Chronic Migraine Warrior

Chronic Migraine Warrior
Disclaimer: Nothing on this blog is intended as medical or legal advice.

What I write on this site is my own, and if it is someone else's, I take special care to attribute it to the original author. So, please don't use any of my material without proper attribution or permission. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Play That Horn

Today's challenge is: "Play that horn. Want to hear a secret? You're awesome. (It's actually not even really a secret). This is going to be hard for you, O Modest One, but you gotta give yourself props today. Write 3 things you love about yourself - things you're great at - or just want to share."

Yikes! I'm not good at complimenting myself, or "tooting my own horn," so this is a quite a challenge.

First, I have to give myself props for successfully completing the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM) - 30 posts, in 30 days. I tried to take things in stride... writing whenever I was feeling well enough to, so that I could try to rest more on the days I didn't feel up to doing it. I'm learning to adjust to living with chronic migraines... I'm still not good at it, but I'm learning.

So, here are 3 things that I love about myself:

  • I am determined. Living with chronic illnesses, I'm faced with a lot of obstacles. But, even if they are tiny and slow steps, I continue to put one foot in front of the other. I am determined to remain steadfast in my faith, and to make the most of my life, despite chronic pain. I may falter, but our God is forgiving and merciful.
  • I am honest. I try very hard to be an honest person. It was a very difficult, though invigorating, decision to start a blog and share my experience, openly and honestly. I have no reason to be dishonest because I have nothing to hide... not to mention, it takes a lot of energy (that I definitely don't have) to keep up with lies. LOL.
  • I am smart. Sometimes, it's difficult for me to remember that I really am smart. I did so well in school, all the way through to earning my Bachelor's degree. But, the cognitive difficulties that I've faced with my chronic migraines has had me questioning myself so much. I've always been my worst critic and had a fear of failure, but I've been given a great gift.

Thank you, WEGO Health, for hosting this inspiring month-long challenge that helped me get back into my writing. I'm looking forward to the next challenge!


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Greeting Card

Today's challenge is to write a greeting card for someone in my community to help them express themselves about a new diagnosis, treatment, or experience.

Front:
Everything can seem so confusing and overwhelming,
but there's always HOPE!

Inside:
Look up,
Reach out,
Never quit!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Say What?!

Today's challenge is to write about the most ridiculous thing I've heard about health or my condition.

Image by Migraine Chick
I really hate when people say things out of ignorance. There are MANY ridiculous statements / remarks that people say about Migraine.
  • "It's just a headache" - Oh, how I wish this were true! I have Chronic Migraine, but I think that even the days that aren't full-blown migraines are more than "just a headache." Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil... it's not going to cut it. And, that's just the head pain part of it... I have all kinds of other symptoms that accompany the throbbing head pain.
  • "You're too young..." - This one has been completed with "...to be in so much pain / to hurt so much / etc..." Migraine disease doesn't care how old you are! Not to mention, my chronic migraines started due to a car accident... that just so happened to occur when I was "too young" (i.e., 23 years old).
  • "It must be so nice to not have to work" - I've written about this before (Apartment Hunting), but it continues to come up. Yes, it would be nice to not have to work... but to not be able to work is horrible!
  • And, some of the stellar advice that I've received for my chronic migraines... "Get pregnant / have a baby" - It's true, pregnancy sometimes reverses the symptoms of migraines... BUT, it sometimes doesn't (I think it's a pretty even split: reduced and same/worsened migraine pain). Plus, what am I supposed to do AFTER the pregnancy with migraines and a baby?! I don't think it's fair to roll the dice on having a baby, just in hopes of a few months of relief.
Overall, I know that much of what is said is due to people being mis- or un- informed. That's one reason I try very hard to share some of my knowledge and experience about migraines with others.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quote Unquote

Today's challenge is to grab a quote and use that quote to set you for writing.


