Chronic Migraine Warrior

Chronic Migraine Warrior

Monday, December 20, 2010

Strong Enough by Matthew West

I came across this song tonight. It is when we are at our weakest that the Lord is strongest. When times are extremely difficult, we are brought to our knees... take these times to recognize your own weakness and the Lord's strength. He is our rock and our redeemer. The words of this song are so powerful. They are the prayer my heart longs to say... Lord, right now I'm asking you to be strong enough... for the both of us. Amen.


Strong Enough by Matthew West

You must
You must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

Well, forgive me
Forgive me if I'm wrong
But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

Chorus:

I know I'm not strong enough to be
everything that I'm supposed to be
I give up
I'm not strong enough
Hands of mercy won't you cover me
Lord right now I'm asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us
Well, maybe
Maybe that's the point
To reach the point of giving up

Cause when I'm finally
Finally at rock bottom
Well, that's when I start looking up
And reaching out
Chorus


Cause I'm broken
Down to nothing
But I'm still holding on to the one thing
You are God
and you are strong
When I am weak

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don't have to be
Strong enough

Strong enough
(Repeat)

Oh, yeah

Chorus

Friday, December 17, 2010

LTD and Doctors

So, I've been having a horrible case of anticipation/anxiety about my upcoming surgery. It's showing up in my mood and sleep disturbance (i.e., terrible insomnia). I woke up yesterday with a horrible migraine, and then listened to a missed voicemail that spun my day even more out of control...

My long-term disability (LTD) carrier is currently reviewing my claim to determine whether or not they're going to extend my LTD benefits. The nurse that's reviewing my claim called me because they had received information from my headache specialist/neurologist regarding potential for improvement and release for return to work date. My doctor mentioned the former, but not the latter, at my previous appointment with him (at the end of October). Apparently, he put a release for return to work date as 11/29/10!!! WHAT?!?!?! Are you kidding me?! Yes, my permanent neurostimulator was supposed to be implanted on 11/16, but that would only allow 2 weeks for recovery. 2 weeks!!! The doctor that is doing the surgery told me to expect at least a 6 week recovery time. Heck, it took me most of the time I had the trial in (a week) to even start to heal from that... a more minor procedure.

Once I recover, the process isn't done. It's NOT a magic bullet! I'm SOOO sick of everyone thinking that this neurostimulator is going to be implanted and everything is just going to be peachy. Okay, it's possible... but not probable. I'm still on all kinds of meds. So, whether I get off of them or adjust the doses, there's a process of medication adjustment after the surgery recovery.

Why on earth would my doctor even put a date on the form? He's been asked this question on millions of forms for me over the last 19 months. He normally responds by saying something like:  "expected return to date - 6 months, but will have to re-evaluate at that time." I called my doctor's office and expressed my frustration with the situation. I'm still going to bring it up with my doctor at our next appointment (in January) because it really ticks me off!

I didn't get nearly enough sleep last night, but I was able to function a little more today than yesterday. I got ahold of my LTD carrier, and talked through the situation with the nurse. She's going to report to my case manager that my claim should be extended and then revisited around the end of January. But, she does't make the decision.

My migraines yesterday was bad... and, to top it off, I ran out of my abortive meds after my second dose. Didn't occur to me to this morning that I could've sent Jeremy to pick up the refill I had my doctor call in to the store for me (his work is giving them 2 weeks off... sure hope this isn't a sign of another job loss). I hate that my mind just stops working altogether like that.

On a more positive note, though. We'll be heading to Texas in the next couple of days, and then I'll be having my surgery on Wednesday. I can't believe it's almost Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Music to Soothe the Soul

Since I've been in a somewhat funky mood lately, I decided to let music soothe my soul a bit tonight. I came across some old favorites and a few new finds. I've posted 2 of the songs on my other blog:  Lead Me to the Cross by Hillsong and You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) by Josh Groban. Perhaps I'll post a few of the other songs in the days to come, but 3 is plenty for one day. I hope these songs bless each of you!

This Casting Crowns song is one of the old faves. It always calms my soul and reminds me how blessed I am to have such a loving Savior. Even the Lord of all the earth loves and cares for me. Thanks be to God!



Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wondering heart?

Chorus I:

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are
Chorus II:

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord You catch me when I'm falling
And You told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
Who am I, that the eyes that see our sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

Chorus

Chorus II
(repeat)

Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
'Cause I am Yours, I am Yours

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Considering Medicare

Something made me break today. I received an information packet in the mail about Medicare benefits, since I'll have been receiving Social Security Disability for 2-years in April 2011. I received a form last week to fill out to get reduced premiums for Medicare (though we don't qualify), but it didn't hit me until today. In this packet, there was a Medicare Health Insurance Card with my name and everything on it. That's what hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm only 25 years old! The fact that I'm holding a Medicare card for myself is beyond surreal. I don't even know how to explain it... So, now I'm faced with all these decisions that have to be made now/soon regarding Medicare coverage.

My permanent neurostimulator implant surgery is a week from tomorrow, and I have no idea what life will look like once it's in and I really have a chance to heal from the surgery. I'm trying to balance hopeful and realistic...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Still Sick

Well, I'm still sick, but my wonderful husband drove down to Texas to pick me up (this past weekend) and bring me back home to Oklahoma to spend the next couple of weeks with him. I've missed him, and I've missed our apartment. In two weeks, I'll have my neurostimulator implanted... and my husband will be referring to me as his "cyborg wife."

I wish I had something of substance to write about... but between my sinus infection and migraines, my mind is like MUD.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Approved & 'Who Am I'

Renewed hope...
Answered prayers...
Lingering anxiety...
          ...of/for new freedom.
          ...of/for new opportunities.
          ...of/for a new future.
          ...of/for a new life.

I received word today (after a lengthy story of back and forth between me, the insurance company, and the doctor's office)... I've been APPROVED for my permanent implant!!! The surgery won't be until December 22, but I'm SOOO happy that it's finally approved and a date has been set. Merry Christmas to me! :-) Although, I'm not quite sure how I'll feel for the holiday weekend, which usually consists of 3 days going from family party to family party (4 parties) and Christmas Eve service at church. I'm just so relieved that I'm going to be getting it implanted before the new year! So, now I've just got to work on getting over this horrible sinus infection (and stopping these recurring migraines) and getting my immune system as strong as possible, so that my surgery and recovery will go as smoothly as possible.

