Sunday, July 21, 2013

Don't Give Up!

My Dear Friend(s) Who Believe Suicide is Your Only Option,

You have shared with me your desire to be free of pain, depression, loneliness and anxiety.  I know that the release of death beckons you - that you believe it is the only way to find any kind of relief.  I hear in your words the desperation and hopelessness that you feel - I know that you are overwhelmed.  I know that you don't believe that there is any hope for a different or better life.

I pray and pray that God would give me the right words when I speak with you.  I share with you my own struggle with wanting to die and how I came through that to a life of hope that I never imagined.  I talk like a cheerleader on steroids trying to convince you that it's going to be okay; that it just takes time; that you can do it!  Yet I know that those words are hollow to you right now because all you can see is the darkness.  I become like a manic minister, citing every promise and verse of comfort that I can, but I know to you that they are just words.  I try to reason with you, reminding you of how important you are to your loved ones and to me.  I try to get you to see the difference you have made in the world and can continue to make.  But again, I know you don't believe these words because you believe that you are a burden and have nothing to offer and all you can see is the depth and darkness of your pain.

At times, you intellectualize suicide with the conclusion that it would be better for you and better for others if you weren't here - that it would be quicker and more merciful.  I wish you could see that for the false thinking that it is.  Do you really think we would get over you that quickly?  Do you really think that our lives would just go on as if you never existed?  I know you fantasize about heaven and the permanent relief from pain.  I'm not going to tell you that you are selfish, but I do want to ask "what about me?"  "What about the others who love you?" "What about our pain?"  You do know, don't you,  that we won't hurt just over your death, but over the fact that we will have to find a way to live without you.  There will be a void that nothing and no one can replace.  You aren't forgettable.

I know you need to see and feel hope, and I would give anything if I could do that for you.  I won't give up trying to do that either because the truth is that I care for you deeply.  As I speak and write to you, I fight back tears.  I cry because of my fear that I will lose you, my friend.  I cry because I am so powerless over this darkness that you are living in and my words seem so hollow.  I cry because I feel your pain deep within my soul.  I also cry because you just seem to have lost all fight.  I need to see you care about yourself!

I've never even met you in person, but you have made a difference in my life.  My life would be emptier and less meaningful without you.  I wish I could come to you and sit with you in the darkness.  I wish I could come to you and keep you safe, but I know I can't.  The reality is that there is really only one person who matters in this and that is you!  You have to be willing to fight; you have to be willing to believe in hope.  You have to be willing to search for meaning in your life. You have to be willing to turn off the fantasies of death and plant your feet firmly in this life.  As much as I want to, I cannot do it for you.  

I wish you knew how many people there are in your life who wish they could do this for you.  I know you can't feel it through the fog, but you are surrounded by love.  You need to know that we don't love you in spite of who you are and how you feel, but because of who you are.  You really do make a difference in our lives.

So, basically, this letter is my plea to you to keep on going.  Please do whatever it takes to cross through this valley of darkness into fields of hope.  There is nothing I wouldn't do for you....can you please feel the same about yourself?  Whatever it takes....medication, counseling, a safety contract, a safe place, calling a crisis line, meeting with a pastor, calling a friend to be with you, entering a therapeutic program either as an in or out-patient, asking for resources that you don't have.  

I KNOW it's hard work, and I know you are tired, but please don't give up.  I go to bed at night praying you won't give up; I wake up in the morning praying that you won't give up.  There is an army of people who don't even know your name(s) that are praying for you right now.  Please, please, don't give up.  You are important to me.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

MHAM #23: How Faith Helps Me Cope

Today's blog challenge asks "how does spirituality or religion help you cope?"  

I honestly can't even imagine coping without my faith.  I know that there are many of you out there who don't share my faith in Jesus Christ and who have been hurt, judged or let down by Christians.  I also know that there are others of you who don't feel you measure up because you have encountered a legalistic Christianity.  So before I go any further, let me begin by saying that I hold each of you, regardless of your personal faith, in high esteem.  I believe God has called me to love you and not to judge you.  After all, most of use are just trying our best to manage what life has for us!

My faith is not a religion or a denomination, but a relationship that I have with a gracious and loving God.  I believe, in accordance with what Scripture says, that God loves us with an unconditional love and that the church wasn't created for the saint, but for the sinner.  I don't write this as a holier than thou, judgmental, stone-casting person.  

