Reply to Buzzfeed’s Migraine Posts

Recently, I have noticed Buzzfeed has been posting about people who get migraines. There was one article in particular about things you should never say to someone who gets migraines chronically. I appreciate that this popular news source that so many people read online is posting about the thing that I suffer from, but I also think they may be providing misconceptions about migraines. While the sixteen things listed in Buzzfeed’s “16 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Gets Migraines” may hold true to some migraine sufferers, I don’t think generalizations should be made.

The symptoms listed are only true for people who get traditional migraine headaches. There are a number of other migraine and headache disorders that aren’t addressed here because they aren’t as common and they aren’t as easy to identify.

I personally have a headache disorder called New Daily Persistent Headache, or NDPH. In a nutshell, what that means is that I have a headache at all times and the severity varies depending on triggers. I measure my headaches on a scale of 1-5. At all times, my headache is on the scale, usually at a lower 1 or 2. Probaby two or three times a week, it can spike to a 3, 4, or 5, a 4 or 5 being considered a “flare,” which could be essentially translated into a migraine. This is a headache/migraine disorder, but my headache manifests itself in may ways that are different from what Buzzfeed lists. I wanted to write this post to give those close to me an idea of what you should probably never say to me as a migraine sufferer.

Alas, I’m going to go through Buzzfeed’s list of 16 things and talk about why they are or aren’t true for my migraine.

  1. “I totally get it, I get headaches, too.” This one is probably one of the most true on the whole list. There are very few people who really do get it. Most people get headaches every now and then and some people get migraines, but few (at least that I have met) struggle with a daily persistent headache. This headache never goes away, meaning I am constantly in pain. Constantly. Until you can say you have had a headache that lasted seven years, you can’t tell me you “get it” and you “get headaches, too.” That being, said, you can word it differently. I love to hear when people say “I’ve had migraines before and I can’t imagine what you are going through. I am here for you.”
  2. “Couldn’t you just work if you stayed home?” This one I actually don’t hear much. I get grunts and sass when I tell people I can’t be somewhere, but they are usually understanding in saying “alright feel better” even though I sometimes can’t really feel the compassion. Point being, though, NO! I can’t work from home. First of all, I feel terrible, second of all, I may have sensory sensitivity and third of all, my mental function gets seriously compromised. Just yesterday, I had a crippling flare, and I actually made up an alphabet.
  3. “Have you tried…” Many people ask me what I have tried for treatment. Unlike the Buzzfeed article, I am not bothered by this. I am always willing to take ideas for treatment. I have tried many things, as I have been experiencing migraines for the past nine years of my life. But I do welcome suggestions because you never know if something is out there that you didn’t know about, even having looked around for so long!
  4. “It’s probably stress-related” To this, I agree entirely with the article and say, “NO SHIT!” Yes, stress is a trigger. But there’s not much to do about that. I have to still live my life and along with that comes stress. It’s a matter of management and I am working on that.
  5. “Next time you get one, just let me know. I give amazing head rubs.” The article shows a gif of a person running through a door to get away and essentially says physical contact to the head is crippling. For me, this is not at all true. I love a good head rub when I have a headache. I don’t want a massage that puts pressure on my head, but a gentle brush of the hair or something similar can sometimes be just what I need to calm down and fall asleep (Thank you to my wonderful boyfriend, Luke who gives such great head rubs when I’m feeling badly).
  6. “I know someone whose migraines turned out to be a brain tumor.” Thank you for the input, but don’t say that to me! I don’t want to hear your medical advice! I have a test done every time I go to the neurologist to check for any signs of a tumor and I have also had MRIs and all kinds of other things. If it was a brain tumor, we would know by now. But either way, it’s probably not a good idea to say this as to not panic someone! That’s serious business!
  7. “You probably need to take better care of yourself.” That’s just not nice. I do everything I can to be healthy despite this crap that I have to deal with. I would welcome advice on additional health advice, but just hearing that I don’t care of myself will upset me. I do the best I can! I don’t usually want to hear that it’s my fault that I have to deal with this! It doesn’t make for a very good friend.
  8. “Just lie and say you have a migraine.” I don’t get this often, but when I do I am as appalled as Mindy Kahling is in the image in the article. I would never fake a migraine. This is something that keeps me from doing so many things and I wouldn’t want to use it as an excuse. I try to do things despite migraines, not because of them.
  9. “You should watch a movie or listen to some music to get your mind off the pain.” Buzzfeed accompanies this one with “the only thing that doesn’t hurt our eyes or ears is darkness and silence.” For me, that doesn’t usually apply. Usually, the light and sound sensitivity is a symptom of more classic migraines. They are often a friend of aura, which I do not typically get. I actually love watching movies when I have a migraine. It does help get my mind off of the pain and I enjoy feeling comforted when I’m in pain. I usually watch The Princess and the Frog at least once (sometimes more…) when I have a migraine. As my favorite animated movie, it comforts me. If I do have any light or sound sensitivity, I can manage it by making sure light contrasts aren’t too harsh and I just keep the volume down!
  10. “You’ll feel better if you get something in your stomach.” Buzzfeed talks about all the throwing up that occurs during a migraine. This is not a symptom for all people. I have thrown up during an attack, but I don’t every time and I don’t very often. I do have a loss of appetite, and don’t want to eat, but if someone says this, they’re probably right. I do usually feel better after eating; sometimes, that is fleeting and it gets bad again, but it helps temporarily, nonetheless. One thing that helps a lot is if I drink a caffeineated beverage, so if you ever want to help me, a Coke is the perfect solution!
  11. “You have a headache again?” This I hate. I have a lot of headaches. A. Lot. Of. Headaches. I do have to cancel things, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to miss things, but it does happen. I would love it if friends and family would understand this and be alright if I have to cancel. I do try to do whatever I can to not cancel, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. And I understand it’s hard for you! So know that the empathy will be mutual if you do your best to understand!
  12. “Why are you wearing sunglasses indoors?” I actually get this about “at night” rather than “indoors,” but same thing. To this, all I can say is that it turns down the volume of the world around me. It’s a way to cope with what’s going on.
  13. “It’s your hormones, isn’t it?” No. It’s not. I have been tested for menstrual migraines and I have also done a birth control trial to see if the hormone change affects my migraines. We found that it doesn’t. Again, this is a diagnosis thing…and I love to hear your suggestions, but don’t try to diagnose my disorder.
  14. “You don’t look sick.” If people see me while I have a migraine, I do look sick. And I don’t think that’s untrue for other migraine sufferers. On a daily basis, I don’t look sick, while still feeling pain, but I just don’t think this applies. I fortunately never hear this. Even if I did, someone who doesn’t believe me isn’t someone who belongs in my life.
  15. “You should change your diet to…” See number 3. I have dietary triggers, but I don’t know all of them, even with the amount of time I have suffered from migraines. I welcome suggestions. If there’s a solution out there that I don’t know about, why would I shut it down?!
  16. “You just need to think positive.” This is true! I do need to think positive. Some days, it is really hard (yesterday, for example). But as my mom said to me, “everyone needs tough love sometimes.” I might be mad at you at the time for saying this, but in the long run, I know you are right. I try to do this every day!

