Three years ago in April I woke up for the first time in 6 months without a migraine or headache of some form. It was a most glorious day. And over the last 3 years I’ve gotten migraines less and less as I figured out what triggered them and more of how to prevent them and more about taking good care of body. It’s kind of funny because at the age of 19 I quickly learned the importance of self-care. Something many people figure in their late 20’s or early 30’s. And honestly I’m grateful that I learned so early in my life that it’s important to exercise, and eat right and have a regular sleep schedule, etc. But that’s not exactly what I want to talk about today, that’s just a little background to the reality of my life.
So I mentioned 6 mos of chronic head pain of varying degrees – mostly filled with migraines, bed ridden 2-3 days in a week.. It start in Oct 2012. I got a migraine, not thinking too much of it. I would get them close to the start of my period from time to time, and figured it would go away. i.e. it wasn’t anything out of the norm. Until a month later, my migraine that I got didn’t go away. Eventually, one of my professors noticed I wasn’t speaking up in class anymore and quickly picked up that something was up. She pulled me aside after class one day to ask me what was going on (reasons I love Capital). I told her and she started pushing me to go to a doctor.
So after a little bit of pushing (probably another 2 weeks) I decided to go to the family doctor. I’d stopped taking ibuprofen at this point because it wasn’t helping and seemed silly to me to take a medication that didn’t do anything for me. My family doctor gave me some pills. They didn’t do jack squat, so I quit taking those. My professor kept pushing me to seek more doctors. She started recommending doctors for me to go to (she’s a nurse and a mom). So we made an appointment with an ear nose and throat specialist. Maybe they were sinus related headaches. Nope. Sinuses were in the clear. He recommended me to a neurologist. The problem was I had to wait 6 weeks to get into his office. So I finished out the semester. Had to retake only 1 of my classes which is actually impressive seeing has for the last 8 weeks of the semester I had a daily headache, and missed class some.
I enjoyed Christmas break that year in that I could sleep a lot. And sleep a lot is what I did. My headaches remained but weren’t nearly as severe. I also was able to avoid people (other than my roommates) for the most part. Then finally I got to go to my neurologist appointment. He spent probably an hour with me. He did a full neuro assessment and asked me like a thousand questions. Once he was done, he explained to me why he asked the questions he did. Then he gave me a diagnosis of chronic daily headaches. There is an actual diagnosis for a chronic migraine and it’s literally chronic daily headaches. With that, he gave me a prescription for physical therapy (which I appreciated, I like holistic medicine). And I started the following week. The reason, he told me, he wanted to start with physical therapy is that when I was describing my pain to him I pointed to my neck, and that told him that there was pain there and so he took that as a need to loosen up those muscles.
When I started seeing the physical therapist I also started school again. So I was going to go to physical therapy twice a week, take a full class load at Capital, and take the class I had to retake at Columbus State, plus I was living in an intentional household community that had morning prayer (starting with breakfast at 6:10), dinners, and a few other commitments — meanwhile also trying to get my headaches better. It became very apparent very quickly that there was way too much on my plate and something had to go. In the end, after conversations with a different professor at school (whom is also one of my favorites) and with dad (and him giving me permission to take a semester off school), I decided to take a semester off school. Went to therapy twice a week, went to class twice a week (I still was retaking that class at Columbus State), kept my household commitments to the best of my ability, and slept close to 16 hours a day. After about a month of therapy I went in for a check up with my neurologist. I was still in a lot of pain and pretty exhausted. My doctor gave me an option to add in medication in addition to the therapy to help suppress my nervous system which would ultimately also help with my pain control. So between therapy and medication, the glorious day in the beginning of April happened and I woke up pain free for the first time since October.
So what does all this have to do with gratitude, as I titled this post? Well, during these months of misery, it was really hard to pray. It was really hard to do anything, but especially to pray because well, why would God let this happen to me? (right, classic question). I still don’t know, but I have a lot more peace with migraines just being a part of my life. But during this period of my life a friend got me to read a book called A Thousand Gifts. It’s by a Christian author who talks about the importance of giving thanks, especially in the hard times. She presents a challenge in the book to write down 1,000 things you’re thankful for. So I decided to take this challenge on, and since then gratitude has become part of my mantra. Especially last year when I was a bible study leaders. I really came to know the Lord and to see His goodness because of gratitude and giving thanks.
Why bring all of this up this morn… err afternoon. I woke up today with a migraine, that made me nauseous when I sat up. I’ve had plenty of migraines since they chronic daily aspect of them ended back in April of 2013, but it’s been a long long time since I had one like the one this morning. But at least now I know what I need to do to get rid of them, right? Anyway, as I was eating my banana, getting coffee, and taking medicine I found myself offering my pain for my friend is 40 weeks pregnant and extremely uncomfortable. And I quickly realized that if it wasn’t for all the suffering these headaches had caused me and the journey I’ve had with gratitude I wouldn’t have seen this suffering this morning as an opportunity for grace and prayer, but rather would’ve been annoyed by the inconvenience it is.
Today I will give thanks, for headaches, for growth, for grace, for coffee, ibuprofen and sleep, for the lessons I’ve learned, for the woman I’ve become (…am becoming). And so much more. What will you give thanks for?