I appreciate all of the prayers that have been lifted up, and I would ask that you continue to keep me in your prayers as I wait for, go through, and recover from the surgery / procedure.
Below is a song that I have always loved, but it really touched my heart today when I ran across it on YouTube.

Who Am I by Casting Crowns

Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.


Bridge:
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.


Chorus:
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours.
I am yours.


Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
Who am I?
That the voice that calmed the sea,
Would call out through the rain,
And calm the storm in me.


Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.


Chorus

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.


Chorus
I am yours.

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
Cause I am yours.
I am yours...




"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Still Sick and Waiting

A frustrating and stressful few days/weeks have left me wondering "WHY?" Why does it seem that things just seem to fall in place for some people... other people? I feel like my life it stuck in a muddy paste.

Here's where life stands right now...

I'm still sick as a dog. I went back to my doctor today. He said the steroid shot and the antibiotic I got last week don't seem to have killed the infection, so I'm on a different antibiotic and continuing the cough syrup I've been on.

I've been a few rounds with my doctor's office and the insurance company. I've been super-frustrated with things. And, quite possibly the only thing keeping me from completely flying off the handle is the fact that I'm sick, and it wouldn't be a good idea to have surgery with my body fighting an infection like it is (has been) right now. So, I'm still waiting.

  • "Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." (Psalm 55:22)
  • "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)
  • "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
  • "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
  • "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help
  • you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sick as a Dog

Well, I've been down with a bad sinus infection for the past week. :-( I went to the doctor Monday - he gave me a shot, some cough medicine, and antibiotics. I've tried snorting salt water, too. I can't sleep well because of the deep cough, and I can't breathe out of my nose or mouth (especially when I try to lay down, so I have to try to sleep propped up). And, of course, none of this helps the migraine pain that I already have... It's miserable!!! My husband drove into town a few days ago, so he's been taking good care of me. But, I hate spending holiday times feeling so horrible. I guess my immune system is just sooo weak right now. I really hope I start to feel better soon, though...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Identity, continued

As I was reading through some blogs / devotionals yesterday, I was given the opportunity to reflect on Jeremiah 18:3, 6b. God is the potter, and I am the clay... His work of art. This is a follow-up to my post, Identity.

The bolded quotes below are pieces of the devotional, Work of Art  by Wisdom Hunters, that really touched / moved me.
  • "We are God’s work of art." -- We are unique pieces of art that He has created and called for a purpose - to glorify Him.
  • "Clay that is moist and moldable is full of potential." -- We must allow ourselves to be molded by our potter in ways that we may have never even imagined. He is the artist, and only He can see the bigger picture.
  • "The molding process is not easy. Sometimes you feel discombobulated and shapeless. You know God is in control, but your circumstances have you feeling upside down and spiraling out of control. This is God’s wheel of wisdom. Uncertainty and dizziness is God’s opportunity to grip the dampened clay of your heart and form dependence on Him." -- Wow! This is how I feel right now... discombobulated and shapeless... I know God is in control... feeling upside down and spiraling out of control...
  • "He not only comforts you, but also conforms you into the image of His son, Jesus." -- We must remember that He loves us unconditionally.
  • "Sometimes it is the water of adversity that keeps the clay moist." -- God may use different methods to "keep the clay moist," but He has a plan for our lives. He is the potter, we are the clay.
  • "It is better to be in the hands of God, spinning in uncertainty, than to be on our own, risk-less and rest-less. You are a beautiful masterpiece in process that one-day will be completed by your Creator." -- This is so true. I would rather be spinning in uncertainty, knowing that I'm in God's hands, than having to rely on myself and on my own resources.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Changed Relationships, continued

I'm sad.   I'm angry.   I'm numb.

I know I don't keep in touch with people the way I should... and the way I truly want to, but I simply CAN'T. Some days, it's ALL I can do to get out of bed. So, in keeping people updated on how I'm doing or what treatment I'm trying now, I FAIL. I focus on my husband, my immediate family, and my doctors... and that's normally all or more than I can handle.

So, every time I receive a call, text, email, facebook message, etc... that comes across (even remotely) as "why didn't you tell me about this?" it's a HUGE reminder of how isolated I've truly become and how I've let another person down. It BREAKS my heart.

And, I can't handle it! I cry, and then I shut down because I've already spent all of my energy for today (and maybe tomorrow)... I have NOTHING left. I'm SORRY!!!

I thought that letting people know about this blog and how they could subscribe (so it would just send them an email, whenever the blog was updated) would help me be able to keep more people updated. But, I don't think a lot of the people I sent the email with the link to the blog read it. So, what am I to do?! I know that some of my immediate family reads it, and I'm so thankful for that and for them.
I've already discussed how my relationships have changed, but I feel like I've at least tried to keep people updated. And, I don't have the energy to fight that front anymore. The battles going on within me physically, emotionally, and spiritually are taking a much higher toll on me than the battle of interpersonal relationships.

After a rough evening and feeling / writing the above, I spent part of today in God's Word...

I was reading through some blog posts / devotionals by Wisdom Hunters, and several of them really touched my heart.

The first one dealt with False Accusations. While I know that this is too harsh for what this post is referring to, I found that some of the words spoke to how I was feeling. Here's a piece of the post.

"...Pray that your life, under fire, will be a blaze of blessing for many others who have suffered under the burden of injustice. It is imperative that you are consumed with Christ and not your false accusers. Feel empathy for them, yes. Pray for them, yes. Forgive them, yes. Fear them, no. Fear God only and forgive your false accusers.

Jesus walked this lonely road of false accusations. He forgave them because He knew they really didn’t know what they were doing. He gave them over to God and trusted Him with vindication in His timing. This road of injustice is not an easy one to travel, so travel with Jesus. Let him drive the process and trust Him with the results. “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a).

So much is out of your control, except your attitude. Be grateful for your ever-enduring advocate, Jesus, who stands by your side. He is your defense and your refuge as the rain of false accusations beat down on your life. Don’t give up on Him; He has not given up on you. He will see you through this very difficult time. Adversity with Jesus is much better than smooth sailing without Him. Your prayers and His peace will sustain you..." (False Accusations by Wisdom Hunters)

The other post that touched my heart was Love, Compassion, Faithfulness. The paragraph that really struck a chord with me is below. God IS and will ALWAYS be FAITHFUL!