The things that I need from the people who care about me are as follows:

-Understanding

-Support

-Love!

-Caring (especially while I’m having a migraine)

-Motivation

-All the help you can offer

-Make me laugh and help me have fun!

I feel for everyone experiencing migraines. I also thank Buzzfeed for bringing migraines to the attention to the social media public, but I just wanted to say that not everyone’s migraines look the same and not everyone’s migraines are the like the ones described in the article. This doesn’t make anyone’s migraines or disability more or less painful or difficult. I think we stand together in this and if a loved one of yours gets migraines (in any way, shape, or form), try to take a few moments to understand how their migraines are unique and how you can help!

Here is the link to the original article by Buzzfeed

Confessions of a Functioning Migraineur

**I want to start off by saying that what I’m about to write is by no means made to undermine the seriousness of other chronic illness sufferers’ pain and suffering**

Those of you who are close to me know that I get headaches. I would like to think you know because when you ask me to go to a concert with you, I can’t because of a migraine or because I have to leave events early because of a migraine; not because I complain about it.

Granted, I probably do complain about it sometimes and very close friends and family have seen all the ugly that comes with this illness.

What I have is a primary headache syndrome called New Daily Persistent Headache (or NDPH). If you want to see a bit about the disorder that I was diagnosed with a little over a year ago, you can go HERE. This is also where I am citing my information from because even when you are writing a blog post about a personal matter, citing your sources is important (thanks, college).

I have been experiencing headaches for the past 9 years. They have morphed and changed over time and I have only had a diagnosis for 1 year of that time. NDPH is one of the most difficult migraine disorders to diagnose because it looks similar to some other conditions.

Diagnostic criteria:
  1. Headache for more than 3 months fulfilling criteria B–D
  2. Headache is daily and unremitting from onset or from less than 3 days from onset
  3. At least two of the following pain characteristics:
    1. bilateral location
    2. pressing/tightening (non-pulsating) quality
    3. mild or moderate intensity
    4. not aggravated by routine physical activity such as walking or climbing stairs
  4. Both of the following:
    1. no more than one of photophobia (increased sensitivity to sound), phonophobia (increased sensitivity to light), or mild nausea
    2. neither moderate or severe nausea nor vomiting
  5. Not attributed to another disorder

While I’m grateful to have a diagnosis, I’m bothered by the fact that the other conditions that mimic NDPH symptoms are not only treatable, but curable.In addition to being difficult to diagnose, NDPH is also very difficult to treat; it is extremely drug intolerant.

That being said, I spent the past 9 years of my life trying countless different types of drugs, alternative medicine treatments, lifestyle changes, diets, and so much more to alleviate the pain I was feeling every day. As you may guess, none of it worked.

Prior to my diagnosis, I endured MRIs, EKGs, an endoscopy, and so much blood work all with countless different physicians. 

It has been a struggle to say the least.

All the while, I have continued to remind myself that “this, too, shall pass.” 

~

Now, I am not fishing for pity; if there is anything I am seeking, it is understanding.

I want people to better understand my illness and, in turn, better understand me.