I know who I am.  As Brennan Manning would say, I am a ragamuffin.  I am not the reflection of Christ that I would like to be, for I am frequently impatient, strong willed, jealous, despairing, selfish, unloving, insecure and judgmental.  My God is none of those things!  So I hope that as you read this, you won't judge Him by what you see in me but in what I want to become as I seek to take on His character.

Being sick and homebound is lonely, but I know that my God is always with me.  When everyone else turns away or is preoccupied, He is always there.  I can cry out to Him and share my fears, my pain, my anger, and my longings without any fear of retribution.  He says in His word that He cherishes me like a bridegroom does a bride.  The thought of that is really too awesome to fully take in, but it makes me feel loved, treasured, protected and never alone.  

Being in pain can easily lead me into feeling hopeless and anxious.  I look and look for some reason to hope based on current medical treatments, and right now there just aren't any.  But my heavenly Father offers me constant reasons for hope.  His word is full of promises that I know He won't break.  He promises to give me hope and a future; He promises to always be with me; He promises me that I can do all things through Him.  He promises to be my shield and my protector.  He says He will deliver me and honor me.  He says that He will be with me in trouble.  He says that He began a good work in me and will carry it to completion.

So I dwell on His promises.  I practice the encouragement of Philippians 4:8 that says "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think on these things."  By no means, do I do this perfectly or even close to perfectly.  However, one thing that I am convinced of is that if I put my mind on His promises and those things which are excellent and praiseworthy that it changes me.  (It affects me the same way that dwelling on pain, loneliness and lost dreams does.  How I think perpetuates itself; it becomes a vicious cycle.  It takes root and grows its own kind.) Thinking about God's love and His promises change how I feel about this path I am currently on.  It chases away the darkness of fear and anxiety.  It chases away hopelessness and loneliness.  It even chases away my feelings of inadequacy and anger.  Remarkably, His love even accompanies me into the dark places of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, loneliness, inadequacy and anger!  He is not repulsed, disapproving and turned off by my humanity.

I have hope because I believe in the mercy and grace of Christ.  It's as simple as that.  I cope because the great Hope of the World accompanies me on my journey.  I cope through prayer, through spiritual songs, through reading Scripture, and through the fellowship and encouragement of other believers.  I cope and I hope because I see Him at work in this world.  I see Him in every kindness, every smile, every laugh, every one of my precious friends and family members, every flower, every sunrise, every rainbow.  And because of that, life (just like it is) is truly worth living.

June 2013, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The 2013 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Will Be Here For You

My dear friends....

       I wrote about my superhero in my last blog, but now I want to write to all of you who are also my heroes.  My heroes who live with pain day in and day out.  My heroes who face depression, anxiety, loneliness, financial hardship, chronic illnesses, family strife, loss.  My heroes who just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  My heroes who keep looking for hope and keep hanging on to the belief in hope.  My heroes who shine a light for others in the darkness.  

I know some of you see yourselves as hanging on by a thread, but you inspire me!  Your strength, your perseverance, your character - they amaze me.  When you have shared your deepest struggle, your most violent storm, or your darkest night, it is when I see your heroism shining the brightest!! says that a hero is a person of distinguished courage, admired for his/her brave deeds and noble qualities.  Yep, that's you!!!

So when life is at it's hardest, I want you to remember that I am here for you - my heroes.

These are the words I want to say to you during those dark nights of the soul and body:
                 Listen to "I Will Be Here for You."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Migraine Awareness Month #2 and #14: Thank You for Being a Friend

While I have not been able to participate in this month's blog challenge every day as I had hoped to, there are two challenges that I just have to address.  The first one prompts "Migraine Superheroes: Who in your life goes above and beyond?" and the 14th which prompts "Letters to Julia: Write a letter to someone who has helped you." These are ones that I can't just let slip by me.

