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!