By Wanda –
Yes, migraines suck. I’ve had them as long as I can remember, and I turned half a century old this year. The pain is unbearable, the otherness daunting, the anxiety of waiting for the next attack often all but undoes us.
Growing up, head pain was my normal as it was for many of you. The pain was there before the words to completely describe it. In third grade I was given glasses and diagnosed with chronic sinus infections. In sixth grade I was given bifocals and diagnosed with migraines. By eighth grade I could function on an almost daily level with the head pain, nausea, and general miserableness of migraine disease. What I wasn’t so good at was dealing with the otherness of an awkward girl with coke-bottle bifocals. Elementary school had been hard, middle school was hell, by high school I was on antidepressants.
So, you probably what to know where the “joy” comes in, right? It was always there in bits and snatches; usually around adults or books. I was defiantly an introvert though many people don’t seem to remember me that way. I found joy in art, in music, in being alone outside, or sitting quietly in a corner of a room full of grownups listening to everything. Not just any grownups – like a room full of grandparents and great aunts and uncles. I revealed in time with my Grandmother Ruth who taught me hardship gave you just two options for response: become a bitter human or become a better human. From her I learned to pick being better – trying to be kinder, more polite, showing empathy. My Granddaddy lived this way as well, with a smile where bitterness could easily have lived in a frown, with nature and gardening even after having to leave his farm.
Joy and happiness are a choice. You choose to get upset when one medication doesn’t work and you have to move on to the next. You choose to be happy when you find a cocktail that works on intractable migraines or chronic pain or chronic illness. You choose joy. It takes just as much effort to be upset as it does to be happy, and if you can’t be happy or joyful, it’s ok to be upset. Just don’t dwell there. Do you like tea? I’m from the South and we drink our tea year round. We drink it hot or iced, but always sweet. Some people like lemon in their tea and some don’t. Thing is, if you put too much lemon in your sweet tea it turns to brown lemonade – usually bitter at that. Yes, it started out as tea just like every other pitcher of tea but someone chose to let it become bitter by adding too much lemon. Life is like that. What you choose to feed your mind is what your mind will feed you.
Our journey isn’t the same as anyone else’s; it’s not even the same as another migraineur. We are each unique: our brains are unique, our migraines unique, and our response to pain, medication, and stimuli are unique. Our journeys bring us through times of pain, times of growth, times or joy, times of dryness, and times of plenty. The question is, what do WE bring to our journeys? Do we choose to dwell on the darkness, or look for the light? Even the smallest candle can be seen in a dark room. Do we choose to draw our suffering around us like armor, or open our hearts to other’s suffering? Do we choose to walk with our heads hung down, or with our eyes life’s up to the beauty around us?
I choose joy in the little things, celebration in relief found for others and for myself, gladness in being able to talk with fellow pain warriors to give and receive encouragement. I chose music, nature, the written word, art, companionship, to learn, to grow, to become a better human.
And when those hard times come, and they do often, I choose to acknowledge them but I choose NOT to empower them. I think about them, study them, pick them apart to learn from them, bu, I don’t sit down in their mud and dwell there. I choose to concentrate on the joy in my journey, and I hope you will as well.