I have the most amazing group of friends, and I am so incredibly thankful for them.  I don't think there is any way that they will ever know just how much they mean to me!  They have made sure that someone is with me when I don't feel well enough to be alone. They made sure that I had the funds I needed to take the trip to Jefferson to go into the hospital; and they made sure that I had a card to open every day of two different hospitalizations. They run countless errands for me!  Some have taken off of work to drive me the six hours to Springfield to see my doctor.  They gave me gift cards to restaurants for my birthday so that I could afford to go out to eat with them.  They are willing to come (perfume free) to my house and sit in the dark and watch a movie with me.  They send me cards and texts just to check in with me or give me a boost.  They have literally picked me up when I have fallen down.  These friends epitomize Proverbs 17:17 which says "A friend loves at all times, and a brother/sister is born for adversity."  These people fill me with hope.  They make my life worthwhile.  They make me laugh and let me cry.  They are my dearest gifts from the Lord and help me to see Him more clearly!  I can only hope and pray that I can some day let them each know how dear and important they are to me.  What they probably don't know is that they have two special ringtones on my phone.  They are "You've Got a Friend." Listen to it here.  (Isn't it sad about James Taylor and Carly Simon? - a little inside joke!)  The other one is "Thank You for Being a Friend." Listen to it here.  (Yes, many of us are becoming "golden" friends or should I say a distinguished salt and pepper friend?)  When I say to you "Thank You for Being a Friend," I mean it from the bottom of my heart!

I also have a number of superheroes, but one particular person stands out as Wonder Woman, Super Girl and definitely Cat Woman combined!! My friend Kris is one of the most giving people I have ever known.  What would I do without you, Kris? At great personal expense, she stayed at my home with me for several months when I first became chronic to help me with the many transitions I went through then.  She has gone to countless doctor appointments with me - even flying with me to Philadelphia although she is scared to death of flying.  Sometimes, I think she knows my medical history and my medications better than I do!  She has sat with me in the dark more times than I can count and has let me cry on her shoulder even more times than that!  She probably doesn't know that I know how frequently she emails my friends and family to make them aware of a need that I have.  She is the first one to organize help when I need something.  She has taken countless days off of work to take me to doctor appointments and to Springfield.  She has left work many times to rush to my rescue.  She alone can tell by just one look how I'm really feeling - she always sees behind the mask.  She is my chief "spoon" monitor and urges (nags) me to self-regulate what I do during those times when I'm feeling a bit better.  She puts up with my irritability, my fears, my questions, my tears and my silliness with grace.  With Kris, a simple phone call or text is all that is needed for physical, emotional or spiritual support.  I honestly think that half of the time she reads my mind (a very scary thought and not for the weak of heart!)  Proverbs 18:24 says "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruins, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." Or in this case a sister!  Kris, thank you for being that friend who always sticks closer than a sister!

I am so grateful for my circle of friends!!

Listen to Circle of Friends.
This one is for each of you!
Thank you for being my circle of friends!

June 2013, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The 2013 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hanging on to Hope

June is Migraine Awareness Month. (I ask that if you read nothing else in this blog, that you read that which is written in red and maybe that will convince you to read further.) During this month, many advocates try to raise awareness about Migraines through posting facts about Migraines on our Facebook pages, wearing purple, writing blogs and a number of other activities.  We want for you to be aware of the facts.  Facts like

     37 Million Americans live with Migraines.
          Of these, 14 Million live with chronic daily pain.
               But there are only 418 board certified headache     
                    Migraine leads to more lost years of healthy life
                    than do tuberculosis, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy
                    and ovarian cancer Combined.
                         There is no cure for Migraines.

To those of you without Migraines, these are just mere facts.  However, Migraine Awareness Month took on a whole new reality for those of us in the Migraine community when a beautiful young woman took her life Thursday as a result of the pain, desperation and hopelessness that she felt due to her Migraines.  Many of us have spent the weekend crying over this - even those who never knew her.  This is not an isolated incident....I have personally known several other people who have attempted to take their lives over the past year because of their Migraines.  A couple came close and ended up in the ICU.

These people were not weak people; they were not emotionally unstable; they were not lacking in strength; they were not lacking in faith or in the desire to live a good life.  These people have friends who care deeply about them.  They have all visited multiple doctors trying to find an answer to their pain and other symptoms.  They all sought counseling prior to their attempt.  Each one of these people was just like you and me.  However, unless you also live with chronic pain that feels like an anvil is being driven into your head, experience constant nausea and vomiting, have light, sound and odor sensitivity (among other symptoms), have lost your job, have lost the ability to drive and have gone from doctor to doctor desperately seeking an answer, You Really Have No Idea What It's Like.  If you did, you would understand what leads a person to feeling hopeless and overwhelmed to the degree that they would actually consider ending their life.

