By 𝘴𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘭𝘦, I mean natural. We are inherently surrounded by elegant simplicity. The delicate fold of a new leaf unfurling; the gentle decent of that same leaf, months later, as it is released by the steadfast deciduous of its birth.
We now live in an unnatural world of concrete and plastic; imitation flora decorating the interior landscape of our homes and offices; completely removed form the 𝘮𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘺 parts of actual life such as the slaughter of meat for constant consumption. Would you eat meat if you had to kill and dress it yourself? I wouldn’t. So I don’t eat meat.
Our modern trappings have so removed from being able to actually take pleasure in simplicity.
Go outside today. Learn the names of the tress in your immediate space, smell a wildflower as it struggles for sunlight through a crack in the concrete jungle.
What wonders can be found just outside your doorstep, waiting to be cherished for the integral part of existence that it quietly is?
I decided to shift gears a bit to talk about migraines. I have been suffering from a migraine episode for the last six months…yes, one migraine for six months.
Being in a “pain/dis-ease” experience for this long allows me a chance to more deeply understand the flow of the migraine/treatment episode and how it effects the various aspects of my life. Honestly, this will benefit myself potentially more than you. I have been able to be consciously aware of unusual symptoms and warning signs to allow a chance to mitigate the pain before it gets to be too much. I am practicing “Mindful Migraines.”
Before I jump into to what’s being going on, literally in my head, let’s take a closer look at migraines in general.
Approximately 37 million Americans suffer from migraines. It is not “just a headache.” Migraines of which there are multiple types; are a debilitating phenomenon which have multiple symptoms affecting multiple systems of the body.
Types of Migraines include: Chronic Migraine, migraine with and without aura, Vestibular Migraine, Abdominal Migraine, Hemiplegic Migraine, and Menstrual Migraine.
Migraines cause inflammation of membranes covering the brain which can actually cause your hair to hurt. The inflammatory response usually affects only one side of the head, causing throbbing intense pain typically occurring at the temples, forehead, behind the eye and continuing down the jaw into the neck.
Vision, due to sensitivity to light, can be limited or blurry. Blindness, typically in one eye, also can occur. Some sufferers experience vertigo and dizziness since migraines can impact the area of the brain responsible for balance. Additional symptoms include sensitivity to sound, nausea and vomiting, seeing auras, sinus congestion and watery eyes.
Sounds fun, right? I have suffered from migraines for over 30 years. I have been hospitalized because of migraines over 15 times. I started getting them in my early teens. I saw countless doctors and was a guinea pig for medications. By the time I was in college, I was getting 4-5 migraines a week. Yes, a week. 4-5 days of horrible pain, vomiting etc… I was put on daily preventative meds to try to get them under control to no avail. The side effects of the preventative’s were awful. It seemed every few months the medications were being changed since they didn’t seem to work.
The pain meds worked wonderfully but they had side effects as well. Unfortunately, if I wasn’t able to take my pain medication fast enough, I would vomit from the pain. This is typically why I wound up in the hospital- I became too dehydrated from the vomiting associated with the migraine. My parents would have to take me to the ER where I would get IV fluids and more pain meds for the migraine and anti nausea medication as well. I was given Demerol most of the time in the hospital for the pain. I hate Demerol. It gets rid of the pain most of the time but it makes me sick so I vomit more. Vicious circle to be in! Once released from the hospital, I would have a day of dealing with the side effects of all of the drugs I was given.
At its worst, I was taking 4-5 pills for the pain a week. Sometimes they worked, sometimes-hospital. The medication I was taking 4-5 times a week was apparently more than I should have been taking. The side effects include: tiredness, muscle pain and fatigue, headache, neck and throat tightness, nausea, sweating etc…
Anyway, it took a ton of personal research, multiple trips to a variety of specialists, and a deep desire for change in order to develop a better quality of life. Luckily, I have not needed hospitalization for the migraines more than once or twice in the last 15 years.