There is a whole community online for people with disorders like mine. When I first found this, I was thrilled; but when I started talking to these individuals and reading their stories, I found myself becoming extremely irritated with them.

In this online migraine support sphere, there is so much about the concept of “invisible illness” and how people don’t understand that we are in pain because it doesn’t show. All their jokes are about the drug cocktails they take everyday and about how much of a struggle it is to get out of bed.

I met one girl who was a few years older than me. She also had a migraine disorder of some sort. She had moved out at 18 to go to college. She didn’t even spend a full semester at her university before dropping out and moving back home with her parents. Of course, I don’t know here specific situation and the pain could have been truly unbearable. As a college student suffering from headaches, I understand how hard it is. But now, 5 years later, she still lives in her childhood bedroom. She only leaves her bed to use the restroom, eat, and go to doctors appointments. She watches movies, she colors, she chats on social networking. I get it that this is hard. I really do. But what pains me about this particular girl is that she never got back up to try again.

I was beginning to find that these people were constantly trying to tell the world–or are they just trying to reassure themselves–that they have it worse than everyone else.

While I can identify with some of those thoughts, I think what sets me apart is that I don’t let them consume me. These people are so negative because their disorder has won. All they can talk about, think about, post about is their migraines.

As a person who suffers from this every day, I won’t lie and say it’s easy to fight that pain constantly. This is a huge part of my life and it’s a huge part of the person I am. My illness is invisible; sometimes (although I’m stubborn and have been off for a few months now against doctors orders) I have a drug cocktail to take and it’s so absurd that it’s comical; sometimes, I am proud of myself for getting up. I feel the pain of these sufferers; I am one of these sufferers, but I make choices every day that hurt my head and I don’t regret them one bit because they’re worth it to me.

I make decisions to sign off of the social media sites that feed my want to sit in my suffering. I make decisions to go out and do things, even if I might get a headache later. I make decisions to go to class and get an education; I make decisions to work hard at everything I do.

Although I do have my days, and my weeks, sometimes even months,  I choose not to live my life in the comfort of my bed with my eyes locked on a computer screen. If I did that, I might have less migraine attacks, but I’d also have less stories to tell and memories to smile on.

I have already missed out on so much because of my headaches. If I have anything to do with it, I’m not going to miss out on any more. Sometimes, I am in such immense pain that leaving my bed is unthinkable. But no matter how bad it has gotten, it always gets better. “This, too, shall pass.”

Chronic migraine is horrible. It is the most miserable part of my life, but it has made me more kind, more compassionate, more understanding, and more considerate. It has filled me with gratitude and taught me to take risks and live for whatever I want to live for.

To those who can’t find a way to get out of bed because of their migraines, please take a moment to remember the things you love to do the most and try to find the strength to feed your soul with it. Because if you don’t, there won’t be anything left. And”If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Take care of your body, yes. But please, please, please, do not forget to take care of your mind.

There was a time that I forgot to do that. And I missed way too much of my life.

Still, I know that I will continue to get migraines. I know that I will battle with this for the rest of my life. I know that I will go through times where I don’t feel hopeful or motivated. I know that I will struggle; but I also know that my future is bright and NDPH is not blocking that view.

If friends are looking for ways to support me, I ask that when I am experiencing headache pain, just remind me that “this, too, shall pass.”

 

 

Emotion: Change

Most people view fearing change as a weakness; however, I feel (like in many aspects of life…) that everyone to some extent fears change. It shouldn’t be seen as a weakness, but rather a normal part of life.

I’ve really been struggling with a lot of changes in my life lately and I’ve been really struggling with the fact that I am afraid of those changes and I don’t like or want them.

I think at some point, I will get used to these changes as they become normative for me and I will become comfortable. Truly, that’s the way life goes. We get used to doing something and then it changes. We, then, get used to doing that and get comfortable there and then it changes again. If life was always the same, growing wouldn’t happen. It’s true that change is a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary.

Change disrupts what we think is the natural order of things. These changes can be “good” or “bad” changes, but regardless, they are probably going to add some amount of stress.

I have started a new year at CSU, I’ve changed my course of study a bit, I have started my involvement as a Wesley Foundation Intern, we have a new director of the Wesley foundation, I have some new friends  (and some old ones are away), I’ve started a new job, I live in a new place…the list goes on and on.

There is a lot that is different from what I am used to that just recently arose. All these changes are good and they are going to help me to grow. I know that consciously, but I’m still drowning. And frankly, I’m scared shitless.

I’m an extremely emotional person. My stresses and emotions manifest in uncontrollable tears that lead to migraines, which just disrupt my busy life. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can only do so much, but there is so much that I have to do! And a lot of those things involve the big changes in my life!

I feel like I need to sit in this for a little while. My new Wesley director said something yesterday that I hadn’t thought about. She said something along the lines of, “It’s ok to have trouble adjusting to big changes. You should just sit in that for a while and let yourself feel that. You don’t have to be happy about all the changes in your life. It’ll take a while for you to feel happy about all of them, so just feel the way you feel.”

