Many years ago, I was told, for what felt like the millionth time, that I couldn’t have had migraines as a very young kid. That I was exaggerating. That I was lying.
I was livid.
I was also on campus, and could only go as far as my mother’s office to get away from the agitator and uncomprehending aggressor. However, I couldn’t get away from their words, or the memories that their words brought to mind. I could remember the pain so clearly. I had taught my body to remember pain by that time. It was out of self defense that I fought nature’s desire to block painful memories. I trained and trained since I was six to remember exactly what the pain felt like. I learned to remember so that I could diagnose myself and know what kind of thing had caused the pain, so I could try and avoid it in the future if possible. I was so good, I could identify 7 or 8 different types of migraines that I was getting, complete with what triggered them, and how best to treat them.
While the knowing how to best treat the migraine was nice, the memories of the migraines definitely fell into the “mixed blessings” category. And that spring afternoon, it was not a good thing. I was wrapped in the memories of my childhood migraines. Of hiding under the stairs at my preschool because the light hurt my eyes. Of going with my mom to her school, because I was in too much pain to go to mine so often that her officemate named his computer “Gretchen” to make me smile. I remembered that in pre-school and like I would do later that afternoon, crawl under my mom’s desk and just hide from the world; desperate to get away from the pain in my head.
And somebody had the gall to tell me that it was all a lie.
So I sat down at Mom’s desk, opened a Word document, and began to type, airing my frustration, the pain, and the memories. Fifteen minutes later, I had a367 word stream of consciousness addressed to my fellow child sufferers.
It wasn’t until 2009, when I was talking with one of my cousins, that I even remembered the stream of consciousness, and I sent it to her. My cousin thought that what I had written needed to be shared.
And thus, My Secret was born.
My cousin was my champion. She found me an illustrator to turn my words into something that could be comprehended by my audience.
I finally put My Secret out there for the world in early 2010. Now it’s 2011, maybe 5 or so years since that fateful afternoon, when I sat down in a fit of pique, and I just Googled my name.
I’ll admit it; I let out a very quiet, but very real, “SQUEE!” and my jaw did, indeed, drop. My name was out there, but not just where I had put it. Other people were picking up on My Secret and spreading the word.
I found a site which had an article promoting my book, and the comments made me want to cry. I had reached my audience! There were parents talking about their children, (chronic kids, I call them) and the parents were sharing their experiences. They were talking to their children, with my book or without it, I didn’t care, but they were getting it. Getting the idea that kids can feel pain. My Secret had accomplished what I never dreamed I could do; touch people’s lives.
I have told them that
It can still be scary when the pain is bad.
I still cry sometimes, …but that’s OK.
I know I’m not alone.
And I’ll tell you a good secret…
Neither are you!
So to my doubter, my agitator, and my aggressor, I thank you. Your doubt in me has given other people hope. And that has made all the difference.
I have had writer’s block for well over a month. So I quit writing for a bit, as it was just getting too frustrating trying to force the words out when there weren’t any there. And that’s pretty much what life with migraines is like. It can get really frustrating and self-defeating to fight the pain. It’s so much easier and healthier in the long run, to just put what you’re trying to do to the side for the moment, and come back to it later when the situation is more favorable.
I tried forcing myself forward back in high school; to continue to live the life of an ‘A’ student, and have debilitating migraines. It just didn’t work, and in the end I completely burned out. And I do mean completely burned out. As in I was basically nonfunctional for the next year and a half while my body unloaded all the stress that had built up and buried deep inside my body and mind.
It was, as my Somatic Experiencing therapist explained to me, as if I had been shaking and shaking the coke bottle, without ever giving it time to breathe and release some of the carbonation gradually. Rather, I kept shaking the bottle, in this case, my body and mind, until the bottle exploded from the pressure.
So now I’m learning to listen to my migraines and energy levels. I don’t force my mind to go beyond what is comfortable. That doesn’t mean that I take things easy and never stretch my limits, no. What it means is that I try to slowly stretch my limits, AND THEN STOP, and not insist on going until I run into a brick wall at full speed and then spend weeks recovering.
This is rather like stretching a rubber band out. If you start out gradually, and just gently tug the ends of the rubber band in opposite directions in breaths; stretching and then releasing it a little, and then stretching some more. Stretching a rubber band like this will, if you do it right, gradually let you stretch the rubber band much farther than if you had just pulled with all your strength at the beginning. If you had done that, the rubber band would have just snapped, and slapped your fingers.
So far, I’ve stretched the rubber band of my migraine filled life farther than I had previously even imagined that I could. But it hasn’t all been at once. It’s taken years of dedicated gentleness and consideration of what I could and could not do, versus what I should or should not do. I stretched my limitations where appropriate, such as making myself walk to the mailbox every day, and knowing when to pull back and say “Sorry, no” to walking the grocery store on a bad day.
So even though I had writer’s block at the beginning of writing this entry, I just let it and my mind breathe, and I now have an almost completed entry. I didn’t fight for every word, and I hope that it sounds better than it would have had I completely written it the first time I sat down to write.