"...People will fail you, but God is still faithful. Work will fail you, but God is still faithful. Your health will fail you, but God is still faithful. Finances will fail you, but God is still faithful. Circumstances will fail you, but God is still faithful. You will fail, but God is still faithful. Great is His faithfulness! God does what He says—now and forevermore..." (Love, Compassion, Faithfulness by Wisdom Hunters)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Identity

There has been something that has continually been nagging at me for at least the past few weeks. In my post, Anxiously Hopeful, continued, I discussed how getting the permanent stimulator is an anxiety-provoking and somewhat scary change. But, I still wasn't satisfied with why I felt so anxious about such a positive change in my life...

Today, it hit me...

When I was in the car accident that started this journey of chronic pain and debilitating migraines, I started out in complete denial that who I was would have to change. I held on so tightly to who I was because I couldn't even face the thought or the possibility that I had been changed by a split moment in time.

It took me almost 2 years to really accept that things had changed... I had changed. The beginning of that revelation was around the time I began this blog (about 3 months ago). So, I had gone from having my identity pretty well understood before the accident to feeling like I didn't know myself at all. I had changed so much with the chronic migraines and everything that I barely recognized myself. I have been able to finally work through some things and start to build a new identity for myself, with the recognition of the limitations that the migraines have placed on me. Which leads me to my latest "ah-ha" moment...

Getting the permanent stimulator will put me back in the place of having an unknown (or at least unclear) identity. I will not be the person I was before the accident because 1) I have changed, and 2) I will still have limitations (the stimulator lowers my pain, but it doesn't completely get rid of it). I will not be the person I have been with the chronic, debilitating migraines because the migraine intensity, frequency, and duration will decrease. So, I won't know my identity, for the me with a stimulator. And, this is scary to me.

So, I started wondering... is the identity issue more an issue for me or for others? And, I think it's some of both. If I don't feel comfortable in who I am (or at least that I know who I am), then it is difficult to interact and communicate who I am to other people. And, others already don't know how to deal with me because they don't know what it's like to live in chronic pain. They don't know what I live with day-in and day-out, so they assume I haven't changed from what they think I've always been (which is already a distorted view of who I am or was).

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I need to remember what's most important is not WHO I am, but WHOSE I am. I am a child of God. The only identity that matters is my identity in Christ. I know this to be true, and yet everything else I have written also seems so real...

Love Beats Hate

While people sometimes use the internet to spread hateful messages about marginalized groups, including people with chronic illnesses, we want to show that love is more powerful than hate. The Love Beats Hate blogging event (November 17, 2010) is an opportunity to share the ways in which you've seen the support of online communities enrich your life or the lives of others.

Personally, I have received an overflowing of care, support, and encouragement from online bloggers. I have only been a member of the blogging community for a few months, but my 'invisible illness' began a couple years ago.

The pain has increasingly worsened, which has consequently increased my feelings of isolation. I have been able to connect with others online in such profound ways because many of us live in chronic pain. Even though we have never (and probably will never) met each other in person... in many ways, we know each other better than some people we do meet in person. It's as though there is an unspoken bond between people that live in chronic pain. It doesn't matter what type of pain it is... just knowing that another person truly understands what it's like to be in pain all the time, knowing that it's not going to ever just 'go away'... it takes the pressure off and allows both people to feel comfortable enough to begin to take the mask off that we're so used to putting on for the world. We can be true to ourselves without trying to pretend... finally! And, it hurts to face the changes, but the blogging community is there for you as you trudge through the roller coaster of emotions and journey from who you once were to who you are becoming.

The online blogging community has allowed me to express myself in ways that I never would have before. I feel heard in a way that I never had before. And, even though I know that my experience is unique, I find comfort in the words of other bloggers who share their words and prayers. So, to all of those bloggers that I've crossed paths with, THANK YOU... you've helped me in unique ways through some difficult parts of this ongoing journey.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Procedure/Surgery Postponed

Apparently my computer was cranky yesterday as well, so this didn't get posted... this was supposed to get posted yesterday afternoon...

The past week or so have been an emotional roller coaster. I was somewhat like this before my trial stimulator implant, so I attribute it to nerves. But, it's been a lot worse this go-round (i.e., leading up to the permanent stimulator implant). I've been on edge, irritable, moody, crying for no reason, etc... It can all pretty much be summed up one word: ANXIETY. But, that all changed in an instant today...

I'm not sure exactly how to express what I'm feeling right now... I'm in shock, angry, frustrated, upset, disappointed, defeated, and worn down. My procedure/surgery to get the permanent stimulator implanted has now been POSTPONED because the insurance company has been dragging its feet in approving the authorization request for the procedure. AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! I just want to scream... and cry...

So, the insurance company is supposed to make a decision about the authorization request this Friday, at which time we'll set up a date/time to have the procedure done... right before Thanksgiving, when my doctor is going to be on vacation for a week... excellent! So, I'm left, once again, with more PAIN, ANXIETY, and WAITING.

I rode down here to Texas yesterday with my in-laws to be here for the procedure and recovery process. Don't get me wrong, I love to visit family. But, if I'm just going to be here waiting for a few weeks, I'd like to be home with my husband and my normal surroundings. What really drives me crazy is that my parents and husband were planning to take off work for this, we had to last-minute cancel my husband's flight down here... and now, all of this is CANCELLED / POSTPONED. I'm used to my migraines changing and affecting MY life (and even, to some extent, my husband's) to where we can't really plan and stuff, but now it's spreading to where it's affecting my other family members' lives?! What the heck?! I HATE THIS!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

FALLing in Love

© 2010 Jamie V.
My husband and I just spent a lovely weekend in northwestern Arkansas to celebrate our first anniversary (a few weeks late).

I LOVE my husband so much! I continue to be amazed by him. It was so great to get away from the normal day-to-day. I feel like I keep falling in love with him, over and over. He's such a blessing in my life.

I also LOVE fall! It's my favorite season. But, I've always lived in Texas/Oklahoma, where the trees just don't change all that much. I can't handle long drives and we can't afford a big vacation right now; so, we just took a short road trip (2 hours one-way, and then mini-trips) to the Ozarks.

I did alright migraine-wise... I did have to take my migraine meds, but we were still able to walk around outside for longer than I have in a long time... Of course, I've been paying for "over-doing it" for the past few days... But, I loved spending time with my sweetheart and being surrounded by nature. I truly enjoyed myself this weekend, and now I'm looking forward to next week's stimulator implant.
© 2010 Jamie V.
© 2010 Jamie V.

