(This is a personal story about my own health issue. This is not meant to diagnose or be medical advice for anyone else. This is also not meant for you to diagnose me. 😉 Trust me, folks, I’ve tried it!)
I don’t write many personal posts anymore. It seems like SEO has often overtaken my ability to be a writer, and the constant vitriol of our world has me sometimes wondering if it is even worth sharing anything. I started this post back in July of 2021, not long after my second trip to the ER for a migraine that felt left me physically and emotionally depleted, but I didn’t finish it because I heard the voices from the past remind me that “no one cares,” instead of believing that my story may be worth sharing if it encourages one other person.
So here I am, 8 years into my migraine-laden life. When I was pregnant with Cecilia, I started to have debilitating migraines that were coupled with extreme nausea. There wasn’t much the midwife could do to help, as most medicines aren’t 100% safe for pregnancy and I didn’t feel comfortable taking them. At 17 weeks, my hormones regulated, and the migraines went away! I delivered a healthy baby girl and really didn’t think another thing about them. However, around the time I started to wean C, the migraines came back and it was then that I sought the help of a doctor.
The doctor prescribed the lowest dose of popular migraine medicine and sent me on my way. In the beginning, the meds worked amazingly. I didn’t know why I had allowed myself to suffer for months before seeking help. The first few years, I was able to easily cope.
Then we moved to a new city at the end of 2016, and I think the stress of the move, the new environment, and some unhealthy food choices sent my body into a tailspin. The migraines were getting more severe and coupled with more vomiting. I sought out a new doctor and she increased my prescription. This was like another bandaid on a laceration – it was stopping the worst, but the side effects were awful, and I was still missing out on a lot of life.
When I fell pregnant with Louisa, the Dr was hopeful that the pregnancy may “turn my hormones around” and help my migraines to get better. Like my previous pregnancy, I struggled so much the first 3-4 months (with only the ability to take Tylenol, instead of prescription meds), but felt great (minus being hot and miserable, lol), otherwise.
However, a few months after giving birth, things were right back where they were 5 years earlier. My head was pounding and I was sick, all while trying to care for a baby and 3 other children.
Then came the dreaded C word. Our family had a mild case of COVID in December of 2020. The worst part of the infection for me was, of course, the headache. On Day 9 of our 10-day quarantine, I had the worst migraine of my life. I couldn’t keep any food or water down. I couldn’t stop the pounding in my skull. My only relief was the short bits of sleep. Mr. Yoder called the local Urgent Care to see if they would treat me, but they aren’t able to offer the “migraine cocktail” that hospitals give to sufferers. The local ER said they would take me, but that Mr. Yoder could not be there for support. This was at the height of infections in our area. I could not imagine sitting in a bright ER waiting room while my brain was pounding out of my skull and vomiting, without a support person. I choose to stay home and ride it out, which Mr. Yoder supported, despite his worry. (Frankly, I hope we look back on this rule of not allowing support persons to be with the sick or dying as the absolute worst idea to come from the pandemic – and my story is one of the milder, I know).
Finally, after 48 hours of intense suffering, my symptoms lightened and I could keep down some tea and bread. The storm was over… or so we thought.
What we didn’t know is that the inflammation from COVID, coupled with the hormone imbalance from weaning Lou would set off another storm. The headaches were coming more frequently and more intense, and in June 2021, I landed in the ER after another day and night of extreme pain and the inability to keep a drop of water down. I felt like I was at the bottom – my body hated me and there would never be a relief.
SOME RELIEF AND MY OUTLOOK
In the past 9 months, I’ve tried more foods and supplements, acupuncture, teas, yoga, the chiropractor. I’m meeting with a Chinese herbalist soon. I’m determined to beat this, to find some normalcy. But also, I know genetics often don’t care, and this may be “my normal.” My mother and grandmother dealt with the same thing.
Why the 800-word introduction to why migraines make me want to live life to the fullest?
When you spend 4 to 5 to 6 days a month just surviving, you have a desire to spend the other 24-26 more intentionally. On the days when my head is throbbing and I’m nauseated and weak, I do my best to go through the motions – school the kids, make meals, throw in a load of laundry. But the other days, my body craves to see people, to engage more fully, and to have conversations and activities without the haze of the headache or the side effects of medication.
The good days remind me that the bad days are worth it. That I can have my days of suffering, but still enjoy life, that I still have a purpose, and that I still have a person inside (in other words, the illness does not define me, while it may define some days). I’m thankful for the migraines because they have allowed me to be compassionate towards those that suffer from chronic pain or illnesses, I know what it feels like to be grumpy just because you don’t feel good. I hope I show more grace and kindness because I know that when you’re body doesn’t want to cooperate with your desires, it’s extremely discouraging.
I’m also thankful for migraines because they have made me yearn for heaven. I know that my life here on earth is just a vapor, and I’ll have a new (pain-free head) and body in heaven. I know that life isn’t always going to make us happy, but holy, and in the worst moments, I know it is Jesus to whom I cry out to and ask to help me. I’m thankful that Jesus hears my cries and loves me, despite my frustration.
I know that God has a plan in all things, and I know that the past few years have made my kids more compassionate, too. They are amazing helpers when Mom is feeling rough.
I decided to share this today because social media can be so exhausting and fake. We are all struggling with something, yet we’re so hesitant to tell others. Just this past week, so many memes telling people that their problems weren’t as big as others’ problems. What people may see of my life is adventurous hikes, family time, or complaints about Ohio weather, but they have no idea the pain or nausea I may be dealing with while making those statements or trying to have fun.
I don’t need sympathy at all, I just want to raise awareness for something that often gets brushed away! I’ve had many people say to me, “Oh I get those! I take two Advil and they go away!” Oh my! Taking 2 Advil for me is about the equivalent of eating two Pez. Ha! It does nothing! I also think it’s easy in this world of “crunchy living” to offer essential oils and chiropractor care as if they are a be-all-end-all for all illnesses. As much as I believe in holistic health, and have been helped by natural healthcare, I do believe there can be a time and place for pharmaceuticals. As I will often tell people, “I still have to manage a home.” Again, grace upon grace – most people are generally trying to help! And I get it, I’m a fixer, too. We all want to help fix others’ problems.
So, this is my story. I’m still here, and I’m going to choose joy on the good days – and the bad! They are all there for a reason. I look forward to many adventures – but I’m also eager for my eternal home – and no more pain. I think that’s the constant in-between that Christians should live in – thankful for life, but ready to be with Jesus. <3
For your continued reading: Making a Eulogy List, not a Bucket List.
If you suffer from migraines (or another chronic illness), feel free to reach out so I can pray for you!