Life has been knocking me down quite a bit. The past few days have been horrendous. I'm trying hard to keep getting a blog post up each day, so that I can complete the NHBPM. I need to finish something I start. So, I'm trying to remember that "When life knocks you down on your knees, remember you're in the perfect position to pray."


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Black Friday


Continued from yesterday...

Jeremy and I decided to stay up and do a little Black Friday shopping at midnight. Jeremy napped some, and I almost fell asleep, while waiting to head out... it had been a really long and exhausting day. But, we ended up going. Now, I don't think I've ever done Black Friday... at least not when stores open (I normally try to stay in on Black Friday, at all costs). Let's just say, it was INSANE!!!

We went to Target first. YIKES! The amount of people that were waiting outside, and continually streaming into the store was incomprehensible. We stood and just watched for a few minutes, and then we hiked to the end of the line. We knew exactly what we were there to get, and we were able to get in and out surprisingly quickly; but I hated the crowds. Target had everything set up very well for Black Friday. I was impressed that everything moved (relatively) smoothly and orderly. And, it was the first time I've ever seen ALL of the checkout lanes open. From arriving at Target at midnight to returning to our car, was only 50 minutes... it just seemed longer because of all the craziness.

Our next stop was Kohl's. My head was getting out of control bad, at this point. Thank goodness my husband is so encouraging... it really helped me a lot (it always does). We knew that there was no way that we were going to shop and checkout, from the moment we walked inside and saw the line of people waiting to checkout... we don't actually know where the line(s) started, but it was OUT OF CONTROL! So, we looked at the few things that I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted (double-checked colors, made sure I like the items in-person), I wrote down the information, and we went home so I could order online. GENIUS! I will never stand in a Kohl's line like that! Online is the way to go (and with the same perks... well, more because I didn't have to wait!).

It was quite an experience... It's definitely NOT my kind of thing, though! I can only see us doing it again, if there's just an amazing deal that there's no way to pass up. I'm glad that we were able to get what we did, but it came at a price. I had a migraine all day Friday (up and down head pain) - I put up the Christmas decor that we have (we don't really have a whole lot, but I like the feel in the apartment). Other than that, Friday was a take-it-slow kind of day.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

We had a great Thanksgiving with family! I had a few productive days leading up to Thanksgiving day (thankfully!). I tried to be mindful of my stress and pain levels - this included frequent rest breaks. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I got done (I'm starting to really re-define my definition of "productive"). I rested quite a bit the days before Thanksgiving, so that I could make it through the long day (spent several hours at my family's house, and then the rest of the day at the in-law's house).

I actually did pretty good at my family's house. I wore my sunglasses, made sure to stay hydrated, stayed away from the loud football games on TV, and snuck away to my old bedroom for some quiet time away from all of the people / action. My head was slowly starting to get worse through the day (though still bearable), but it worsened quickly a little later in the afternoon. I ended up taking my migraine meds (when we got to my in-law's house). Thank goodness! My head got significantly worse, off and on through the rest of the evening / night. I was able to really enjoy visiting with everyone, though (there were a lot fewer people at my in-law's, so it was easier to visit and not feel overstimulated and overwhelmed).

To be continued [here].


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread


Jeremy and I stopped at a Mrs. Baird's Bakery Outlet the other day. We've been meaning to stop in for a while because it's only a few miles from where we live. We were both dumbfounded by the deals we got. A lot of the bread products have "best by" dates that are in the next few days, but it still felt fresh and was sooo much cheaper than the regular grocery store. So, we're definitely going to start going there for our baked goods.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

There are so many things that I'm grateful for. I've been blessed, and I really need to remember to be more thankful every day. Here are just some of the things I'm thankful for:
  • Having the essentials (food, shelter...)
  • Having a wonderful family (my family and in-laws)
  • Jeremy having a good job
  • Living in Texas again (near our families)
  • Having a loving and caring husband
  • Having an amazing, forgiving God

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, everyone!!!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

AHDA - Action Needed!

Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy




Help end the federal neglect of chronic disabling headache disorders

The Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA) is working toward ensuring that our lawmakers appreciate the urgent need to ease the tremendous burden of migraine and headache disorders. Please take a moment and sign this petition.

There is so little funding for migraine and headache research, and yet the impact of these disorders extends to so many people.
  • Chronic headache disorders, including migraine, are among the top 20 causes of disability in the US according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • 19% of Americans will experience an attack of some form of migraine this year.
  • 75% of Americans with episodic migraine are women, predominantly of child-bearing age.
  • 4% of Americans experience 4 hours of headaches per day, at least 15 days per month.
  • Among veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, 37% of servicemen and 57% of servicewomen reported ongoing migraine if there was a deployment history of concussive injury and any pre-deployment history of migraine.
  • Migraine results in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease which has been linked to more than 1500 additional deaths in the US annually.
  • Headache disorders, including migraine, are responsible for more than $31B in economic costs in the US annually.
  • The WHO estimates that migraine causes more lost years of healthy life in the US annually than multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, ovarian cancer, and tuberculosis combined...
  • ...in 2010, the combined NIH research funding for these four disorders ($684M) was more than 45 times greater than that for migraine ($15M).
  • NIH funding for all research on headache disorders comprised less than 0.05% of the NIH budget in 2010.
  • Only one innovative drug (sumatriptan), discovered, developed, and priority reviewed specifically for migraine treatment, has been FDA approved in the past 50 years.
  • A total of only 290 American physicians have received Headache Medicine specialty training and are certified by the United Council on Neurologic Subspecialties.
  • The US Congress has never held a public hearing devoted to headache disorders.

So, the AHDA is asking each of us to sign an on-line petition urging congressional hearings to be held on the impact of headache disorders. It takes only a minute to sign and they will deliver the signed petition to Congress. Please take a moment and sign this petition.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be Present

Today's challenge is to describe something peaceful with as much sensory imagery as I can (describing the sights, sounds, scents, and feelings).

Rhythmic breathing, a small breeze against my skin, the sound of each footstep in succession, and pure drive and determination to complete the challenge.

While it may not sound like something peaceful, running was the best outlet for my emotions (all of them). I found peace in being out running on the road... competing, fighting the urge to quit, and working through my thoughts. There's nothing like it. I haven't been able to run in... 10 years. Can that be right?! I injured myself in 2001, went through physical therapy, and was injured again in 2002. I miss it terribly!


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ekphrasis Post

Today's challenge is to find a Flickr Image in Creative Commons that inspires me in some way (positively or negatively) and free write about it for 15 minutes. Brave bonus: Publish your free writing without editing!
Photo by ghayty
The caption that ghayty included with the above photo was:
"We must always have old memories and young hopes" (Arsene Houssaye)
I think that those living with chronic pain tend to try to hold tightly to their memories of a time without pain (or at least when it was more manageable). It can be difficult to come to terms with having to face life with chronic pain, and we shouldn't abandon our memories, but we mustn't live in (or stay in) our memories. We need to live in the moment. We can look toward the future... from where we are now, not where we'd hoped we would be. Our hopes from before the chronic pain may have to be changed or adapted... some may no longer be possible... but, we should continue having hope.

There's another quote that would work beautifully for this photo:
"God gave us memories that we might have roses in December" (J. M. Barry)
I love this quote. I absolutely love roses, and this quote paints such a lovely picture... roses in the cold, harsh winter months. Our memories are extremely powerful. They can bring us to tears, make us laugh, or otherwise re-live that moment.

In the photo above, the brightness of the roses beautifully contrast the black and white beneath them. I think it's important to remember that, even in the darkest times (e.g., pain, depression), there is always hope and beauty... if only we look.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

LOL Post (Gamarjobat)

Source: talktoyouforever
Today's challenge is to write a post about something that made me laugh (a moment, video, picture, blog post, etc...).