© 2010 Jamie V.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reason, Season, Lifetime

My sister said something to me last weekend that got me thinking about the poem, Reason, Season, or Lifetime...

Reason, Season, or Lifetime



People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.


When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.


Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.


LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.


— Unknown

I previously wrote a post entitled, Changed Relationships, where I wrote about how different relationships in my life have changed since my car accident. But, relationships are more complex than reason, season, or lifetime.

Friends that come into our lives for a reason makes sense to me. And, even (at least to some extent) friends that come into our lives for a season makes sense to me. But, somewhere between season and lifetime, I think the line start to blur. I think there are friends that help us through a series of seasons - sometimes consecutive and sometimes scattered over time. ...or, maybe I just have too high of expectations about what friendship is, and what a true lifetime friend looks like. I know it's unreasonable to expect another person to be there for you through every single up and down. But, what do you do when what you believe to be a lifetime friend seems absent or out of reach for some very important / difficult / big events or experiences or even seasons in your life? That I don't know...

Maybe I am not meant to know the answer, though. During those times when I feel so disconnected from my friends and / or loved ones, perhaps the Lord is trying to teach me something... to draw me closer to Him... to teach me to truly rely solely on Him. It is a difficult lesson to learn, and I am still struggling with it.

In the midst of chronic pain and suffering, it is often dark and lonely. If it wasn't for God's light shining - sometimes near and sometimes far away - I would be completely lost and swallowed in the darkness of pain, suffering, depression, anxiety...

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." - Psalm 119:105

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blessed Beyond Measure

I was so excited to find out that the theme for November's Headache and Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is: "What are you thankful for in your life despite living with migraine disease?"

I think we, all too often, get so wrapped up in the day-to-day grind of things, that we forget that we are surrounded by so many wonderful things. And, this does not apply just to people living with migraine disease (or any other illness). It can be very difficult to remember that even with all of life's stresses, there is still so much to be thankful for.

The Lord has blessed me beyond measure. He is the only one that has really seen me in my darkest moments, as well as my brightest moments. His love is completely unconditional, and He surrounds me with reminders that He is and always will be near me.

My husband has been such a huge blessing to me. He has carried me through some rough and scary times, even in the short time that we've been married. He is my best friend, and I feel blessed that God brought him into my life to be my partner.

My family (namely: my parents, siblings, in-laws, and grandparents) has always been a great support system for me. Their love continues to help me through difficult times, even when I live miles and miles away. They love me, no matter what... and that means so much to me.

My friends, who, even when they may not know what to say or do, keep me in their thoughts and prayers. I know that they'll be there for me, and that helps a lot.

I am also thankful for more simple things, such as: a nice home that keeps us warm, a soft bed to lay down in, plenty of food to eat, the beautiful color change of the fall leaves, the crisp fall air, a car that keeps us safe, cell phones/TV/computers that allow for communication (and sometimes distraction), photos and scrapbooking, books, music, movies, and the list could go on forever! It melts my heart to see people being truly engaged with one another - laughing and enjoying the moment, or being patient and helping one another, or even just sitting peacefully together. It's the little things...

I suppose I shouldn't write about what I'm thankful for without including those things about myself that I am thankful for. Truthfully, this one is difficult for me (which is probably why it's coming up last here... trying to put it off or just not include it). But, God has gifted me, and He deserves to to be glorified. I used to know what I was thankful for about myself, but I have changed. I guess I haven't quite thought much about this in a while...

I am thankful that God has given me the gift to touch others through words. I am thankful that He allows me to empathize with others and to walk with them through difficult times. I am thankful that He has provided me the patience, courage, and strength to continue on and trust in Him - even if I still have trouble with this and stumble, He is there to encourage me to get back up and take that next step. I am thankful that I have not given up on myself or on God.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him." - Psalm 28:7

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anxiously Hopeful, continued

My neurologist told me last week that he was out of ideas, at least as far as medicinal abortive treatment / therapy for my migraines. I felt / knew that he was running out of ideas; but when I heard the words come out of his mouth, my heart sank. I was so glad that I had had a positive experience with the trial neurostimulator the previous week...

In 2 weeks from today, I will (hopefully) be on the road to recovery... and a very different life. I am getting my neurostimulator permanently implanted in 2 weeks, and it's a bit scary. This post is a follow-up to my previous post, Anxiously Hopeful. So, let me try to work this out...

First of all, I am so unbelievably ready to be rid of this unbearable pain that I cannot even express it! I hate feeling like a useless lump on a log so much of the time. I hate feeling like a burden to those around me. I hate that I cause my loved ones to worry so much. I hate feeling so out of control of my life and of my own mind, body, and emotions. I hate the pain!

But, I have spent the last 2 years trying my hardest to come to terms with this change in myself and my life. I have changed how my life is structured. Jeremy and I have built a life together around me having this debilitating illness. Is all the redefining, restructuring, etc... for naught?

I know how incredibly ridiculous this must sound! The neurostimulator will give me at least some of my life back - I will be able to function at a higher capacity and live my life as a more active participant. I am sooo grateful for the opportunity to get this neurostimulator... this chance for a life!

I am just trying to wrap my mind around all of this. What might my new life might look like? What will I do with the freedom and opportunities that having the neurostimulator will provide me? I don't have any idea where God is calling me to serve or what He is calling me to do. I don't know how I am to use this season of suffering (which I know is not yet over) to glorify him. I just don't know...

I have learned so much through all of this, and I know that the journey is long from over... and that there are many journeys to come. But, I think it's always a bit scary when what is or has become our normal changes.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

"Follow your heart, wherever it leads;
for only your heart know what your soul needs."
            - Jamie Conkle

I wrote the above several years ago. So, when I saw that this month's blog carnival was "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," it brought it back to mind. I started thinking about dreams and following your heart... what I discovered was surprising.

I used to dream BIG... VERY BIG! I was always the over-achiever, perfectionist, etc... that always reached for the stars (or beyond), and then had the drive to work toward those goals and dreams.

At some point since my pain has become debilitating, I have stopped dreaming BIG... perhaps even stopped dreaming at all. Wow! This discovery really opened by eyes... and made my heart ache. I've mainly been in survival mode for the past 2 years.

After graduating with my Bachelor's degree, I wanted to work for a few years and then return to graduate school. I landed a job that I started a few weeks after graduation. I worked there until my car accident in October 2008. I decided to start graduate school, as I had originally intended, in Fall 2009 - I wasn't going to let the injuries from the accident change my BIG dream of going to graduate school.

