that I haven't felt since middle school.
It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't experience headaches that include auras what is going on. It is almost like having intense floaters take over your vision. Bright light is unbearable. Sometimes even with the blinds & curtains shut I have to cover my head with a blanket or a pillow. Sometimes I have to apply pressure to spots on my forehead. The worst days all I am capable of is lying still and to pass the time I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. I am grateful to have such a library of knowledge and intelligent voices to feel like I'm not just waiting for my life to pass by. An essential oil diffuser next to my bed lets me change up different calming scents. It may be placebo but it helps more than anything I've ever been prescribed.
I put on my sunglasses and a sun hat to help on my family's farm but return in the early afternoon exhausted for the rest of the day. I feel like the last few months have just slipped by. My lucidity had been left washed out and overexposed in the unbearable light and heat. It's strange because as a child I loved the heat. Even more recently, I loved hot river days and lounging or running in the sun. In the past year or so, my body can't seem to handle it anymore. I have been to the doctor a few times and my blood tests keep coming back "normal". My doctor told me -- "it sounds like migraines, which you know there isn't a cure for."
So I am left to fend for myself in coping with these symptoms. Art & socializing with good friends are my biggest coping tools. My loving cat also helps. Posting and engaging online helps. I can turn the brightness down on my computer screen and put on my reading glasses and only be partially encumbered by the floaters in my vision. I am so happy that it is overcast enough for me to not have to wear sunglasses. I hope that soon I can rejoin daylight hours. I stay up late at night because the cooler temperature and low light are what helped me feel conscious and in control of my body. Lately the heat is also joined by joint pain. My joints pop more often than they ever had before.
I have a very difficult time working when I feel this way. It pains me emotionally, deeply, to not have the income I desire to meet my debts. I have trouble marketing and selling my work because I fear not being able to meet deadlines if I get another 11-day string of migraines. I do not take pain medicine and instead rely on medical marijuana when it gets particularly bad; a trade-off that adds to my anxiety and limits all but creative productivity.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the role of artists. I crave a future where I can hand my finished art to someone else to market and sell for me. I dream of just showing up. I love to talk about my work and if prompted can spill pages and fill minutes, maybe hours with my color theories. I work on collecting all the materials required to start producing a web series. I doubt myself, I doubt the validity of my personal philosophies. But then I remember how many people just spout what comes to mind, claim it as truth, and make tons of money, at the expense of the health and well-being of others (religious profiteers particularly those who promote LGBT conversion therapy particularly come to mind.) I feel more confident in my do-no-harm philosophies.
I have been anti-war since my early childhood. I crave a future where no nation needs a military. I crave a future where around the world healing is the #1 trade, but not in the Big Pharma it-costs-$10,000-to-give-birth model. I want hospitals to have staff artists & musicians, that visit with patients and help them express their frustration with the mutiny of their body. I want the vestiges of what used to be a military budget used to create housing and education and opportunities for the world's refugees. I want refugees to stop being created by war, imperialism, colonialism. I crave a lifting up of indigenous peoples, above Big Oil and above neoliberalism.
It pains me that this is the world we have to work with. It pains me that so many intelligent and driven living beings choose imperialism. Choose the military. Choose to give their lives, their money, their labor to the world's largest occupying force. They do it to feed their children. They do it to please their family. They do it because the pain inside drives them to be angry at made-up images of 'threats to freedom'. It pains me that the war on Islam has convinced so many so-called Christians that they are allowed to ignore one of their Ten Commandments in the name of profiteers who use them as pawns.
Is this why my head hurts constantly? Is this why so many of my generation have chosen to take their own lives? Suicide is the third leading cause of death for my generation.
I am no stranger to the pull of depression. I have experienced it and watched... well, everyone I know intimately struggle with it. I think the conversation around mental illness has to be broadened to include our global climate. A 15 year war based on lies that people are still dying for? A promise to relieve a burden of student debt when instead it is banks that get bailed out? Open season on Black lives by police and still people deny the horrors of the prison industrial complex & its ties to slavery? A dismissal of human rights violations that affect POC still to this day, while we are expected to be entertained by blackface/brownface/yellowface renditions of stereotypes played on screen by white elite? A lack of diversity in our government and a refusal to admit that POC have been locked out at almost every step?
If there is anything I believe fully it is that everything is connected. Nothing is created in a void and nothing lives in a vacuum. To heal we must be on a joint path of healing and understanding. Perhaps my personal stress would be lessened if I "tuned out" upsetting news. But that path is even more upsetting to me than continuing to live with these headaches. I don't see it helping. I would rather keep painting, keep talking, keep arguing, keep stressing, and work towards my hopes, my idealisms, my visions for a better world. Maybe it will happen after I die. Maybe I will live to see the seeds of change grow into mainstream consciousness. Maybe I already am seeing it happen.
I am thankful for today's mental clarity. I am thankful for you, if you have made it this far. We are in this together.