An Autumn Encounter with Migraines:
It was a beautiful Autumn day in Seattle. As a friend and I wandered outside to sit in the grass on a small knoll I heard a woman calling out to her son who was playing in the sidewalk. She was saying, in disgust, she hates the sun and cannot stand to be out in the sun. They had been outside an hour, she said, and she just could not take it anymore. The sun hurts, she said. She was asking her son to come into the shade to play. Her language was full of anger, her tone pleading. She was clearly in pain.
In her request, she explained that she was having a migraine and just couldn’t take it anymore. As I listened to her, and saw her son joyfully entertaining himself with a truck and leaves, I volunteered to watch her son as long as I was sitting there, so she could have a reprieve in the shade. She said he had a tendency to run out into the street. I smiled and took up watching her son.
Later, as I was getting ready to leave I called out to him, to let him know I needed to leave, as I could no longer see her. I was about to ask him if he knew where his mother was, when I heard her voice come from the distance. With the slight break of my offer she was able to find a different spot shaded by trees and an unobstructed view of her son. My heart went out to her as I saw her in the shadow of the trees, standing in the cool shade. Walking over to her I said I could relate. I too have suffered migraines most of my life. Like her, my photosensitivity has made spending time in the sun painful and at times debilitating when I had a migraine. Only recently have I been able to start spending time in the sun without being overly concerned about how I might feel. While I still exercise caution, it is no longer the fear of a migraine that dictates my experience with the sun.
I shared with the woman I have been migraine free for 5 months. She immediately gave me a high five and asked what I had done. This was a special moment for me, as I knew she could really understand the significance of this milestone. In our brief exchange she thanked me for being an inspiration, saying my story gave her hope she too could overcome migraines. I was deeply touched by this experience and realized it is important to share my journey overcoming migraines. I can support others on their path to living a fuller life, migraine-free.
I am a holistic healer. As such, I have amassed incredible life lessons that enable me to better support clients on their healing path. Migraines have been a major life lesson. I had my first headache when I was 8 years old. Migraines seemingly started around puberty. They quickly became a natural part of my life, which is why I don’t really recall when they started. I carried Excedrin with me all the time through high school and doing athletics and extra-curricular activities. I’d pop the tiny smooth oval shaped pills like candy. Extra-strength was my preferred choice. If the bottle called for two, I usually took three. It is hard to admit now, but Excedrin really was part of my daily existence. The pain could be so debilitating that if I felt something coming on, I would take Excedrin.
I learned this, I believe, from my mother, who has also suffered from migraines her whole life. She has always carried a small bag of mixed pills including Tylenol and Advil in her purse, along with prescription medication for migraines, in case hers would get ‘bad’. What I learned from watching her, was that migraines were a part of life, and as such, we were not to let them slow us down. I love my mom and have wonderful memories of her being at all of my sports events and many practices too. She was always there for us. I came to expect her to always be there. If she had a headache coming on or a migraine, she may not have been as engaging or animated, but she would be there. In loud gyms, swimming pools, at the track, or the soccer field, she would be there. Rubbing her temples gently was usually an indication that she was suffering, but she seldom said anything. There were times she would go into her room and close the doors, lying in bed with the curtains closed and a towel-wrapped ice pack on her head. She often kept a large silver bowl with her, in case she could not make it to the bathroom. Seldom, did she say anything about the pain. If my brothers or I ran in to the room, she would motion us to the bed and listen to our plea, help us to the degree she could, then let us know she needed to continue resting. Even through her pain, she was there for us.
Writing this blog makes me want to apologize for what I took for granted, for the way I unintentionally contributed to her pain. It was a silent pain that I often sensed was present, but did not fully acknowledge. I see now that I colluded both with my mom, and with the migraine. I see now the ways that her love for us, and her desire to excel as a mother, affected her ability to take time for herself to heal. I internalized this lesson. It has taken decades for me to learn to listen to my body, prioritize my healing, and ultimately support my body’s innate ability to heal. It has been this process that finally rendered a sweet result – being migraine-free.
I felt the mother suffering in the sun with great compassion in my heart. Concerned, I also sensed like my mother had done, she was doing her best. However, I also recognized the patterns she was instilling in her son and continuing in herself. The pain still has power over her, and by association, affects her son. She mentioned western medicine gives her medication, but has not been able to get rid of the migraines.
In response to her question about what helped me, I shared that acupuncture and Chinese herbs have helped. I explained Ayurvedic medicine and philosophy also helped. I also said addressing suppressed anger and internal emotional issues played a large role for me. These were the first things that came to mind. She showed a wave of hope as she mentioned she is keen to explore alternative medicine and is aware of the importance of addressing emotions. I hope that she will follow through with her intent and find relief that enables her to someday be able to sit outside in the afternoon Autumn sun and watch her son play without concern for increasing pain.
On my way home, I reflected on the experience and realized there is quite a bit more to my own personal story and what has helped me on the path of becoming migraine free.
What a different world it is living migraine free! I want to help others regain this sense of freedom. I intend to share more of my journey and what has helped in a series of blogposts.
If you or someone you know suffers from headaches or migraines and is tired of this pain running your life, consider scheduling a complimentary consultation to discuss how I might support you. I work in person with people in Seattle and via Skype with those who live elsewhere. Life is rich and precious; each of us deserves to experience its gifts and live fully.