Humor and laughter are extremely important for everyone to have in their lives, but perhaps especially for those living with chronic pain. An article that I found interesting was Laughter in the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Humor and Laughter.

Laughter is contagious, and may just be "the best medicine." Laughter is good for the mind and the body. It can boost your immune system, diminish pain, relax muscles, and help protect you from the damaging effects of stress... in addition to adding joy to your life, easing anxiety and fear, relieving stress, improving mood, and strengthening relationships.

There are theories as to why humor and laughter ease your pain... but, the why doesn't really matter, if you're a chronic pain sufferer... all that's important is that it eases your pain. And, even if it doesn't eliminate your pain, it can boost your spirits and bring some joy into your life on some of the more difficult days. Accept it as a gift and a blessing, when you're able to find something that makes you laugh.

I've been blessed with a husband that has always been able to make me laugh. I think it's one of my husband's life missions to make me laugh (and he's very good at it). I'm reminded every day how important it is to have laughter in your life. I'm the "too serious" type, while Jeremy is the "laid back" type. Luckily, his strength in "rolling with the punches" and finding humor in everyday things has helped me immensely living with chronic pain. Some days, though, I just can't laugh. I may feel some joy on the inside, but just can't laugh on the outside. Sometimes, just hearing my husband laugh (which happens A LOT), puts a smile on my face... which is a step closer to laughter.

I'd like to share something that my husband shared with me. It makes me laugh every time I see it! Just as a warning, some of you may not find this funny. But, we think it's hilarious! It starts out a little slow, so if you find yourself getting bored with it, at least watch from 4:20 to the end. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Best of" Post (Fear in the Life of a Chronic Migraineur)

Today's challenge is to grab a post from my archives and repost it, adding a few sentences at the beginning to frame it, writing why I chose it, why I liked it, and why it should be shared again.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, I'm facing fear... fear of the unknown. Am I going to feel okay for the Thanksgiving festivities? Will I be able to handle being around so many people all day long? How long will it take me to recover from the day?

Fear comes up a lot in my life. So, I'd like to re-share a post that I wrote in October 2010. The post is titled Fear in the Life of a Chronic Migraineur:

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!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Comment as a Blog Post

Image by Big Grey Mare via Flickr
Today's challenge is to pick someone else's post (from the past or from today) and write a comment to them. Write that comment as your blog post for today, linking back to them to let them know you were inspired.

I read a blog post titled Shit Happens - Use it to Fertilize the Flowers by Wendy at Transform Your Chronic Life, and was truly inspired. So, today I offer this comment to Wendy...

Wendy,

I wanted to let you know that your blog post, Shit Happens - Use it to Fertilize the Flowers, really inspired me.

You're right, shit happens. But, we can keep the things that go wrong from paralyzing or destroying us. I love the idea of using the "shit" as motivation!

I feel like I can relate to many of your examples of "using shit to fertilize the flowers." Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to look for the positives, in the midst of the negatives; so I appreciate the reminder.
New symptoms = Fodder for articles
Cuts in income = Creative ways to use what I already have
Fatigue flares = Good reason to slow down and take better care of myself
Higher pain levels = Excuse to enjoy relaxing activities more often (like massages)
I wanted to let you know that I admire your attitude, especially trying to work and hold it all together while living with chronic pain. I really needed to hear the reminder that we really should be saying, "How can I?" not "I can't."

Blessings,
Jamie


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let it Be

Today's challenge is to write about something that bothers me or weighs on me. Let it go. Talk out the letting go process and how I'm going to be better to myself for it.

It can be difficult for me to refrain from feeling guilty about so much. I hate that others might view me as lazy... but, they don't know what really goes on with me.

