Helping Each Other

Painting of a woman holding her head.

I have been really struggling lately with chronic, pretty much daily migraine headaches. I’ve had bad headaches since I was a kid that struck only rarely. But not anymore. Now, I wake up around 4 a.m. with blinding pain in the bridge of my nose and up onto my forehead. I’ve changed my sleeping pattern, my diet, added and subtracted vitamins and supplements, altered my exercise routine, tried a whole new blend of medications, meditation, Pilates, Integrative Manual Therapy, prayer, Gyrotonic, massage – you name it. I am also doing as much research as possible about treatment options and I am changing some doctors, so I am not giving up hope.

The bummer about this is that I often cancel plans at the last minute, and I have lots of anxiety about making new plans because I worry I won’t be able to fulfill them when the time rolls around. I worry that some friends don’t include me on their plans anymore because I am so undependable. Because migraines are invisible, I worry that people think I’m faking, or that I’m trying to get attention, or that I’m just weak or whiny. Pain can be isolating.

Since I’ve started keeping a calendar, I realize my good days are few and far between. The saving grace is that while my mornings are a combination of pain and medications, I am usually functional by the late morning or early afternoon.

"I'm not feeling very much like Pooh today," says Winnie the Pooh

This problem is forcing me to ask for more help from others. My husband takes wonderful care of me, but sometimes he isn’t home or he’s busy and I need help, so I am forced to call on close friends. This is not easy, but it’s a new reality. I realize that as we age, we are all going to need to call on others for help, and this is the heart of building community.

I am striving to be a better friend and neighbor and find new ways to be of help to others so we can all rely on one another if we need it. A dear friend of mine who has dealt with lots of illness in her family has taught me that it’s often wonderful to offer to do just the most basic things for friends in need. Don’t use the general, “let me know if I can do anything to help.” No one knows how to use that offer, so they don’t take you up on it. My friend has taught me that offers need to be very specific and even those seemingly small tasks can be lifesavers for those of us who are struggling. She came over once just to feed my dog and let her out for a while, which was the perfect way to help since I really couldn’t get out of bed.

So many people are struggling with their own pain, or medical conditions.  Car accidents, bad surgical outcomes, cancer, degenerative diseases, arthritis, loss, dementia … tragedies abound. In addition to working to be more helpful, my pain helps me be more empathetic and remember to “be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting their own battle.”

Life isn’t always fair, or what we want it to be, and while occasional pain can teach, chronic pain carries no lessons and simply cripples even the bravest and strongest over time.

Are you suffering? Are you in pain? I am sending out a hug to all of you who may need it today or any day.

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” ~~ Pema Chödrön

On another note, yesterday was National Puppy Day, and while Mia is now ten, she will always be my puppy-girl. Here are a few picks from the day we got her from the Marin Humane Society. Happy Belated National Puppy Day!

 A photo of our border-collie mix, Mia, on the day we picked her up from Marin Humane Society and made her ours.

Mia the moment we came to claim her as ours.

Adopting our new puppy from the Marin Humane Society.

She’s ours!!!

A few links you might enjoy:

The gift of being present amidst a tragedy. If you only read one thing today – read this.

The most beautiful woman in the world has the heart of a lion. Angelina Jolie’s frank discussion about her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

Sinead O’Connor‘s version of Danny Boy.

A beautiful note from a Mom to a step-Mom.

A great book I’m reading now – Bettyville.





4 responses to “Helping Each Other”

  1. avatar Shirley says:

    What a wonderfully articulate post. You’ve described exactly how I feel regarding my chronic pain. It’s cruel, it’s unfair, and there’s nothing noble about suffering like this.

    As you’ve so eloquently stated, the best we can do is reach out to others and help them to realize they’re not alone… and this post has done exactly that for me.

    I’ve found myself praying for mercy, or an act of grace to help me through this. When those prayers are answered, it’s usually in the form of another chronic pain sufferer.

    Thanks again!

  2. avatar Lou says:

    Reading your story is like looking in the mirror of my soul. I have been suffering chronic migraines for 7 years and have pretty much tried it all. I just wanted you to know you are not alone. It is hard for others to understand invisible pain. You brought up some excellent points. Sometimes the littlest things can be so helpful . I will be praying that you find relief!! Don’t give up!

  3. Thank you so much Lou. I am praying for both of us – that we both reach out and ask for help, that we offer help, and that we are healed. Thank you so much for reading, and for writing. XO

  4. Dear Shirley – As much as those who love us and care for us through our bad times empathize with us, it seems only another chronic pain sufferer can truly understand. I am praying for you to find the strength to endure, but mostly, I am praying for your suffering to miraculously end. Thank you for reading, and thank you so much for writing. XO