I moved to Oklahoma and started classes that August. I had a rough first semester and ended up on academic probation. This was extremely difficult for me to handle. I had the increasing pain and isolation... as well as struggling with school, which was something that I felt was the right step to make toward my dream.

I got married in October 2009 to my best friend, which was a BIG dream come true - he moved up to Oklahoma after he graduated in December. With the help of my new husband, I was able to make it through the Spring semester (got off probation) - he took such good care of me, through some of the roughest times. I was glad to be back in good standing (with the university), but it took everything out of me.

I've been on a leave of absence (LOA) from graduate school since May 2010. Making the decision to take a LOA was difficult for me, but it has been the best decision I could've ever made. The past few months have been the worst months (pain-wise) that I've experienced thus far. There's no way I would've been able to complete the semester.

So, now what?! My life has been juggled around, my relationships have changed, and my dreams have become blurry...

I'm not sure at all. I do want to complete graduate school, though I'm not sure if that will be now or later. I want to live closer to my family (my parents and siblings, husbands parents and sibling, grandparents, etc...). I want to have a family, though this may look different depending on whether or not these migraines truly get under control - I feel confident that they will with the stimulator, but there's always a chance that it won't. I want to be a writer. I want to be play an active role in my life. I want to live out my faith and serve the Lord - I don't know how He wants to use me, but I want to serve and glorify Him.

Perhaps my dreams have simplified. Perhaps they will be BIG again... or maybe they already are... maybe "BIG" has just been re-defined, just as my life has been re-defined... My faith, hope, and dreams are in the hands of my Lord ~ "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Some DREAM quotes:
  • "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." - Henry David Thoreau
  • "If what's in your dreams wasn't already real inside you, you couldn't even dream it." - Gloria Steinem
  • "The greatest thing is to be willing to give up who we are in order to become all that we can become." - Max Depree
  • "If you don't have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?" - Faye LaPointe
"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal." - P. Vaull Starr

Friday, October 29, 2010

We All Fall Down...

We all fall down ... and then we get right back up again: Blog Carnival.

I have always had a competitive spirit - always seeking a good challenge, with others or just with myself. I was able to live this out so well in my school years - sports (cross-country, track, softball) and school (grades, college admissions, honors) - as well as in the working world. I thirsted for challenges. When I had set-backs (such as, the injuries I endured in sports, or not making the place/time (running) or grades (school) I wanted to), I was able to pick myself and keep trying. I was proud of myself, when I was able to overcome adversity.

When I was suddenly faced with chronic, debilitating illness 2 years ago, I tried for a long time to just pick myself back up and move on. When I wasn't able to pick myself back up, I felt defeated.

It has taken me 2 years to even begin to realize and start to accept that there are times that I can't just "get right back up again." Sometimes I need help from someone else. Being a care-receiver is difficult for me, but it is a lesson that chronic illness has taught (is teaching) me. Sometimes life feels like you are taking one step forward and two steps back, but it is so important to keep getting back up and taking those steps...

Here are a few things to remember:
  1. There are going to be set-backs along the way. You're going to "fall down," but that doesn't mean that you have to stay down and be defeated.
  2. You will likely need to reach out and ask for someone's help, and there is no shame in this.
  3. Pray. God longs for each of us to come closer to and rely on Him.
  4. Once you get back on track, keep putting one foot in front of the other - take life one moment at a time. The moments will add up and you'll start to see a fuller picture.
  5. Never give up hope (and keep praying)!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally, An Update

First, THANK YOU to everyone for all of your prayers and support. I appreciate it more than you know!

I have been in daily pain for a long time... long enough that I don't know what a "pain-free" existence is like. I hurt my hip in 2001... my low back in 2002... have struggled with headaches off and on throughout that time... and now have been having chronic neck pain and debilitating migraines for just over 2 years. As much as I would love to know why, I just wish I knew how God wants me to use these trials and this suffering...

That being said, I feel that the Lord has blessed me with the opportunity to live without constant, debilitating pain. I had a trial procedure done last week, in hopes of ending these horrendous migraines. The procedure was outpatient surgery (10/19). The trial ended Monday (10/25). More information on the procedure can be found at Ascendant Neuro (if you end up contacting Dr. Reed's office, let them know I told you about them).

I wasn't sure whether or not the device was actually working very well, but after having it removed... I think it's safe to say that it was. I wrote this the other day, as I was trying to find some clarity in the situation...

October 23, 2010

Oh! For these moments of life!
I feel blessed to finally have at least some normalcy and true enjoyment back in my life... or at least the hope of such things...
The pain may not completely be gone, but I'm able to act more and more life myself...
Myself... I'm not even too sure what that means right now...
But, I see new hope and light in my family's eyes, when they look at me...
Perhaps God has conveniently placed them around me to use as mirrors to show me what I cannot see on my own...
I'm a bit dazed and lost right now. Everything feels so surreal.
My family and I each trust in the Lord and look to Him to guide us.
Right now, I feel lost... a bit even from God.
While searching for Him, I will look to my family as guideposts leading me back to Him and His path.

Lord, You know my hurts and fears. Please help bring me clarity in knowing Your will for me for this procedure. Thank You for this time with less pain and more family. Amen.

I fell back on my practical, analytic side the following night and sat and wrote a Pros and Cons list. I compiled a list of the ways that the device allowed me to function better, do activities more/longer (without breaks), and even do some things that I couldn't do before. Once I wrote this list, it was much clearer to see that the device had been what had lowered my pain level and allowed me to do these things. Not to mention that by the time Monday (10/25) night rolled around, my head was already starting to hurt... and I woke up with a migraine Tuesday (10/26).

I had this wonderful taste of freedom from the chains of chronic pain. But, I quickly had to gear back up and prepare to battle the beast for several weeks before the possibility of more - I am scheduled to get it permanently implanted on 11/16!

Interestingly, my body has quickly returned to the "migraine mode"... but my mind and soul are resisting as much and as hard as possible. It is such a slippery slope back down to where I was. I have new hope now - a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that I still have a long road/journey ahead of me, but I feel like I'll be better equipped and ready.

Here are a few pictures from my stimulator trial...

