Many, many years ago, I was challenged by one of my friends, who was also an author and migraneur, to try and write something about migraines every morning, as a way of externalizing what I was dealing with. The following is what I wrote late in the period of exercise, and is unedited:
Our society does not like pain. It interferes with the pleasures we have worked so hard to achieve. One of the most obvious ways that society has adapted in order to rid itself of suffering is creating drugs that treat symptoms of pain. Feeling depressed from ordinary stress? Take a pill, instead of figuring out what in your life is causing the depression, and poof, you’re better. Having trouble sleeping? There is another medication for that. Headache? Yet another. The list goes on and on, “curing” the most minor inconveniences of human life. All of the medicines that are so widely marketed are based on treating the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. It as if society is placing band-aids on the different symptoms that life throws at us when there is no physical problem. Yes, there are people with clinical depression, sleeping disorders, and all manner of medical problems. But the problem is that the medicines are no longer specifically promoted in that community only. We now address the public to increase awareness. This is fine as far as it goes, but the problem is that the use of medications, sometimes even the heavy duty ones, are being used by the general public. This means that people who do not suffer. The only problem with this method is that, under the suppressing layers of medication and denial, the main problem is left untreated and often un-noticed, festering until the problem can no longer be covered up by its current band-aid but instead must be readdressed and covered once more with a different band-aid and a new medication.This band-aid affect is actually now causing its own series of problems. We have started introducing so many different foreign chemical into our systems, in such dosages and frequency that our bodies can eventually end up being harmed rather than helped by the drugs mean to rid us of our problems. Painkillers can cause stomach problems, other medications side effects can be high blood pressure, sleepiness, stiffness, heartburn, and heart problems. The list goes on and on. Sometimes, the side effects of a medicine can be so like the original symptoms that it seems pointless to take it. The devotion of our society to medication has almost turned into a joke. Comic strip characters create cures to common ailments such as the cold, admitting that the side effects can be runny nose, coughing, congestion, and all the other symptoms of the cold itself. There is one strip that I always found particularly poignant. “Never take a medication that has more side effects than you have symptoms.” But if this advice was take to heart, how many medications would we be on?I’m not knocking the progress that modern medicine has made in general. After all, I live as well as I do because of modern medications. If it were not for the meds that I take, I would lead a much less active life, as ridiculous as that seems. However, I have not escaped unscathed from my med usage. I have gained weight and have to take additional meds to deal with some of the unpleasant side effects that come with the meds that I rely on the most. However, I am always trying to trim down my medical regime, so that I am on as few meds as possible.There was a time when medicine was the last resort. People would try homeopathic remedies, change their life styles, and anything else they could think of to rid themselves of the problem before they surrendered and turned to science and pharmaceutical solutions. But that was back when society admitted that pain was a part of life. Why has our society changed so that it no longer admits the existence of pain as a crucial part of life?
Growing up with migraines, I automatically accepted the idea that pain was a part of life. After all, for me it was. It was always there with me, however briefly or sporadically, all my life. As I got older and the pain became more severe and more constant, I was already conditioned so that it did not catch me off guard. It was rather like when walking barefoot along the beach when the water is still cold. Eventually, the cold doesn’t get to you in the same way; your body has become numb to it. It’s not until later, when your feet are no longer in the water that you start to feel the pain as the nerves come back to life. While that might sound sick to relate that to my life, it’s a survival instinct. I have become, not immune, but certainly less susceptible to the pain than I would be if this had come on suddenly.I accept that pain is a part of life, but that does not mean that I surrender to it. This is a foreign concept to some people, and they think it sounds contradictory. But it is not. I have learned that pain is a part of life, and acknowledge its existence. However, I do not let it rule my world. I give allowances for things that I can no longer do, but that does not mean that I lie down and become a doormat that the pain may walk over. There is a difference between acceptance and surrender.Acceptance means that I no longer beat myself against the wall that blocks me from some aspects of life. I accept my limitations and do my best to thrive in the environment that I have to live in. I accept that there are things that I cannot do, something that was not easy in the beginning. It is hard to wake up one day and realize all the things that you had thought your future would contain are now out of reach. It was a hard day indeed when I realized that I could no longer continue in a standardized learning environment. I had always based my life around my studies and all the activities required therein. I had run out of band aids and was left to face a raw open sore on my own. It felt like somebody was ripping off the band aid, and it took quite some time to come to accept my new life. I am still reluctant to examine my limitations too closely some days, but for the most part, I have come to realize that this sore can heal if I give it the attention that it deserves. But I refuse to surrender.To surrender would mean that I have rolled over and let the pain take charge of my life. That I have let the sore fester and become more dangerous than it was when I first ran out of band aids. This is not something that I will do. To surrender to the pain is to take the easy way out. It is much easier to throw up your hands and say, “Well, I tried,” than it is to say, “I will try.” There is a Latin phase that I found in a Dick Francis book that struck a chord with me, quantum in me fuit. Loosely translated, it means “I did the best I could.” This has become my motto in life. Whatever I do might not be what my best used to be, but it was the best that I could do that day. And what my best is some days might not be my best another, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I try my best all the time. I don’t let the pain make me settle for less than 100% of what I can give. I have come to understand my limitations, but I do not sit down and never strive to improve myself and what my best is. That would be a true surrender to the pain.