She’s right. Change is upsetting. It is scary and it is uncomfortable. It almost has its own unique emotion. We are always so apt to push down negative emotions in order to get things done, but sometimes, it’s best to just “sit in” the emotions we are feeling. Feel them and embrace them. Because life isn’t about pushing aside our feelings to get done the things we need to get done. In my opinion, we aren’t really living if we aren’t feeling as deeply as we can each and every emotion that arises within us.

So here I am. I am feeling a lot of change, and I am going to sit and let myself feel the emotion that comes with it. It’s okay to feel shitty about things that are changing in our lives. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I am unbelievably excited about my new course of study, my internship, Wesley’s new director, my new job, my new friends, and my new apartment! But all those things come with a stress of adjusting to so much new all at once.

Too much of anything is too much. I don’t think I’ll ever come out of this emotion of change if I don’t let myself sit in it. 

So here’s to sitting in an emotion of change.

Religion or Spirituality?

I’m a college student.

People my age are at a stage in their lives where they can become more independent and begin questioning some of the things that have been taught to them.

Religion in general is a huge debate for a lot of people, but especially for people at my age who are beginning on our journey as adults. Many, but not all, of us have begun to move away from home or are becoming independent in some way.

I was in and out of religion for all of my childhood. My mom went when my sister was a baby and she is the only one of the three of us who was baptized as a baby. At one point when we were very young, we stopped going to church. My mom tells me a story about one day when I came home from preschool and I asked my mom, in a ver sassy tone mind you (not much has changed, might I add), “Mommy, why don’t we go to church?” She felt that if her four-year-old randomly decided she wanted to go to church, we would try it. So we started going. The church we found just wasn’t for us and we moved to my now beloved Smoky Hill UMC. We went there on and off until I was in fifth grade, then we stopped altogether. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what I learned during that six year period of my life.

I started puberty soon after we stopped going to church, and I naturally rebelled against anything established like that. I shunned God and denied Jesus and couldn’t understand why any of it made sense. As I matured, I became more and more curious about religion. When I was 14, I saw my mom reading a book, “The Case for Christ,” and after a great conversation with her, we decided to go back to church and feel it out again. I was so skeptical. I was shy and quiet and I just politely sat through church.

At the end of that service, Mom dragged me down to Bobbie D’Addario’s office to ask when youth group is. I was so angry with my mom for doing that and I did not want to go to youth group at all. And I mean AT ALL. Of course, my mom made me go and I dragged my best friend, Lauren with me. That night wasn’t so bad. I decided to keep going.

I continued going to church and to youth group and now, I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

At this point in my life, I am questioning everything. I have seen the church that I grew to love make decisions that I don’t think are very Christ-like. I have seen and heard so many people condemn me for things I have done. I have seen religion used as an excuse for hate and evil.

That’s not what God wants, I don’t think.

This is where I find a differentiation between religion and spirituality. My boyfriend’s brother and I have had a few interesting conversations about the subject. He is respectful and during one conversation, said something along the lines of “I don’t mean to offend you based on your religion,” and I looked at him and said, “Don’t be sorry. I don’t view myself as a religious person. I view myself as a spiritual person.” At this he seemed surprised. I go to church on Sundays, I have been involved in both youth group and a college ministry program, I have gone on mission trips, done many church-related events and sing music at church. The way I see it, I’m still not a “religious” person.

I believe in God and I trust in Jesus wholeheartedly. But I worship in a way that is best for me. I don’t want anyone to tell me how my relationship with God should be (Martin Luther would be so proud). This isn’t to say I haven’t read scripture that sent chills down my spine and this isn’t to say that I haven’t heard sermons that made me weep because I have experienced those things. To me, the Bible isn’t a rule book, it’s a guide. I will not follow the Bible word-for-word because of that. That doesn’t make me a bad Christian.

That doesn’t make me a bad Christian just like BEING a Christian doesn’t make me ignorant to the many facets of religion. I see its flaws and I also see its beauty. I see people posting statuses and pictures knocking down religion. Those are the same people who would scrutinize me for posting statuses and pictures of the Word of God and things I experience in my spiritual life. I do not scrutinize them. Because I think it is important to challenge religion; however, I do not think it’s important to deny it altogether. We are all still on a journey and we will continue to be on that journey for the rest of our lives. I am not saying that those people need to just wait and see and Jesus will come to them. That just isn’t realistic. I don’t expect all people to accept Christianity or any religion and I will not judge them if they never do, but I do expect them to open themselves up to all the possibilities life has to offer. I am open to the idea that my beliefs are not real. I have faith that they are, but I am open to the idea that the world works in a very different way than the way that I see it.

I believe everyone has a way of living their lives. I respect and love everyone, no matter their beliefs. That’s what Jesus taught us to do, after all, isn’t it.

Religion is a very complicated construct. There is a lot that goes into it. Religion encompasses spirituality, debate, and a lot of business. I think it’s most important to remember that religion is HUMAN. We base it off of God and that is what guides it, but it is people running the institution itself. People make mistakes. “Nobody is perfect,” in the wise words of my old friend, Hannah Montana. Those people are doing the best they can just like everyone else. They’re so unbelievably human. Just like everybody else.