To those of you with Migraines, I understand....I have been there.  I live this with you every day.  But the one thing we cannot afford to lose is Hope.  None of us knows what tomorrow holds - what new treatment might be right around the bend.  We have to fight this beast Together.  I believe that the greatest thing we can do for one another is to hold out hope - real hope.  It's true that we might not know how to make our Migraines disappear or lessen, but there are some other beautiful things that we do know.  We know that in the midst of pain, we have come to know incredible people who suffer in similar ways who we would have never met had it not been for our Migraines.  These people and others have held on to hope for us when we couldn't do it ourselves.  We know that these people constantly amaze us by sharing their strength, their encouragement and their successes.  When we share our positive stories (even if they are baby steps), we strengthen one another.  Similarly, we bear one another's burdens.  We choose together to focus on that which is possible and positive - that which builds hope.  Conversely, when we focus on our sorrow, our pain, our loneliness and our hopelessness, it is Contagious.  This doesn't mean we can't share things, but we need to be careful about where our focus and emphasis lies.  It has to be on Hope.

What other things can be said that we know to be true and positive about our lives even with Migraines?

     Laughter prevails; friendships endure; servant hearts come to meet our needs; beautiful flowers grow; lovely music which enriches our souls is written; babies' smiles make us smile; furry friends comfort and amuse us; caring doctors are found; the hugs from a family member or friend warm our hearts; time is spent with ones we love that we can never get back again; the promises of faith endure forever.

Dear Migraine friend, you are not simply taking up space.  You are not a burden.  You are not worthless just because you cannot work or cannot contribute to life and others as you would like.  You are a beautiful and important person - to me and others.  You make a difference in someone's life.  You are the source of another person's smiles, warm heart and laughter.  Without you, someone's sun is eclipsed.  You may not share my personal faith in God, but I believe from the bottom of my heart that each and every one of you was created for a purpose and that you are cherished and celebrated.  Even when you don't feel that way, it doesn't change the truth.  Hold on to truth....hang on to hope.  

Hope is not always a feeling.  Many times, it is a decision and choice to look for the good and the possible, to open our eyes to the many things that bless and enrich our lives.  It is also a decision and a choice to say that we are worthwhile.  We are not defined by our illness, but by who we are and can become as human beings.  Strip away our health, our financial standing, our independence and even some of our relationships (all of which are frequently lost in this war with Migraines) and believe the truth.  Regardless of what we do or what we have, we are valuable; we belong; we make a difference.

I urge you to not be ashamed of the depression or sense of futility that you may sometimes feel.  I urge you to choose to get help rather than to dwell on desperation.  There are good doctors out there.  There are caring therapists.  There are caring friends.  You are not alone.  You can do this....we can do it together.  

If you have Migraines and feel alone, please consider joining the American Headache and Migraine Association - Find it here -, look for support groups on Facebook,, or contact me, and I'll help you make connections.

If you are a Migraineur who has lost hope, I beg you to call a therapist, to call 1-800-SUICIDE or to go to this link for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Migraine Awareness Month is not just about facts. As the events of this past week have driven home to all of us, it is about real people searching for real hope.  

If you are not a Migraineur and you want to know how to help someone you love, check out these letters by Teri Robert.  Other great sources to check out are this blog by Diana Lee or this blog by Ellen Schnakenberg.  You might also want to consider making a contribution in your loved one's honor to AHMA (link) or the American Headache Society (link) so that further research and treatments can be developed.  If you want to know more facts about Migraines and headache disorders, go here.  If you want to know more about advocacy efforts, please check out the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (link).

June 2013, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The 2013 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Need Your Help!

Did you know that we now have an official patient organization for people with Migraines and other headache disorders?  It was formed under the auspices of the American Headache Society, and it's mission can be found in the simple acronym EASE.  The purpose of this group is to Educate, to Increase awareness about Migraines and other headache disorders, Support those who suffer with headache disorders and their families, and Engage patients so that we can work together to make a difference!

This is not just for individuals who are disabled by headache disorders but for anyone who wants to see progress being made in the areas of Migraine and other headache disorder treatment, education, research, perception, awareness and funding.  In the U.S. alone, 37 million people suffer from Migraines (and that's not even including all the other headache disorders such as Cluster Headaches, aka, the suicide headache).  5 million people in the US have at least one Migraine a month.  That's 12 days a year when they are burdened with, if not incapacitated, by the pain and symptoms of a Migraine.  Most Americans can expect to live more than 75 years.  If a person were to suffer a migraine a month for even fifty years, it would mean the loss of 600 days of their lives - that's almost two years!!  Staggering, isn't it?  But I believe, along with others, that this can change through the very things for which AHMA stands - education, advocacy, support and engagement.

