I am a migraine sufferer.
And not just any type of the millions of migraine sufferers throughout the world… I am one who has them so severely that medication and natural cures seem to barely touch them. For over three decades.
I’ve had my fair share of trips to the ER when the pain far exceeded the last stages of natural labor (I’ve had ten of those “natural labors,” my friends…). And even morphine wouldn’t touch them. The last ER trip I took for a migraine, I asked for Benadryl and Phenergan (one for allergies that makes you sleepy and the other for nausea… both safe and mild meds) through my IV, and it worked, $3000 later.
I’ve had mini-strokes because of them, CT scans and MRIs, and inwardly I begged for there to be a reason, a tumor, anything, something where they could say “aha!! There it is!!” and just remove it…..
I tried the natural route. I attract network marketing folks like a sweet-blooded human attracts mosquitoes in July on a hot, humid evening. “But have you tried THIS?! I mean, this shake saved my life and now I’m in bliss!” I inwardly roll my eyes…. and my inward, now outward, answer is this: “look, the day you don’t make a penny from your miraculous ‘cure,’ doctors will be prescribing it. And not just naturopaths who have a share in company. It will be everywhere, because there are many of us, millions with this condition. I’m sure there’s some truth to what you’re saying, and to be fair, peppermint oil around my eyes and all over my head is the only natural solution that seems to slightly touch this, even though I remain in mostly agony. But cure? No. Haven’t found that yet.” I’ve gone to the chiropractors, too….
I’ve had friends hold my hair while I vomit over the toilet from the pain. My children have rubbed those two main nerves on the back of my neck….
And most of all, I have begged, BEGGED, God to remove this cross.
I’m one of the 1%, a doc told me once (lucky me!) where all the regular treatments don’t work. Migraine meds (triptans) cause my heart to become endangered to heart attack level, and they increase my pain; and Topomax, which seems to have a high success rate with many, makes me feel too dizzy to where I can’t function (it’s an anti-seizure med, originally). When I lived in Colorado, marijuana was suggested (by all kinds of growers, of course) and my response was “uh… NO.” Mild prescription painkillers and OTC’s may take the edge off occasionally, but they usually don’t, and strong prescription painkillers give me worse pain and recovery, and I can’t stand them and their side-effects.
But the worst response I’ve ever had has been this one: “have you made a good confession?”
First off, anyone who makes this suggestion hasn’t had migraines like I do, or they would never make such a suggestion. Secondly, perhaps they missed this little verse in the scriptures:
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'” John 9: 1-3
I can’t tell you how many days and nights I’ve sobbed from the pain, begging the Lord to heal me. I’ve had people pray over me, I’ve had the Sacrament of the Sick many times, as I’ve had plenty of other illnesses as well. I only remember my first official migraine from when I was 8 years old because I was swaying and sobbing in my bed in the middle of the night. But now that I realize that my pain probably started at a younger age. I remember trying to get through school with the fluorescent lights blaring down and words that became muddled on the paper and in that thick text book. And me not appearing sick but feeling like dying, while everyone around me didn’t have a migraine and were “normal.”
Few ever seemed to believe me (mainly, only those who got them, too) because you can’t see a migraine. But the kind I get have sometimes made me inwardly beg for death. Yes, I’ve been to neurologist after neurologist and I’ve had my blood taken and tested enough to make a blood bank. I’ve had every test under the sun. And they all come back with “you look fine. It all looks fine, migraine-wise.” Great. Thanks. What’s my bill?
I know several others with my level of migraine. They struggle to hold onto a daily job, if they have one. Although, I am sure there are more out there. We mainly don’t mention them because none of us wants to sit around whining and we really wish we could will them away for good, or we are bedridden in a dark room. I have a dear friend who keeps a dark home and has a delightful calm personality (unlike my more high-strung one) and has also tried everything, including the expensive Botox treatments. You don’t hear from most of us because we are usually doing everything we can to avoid triggers, or just simply trying to survive from one minute to another. But it eats away at our social lives like crazy (torture for an extrovert like me)… I can’t put anything truly on a calendar because I never know when one will strike. It could be the weather, or my hormones, or who even knows…. because I avoid the “known triggers…” and those are different for everyone. Note: it’s not gluten, Gluten-Free folks.
I take up my cross, however feebly, but when someone implies that my “sin” is causing this, they push down on my “cross.” Let’s have a side of shame and despair along with your physical pain, shall we?
Listen, I would give anything, pray anything, do anything to make these stop. And yet they are still here. I’ve searched the world for a cure (and I mean the world.) And I am within this teeny percentage who suffers a hidden severe illness of almost daily pure pain, and I lack the money for any fancy cash-pay experiments to see if THIS or THAT works anymore. I’ve struggled to keep my faith at times, especially in people who just want to sell me something… And most especially, the people who imply that I have migraines because I’m not holy enough…. well, the answer to that is that I’m NOT holy enough. But that has nothing to do with my migraines.
I found some hope in one of my favorite saints, St. Zelie, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, who bathed in miraculous Lourdes water three times for a cure for her breast cancer. All three times didn’t “work.” Was she not holy enough? Was it her fault? Lots of healings, millions in fact, have happened at Lourdes. I, myself, who am a natural skeptic, have witnessed miracles in my own life.
But St. Zelie, after the third time it didn’t work and just before she died at age 44, said (and I’m paraphrasing) “It seems I must be taken, for the sake of my children.” She didn’t say “Lourdes was a fraud, y’all!” She didn’t say “God must hate me!” She didn’t despair in His goodness, and let me say, I’ve struggled against depression and despair during migraines, and my prayers are sometimes CAN YOU HEAR ME?! I’m in so much pain! WHY HAVE YOU ABANDONED ME?! Straight to God….. but I will follow up those prayers with, please help…. please know I love you…. please know I can’t wait until that day when there will be no more pain, and only joy and bliss….. and please, DO something with this, in the way You bring good out of everything…
And then I just offer it to Him because I don’t know what else to do with it. I tell myself that this migraine will pass (and they always do, eventually), and that the Lord can do something with this pain. I can’t. But He can. I have no idea what, why, or how, but I’m sure it’s amazing, like how He used His own pain and the pain of countless others around the world for His purposes. I also remind myself that He isn’t happy about my pain. He suffers with me. He loves to heal. But His ways are not my ways…. and there is mystery.
What pains me most is how little I can do, as an extrovert, how I can’t show up at more events and how once a week, even going to church is a huge and wonderful effort. I can’t do as many fun activities with my children or my friends. I have watched the smiling, non-pained faces of those who don’t get migraines, and have wondered “why me?!”
But in those times, when I ask for thoughts and prayers, I implore you to remember compassion. “Compassion” means “to suffer with.” I know most people mean well with their advice. We want to fix things and help people. But sometimes we just have to walk with them in their pain, and that seems to be tough for many these days. Please remember that just because you are blessed to not have THIS particular cross, that doesn’t discredit that person who DOES have it, and I’ll bet you all I have that you suffer from something I don’t suffer from.
I’m not looking for attention, I’m not making it up….. but I am looking for loved ones along this journey where ALL of us are suffering from something. It just may be a different “something” than mine. And I’m looking for each of us to build each other up instead of accusing one another for pain that is out of our control, or imply we are liars, or that we just “aren’t good enough.”
Please walk with me. I want to walk with you as well… To those who have walked with me in my pain (and there are many of you wonderful souls out there), I thank you with all my heart.
And please, most of all…. pray for me. Pray that I do not lose hope. Pray for a cure. Pray for joy and health for ALL of us who suffer…. there is victory here somewhere, even if, like a migraine, we can’t see it (yet.)
Love and blessings,