There is no way we, as humans, will ever be able to understand how God truly works or what God truly wants us to do. We have the Bible to guide us, but after all, the Bible, even though God’s word written through people, was written by humans. God may have “told” then what to write, but it might be a good idea to consider that they may have made a typical human mistake.

It’s important to challenge all the things, especially philosophical, that we have been taught.

I saw a post from two old friends from elementary school who I love dearly who posted a picture that said,

“If all religions teach peace, why can’t all religions achieve peach?” That’s a big question. It’s challenging for so many of us. Peace will probably never be achieved. I think that’s because we are human. I appreciate those girls posting this question because not only did it inspire me to write on for a billion words about it, but it challenged me. Thank you, for challenging me. If you’re reading this, I would just challenge you to seek the difference between religion and spirituality. Because in my spirituality is where I have found more peace than many people can imagine.

Thanks, Mom and Dad…

Every morning at 8am, I get a daily bible verse sent to my phone via text message. This morning, I received a text with Ephesians 6:2-3:

‘Honor your father and mother.’ – That it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on Earth.”

Now, I know that God is at play here. He knew that I needed a little extra push.

Last night, at the Bible study I attend weekly, we talked about Jesus coming of age. We talked about when Jesus was twelve years old and his parents accidentally left him behind and he stayed in the temple for three days teaching. We also talked about when Jesus finally came of age and became baptized by John in the river and God spoke to him. Although the stories were about Christ himself coming of age and truly realizing his purpose and potential, we really got onto the subject of parents.

At Christmas time, I sang a song at church called “You’re Here,” by Francesca Battistelli. The song is about the sheer awe Mary must have been feeling holding the Son of God in her arms in the manger that night.

As we pointed out in Bible study, parenting is pressure as it is. There are times where parents fear that they won’t succeed in raising a successful member of society. There is a lot of pressure on all parents everywhere who are raising children to “do it right.” Imagine the pressure Mary and Joseph were under in raising Christ Jesus! Before Mary became pregnant with the Son, the Angel Gabriel came and told her what was going to happen. Mary knew that she was to carry, give birth to, and raise the Son of God. I think that night in the manger as well as the day in temple when he was twelve years old did Mary really say, ro quote my senior pastor, Glenda Ulmer, “what have I gotten myself into?”

I know sometimes during my teenage years, I was a sass master, just like Jesus was that day in the temple (don’t argue with it. He was like, “Mom. Duh. Of course I’ve been in the temple teaching. HELLO?!”) I thought my parents were the worst people on the planet and I thought they “didn’t get me” and were never “on the same page” as I was. I’m sure that as Jesus got older and began to realize his potential, he thought he knew better than they did. That may have been true, of course because He was the Son of God, after all, but my point is that parenting then was just as hard as it is now and teenaged Jesus may have been similar to teenage us to an extent. After all, that is part of what God meant when he gave us Jesus. He wanted Jesus to be just like us, yet a non-sinning man.

Parenting is difficult. Not that I’ve had a chance to do it yet, but I know it’s not easy and I commend my parents. I commend my parents and all other parents over all space and time. No parent feels the pressure that Mary and Joseph felt, but I’m sure it seemed that way sometimes.

Last night, a funny friend said she was thanking her parents after her recent twentieth birthday for raising a child who beat teen pregnancy and stayed out of jail.

Of course, only a small portion of children end up pregnant and/or in jail, but I think what my friend was doing was saying, “Thank you.”

Now that I’m out of the house and I’m on my own, I realize how much my parents have done for me. Not only did they provide for me and keep my financially stable when I couldn’t do that myself, but they loved me, supported me in everything I did and appreciated me as a person. I like most that my parents made me into a respectable individual. I like myself and I owe all of that to my parents.

So Mom and Dad, you didn’t raise the Son of God, but you were parents and that’s amazing in itself.

Thank you for being my Momma and my Daddy. Thank you for loving me, thank you for respecting me, thank you for all the things you have done for me.

I love you.

The Start of Something New

The new year always offers us a new beginning…and we tend to talk a lot about it. For me, I’m not feeling that January 1st of this year was a “start of something new,” (excuse the cheesy “High School Musical” quote; I thought it fit) but rather that January 20th will be. I start my second semester of school this year on Tuesday the 20th and that seems to be what I’m waiting for to transform into a new me. Why am I waiting? I’m waiting because…well honestly, I have no excuse why I’m waiting. I don’t exactly have a new years resolution or even a “new semester resolution.” I just hope to feel better over the next few months than did over the last few.

