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