Some of you may ask, "why should I join an organization like this?"  My friend, Teri Robert, the current chair of AHMA, explains that in addition to raising awareness and increasing research that AHMA will also provide the newest information regarding Migraine and headache research and treatment, will hold webinars to educate both patients and doctors, will start support groups, will have an advocate mentoring program and an annual patient conference.  There is also a forum where all members (patients, caregivers and doctors) can confidentially and honestly share with one another.  

And the cherry on the top? The AHMA board is comprised of five patients and five of the top Migraine and headache specialists in the United States!!  That's right - real dialogue and interaction between our doctors and the patients!  Conceptually, the patient board members will direct the organization, and the physicians will provide assistance.  The patient conferences will have top notch Migraine and headache specialists presenting, in addition to all the other goodies already being planned for the first conference on November 24, 2013 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

So, why should you join??  Because for only $15 a year, you can be a part of making a real and tangible difference in your own life and in the lives of the millions of people who suffer with these disorders.  As an organized and formal vehicle, we can work together to improve research funding so that through new knowledge can lead to new and innovative treatments, and in doing so might ensure that you or your children or grandchildren might not suffer as much in the years to come!  As an organized and formal group, we can raise public awareness that Migraines and other headache disorders are not "just" a headache!  Let's help change the statistics!  Let's help ourselves and those we love who suffer from headache disorders find both support and hope for the future!  

I've had friends who have asked why they should join if they already interact with others who suffer with headache disorders, feel like they know everything they need to know, follow an expert blog on Migraines or if they don't really feel the need to interact with other sufferers.  The reason is because there is strength in numbers! When we work together, we CAN make a difference.  I am currently disabled by my Migraines and unable to work the job I adore because of them.  One of my great hopes is that through a group like AHMA, my nieces and nephews will never have to experience what I have over the past forty plus years.

Please take the time to go to the AHMA website and join today!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Identity Crisis

Although I have had Migraines since childhood, it was not until about four years ago that they became chronic and intractable causing me to have to leave the career that I loved behind.  As I began this journey, I purposefully set out to walk through this on my own terms.  The chief among these was not to live with a victim mentality.  While I had no choice about the severity of my Migraines, I realized that I did have a choice about my attitude and my behaviors.  

While I am open with people about the severity and chronicity of my Migraines, I want to somehow live "above" them.  I know inside that my attitude and behaviors will determine my psychological well-being as I walk this journey.  To that end, I strive to be as upbeat as possible, to refrain from complaining about and cataloging my pain, and to have an attitude which focuses on hope.  This frequently means that I present a face to the world which may not show the severity of my pain and disability.  

However, over the last few weeks, I have had a bit of an identity crisis where a number of people have mentioned to me or to others that my Migraines were not as severe as x person's.  Now, I'm not one to get into a "who has the most pain" match with anyone.  In fact, I deliberately try to act and speak as if I am not in pain - not because I don't want anyone to know but because it is what I have to do for my own psychological well-being.  The simple fact is that if I focus on my pain and give into my desire to moan, cry, curse and despair, I have but a very bleak life to behold.  I don't think I would be able to endure such a life.  However, when I "act as if" I am feeling better than I am, it helps me to get through the moment.  This has led to some people questioning the severity of my pain and to others questioning my authenticity.  

There is a part of me that wonders if I lived and acted how I really feel if others would take me more seriously and put more effort towards helping and understanding my illness.  I have to admit to wondering if I've shot myself in the foot because of this.  Would others (including doctors) help me more if I wore my "sick face" and retreated to bed in tears?  Has my choice of attitude presented an oxymoron to others that tells them something different than what I truly experience?