Sometimes, I have difficulty getting much done around the apartment. Even if the dishes aren't put up, the laundry isn't done, there are papers everywhere, and the dust is building up, that doesn't mean that I'm not doing the best I can. It bothers me to no end to not have things picked up the way I'd like them... I'm not sure whether it's the fact that they aren't put away, or if it's that them not being put away is a stark reminder that I have so many limitations.

I'm going to try to remember that, as long as I do the best I can each day, I should feel good about myself. I've always been too hard on myself, but it's more detrimental to my health now more than ever. So, when I have "good" days, I'll do my best to enjoy them and be productive / get things done. But, I'm going to try much harder not to beat myself up for having less productive, "bad" days.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Little Engine That Could

Today's prompt is:  When thinking about stigma, awareness, the healthcare system, and other big picture ideas – it’s easy to become overwhelmed. When we feel burned out, doubts creep in and we start thinking, “Maybe I can’t do this.” ... Sometimes we worry we aren’t making enough of a difference. We’re perfectionists and over-achievers – and that’s ok. Because – guess what? You are making a difference and doing great things – no matter how small they may seem at times. Today’s post is about turning our doubts around – turn our “I can’t” into “I can.”

The challenge is to write a list post with 10-15 lines that start each with “I think I can…” Then, write 5 lines at the end that start with "I know I can..."

This challenge was more difficult than I expected, and I'm not really sure why. But, here we go...

I think I can write a book.
I think I can read more frequently.
I think I can help end the stigma of Migraine disease and Invisible Illness.
I think I can begin (and maintain) an exercise routine, starting with walking more.
I think I can get back to cooking more with (and for) my husband.
I think I can help plan an amazing wedding for my sister.
I think I can get my chronic migraines under some level of control.
I think I can make sure people know how much they mean to me.
I think I can make a difference in someone's life.
I think I can set smaller milestones toward meeting larger goals.
I think I can feel less guilty when I choose to take care of myself, even if that means saying "no" or canceling plans with others.
I think I can keep a cleaner house (apartment), and be okay if sometimes I'm unable to.
I think I can can let go of things that have weighed me down in the past.
I think I can continue making small changes to improve my quality of life.
I think I can live a full and meaningful life, despite having chronic pain (I'm working hard on knowing this, rather than just thinking it).

I know I can continue to be an educated patient, and share what I learn with others.
I know I can be a loving and supportive wife.
I know I can love my family.
I know I can lend an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.
I know I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This One's For You (Shadows)

Today's challenge is to dedicate a song to my condition, and then explain why I picked that song.

I've been thinking about this prompt for a while now, and the song that kept returning to my mind was Shadows by Blue Man Group. If you've never had the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group live, I highly recommend it (WARNING:  Migraineurs take caution... there are A LOT of flashing lights, not to mention the normal sounds and crowds of a concert).

Below, I've included the words to both the intro and the song (there aren't many words in the actual song). If you know me very well, it'll be pretty obvious to you that this would be "a song Jamie would like." Now, let's see if I can put some of how the song moves me (I get goosebumps when I hear it, LOL) into words.

Despite all of the flashing lights, I've chosen to dedicate this song to my condition (Chronic Migraine... though I think it would fit anyone, especially those living with chronic pain). The shadow concept can be applied to my life with chronic pain:
Living with Chronic Migraine is like living with the shadow of my past self. It seems like it's so close... right there... within reach. But, I've changed. Sometimes I see glimpses of myself, as I was before the accident; but often it just seems like a memory that follows me around, like a shadow. Sometimes it leads, sometimes it follows, "but we never seem to become one and the same."
If you're sensitive to flashing lights, the strobe-type lighting is centered from 1:55 to 2:15 in the video... I can't watch those parts, but the sounds are good.


Shadows by Blue Man Group

Rock concert movement #237. Taking the audience on a Jungian journey into the collective unconscious, by using the shadow as a metaphor for the primal self that gets repressed by the modern persona. And, also by using an underground setting and a labyrinth office design to represent both the depths of the psyche and the dungeon-like isolation of our increasingly mechanistic society, which prevents people from finding satisfying work or meaningful connections with others.

