Yesterday my day was going along swimmingly. Until it wasn’t.
I was finally feeling better after enduring four days of severe detox reactions to a lymphatic drainage treatment (see earlier post). It felt good to be back on my feet. I had a low grade headache, but that was nothing compared to what I had been experiencing.
Then, my low grade headache exploded into a screaming migraine in the course of two minutes. Literally. I am no stranger to migraines, but this one was alarming in both onset speed and intensity.
It was 4:00 on a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I had no choice but to drop everything, climb in bed and cover my eyes to keep the painful light out.
Having to drop everything and rest has become a constant in my life. I never know when I will get hit by fatigue, nausea, stomach aches, general malaise… or a migraine. Often, I need to drop everything just as I’m starting to feel forward momentum of some sort.
This start/stop nature of my life can be very frustrating. But one of the blessings of illness is it forces you to reflect and grow in ways you wouldn’t if you were healthy. I know that sounds airy fairy, but it’s true. Think about it. What a waste to go through an insanely difficult situation and not learn from it.
I have been “blessed” with countless hours of unwanted down time. And in those hours, I have found ways to rearrange some of the negative thinking they can inspire. “I’m so sick of this, when will it end, this wasn’t how my day was supposed to go, I need to be getting things done, will I ever get well” have been replaced with a more helpful dialogue. Or, more accurately, the lack of a dialogue.
Through meditation, I am learning to be in the present moment, without creating a story about it. Just writing those things above made me feel stressed. And not one of those thoughts does anything to improve my situation when I’m not feeling well. Actually, they tend to make it worse.
As such, I try to face each difficulty with a quiet mind. What is the point of ruminating on something I have no control over? I try to tell myself that in this moment, my reality includes rest (pain, discomfort, anxiety, etc.) and nothing else.
It sounds so simple, but it’s very difficult to do. Our minds want to think. They want to create stories about whatever is going on. More often than not, this thinking and these stories lead to suffering.
There is a great saying that in life pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional. In today’s case, my migraine represents physical pain. I can’t do anything about that. Any negative thoughts I have about the headache represent suffering. I CAN do something about that.
Frustrating as it was to have to drop out of my life in the midst of a pleasant afternoon, I did just that. Without regret or remorse or stories. I just did it. And once again, I was reminded that an unpleasant situation can be made infinitely more tolerable by the choices I make with my mind.
This is powerful knowledge. Easy to say. Hard to do. But I try every single day.