Jim, my wonderful dad
Debbie, my amazing mom


Jenn, my best friend & sister

Robin & Jessica, my adorable twin nieces




Beautiful roses, from my loving Grandma


Ginger, my beautiful horse

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Fork in the Road of Life

I find myself at a fork in the road of life. However, even if I knew which way God was calling me to go, it wouldn't seem to matter. I don't feel like I have a choice in which life path I continue on. Let me see if I can work some of this out...

I feel like my life can go in any one of a number of directions; but to simplify my confusion and dilemma, I'll describe it as a for in the road (with two different paths). While life has many crossroads, this one is different... I feel like I don't have much of a choice or say in which path my life will go down - either the treatment works or it doesn't (i.e., either my chronic pain continues to greatly impact my life or it doesn't).

1)  One path is clearer to see than the other. Though there would be numerous opportunities and directions for me to go... I see myself as a wife and mother (and daughter and sister) - actively participating in activities and in each others' lives. I am a writer and work mainly from home, so that I can spend time with my precious family. I am also active with the local church and part of a woman's church group. I am able to live my life with relatively little pain, and feel open to opportunities as they present themselves in my life.

2)  The other path is less clear - it's darker and almost blurry/fuzzy. It's scary to even think about. My role isn't easy to see. How well will I be able to cope with chronic illness? Will I be able to be an active participant in my own life? Will I feel like I'm contributing to my family and my friends in any real way? This path is full of questions and fear, pain and worry, confusion and chaos.

So, I find myself with a wonderful possibility of a life with much less pain, but the treatment may or may not work for me (I will know in a little over a week whether or not it works for me... both exciting and scary). Thus, I find myself in a state of waiting. My faith is slightly shaken, but it is in the Lord. I pray that He gives me the courage and the patience to trust for and wait for His timing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fear in the Life of a Chronic Migraineur

Selena, of Oh My Aches and Pains, is hosting the October 13th edition of the Patients for a Moment blog carnival. This month's topic is about fears: what they are, how you face them, and what you do to overcome them.

Fear is something that I try to ignore - you know, just sweep it under the rug. But, fear in the life of a person with chronic pain builds up quickly, and it cannot stay contained under the rug for long... it must be acknowledged and dealt with.... much easier said than done!

Fear is a constant struggle for those battling any chronic illness. The fear of being unable to complete a task, fear that the pain is going to become  or remain unbearable, fear that medications aren't going to help, etc... These are things that we battle daily, almost continually. Fear runs through all different areas of life - physical, emotional, spiritual, personal, professional, relational, financial, etc...

My fears are numerous and many are unspoken. Most of them are centered on the future... Will the pain ever lessen or cease? Will I ever live a "normal" life? Will I be able to return to and complete graduate school? Will I be able to return to work? Will I be able to have kid(s) - and be the type of mother I want to be? Basically, what kind of future can/will I have with chronic pain?

Fear and depression are both familiar to many people that live with chronic illness. I fear falling into depression... yet again. I fear depression's hold on my life. I fear being thrust into the darkness and the feelings of loneliness that comes with depression. But, fear casts me farther into the depths of depression.

I try to lead as close to a normal life as I can, despite having chronic pain; but it is difficult. My pain can become debilitating and take me out at a moment's notice... for an unknown amount of time. It's difficult to plan or commit to anything ahead of time and I hate having to back out of plans at the last minute.

The irrational (but very real for many living in chronic pain) reality is that there is even fear during the "good" times. When I feel "good" (a relative term), I find myself consciously fighting fearful thoughts that the bad will soon come/return to ruin it.

I honestly wish I had a list of ways to overcome these (and other) fears, but I don't. My advice is this:
  1. Be honest with yourself about what your fears are.
  2. Share your fears with a trusted friend or loved one.
  3. If you feel that you cannot share or handle your fears alone - seek professional help.
  4. Know that you are NOT alone!

Falling Inside the Black

http://jamievalendy.blogspot.com/2010/10/falling-inside-black.html

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Hobbies

The theme for the October 2010 edition of the Headache and Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is "How do your hobbies help you cope with your headache disorder?"

I've been mulling this over in my head for weeks now, and I have a mixed response to this question. My hobbies have, in many ways, been affected by my chronic pain. I cannot do many of the things I once loved to do, and the things that I can do often have great limitations. But, the main hobbies that I have found to help me cope with my chronic migraine disorder are:  scrapbooking and writing (and reading).

Scrapbooking. I injured my neck and shoulder, at the same time the migraines became debilitating, so I haven't been able to do as much scrapbooking as I'd like to. For a while after the accident, I just didn't feel up to it (or "in the mood"). I finally got back into it, and did my 2008 scrapbook. I did A LOT the year of my car accident... well, before the accident... I scrapbooked every page of the book, except for the two pages I left about the car accident. They sat empty for months. I didn't even know how to begin or what to say. It felt like a huge release, though, once I was able to finish those pages - I had conquered the fear of those daunting pages about the accident, and I had finished an entire scrapbook! Completing a task or project is something that I definitely try not to take for granted as much anymore.

The things that draw me to scrapbooking are the creativity of designing the pages and arranging the pictures, as well as writing and telling the story (i.e., journaling). I have a very unique experience when I scrapbook. When I look at a photograph, I'm able to go back to that moment in time and relive it. I know it may sound crazy, but I can re-live the moments in a way that involves many of my senses. I don't know how to explain it... I guess this could be a good and a bad thing, as far as coping goes. Staying in/with these photos means that I'm staying in the past and denying the present. It's almost like, if I look at them long enough, maybe I'll be me again (the me before the accident) - I know that that sounds ridiculous and that it can't happen, but it's sometimes a trap that I fall into. It can be good to remember the past, but we must accept the present and move on to our future.

Here are a few pages from my 2008 scrapbook. The first two are of my twin neices (my brother's kids) and my nephew (my brother-in-law's kid). The next one is of my sister, who is one of my closest friends. The third ones are our engagement. And, the last two are my car accident (10/10/08).

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.
© 2010 Jamie Valendy.
© 2010 Jamie Valendy.
© 2010 Jamie Valendy.

Writing (and reading). Due to my injuries, I cannot always write in a journal with a pen (like I would rather do) or write/type as much as I'd like to, and I have difficulty reading as much because of concentration and memory problems that come along with my migraine disorder. But I continue to read and write, as much as I am able to. Reading books, reading blogs and poetry, journaling, writing letters, writing poetry, coming up with book titles and ideas, blogging, etc... it all fascinates me! It's something that I have always had a passion for, and that passion seems heightened (at times) by the roller coaster of emotions that come along with having chronic pain. I write from the heart - making myself vulnerable through the use of words on a page. This has been extremely thereapeutic and cathartic for me. It's a way to acknowledge and release emotions. It's a way to express things that you may not otherwise be able to express. It's a way to grow as a person.