Sometimes my shadow leads
or it follows me
but we never seem
to become one (and the same)

[Repeat (2x)]

One and the same
One and the same
One and the same...

I want to send out a HUGE thank you to my brother and my sister-in-law. I know you didn't want to be stuck in the hospital before having the twins (and I wish you hadn't had to), but I never would've had the opportunity to go to the show, otherwise... It may not be an option for me in the future, so I thank you both from the bottom of my heart.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Elevator Blog

Today's challenge is to write about what I'd tell a person I was in an elevator with, if they asked about my blog, Health Activism, community, or condition... making a different version for a 30 second elevator ride, 1 minute elevator ride, and 2 minute elevator ride.

30 second elevator ride:
My blog is about my life as someone living with an invisible illness, Chronic Migraine. My chronic migraines started as a result of a car accident 3 years ago, and it took me a long time to even begin to come to terms with the reality of my pain. Writing has always been very cathartic for me, but I was unable to write in a journal (due to other accident-related injuries). I began a blog, so that I could share what I was learning about my condition, and write about my personal battle/journey as a Chronic Migraineur.
1 minute elevator ride:
(continue from 30 second elevator ride) It is important for someone with chronic pain to be an educated patient and to find support. I try to share some of what I learn, so that it can help others better understand Migraine. I've found support through the blogs of other individuals that live with chronic pain, which has been an unexpected benefit of entering the blogging world.
2 minute elevator ride:
(tagging on from the other elevator ride speeches) Migraine is a neurological disease that affects more than 30 million Americans. Despite the number of people it affects, Migraine is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and greatly lacks funding for research. Migraines can vary in intensity, duration, and frequency; and are more than just a headache - the accompanying symptoms (such as sensitivities to light and sound, nausea, visual changes, etc...) can be just as (or more) disabling than the headache pain.
Part of what I write on my blog is about the symptoms I experience. I write about what I deal with, including many of the challenges of having an invisible illness. I try to express my experiences, as well as my faith (one's spiritual life becomes a roller-coaster ride, just like the rest of your life, when you have a chronic illness). If you're interested, here's the link to my blog - feel free to stop by, read, leave a comment, and share.
This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Open a Book (The Gift of Pain)

Today's challenge is to open a book, randomly point to a word or passage, and then free write for 10-15 minutes on that word or passage.

I hate to take a section of a book out of context (especially when I haven't even read the book yet), but I love the idea of free writing about a "random" passage. The book I grabbed off my bookshelf was The gift of pain: Why we hurt & what we can do about it by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Again, I haven't read the book yet, but the passage I opened up to was intriguing.

The authors write:
The hurt of pain forces the entire being to attend to the danger. Once aware of the cut on my finger, I forget all about my crowded schedule and the long lines of patients outside -- I run for a bandage. Pain ignores, even mocks all other priorities... [The ultimate end of pain is] to galvanize the entire body. Pain shrinks time to the present moment... What matters to the pain system is that you feel miserable enough to stop whatever you're doing and pay attention right now (pp. 216-218)
How interesting this is, especially when considering what it means for those that live with chronic pain. But, we'll start with first things first. Everyone has experienced pain... being overtaken by the urgent demand for our entire attention by something that has caused us pain. The acute pain brings us into the moment, making everything else around us seem obsolete. Time seems distorted, and our entire attention is on the pain.

So, what happens when the pain is ongoing, such as with chronic pain? There seems to be yet another battle within those living with chronic pain:  how to deal with the pain, while not being completely consumed by it. We need to acknowledge pain, and know our bodies well enough to know when symptoms change and should be attended to. But, even though the pain may be ongoing, we mustn't allow it to overtake and destroy us.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Migraine Disease & Friendship

The theme for the November 2011 Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival is: "Migraine Disease & Friendship: How has living with migraine disease or a headache disorder impacted your friendships? Has it shown you who your true friends are? Have you made friends or become closer to people because of your life with this disease?"