I’ve started seeing a new neurologist and he is absolutely phenomenal (Dr. Michael Ament, MD. Board certified neurologist and headache specialist at the Ament Headache Clinic in Denver, if anyone needs someone great to treat his/her headaches…don’t forget to mention that I told you to go to him…we both get a discount). My first appointment was long and he analyzed my past and my present with headaches and he gave me a treatment that I’m hoping will start to work. He really gets the ball rolling and he seems to genuinely want to know where my pain comes from and how to fix it. I started on a very low dose of Topamax or Topiramate, which is an anti-epileptic medication. I had taken an epilepsy med for my headaches before and the side-effects were miserable. The same stood for the second medication, but I had to stick it out for four weeks to see if the medication was treating my headaches. Of course, the medicine was not making any change in the frequency or intensity of my headaches and I was in a moody, depressed, hopeless stupor for almost a month. At my appointment yesterday, we decided to cross that one off the list. My next step is blood pressure meds, considering the headaches may not be caused by something in my brain. I have also taken a blood pressure medication before and there were neither side effects, nor results. I do have high hopes for this course of treatment. There are not as many neurological side effects expected with this one and although it is a blood pressure medication, it isn’t the same thing as what I took before. My doctor told me that his goal is to get me headache free (or almost headache free) and back in the pool. He says this medication offers for a more active lifestyle, so I can finally start working out a little bit and getting more in shape. In addition, I was given an abortive medication for when a migraine starts on the uprising to knock it back down and I have begun to make an appointment with an allergist to see if I have any weird allergies that are migraine triggers. The doc also ordered another MRI brain (UGH), but I’m hoping that over the course of the next month we will make some advances. It feels like I took a step back on the topamax and now I’m ready to start moving forward and getting on with it finally! It’s been 8 years for goodness sake!

So, I have a plan for myself. I am going to do just what my neurologist tells me. In addition to that, I am going to begin working out. I will probably do mostly cardio for now because I want to get into shape before I try to strengthen any muscles. I’m not sure how to work out outside of a pool, so if anyone has any pointers, just let me know…I need them…desperately. I will probably swim once a week and do yoga directly after that (it feels GREAT!) and then I will go from there. Doing consistent exercise might hurt my head at first, but it’ll get better over time (or at least it’s supposed to). I’m also going to eat healthier and try to keep track of my food intake to see if anything in particular aggravates my headache.

In addition to the cliche getting healthy thing, I hope to find a job this semester so that I feel more financially secure for myself. I’m ready to start making my own money again! I’ve applied for seven jobs in the Fort Collins area and I’ll apply for more if I need to!

The icing on the cake is that my loud, broken car is finally getting fixed, so I hopefully won’t have a whole lot to worry about once I go back to school.

I’m really looking forward to this semester. I’m going to do everything in my power to make it a good one!

Giving Thanks Where I Can

Last week was Thanksgiving. I was fortunate enough not only to be home for the week, but to spend a weekend in Dallas, Texas with some friends. It was a blessed week full of friends and love. Exactly what I needed, right? Wrong. Although My week spent with friends and family was fantastic, I had a cloud of stress and pain lingering over me the whole time. Over the past week or so, hip, back, and leg flare-ups associated with my chronic pain syndrome returned. These are tolerable. I can just put a heat pad on them and take and ibuprofen and they’ll go away within an hour or so. In addition to the pain flare-ups, though, more headaches came and stayed and stayed and stayed AND the stomach aches continued to occur in the hours of the night.

Sunday afternoon when I was getting ready to come back up to Fort Collins, the biggest headache of the week hit me. I was dizzy and nauseous and I had a booming sensation in my head. I realized that I hadn’t eaten or hardly drank any water that day because I was so caught up with the stresses of heading back to school for finals week and for only three weeks. At this point, I realized I had brought this pain on myself by not taking care of my body.

I do this a lot and I don’t even notice it. I have this pain that occurs all over my body and I pity myself sometimes wishing it would just go away, wondering “why me?” Of course, this hasn’t gotten me very far.

After possibly one of the most severe headaches I have ever had, I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands. I got to researching and found a few self-remedies that I had heard of before, but not ever actually considered. I intend on buying “Heal Your Headache” by Dr. David Bucholz, M.D. at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. I haven’t seen one negative review and it’s not like it can hurt to read a book by an acclaimed headache specialist from one of the top medical programs in the country.

I’ve read a bit on what Dr. Bucholz writes about and he includes a very strict diet that avoids….all the foods I enjoy. For example, I like to call myself a cheese enthusiast and my mom and I used to go to the grocery store on Sunday mornings and choose the strangest cheeses we could find and eat them with fruit for breakfast. I can’t eat any cheeses except American, cream, and cottage cheeses. I can’t eat chocolate, either. Also, it just so happens that Chinese food is my absolute favorite kind of food ever (other than exotic cheeses, of course) and I am aware that they can make Chinese food with no MSG, but the nasty MSG is what makes the Chinese food so yummy.

This diet thing is going to be really tough for me, but when it comes down to it, being headache free and healthy is more important than enjoying a crunch bar (my favorite). Of course, I can have cheat meals or days…but for the first month, I have to be 100% strict about this diet.

In addition to the diet, I am going to start taking riboflavin, feverfew, and magnesium, which are all conveniently in one vitamin called MigreLief. I also need to take a calcium pill and an iron pill because I can’t have a lot of dairy or  any red meat that has nitrates/nitrites, is tenderized, or is marinated. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find meat that fits that criteria.

I also need to start working out lightly three times a week. I’m thinking I’ll do a light swim workout and take yoga classes.

I’m going to revisit eastern medicine, like acupuncture and cupping since I was too chicken to try it a year ago. I’m definitely going to see about massage therapy and meditation.