Which brings us to today, one migraine for the last six months. Let’s start with how this began back in April of 2022.
I started experiencing nerve pain and neuropathy off and on. After about 2 weeks the additional symptoms began such as partial blindness in one eye, facial paralysis on one side, speech and cognitive impairment, loss of time, muscle weakness and spasms. During this I had had a migraine come and go.
Initially my doctors/ ER doctors thought it was MS or Parkinson’s. Thank goodness it was neither. Turns out I had a reactivation of the Epstein-Barr Virus (the virus that causes mono). EBV can cause numerous complications when it keeps becoming active. I have had a reactivation twice in 3 years with a recovery time of 10-12 months.
My doctors now believe the EBV caused an uptick in my migraines as well as developing Hashimoto disease.
I went from having Migraine with Aura and Occular Migraine to additionally having Vestibular and Hemiplegic migraine all at the same time- for 6 months.
I am currently experiencing pain, numbness, tingling, dizziness, blindness/blurred vision, nausea, sound and light sensitivity, and cognitive issues daily as it is believed I am in an intense migraine cycle.
Last week I received a Tordol injection to attempt to break the cycle. I should know in about two weeks if it worked.
So today (and most days) I relax. Lots of water and fresh greens to help detox my system. Minimal auditory and visual stimulation. ( it’s taken me 2 days to write this.) By practicing mindfulness I can learn the clues given by my body as to the onset of the migraine episode. I choose to use the term “episode” or “experience” rather than saying “migraine attack.” Using the word attack can fire up the flight or fight response potentially triggering anxiety over the coming migraine. By seeing it as only an episode or experience, we give ourselves over to the knowledge that it is short lived, will be over soon and we will be OK.
“This too shall pass.” ~Persian saying
Mindfulness and a consistent Reiki practice allows me a deeper connection with my body’s cycles. I am more aware of the triggers and more prepared to endure the episodes. Reiki lets me tune in more completely to the erratic energy shifts that occur during a migraine. I am able to dial back the pain and return to my breath. I am convinced this is one of the main reasons I have not required hospitalization more than once or twice in almost 15 years. I am so grateful for what the gift of Reiki has brought to my life.
To all beings suffering from any pain, my thoughts and prayers are with you. May you be blessed and may you find healing.
Practice. Beginning a meditation practice can be daunting. I have heard so many times “Oh I stopped because I couldn’t stop thinking” or a similar statement. It’s a challenging stigma to overcome — meditation doesn’t mean your mind is blank. It means we are able to lose the attachment to the thinking mind, we release the attachment to the thought.
The easiest way I found, when I was first dipping my toes into the meditation pool, was to view my thoughts as just something happening.
Like this: When you have a thought (doesn’t matter what it is!) say to yourself “there goes a thought” and I guarantee you’ll have another one following right behind-“ oh look, more thoughts”
Thoughts come and go all day long. It’s not the thoughts necessarily that cause us the stress but the attachment to certain thoughts. Replaying stressful situations or worrying about the future are both forms of this attachment.
Meditation allows us to learn how to find space and release our attachment to constant mind chatter. Over time, with consistent practice, we are able to sit with a calm mind. Outside of meditation the chatter quiets down, loses its hold on us and we begin to live more mindfully with less attachment, stress and worry.
If you are just beginning your practice, I recommend guided meditations as they provide a focal point for the minds eye. I have some short guided meditations, perfect for beginners or seasoned mediators available on Insight Timer, for you to explore.
Once comfortable with guided practice, try sitting for 1 minute. Yes only 1. Trust me. Set a timer. It’s longer then you think if you are not used to sitting quietly. The first time I attempted this I lasted about 35 seconds before checking the timer!
I completed yet another trip around that glorious star at the center of our solar system earlier this month and with each trip all I hope is that I have learned a valuable lesson and hopefully made someone else’s trip a bit brighter.
So what are my thoughts regarding my 45th trip around?