This is something which now lies heavily on my heart.  But it is also something which honestly makes me a big frustrated.  Yes, when I had episodic Migraines, it was natural to moan and groan and go to bed due to the pain.  But now that pain is a daily, 24/7 experience, maybe I've become accustomed to it - maybe I've developed some coping strategies which help me to give quality to my life.  These include hiding my Migraines when I can because I don't want a life that is defined by Migraines.  I don't want to be a walking billboard for all the effects of Migraines. It also includes me smiling even when I'm hurting; it means that I try to look for the good and for things for which I can be grateful.  It means that I try to participate in life to the degree possible and that I save my suffering for private moments as much as possible.   I have also found that in reaching out to others to encourage and support them that I take the focus off of me which, at least, psychologically lowers my perception of pain.  Does this mean that my pain is any less real or severe?  Not a chance!

I'm not suggesting that I am doing it the "correct" way - how could anyone know that?  I'm just saying that I'm doing what works for me a large amount of the time.  Are there days when I can't function at all?  Are there times when I weep because of the pain?  Are there times when I dread the future because I can't see a life without pain?  Yes, but I can't live focused on that.  If that makes doctors, friends, and family second guess the severity and frequency of my pain, I guess that's the cost I have to pay for I know that if I give in to this
on a regular basis that I will also be inviting despair, depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety into my life.  And I choose not to do that.  It does not make me a "strong" person nor does it make me a malingerer or exaggerator - it simply makes me a person who is desperate to do whatever it takes to manage and to preserve some quality of life.  The bottom line is the question as to whether I will let Migraines dominate me or if I will find a way to live at peace with them.  Do I want a cure? Yes!  Do I wish things were different? Yes!  Am I going to let Migraines define my attitude toward life? Absolutely not!!

But I would ask that before you judge me that you take the time to ask about my experience.  I am willing to share that - I'm just not willing to live it out loud.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Year, New Strategies

New Year, New Chances for Migraine Treatment Strategies is the topic of this month's Migraine and Headache Blog Carnival hosted by the Headache Disorder Blog Network (Go to Blog Network).  This is a difficult topic for me to address as I have been dealing with Migraines for 45 years and with Chronic Migraines for at least five of those years.  In this time, I have tried well over 90 medications and tried physical therapy, accupuncture, chiropractic care, nerve blocks, biofeedback, massage, hypnosis, and many other things.  

I have to laugh inside when someone without Chronic Migraines asks me if I've tried "x" new treatment.  I can laugh rather than scream because I know most of them are well-intentioned in their questions; however, I have made the search for successful Migraine treatment into both an art and a science.  If there is an article out there about Migraines, I'd be surprised if I haven't seen it.  If there is a treatment that has any plausibility behind it, I doubt I haven't tried it (unless it's medically contraindicated or unavailable).  

So, the question is what chance do I really have for new treatment strategies in 2013?  I think, for me, this has more to do with mindset than with the actual treatment.  I cannot give up hope that my doctor and/or I will find something that will help better manage my Migraines.  My focus has to be on progress rather than on a cure.  Unfortunately, too many people without Migraines think that there is some "cause" for my Migraines that can be identified and treated so that I can be cured.  It's just not that easy.  Migraines are a complex neurological disease.  It's hard, if not impossible, to identify what caused my Migraines or made them become chronic.  Additionally, there is no cure for Migraines at this time.  The goal for treatment is to manage Migraines and to reduce the number and severity of them- not cure them.

So, what needs to change in 2013?  Aside from the development of new drugs and treatments, as well as research into the etiology of Migraines, I need to be willing to persevere in doing those things which I have found to  help my Migraines.  Those things include getting proper rest, eating right, engaging in some physical activity, utilizing biofeedback and mindfulness, tracking my Migraines with a Migraine diary, and open communication with my doctor.   I also need to focus on consistency in doing each of these things.  Like many New Year's resolutions, it is easy to say that you are going to do these things but to get stopped by circumstances - including not feeling well.  

My mindset has to stay focused on positivity, hope and education.  If I lack perseverance in any of these areas, I doubt I will be successful in gaining any new insights regarding treatment for my Migraines.  Positivity, hope and education are positive and proactive ways to address my Migraine treatment.  They are each choices.  While some may view positivity and hope as feelings, I believe that they are choices about how I choose to view things.  I have to consciously choose to be positive and to focus on hope.  I have to choose to educate myself and to interact with my doctor as a partner in my treatment and not as a recipient of care.  

So, will there be new strategies in this New Year?  Absolutely, but even more so, I think my focus of this year will be on refining what I know works and employing it on a more consistent basis.  

Oh, and if anyone has a solution for barking dogs, I believe that will also help my Migraines a lot!  :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Power of Pets!

