My husband took a well-deserved vacation last week. He spent it both relaxing and getting things done, and I spent most of it in his office, which I commandeered the Friday his time off began and quickly turned into a low(er)-stimuli retreat—my version of a spa, minus the pedicures and saunas and without the danger of catching a fungal infection (I am, as always, in search of a silver lining). Every day henceforth (until Monday morning, when he returned to work), I parked myself there from when I woke up until early evening, using the relative peace and quiet to pick away at projects that felt manageable to me and avoiding everything else.
When my seizures are especially bad and my OCD thoughts are raging and I have other medical stuff going on, I find it helpful to identify variables that can be healthily controlled. Making changes to my environment is often one of the easiest and most effective tweaks. Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that quiet spaces, ideally spaces with doors that can be closed as a clear signal that I am not to be disturbed, keep me functioning at an “I’m a human being” level until the worst of . . . it has passed and I’m closer to my baseline. I then gradually emerge from my den like a disheveled bear coming out of hibernation.
Here’s where the problem lies. My desk, being in the living room, next to a window, close to the kitchen, and near the door, is brighter, louder, and more exposed than my husband’s office is. Furthermore, my husband frequently wanders over and starts talking to me when I’m in the middle of a task. This is, in case you were wondering, almost always the wrong thing to do, but I can’t blame him for forgetting that it’s super hard for me to get back on track once I’ve been interrupted from whatever I happen to be doing since the only immediate sign that I really, really need to be left alone is the frustrated expression that inevitably explodes on my face—already too late to make a difference. It’s not that I don’t care about whatever it is he wants to report to me or discuss; it’s just that I can’t at that moment in time.
Eager to carry some of my newfound calm into my post-husband’s-office existence, we brainstormed before his vacation ended and came up with two practical solutions, both of which I implemented yesterday. The first is a folding room divider that I can strategically position around my desk, closed when I don’t want and/or can’t handle company and open when I’m amenable to conversing. The second are noise-cancelling headphones that will work in tandem with the divider by blocking out ambient noise—traffic sounds, my husband preparing lunch, mail and package deliveries—and provide another visual clue that I need privacy.
I’ll probably continue ducking into the office when my husband isn’t using it. It’s been a great tool that’s significantly improved my quality of life, so why not? I’m proud of us, though, for developing strategies for when it’s not available. As we continue to figure out what makes sense for us given the challenges we face, we’ve become more and more creative in order to build a life worth living—one that takes into account my chronic conditions and rolls with the fluctuations inherent to them so that we can best enjoy all the good stuff in between the not-so-great.