I've always had a wall up around me, only allowing others to see just as much of me as I wanted them to see. There have been very few that I have opened up to and really allowed to see me, and even then... it's usually guarded by only letting them see only one part or side of me. Posting my writing and allowing others to follow my journey with this chronic illness is a GIANT step for me (those who do know me well, know how true this is). I feel a release when I am able to express in words what I am going through. And, it's a feeling I could never explain, when something I've written resonates with someone else and allows them to feel a sense of release because their emotions or experiences have finally been expressed. It truly is a blessing!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn Changes

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The seasons are changing and there is a crispness in the air that refreshes my soul. Perhaps the changing of the weather and the seasons of nature will be mirrored by changes in the seasons of my life. Things have been very rough lately... so, we're praying that October is the month that turns things around. My wonderful husband and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary October 17th, so that's exciting. Plus, there are several other amazing opportunities that could blossom and be answers to some of our prayers. We have a new sense of hope.

Fall is in the air.
The weather is cooler, and
the crisp breeze reminds me of change.

October offers new potential
and great opportunities.
This could be the month that turns our lives around.

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.

Below are some of the autumn/fall quotes that I like, so I thought I'd share them:
  • "It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in Autumn." ~ B. C. Forbes
  • "Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence
  • "Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." ~ Emily Bronte
  • "Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." ~ Albert Camus
  • "Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?" ~ Hal Borland

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anxiously Hopeful

Anxiously Hopeful

Wonder and anxiety
pulsate through my entire being.

Could this be...
the miracle I've been praying for,
or just something that's "too good to be true"?

I am swamped with
emotions...hope...possibilities,
but I must keep my guard up to protect myself.

What if it doesn't work for me?
How will I deal with such devastation and disappointment?
Will I be able to handle it?
Will I be able to pick myself back up and continue trying, without losing hope?

On the other hand, what if it does work for me?
What will I do with the plethora of possibilities?
How will I deal with getting my life back?
What a blessing it would be,
but it is a bit daunting and overwhelming to think about.

Either way, I must always remember
to be patient and take things one step at a time,
to keep my focus and faith on the Lord, and
to allow God to work through me so that He may be glorified.

Lord, you know the suffering I endure daily.
You hear the cries of my mind, body, and soul.
But You also know what is best for me.
Please give me the patience, trust, strength,
courage, and peace that I need. Amen.

"Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42)

Anxiously Hopeful, continued

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Update: The Days After the ER


First, thank you for all of the kind words and prayers. It means more to me than y'all know.

So, I slept off and on the night after my ER visit. We kept a close eye on my blood pressure (BP). I've been tracking it at different times, and it's fluctuating more than normal... so that is a bit of a concern right now.

My foot:  I remember it hurting bad in the ambulance and at the hospital, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Apparently, when the people that carried me inside picked me up, my feet drug on the concrete a bit. The day after the ER, my foot started hurting me pretty bad. It got to the point, by the end of the day, that I could barely walk or put pressure on it. It was red, swollen, and there was a red line that started at the scrape and went several inches up my foot toward my leg. An infection. So, my mom and I started washing it with hydrogen peroxide, soaking it in Epsom salt water, and putting Neosporin on it (repeating several times a day). We were able to stop the infection from spreading (thank God). It still hurts, but the past few days have been progressively getting better (more mobility and less pain and swelling).

My head: Still having daily migraines. I had one that was really bad the latter half of Saturday... preventing me from going to a friend's wedding. I felt horrible not being able to go - angry as heck at these stupid migraines that keep interfering with my life!

I'm still trying to get in to see my doctor this week because we really need to talk about what's going on. This is the first time that I've ever written a 5 on my 1 to 5 pain scale. I told my doctor up-front that I rarely give either extreme, and that it would take an extreme emergency for me to even go to the ER (which would "deserve" a 5 rating, i.e., excruciating headache/migraine). I'm extremely stubborn / bull-headed, and tend to push through (or at least try) pain that perhaps I need to seek professional help for... but that's a whole other thing...

I'm so glad that my husband came into town this weekend because I really needed him to take care of me. I hadn't seen him in almost a week, though, so it stunk that the weekend was spent with migraines and pain. I have been irritable and increasingly frustrated the past few days. It takes so long and so much energy to get done even the smallest of tasks, and I HATE IT! I'm trying so hard to be patient with myself and pace my activities. I'm doing a lot better, but I hate the feeling of getting nothing done... all the time. I hope to see my doctor on Wednesday, and then my family and I are going to a seminar about neurostimulators that evening. We'll see how all of that goes.

P.S. Please check out my other blog, which I recently posted on: Unfolding the Rosebud.

Graceful Agony's Round 2 Blog Carnival

Graceful Agony's Round 2 Blog Carnival is up and running. The topic for this blog carnival was 'Depression: Who turned out the lights?' Thank you to Jolene for organizing the various posts for the carnival. It's hard to say that I enjoyed reading everyone's posts about depression, but I definitely identified with many of them. I'm glad that people were willing to write about and share their experiences... I know that's something I often struggle with. Please check out the posts for this round of blog posts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ER Visit: Scary Day

Well, I haven't been to the ER in almost 2 years (I went the night of my car accident and then about a month later)... until today.

As soon as I woke up this morning, I knew I was in for a rough day... You know, those days when the pain is so bad that you don't even have the energy or ability to put on your "I'm okay" mask?! My head was already monster migraine level, I was shaking/tremor, and I couldn't stop crying because the pain was so bad. I had a dentist appointment (cleaning) I had to get to in the next 45 minutes. I tried to get a hold of a friend to drive me, so that I could take some migraine medicine; but I couldn't get a hold of her. I called my mom, who was able to get off work and drive me. So, I took my medicine, and we went to the dentist.

This is only the 3rd time I've taken this horrible medicine. The first time, my husband ended up having to carry me around the apartment because I couldn't walk (or crawl) straight. The second time I took it, I felt sorta weird, but was able to function. I don't even remember if they helped my migraine pain. But, I knew that my only other option was to take the one other abortive medication that my doctor prescribed me, which I've been trying for over a month and a half without much relief (just the side effects). So, I decided to take the scary pill.