I am by myself in this and I’m trying to figure out how to make such a lifestyle change on my own. I have no idea where to really start and I’m going to need help and support, but the important part is that I know I need to take things into my own hands and change my life. I need to take control of my chronic pain disorder instead of it taking control of me for the rest of my life.

I am so motivated and I have this plan. The plan is jumbles, though. I have all these things I know I need to do, but they’re just disorganized ideas in my head. I need help to organize this so I can implement it and begin changing my life.

I’m so thankful for what I have and I am even more thankful for my disorder. My chronic pain has made me who I am. It has made me a more compassionate person who can easily empathize with others in many areas of life. I wouldn’t be who or where I am without chronic migraine, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay. There is a silver lining, but if I can get rid of this force that interferes with almost every aspect of my life, I am going to do everything in my power to make that happen.

Thank you to my friends and family for the love, prayers, and support through these years. I am so excited to show you all what a headache-free Emily is like. I’m so excited to show ME what a headache-free Emily is like. I’m hoping this will be the end of an eight-year battle; and I’ll be on the winning team.

HOME!

Today’s ramblings do not attempt to teach a lesson, to inspire, or to entertain as they usually do. Today’s ramblings are simply how I am feeling.

I want to go home.

My health has been declining increasingly and I’m still not sure why. I think it’s a combination of many things. To begin, chronic pain syndrome is something that is difficult to live with as it is. In addition to that, the hormone therapy I am on is probably causing my body to be all out of whack. College puts a lot of stress on a person emotionally, which can easily take a toll on a person physically. Lastly, they are feeding me a stomach ache in a bowl every day here and my body just cannot handle the disgusting, terrible food served in the dining halls. We should probably petition for better quality food in our dining halls. After all, the students currently in college are the future of the world. Let’s start by feeding the future leaders of the world some quality nutrients.

It may be because of the constant stomach aches and the crappy food, but I am losing weight and I always seem to be hungry. Eating is really a challenge. I would rather eat a box of Wheat Thins for every meal than go down to the dining hall. It’s not that I am not eating. I love food (not this food, mind you) and I am quite comfortable with the way that I am. I think it’s that I am eating, but I’m not eating a whole lot and when I do eat, the food is so crappy that it just ends up going straight through me……there aren’t nutrients in these things and my body may not be absorbing what it needs, so it just passes the food along (ew…) and I’m hungry again right after I’ve eaten.

I just feel kinda lousy.

I’m doing great in school. All A’s and whatnot…I don’t even feel stressed by papers or tests…YET.

I do really miss my family. When I left for college, I was so excited to get away and I thought I would never want to go visit home. Silly Emily-from-four-months-ago. I need my momma and my daddy and my sister and even my obnoxious brother and my doggies and kitten and even the fish and the snakes! I just miss home. I miss my church, I miss my friends, I miss my mentors. I just wanna go home. I’ve never wanted to go home so badly.

I’m especially missing my best friend, Lauren. It’s stupid that we are hours away. We can’t cause any trouble. Watch out, Aurora. When we get home, you are in for a world of hurt. We are going to be funning rampant through the streets speaking a language unknown to most. I wish you luck.

Here’s to a week off. WHOOO!!!

Here I am just counting down the minutes.

Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World?

This weekend I went to “Imagine What’s NEXT,” a United Methodist college conference in Denver, Colorado.

This conference invited United Methodist college students from all over the United States. I met people from Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Kansas, Louisiana, and so many more places. Many of the groups were Wesley Foundation groups like us, but the one thing we all really had in common was that as United Methodists, we all wanted to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The conference started out with an amazing opening worship. The music was phenomenal. Lead singer, Sarah Bollinger, had the most powerful voice I have ever heard live. I didn’t know a majority of the songs that were played during the weekend, but I enjoyed them all the same.

The second day was packed so full of worship, service, and fun. We began with worship, which ended up being two hours long, but I didn’t mind so much the length. There were four speakers, two of which I really identified with.

Tyler Ward spoke about faith bands, which are small groups–I mean really small, like 3-4 people MAX–that meet once a week to ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” This stood out to me because Bobbie, my former youth leader and mentor used to ask our small group that question at our weekly bible study throughout high school. I had forgotten about the phrase and it really made me think…how is it with my soul? I meet with a small group once a week to eat and study the Bible, but we have not ever asked the question, “how is it with your soul?” Maybe we should start.

Ismail Pathan spoke about interfaith mission. As this is the one thing I have been struggling with more than anything I have in my faith journey so far. Ismail is Muslim and he  spoke about how he created an entire interfaith association at Syracuse with several faith groups represented. Of course, I was in awe that I was not the only person who wants to collaborate with other faith groups, so after all the speakers were through and the session was over, Aeriel (a friend on the trip with me) and I flagged Ismail down to talk more about interfaith ministry. I was absolutely inspired by Ismail and the fact that he came to speak to a crowd of 600 United Methodist Christian students. He told me that knowing is the most important thing to being accepting. I couldn’t agree more.