I've discussed this topic previously:  Reason, Season, LifetimeChanged RelationshipsChanged Relationship, continued, Change: Life Since the Accident (Jan 6), Romantic Relationships & Migraine, and Romantic Relationships & Migraine - Our Story. Obviously, this topic resonates a lot with me. I've had a difficult time trying to manage the loss of my old life, as well as the change / loss of many relationships.

I've actually been very surprised at what has happened to my relationships (for this post, relationships with friends), since my chronic migraines began. Now, to be fair, I also got married a year after my car accident; so my relationships probably would've changed some, solely due to me getting married.

My friends have become distant. I rarely talk to them (I use "talk" loosely, meaning anything from visiting to talking on the phone to emailing). Honestly, it makes me feel abandoned, as I never expected them to disappear in my darkest hour. For some, it is a matter of geographic distance and the business of life.

For others, I think we just have very little in common. The top 3 important things in my life are: 1) faith, 2) family, and 3) health. So, for a healthy individual that's never been interested in religion and isn't as close to his/her family... it's difficult to find any common ground. I simply can't do things that I used to... go to the movies (perhaps, but very rarely), go bowling (smoke, lights, noise, weight of the ball, crowds... *shudder*), go shopping (I have trouble in the stores, and I get worn out very quickly), etc...

I've never been a social butterfly. It's always taken me a long time to really open up and become friends with people. The few friends I've had, I've known for many years. I have such a limited supply of energy, and social events drain me even more now than they did before my chronic migraines began. So, I focus on my own health, and spending time with my family... leaving nothing more to invest in new friendships.

Thus, my friends have mostly evolved to those that I've come into contact with on the Internet. Many of us have a chronic illness of some sort. Regardless of what it is, we have a level of understanding and compassion that I haven't experienced with my "real world" friends. We understand what having a "good day" means, that sometimes you just need to vent about your condition, and that there are so many aspects of living with a chronic illness that are extremely difficult, on many different levels. They laugh with me, cry with me, pray for me, and cheer me on. We're a community of encouragers, holding on to hope for making each day better.


A Lost Friend

I'm not the same person I used to be,
But I'm trying to learn how to be the new me.
You've disappeared for reasons I can't comprehend,
You used to be such a good friend.

I feel like you left me,
In my most vulnerable time.
Even a simple card would be
Heart-warming and kind.

I miss your company, your hugs, and your smile.
Perhaps you're still there and I just cannot see.
If you're there and it's just been a while,
Please let me know you care and you're thinking of me.

© 2011 Jamie Valendy.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gloomy Weather

Today's prompt just isn't really inspiring me, so I'm going to veer off and write about something else.

A few days ago, we had a beautifully cloudy/overcast day. I know that most people dislike the gloominesss of the autumn and winter months, but I love the darkness (though I could definitely do without the cold temperatures and roller coaster weather changes). The other day (when it was overcast), I still wore my sunglasses. I was able to make it to the doctor and spend some time walking around outside with my husband. It was so great! It wore me out, and my head worsened in the evening, but it was such a wonderful day with my husband.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Personal Brand

Today's challenge is to write about my personal brand - describing what qualities and components I present to my audience. "As a Health Activist, you are a front-facing leader. What do you imagine you look like to your readers? What qualities do you possess? It's ok to toot your own horn today - you have full permission to indulge."

I'm definitely NOT good at tooting my own horn, but it's good to think about how I might be coming across to those that read my blog. Above all, I strive to be genuine. Writing allows me to be my authentic self, removing the mask that I so often try to wear in the presence of others. While I have chronic pain, I am not my illness. I am much more than that!

