Note: I initially shared a version of following post on my About Page. I removed it a short while later but am now feeling called to share it here.
My ongoing struggle with headaches is still really difficult for me to talk about. I hope that through sharing a bit of my story here, those of you who also experience chronic pain will feel a little less alone.
Pain and I? We go waaaay back.
Once, I tried to estimate the number of days I’ve lost to pain.
You know, truly lost, like lying in bed, incapacitated, lost.
And, the days numbered years. Thinking about that even now fills me with this sense of heaviness, frustration, dread, and sadness.
Having a headache is not ok.
Or, that’s what I believed for a very long time.
That, somehow, having headaches, especially headaches that were so totally out of my control, that left me helpless and hopeless and utterly depressed and unable to function, were somehow a reflection on my character.
That somehow, I was weak or fundamentally flawed.
So, I set out to prove otherwise.
In high school, violent nausea would overcome me in basketball practice. I would dash for the locker room, puke, pause a moment until the shaking and gasping for breath would pass and then return to practice. Never mind that I could barely see the ball or the other players.
In college, believe me, a simple migraine wasn’t going to stop me from going out with friends. If my speech was slurred, well, maybe it could be blamed on the beer.
And, class? I remember shaking and sweating, head pounding, words swimming as I took yet another exam under the influence of extreme pain.
Work followed the same pattern.
I’ve never worked a job that offered health benefits or sick-leave.
If I didn’t work, I wasn’t paid. So, I worked.
After I’d done all that I had to do for the day, then, and only then, would I return to my darkened room and allow myself to be consumed by pain and nausea.
After years of fighting, denying, and repressing the pain, something else started to happen.
All this fear and dread began to creep in.
Yeah, I would still pretend the migraine wasn’t there until it reached a point where I simply couldn’t ignore it and was forced to give in.
But, this other thing began to happen as well.
This insidious, malignant thing.
This thing that whispered thoughts of:
‘What’s the point of doing what you love, of listening to your heart, of dreaming, of even being yourself if it can all be stopped cold by a headache.
And, you will be stopped. The migraine will come.”
I believed those whispers.
So, for a few more years, I essentially stopped.
I did just enough to get by. I tried this, I tried that. Nothing really worked. The headaches continued. Time slipped by.
A change in perspective slowly emerges.
Fortunately, at some point during the ‘just getting by’ years, I discovered and began to study Ortho-Bionomy, the style of bodywork that forms the foundation for my work.
I started applying its principle of being kind and gentle with pain to myself and to my clients. (It was much easier with my clients.)
And, I started listening to my body.
I began to notice and to pay attention to the symptoms that signaled a headache was coming.
With practice, I began to notice the symptoms of a headache earlier and earlier, sometimes even before the headaches reached the point of no return.
And, sometimes, I could even do some self-care and somehow, miraculously, not get a headache.
On occasion, even, I was able to ask for help, to let another see me helpless and vulnerable…. although, honestly, I didn’t believe anyone could help me or relieve the pain.
Which brings us to today, the present.
I still get headaches. I still have days when all I can do is curl up in bed and wait for it to be over.
I still experience the day after when feelings of depression, resentment, and hopelessness replace the physical pain.
These days, however, are fewer. And, when they do occur, I am often able to just let myself have a headache without adding the additional pain of self-hatred and self-condemnation.
The biggest difference is: I’m no longer alone.
I now have Allies, both internal and external, to turn to when the headaches descend.
Allies who often can relieve the pain when it is beyond what I can handle on my own. Allies who, if they can’t relieve the pain, can support and hold me in the pain.
And, somehow, having Allies makes all the difference in the world.
Chronic pain is rough. I just lost yesterday to a migraine and awoke today feeling utterly helpless and hopeless.
And yet, I know these feelings, like the migraine itself, will pass.
They are simply another part of the pattern. A pattern that has already changed considerably and is continuing to shift as I learn more about how to meet myself and how to ask for help.
There is a even a part of me that feels a certain sense of gratitude for these headaches.
I wouldn’t be here, doing this work, without my history of headaches. I wouldn’t know how to meet your pain without having such intimate experience with pain myself.
So, for today, if you feel inclined to leave a comment, I’d love to hear how you meet pain (whether physical or emotional). What works for you? Who or what are your Allies?
And, as always, just your ‘hello’ is adored as well.