Saturday afternoon and evening we went to downtown Denver. Before we left, the conference staff gave each person (yes, all 600 of us) $5. We were to take that money with us to 16th Street Mall and do good with it. Our group decided that instead of individually getting something small, we pooled our money to make “warmth kits.” Together, we were able to get two blankets, two hats, and six sets of hand/pocket warmers. Instead of sticking to the mall, we decided to go beyond the mall to a street corner where a bench played home to some homeless. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough to give to each person, but we gave the group all of the supplies. What they needed the most was gloves. We didn’t get gloves, as they were sold out at the Walgreens we went to. We thought the hand warmers would be good because all of those people had pockets, and there were enough of them to go around. It saddened me that we couldn’t give them a more long-term solution, but I believe the gifts were appreciated.

After that humbling experience, we went to Trinity United Methodist Church to see Jimmy Needham play some great music. DETOUR: Jimmy Needham is great and if you haven’t listened to his music yet, do it NOW. It is unlike any Christian music I have ever heard. It was truly a blessing to spend time listening to his music live. He is quite the inspiring man. For the first time in my life, I cried to the message Jimmy was delivering and I felt like he was preaching exactly what I was feeling…amazing God moment for me.

Sunday morning was inspiring. Reverend Vance P. Ross from Gordon Memorial Church from Nashville, Tennessee gave the sermon. I have never in my life heard such an amazing sermon. Rev. Ross talked about being you, but remembering God’s new. Ross said that we get caught up in ourselves. The self is important and each one of us should stick to who we are, but sometime when we get caught up in ourselves, we forget about what God is calling us to do. This man is so passionate about the word of God and the energy he put on that stage will remain branded into my mind for a very long time. What Reverend Ross ended his sermon with was the best, most inspiring part. Ross said to us, “We have had enough Christians. What we need is some disciples of Jesus Christ.”

Ross is completely right. God doesn’t want more people to come to church. What God wants is for us to be disciples of Christ and go out into the world and “make a better blueprint” for those who have fallen down so many times, they don’t know if they can get back up again.

Ross’s sermon had me wondering if the United Methodist mission statement is the one that should be displayed. As Reverend Elizabeth Jackson would say, “We shouldn’t be striving to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We should be striving to transform the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” After all, isn’t that how Jesus made us his disciples? He went out and transformed the world. I am a disciple of Jesus because He transformed my world. I’m going to follow in His footsteps and transform the world and just hope that as a result, people will become followers of Christ, as I have.

Devotion of Faith

Lately, I have wondered why I believe my religion is right. We grow up being told from the moment we are children to believe a certain thing. Our context shapes what we believe in. Often times, our parents tell us what our religion is from the time we are born and we just know that we are to believe that it’s true.

I would say that many a Christian was raised on the notion that Jesus Christ is our savior and that he died for our sins. I was certainly raised up that way and I believe that notion with my whole being. My faith in Christ is not faltering. Rather, what is happening is that I’m wondering what makes me right and even more than that, I am wondering what makes other people wrong.

I strongly believe that the reason Jesus Christ was sent to our world by God was to give each and every one of us a second chance, a clean slate. When I think about what Jesus did for me, I am in  complete awe and I express my gratitude often. What confuses me is whether or not the old testament was discounted by the death of Jesus and if it was, was all of it discounted or were only certain parts discounted? This is how I see it: when Jesus died on the cross (even though this didn’t actually happen), I like to imagine billions and trillions of people (myself included) lining up in front of Christ on the cross. Each person in this line is holding a debt certificate. As Jesus is dying, He is willingly taking each and every person’s certificate and replacing his/her name with His own. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus “died for all.” To me this means that some of the things in the old testament saying that people who have different religions don’t get to have eternal life went with those debt certificates and Jesus Christ to the grave. That same verse also says “so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf.” This is where it gets wishy-washy. Jesus died for “all.” All means everyone. Everyone means…well…everyone. Then, it says that because Jesus died for everyone, those people will live for Him. What about the people who don’t live for Jesus Christ?

I do have hard evidence that Jesus died for their sins as well as ours. If that’s true, why do we live for Him and why do others not live for Him? I believe it goes back to the context thing. On one hand, I believe that people who don’t believe Jesus Christ came to save us all are wrong about that, but on another hand, I believe that God manifests in different people in different ways and that Christianity isn’t above any other religion. I think religion and spirituality can sometimes be contextual.  Those are  probably bold statements.

I am not losing faith. I am challenging faith. I think faith should be challenged. Note that when I say that, I don’t mean that God should be challenged. We are all on this faith journey through our lives and I am going through a time in my journey when I am feeling connected and faithful, yet lost and confused.

I am of the United Methodist denomination of Christianity and since I was a child I was told that God loves me and everyone else and that we have an accepting God. I was told to always be an accepting person myself and that was part of my duty to my God. I hold fast to that, and I love my neighbor. I love my Christian neighbors, my Muslim neighbors, my Buddhist neighbors, my Shinto neighbors, my homosexual neighbors, my heterosexual neighbors, my White, Black, Asian, Latino, purple, blue, polka dotted neighbors…the list goes on and on. What I know is this: God told me to love my neighbor as he has loved me. That means I love all people with all of my being because that is the way God loves me.