Softening around the edges of chronic pain
Those of you who suffer from some kind of continuous or intermittent chronic pain will know what I mean when I say that woke up the other morning around 5 am with that sinking feeling as I registered that familiar pain in my left eye and the slight feeling of nausea which heralded a migraine attack. Only the night before I had been feeling gratitude for having 7 whole days free of a migraine. I got up and ministered to myself. Some magnesium powder, essential oils, hot water bottle and cold compresses. Little things that I have learnt over the years help a bit but rarely get rid of it.
I have lived with migraines my entire life. I remember them as far back as adolescence and also my mum telling me that as a young child I would often just throw up without any warning (I later realised that this was the manifestation of migraine in young children). So they’ve probably been with me 60 years or so. During that time I have done my best to eradicate them. I’ve tried every pill and potion and madcap idea in search of a cure. But nothing really helps. They have changed their course over the years. They’ve even gone away for a few months. But they always return. Right now I seem to be in a phase of very frequent migraines but with a little less intensity.
Having written these first two paragraphs, I’m suddenly experiencing that familiar feeling of shame. Will people think I’m a moaning Minnie? That I’m making a mountain out of a molehill? After all a migraine is just a headache isn’t it? When I was working in the Corporate world in HR, I would sit at my desk some days feeling like I had a red hot poker stuck in my eye. No one passing by or talking to me would ever have known. I soldiered on, probably not very effectively, but I soldiered on. Looking back I could has postponed the disciplinary meeting I was chairing or the phone call with the US but I didn’t. I soldiered on. I did the same in my social life. It seems laughable now but I could stand in a crowded, noisy pub with a raging head and no one would know.
In a recent discussion with a group of women where we dared to talk about our hidden chronic pain, we talked about being ashamed, afraid that our friends would get fed up with us (which some of them did). Worried that people would think we were making it up or exaggerating the pain. So we didn’t talk about it and kept it hidden. Just stayed home, disappeared off the radar for a while until we were able to come back into the world again.
I didn’t want to let people down. But I was letting myself down big time. My way of dealing with the pain was to resist it. To try my best to annihilate it. I was ever hopeful that I would find the cure if only I kept on searching and sought out the right guru therapist or miracle potion. Here I am 60 years later, many £’s lighter and nothing much has changed.
Well, that’s not strictly true because something has been changing over the last couple of years. I’ve finally accepted that I live with migraines and that I always will. There’s stuff I can do to make them bearable but nothing I can do to force them out of my life entirely.
So, the other morning, when I woke up with that pain in my eye, I got up and ministered to myself, did my morning meditation and then went back to sleep for a couple of hours. I was scheduled for a Skype call with two fellow Student Interfaith Ministers. I checked in with my heart. Yes, I could still do the call and Yes, I would tell them how I was feeling. One of the realisations that I have come to is that when I am in pain I disconnect from myself, from Source, from God because I cannot concentrate on anything but the pain in my head. During that time I am lost. However, there are ways that I can help myself. When I am in unbearable pain, I could just hold my mother’s rosary. This will immediately reconnect me to myself and I will know that God is with me and looking after me whilst also feeling the love of my mum from the realms of Spirit. And, it’s okay that I can’t do anything more than that on some days. Other days I can function a bit more in the world and get things done. It’s about being softer around the pain and what I need. Checking in with my heart to ascertain what it is that I want. Knowing that family and friends who love me accept that this is a part of me.
Image Gerd Altmann from www.pixabay.com