I did well at the dentist's office. I told them up front that I had a bad migraine and had taken this medicine. So, once we were done with the cleaning, they helped walk me back to the waiting room where my mom was waiting for me. I sat down for a moment, and when I stood back up (slowly), I started feeling a little weird. We started walking outside to our car (that was very close to the office door), and I didn't feel right... I started blacking out or something... I tried to brace myself on the car just to get to the passenger side and get in the car before I fell or something. I got to the door and apparently knelt down...

It's all a blur from there, but apparently I passed out. My dentist, mom, and a few others helped get/drag me inside and laid me on the sofa in the waiting room. I was out cold for a while. I started coming in and out, which was so surreal. I was pale, weak, hurting... they put ice on my forehead, which hurt worse. They called the paramedics to come out. So, all of a sudden, there are all of these men there asking me questions and taking my blood pressure. They took me in the ambulance to the ER - at which time my blood pressure was 59/37 (see chart below)! They did some tests, gave me lots of fluids, and gave me some hard-core meds (which I could feel the effects of, but I still had a migraine). They couldn't give me anymore narcotics because my blood pressure wouldn't get above 84/51.

I missed my appointment with my neurologist / headache specialist, but the ER doctor talked to him. I hope I can get in from someone cancelling next week because I only plan on being in town another week or so. Oy!

I am sooo grateful that my mom was there with me. My dad took off work and was there the whole time, too. We were there for about 6 hours. My husband is driving into town tomorrow morning to be here with me.

I still hurt and am tired... it's definitely been a long day of pain... I think I'm going to call it a night. I pray that I wake up to a better tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Depression Hits

 A Silent Cry

My heart and soul ache
at the memory of who I was
and the thought of lost possibilities.

These losses seem like so long ago,
just a distant memory;
and yet they continually haunt me.

What is to become of me?
The uncertainty is a painful reminder
that things will never be the same.

It has been almost two years since the accident,
and yet I still cannot accept the changes
in who I am and what I will be.

Will the pain ever cease --
the pain of knowing that I'll never be the same,
the pain that holds my life captive?

I have lost all self-confidence,
I have struggled with my trust in the Lord,
I have shut out friends and loved-ones,
I have missed opportunities,
I have changed.

© 2010 Jamie Valendy.

I've suffered from depression for years, but the worst of it has been since my car accident triggered chronic pain that has taken over my life. I think that depression is just as misunderstood by most people as chronic pain. Just as migraine is not just a bad headache, depression is not just a lot of sadness. Describing depression to someone that has not experienced it him/herself is like trying to describe chronic migraine to someone that has never experienced a migraine (or even headache).

Having a loving support system (through my family, friends, and church) has been key to getting through those dark times that feel like they will never release you. It is normally indirect support, since I tend to internalize things and try to handle it on my own. After years of fighting depression, I know how difficult it is to reach out to get help, even from those close to us. But, it is an important step. Most family and friends cannot help enough through the darkest of times, so it may be necessary to reach out to a professional. There is no shame in this... though, again, I know it can be one of the hardest things to do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

http://invisibleillnessweek.com/

1. The illness I live with is: Chronic post-traumatic headache/migraine
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2008 - after a car accident
3. But I had symptoms since: some headaches throughout teenage years
4. The biggest adjustment I've had to make is: not always being able to take care of myself / depending on other people so much. Also, accepting that my relationships and plans for my life would be very different from now on. And, giving up my perfectionist tendencies and accept "good enough" because that's all I am often able to do.
5. Most people assume: that nothing is wrong with me / that I'm fine
6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting up
7. My favorite medical TV show is: House, CSI (Miami, New York)
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: my computer
9. The hardest part about nights are: getting to and staying asleep. I often wake up because of the pain
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins: I plead the fifth
11. Regarding alternative treatments I have tried: massage, physical therapy, chiropractic
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: this is a really tough one. My instinct is to say a visible illness, but I know that there is a whole stigma attached with that too. However, at least people wouldn't question that I even have an illness... which is very difficult to hear as someone dealing with chronic pain. At least with an invisible illness, I don't always have people looking at me strangely or asking me what's wrong/what happened.
13. Regarding working and career: I have been unable to work since the accident in 2008. I am currently taking a leave of absence from graduate school.
14. People would be surprised to know: I am in pain (often severe) every single day
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: that I have changed and that I have limitations - I can't "do it all" anymore.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: plan the wedding of my dreams
17. The commercials about my illness: well, the only ones I've seen are for Excedrin Migraine, which are very misleading as to what migraine really is and how debilitating it can be.
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Well, this could be a very long list... I miss reading. The visual disturbances, migraine pain, cognitive difficulties, memory troubles, limitations on doing any task... make it difficult to read
19. It was really hard to have to give up: who I was before the accident... I still haven't completely let go of that yet
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: blogging
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: have no idea what to do with myself (assuming "normal" is feeling "good," not what my "normal" has become)! It's been so long since I've felt good...
22. My illness has taught me: to recognize the strength that I DO have, but to bring me to the end of my own resources... to bring me closer to God. It is teaching me to TRUST God more... but it is definitely a process.
23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: Migraines are just bad headaches; take some pills and keep going / move on, it can't be that bad
24. But I love it when people: Show that they care. Even just little things like: being aware of how bright a room is, asking if the TV/radio is too loud, rubbing my neck/shoulders/head, treating me like a person rather than the disease/illness
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is:
  • "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)
  • "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4)
  • "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with your whole heart" (Jeremiah 29:13)
  • "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6)
26. When someone is diagnosed I'd like to tell them: keep yourself informed - research things online, ask your doctor questions, do your best to understand and articulate your disease/illness. Don't feel like you're alone - join blogging, church, or other support group(s) to help you through the difficult times that you will go through.
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how strong I can be, and how many people misunderstand invisible illnesses so much that even their well-intentioned words and actions can be hurtful.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn't feeling well was: take care of me... When I have a bad migraine, my husband does everything he can to take care of me (feeds me, makes sure I take my medicine, massage my head/neck/shoulders/back/feet, make sure I'm in a dark room and am as comfortable as I can be, and anything else that I need).
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I feel that we need to speak out and get more awareness and understanding out into the public view about invisible illnesses - they are real and often difficult to bear.
30. The fact that you read this list make me feel: heard/validated, and hopefully a bit better understood. It gives me hope that invisible illnesses can be better understood, if only people will listen.
Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog is intended as medical or legal advice.

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