Therapeutic Animals
     I wrote a post last year about the power of pets as therapeutic allies in the healing process.  I continue to be amazed by the bond between people and their pets.  My own dogs, Marlie and Milo, have instincts about my mood that exceed that of most mental health therapists!  I adopted Milo about a year ago to the disbelief of my family.  They wondered how I could possibly handle another dog while living with chronic Migraines and pain.  I can say without reservation that Milo has been one of the best additions to my treatment plan from 2012.  Milo is my snuggly dog.  He should have been named Velcro because disengaging him from me is nearly impossible.  He is also my dog that loves to play.  Milo will throw his toys up in the air and then go and get them - he seems to be in a state of perpetual joy.  This joy can't help but permeate my mood.  Milo makes me laugh.  I have found that laughter truly is good for the soul, and what's good for the soul can't help but be good for the body.   Marlie is my sweet, gentle soul.  When she lies next to me and looks at me with her beautiful brown eyes, I am at peace and relaxed.  She seems to read my mind and to know instantaneously how I am feeling.  Marlie makes it clear that I am the one person in the world who she loves and needs the most.  With her, I know I am always loved.  I wouldn't give up my two precious fur babies for anything in the world.

     Multiple empirical studies have been conducted with patients with medical conditions and chronic pain that show the value of being with a pet.  Dawn Marcus, MD, conducted research in a pain clinic where patients were allowed to visit with a therapy dog prior to meeting with the physician. She found that patients who "met" with a dog prior to their appointment had a 40% reduction in depression and anxiety and a 20% reduction in fatigue.  She also found a 23% drop reduction in pain.  To read more about Dr. Marcus' study, go to this link.

Below are the links to two beautiful YouTube videos which illustrate the power of pets.

Cat Calms a Crying Baby  Go Here.
Dog Plays with A Child with Down Syndrome  Go Here.
Dog Causes Child to Laugh  Go Here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dear 2012

Dear 2012,

I have been trying to think of the Scripture that best sums up this year.  While I am tempted to use John 11:35 ("Jesus Wept") because of how frequently I wept over Migraines, struggles, loss and the other difficult realities of life, I am convinced that the better verse to sum up my year is found in Romans 5: 1-4 (The Message)

     "We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
     We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"

Yes, while at first glance, 2012 appears to be one that was filled up with pain, I can confidently say that when I look at my year in total that it is filled with hope and joy.  Any pain that I experienced during this year, God Himself has been able to use to produce growth in me.  As the NIV says, "suffering produce(d) perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And Hope never puts us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

Where you would have like to have seen me write that suffering produced pain, and pain produced anxiety; and anxiety, despair, instead I can confidently say that I am grateful for each experience which has been allowed me during 2012.  It is those experiences and my ability to come through them which have taught me that there is always hope and that even the hardest things that occur in my life can bring great good.

Yes, I had unmanageable Migraines, but because of them, I have made some life long friends who I would have never met otherwise.  Because of them, I have a doctor who I trust and value.  Because of them, I have had to travel to see that doctor and have, as a result, gotten to know my dear first cousin and his family.  Because of the trials of this year, I have had the good fortune of learning that joy is something that is not dependent on my circumstances but upon my relationship with God Himself.  Because of my Migraines, I have had time to listen to beautiful music, read good books, consider the wonder of friendship, to bathe in the blessing of family, and to try to serve others who are suffering.  

Because of the trials of this year, I have re-realized the unimaginable treasure of people I love and the time I get to spend with them.  Because of this year, I know that every day is a gift. Because of this year, I can face 2013 without fear because I have seen the proof of the good that can come out of difficulty and pain.

So, 2012, thank you.  Thank you for each day and each experience.  Thank you for bringing me to 2013 where I expect to continue to fill up that container mentioned in Romans 5 with even more blessings, more hope, more victory and more certainty that God does have a good plan for me.  Will there be pain in 2013?  Yes, it's inevitable, and I don't look forward to it.  I cannot minimize the severity of some of the physical and emotional pain that I am bound to experience this year any more than I can minimize that of the past year.  
However, I survived.  
And I will continue to survive,
 and survival will be laced with gratitude and hope 
for I know that even in the most difficult circumstances,
 good can and will grow. I stand in alert expectancy - seeking what God has to reveal to me during this year.  And for that, I will give all glory and praise to Him!