I woke up in the middle night in pain.  I rolled into a different position and pain shot down from my back into my leg and foot and I thought, “Uh oh, that’s not good.  Tomorrow’s the first day of school. ” I got in a more comfortable position and went back to sleep knowing that it was going to be a harder day.

I have Degenerative Disc Disease, basically arthritis in my back.  I have had two bulging discs, steroid shots, back surgery and seemingly endless physical therapy but at the end of the story it just means that I deal with pain in my back, sciatic nerve down my leg and burning pain and numbness in my foot almost every single day.  Some days are better and some days are worse, that’s just how it is.  I have chronically been in pain since the twins were babies, which means our entire homeschool career, I have dealt with chronic pain.  I am not saying this to gain sympathy as when anyone gives me sympathy, it makes me grumpy.  I would far prefer for everyone to just forget I have pain and just let me deal with it so that no one ever knows. However, I was recently reminded that others may gain hope and benefit from my experience in managing chronic pain and homeschooling successfully for 14+ years.  This much sharing makes me grumpy as I like to pretend that, “I am fine”, which is my standard answer when anyone asks me how I am feeling. I have a fun book all planned out to read just as soon as I finish this post to help me be less grumpy about this much personal sharing.

How I deal with it –

Completely ignore it.  No, that’s neither true or helpful but it’s what I would rather do but here’s what I actually do.

1. Take Care of Myself.- As a Mom this bugs me,  I should take care of everyone else first. However, the truth is that to be able to take care of anyone, I have to take care of myself or I will be laid up in bed or have to have surgery again, none of which I want to do. I had to learn this the hard way.  Spending much of Connor’s K year teaching from bed hammered this point into me.  I must take care of myself to take care of them. So, I get up every morning and I do my Pilates.  Pilates helps me to be able to move and function throughout the day. When my kids were little, they did it with me.  I bought them cheap plastic balls to do the exercise ball with me.  They learned how to do the downward facing dog and stretch their lower back.  They thought it was great fun.  I have 5 videos that I trade-off. I keep my weight down as more weight equals more pressure on my back which is bad.  We pay for massages every month to keep my muscles and nerves from tensing up.  My beloved husband insisted we buy a really good memory foam mattress with a moveable frame.  I can take pressure off my lower back and it feels like heaven.  I also have a set of really great Lazy Boy chairs which I sit in to do school, read, write, type, drink tea etc.  I rest every afternoon and “go flat” for at least 30 min a day.  This is one of the reasons we still have quiet time.

2. Use pain killers sparingly but use them if needed. – I don’t like the feeling of being out of control so I just didn’t take the prescription pain killers.  However, after I got yelled at by my Doctor, my husband and my Mom, as I was actually causing myself more damage by walking weird or making it hard to live with me, I did some research and found pain meds I was okay with. I like arnica pills and arnica creme.  They take away the majority of the pain but don’t make me tired or make feel like I have narcotics in my system.

3.  Give Grace. – I have had to learn that sometimes I might be extra sharp when I am in pain so on those extra hard days, I tell my kids that I am not feeling well and then I give everyone around me an extra measure of grace.  I work hard to stop and think about whether this is really an obedience issue or if I am just extra cranky.  This is when it helps to have the house rules clearly posted.  It also helps to have consequences thought out and posted ahead of time.  When I am in pain, I am more likely to be harsh so consequences thought out ahead time helps me to have a measured response.

4. Lesson plans done ahead of time. – Using an open and go curriculum and having all lesson plans done ahead of time allows us to do school even on bad days.  I can sit in my chair, open up my TM and just jump in. When my kids were young, I had notebooks labeled for each day of their week with their independent work so that they could get to work even if I needed to take a little extra time stretching or soaking my back.  As they got older, I made sure to have daily lessons written out for their independent work.  School is my very first priority and it needs to get done no matter how I feel.  ( Barring trips to the hospital, fevers over 102* or throwing up, we do school.)

5. Scheduled Down Time. – I must schedule down time daily and weekly.  This allows me some wriggle room in our schedule and time to rest.  I have to schedule it or I won’t do it.  I am a completely type A personality so I would rather go, go, go but I just can’t and I need to be wise and know my limitations.

6. Let Others Help or Even Know I am in Pain.-  This goes against everything in me.  “Nope, I am fine” is my mantra but there are a select few that know my ‘pain tells’ that I am mostly comfortable to go to for prayer and for help. They include my husband, my kids, my Mom, and my best friend.  They also have the freedom to tell me to go lay down, ask if I need pain pills, get me a cuppa tea and/or ask me if I need to cancel something on my schedule.  That last one I don’t handle well at all but I work hard to try to be reasonable.

7. Planned Crock Pot or Freezer Meals – My pain level is usually the worst by 3 or 4 so standing up and cooking can be torturous.  Having meals in the freezer or throwing something in the crock pot helps to alleviate that and gives me time to rest before all the evening activities.  When my kids were little I went to one of those places that you put 12 freezer meals together in an afternoon.  It was worth the extra cost for someone else to do the shopping, planning and chopping for dinner as it was way more expensive and less healthy to go out to eat.  I think now they just deliver the meals to you.  Now that my kids are older, I just have them help in the prep or I do it earlier in the day.

8.  Be organized! My cousin has dealt with chronic pain/chronic illness all through her kids growing up years and I learned a valuable lesson from her, organize like mad.  Her meals are planned, her kids schedule is planned and her house management is planned.  Her chore chart is a beautiful thing.  I aspire to be her but since I am not as naturally organized, I have a looser schedule but I have one none the less.  I make sure we straighten up each day, school stuff put away, dishes done, kitchen straightened up, some laundry done and some household chore each day.  My kids know how to do a “15 minute clean up” which is basically when we rush through the house putting everything in its place.  If we do this everyday, the house stays basically tidied.  We do a five days of school in four so that on Fridays, we sleep in, have fun cereals for breakfast, watch some cartoons and then clean the house.  We do bathrooms, dust, vacuum, clean the kitchen, our bedrooms and I have us focus on one room or area each week to go a little deeper.  This schedule also helps as my daughter has to take her very nasty autoimmune drugs on Thursday night and she needs extra sleep the next day. I try to do one extra cleaning thing each weekday so that Friday doesn’t get too long.

9.  Tea.  Having tea helps everything.  Oh, and a good book.  Tea and a good book almost solves everything.  Okay, it might not be tea and a good book for you but having something to reward yourself with helps to get through a tough day.  I shamelessly reward myself with tea and a book when I have done all the things I needed to.

10.  Recognize that Everyone Has Issues – Sometimes it can feel like I am the only one that has to deal with this kind of pain AND homeschool.  Sometimes it just seems like everyone has it easier and does it better but that’s just not true.  Everyone has something.  Paul talks about having a thorn in his side and I just figure this is mine.  I want to give it to God and let it help me be more patient with others as I don’t know what’s going on in their life.  I think God uses it to help me to remember that people are more important than getting things done.  If I just need to sit and have a cup of my tea with my daughter or watch a movie with my husband then maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.  I don’t think I would slow down enough to recognize that my loved ones need me to just be with them otherwise. It helps to give me perspective and patience and empathy.  None of which are natural strong-suits of mine. I am grateful for the learning lessons that it affords me, I am also grateful that this is not my forever body and one day looking down at the water I just spilled and wondering if I could just leave it because bending down might just kill me, will not be an issue.

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