My blog is meant to help inform others about Migraine, by sharing information I learn about Migraine and my personal battle/journey as a chronic Migraineur. I hope that by sharing my own personal journey that my words will, in some way, touch someone else. I love receiving a comment or email about a post that resonates with someone - by validating their experience, putting into words what they are going through and/or feeling, gives them hope, etc...

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (Plato)

I'm a determined and compassionate individual that strives to write from the heart. Though Chronic Migraine is my cross to bear (at least for now), I have faith that my Lord will be with me through all of the trials ahead, just as He's been with me through the trials from my past. It is my hope that He will continue to use me to reach others, despite my chronic illness.

Free Wallpaper Christian
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3 Truths & 1 Lie

Today's challenge is to write 3 things that are true about me, my condition, my Health Activism, or my life... and then 1 lie.
  • I've tried over 50 medications to try to control my chronic migraines.
  • I've dealt with headaches for much of my life.
  • I've returned to my pre-accident weight.
  • Headaches and Migraines run in my family.




 ... And the lie is ...

The third one. I'm still down 10-12 pounds from my pre-accident weight. At least I've gained about 6 pounds from my lowest point.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Case of the Mondays

Today's challenge is to write about something that gets you down, burns you out, or makes you sad - purge it in a blog post, turn it around at the end, and tell Tuesday why you're ready for it.

Honestly, Mondays don't really feel like Mondays to me anymore. I used to dread them... the start of a new work-week. I'm not really on a normal week cycle... Jeremy's work-week is Wednesday through Sunday, so that's what mine has become (except I don't "dread" his "Monday"). Mondays are like our Saturday, so it's actually kinda nice.

But, there are definitely some things that make me less-than-excited to get out of bed, including stigma around Migraine. I hate that others often think that Migraines are "all in your head" and/or are just "bad headaches." Over 10% of America's population (approximately 36 million people) have Migraine, and it ranks in the top 20 of the world's most disabling medical illnesses. About 4% of the U.S. population (approximately 14 million people) have Chronic Daily Headache, and about 2% of the population (approximately 7 million people) have Chronic Migraine. And yet...

Migraine is poorly understood and often misdiagnosed / mistreated. Research is poorly funded. Actually, that's an extreme understatement. The National Institute of Health (NIH) only allocates 1/10 of 1% (i.e., 0.01%) of their budget to Migraine and all other headache disorders combined. One-tenth of a percent... that blows my mind! No wonder there are so many people suffering from Migraine. Of all the medications used as Migraine preventive treatments, not a single one was developed primarily for Migraine treatment.

My hope is that by sharing our stories and joining together, that Migraineurs can one day be heard, understood, and treated. We're in desperate need of funding, but we also need to take opportunities that we each encounter to inform others about Migraine. That's one reason I keep this blog. It allows me to share information about Migraine, as well as my experience with Chronic Migraine, with others.

Reference:  Migraine Research Foundation


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Keep On Keepin' On

Patients For A Moment (PFAM) is a patient-centered blog carnival to build connections within the community of people who blog about illness, disease, and disability. Aviva, at Sick Momma, is hosting the next edition of the PFAM blog carnival:  "What do you do to get yourself out of the doldrums when you fall into a funk? What (or who) inspires you and gives you hope? Where have you found inspiration when you weren't even looking for it? How do you keep on keeping on when you pain is high and your fatigue is even higher?"

When I find myself in a funk, my first instinct is to push others away and isolate myself (more than I already am). It's definitely NOT the right thing to do, but it's my "first line of defense." Luckily, I don't live alone, and my husband does everything he can to help me gain a better perspective on things.

Although I've done this less than I should have, writing out my thoughts, feelings, fears, and anxieties can be very cathartic (as can writing out my joys and gratitude). There's something about writing things out that helps purge the negativity from within.

I also have a very supportive family and online group that encourage me to always return to my faith. When things get really difficult, it can be easy to fall down, and it's such a blessing to have people surrounding you that will help pick you back up and remind you that you have a God that loves you unconditionally.

Honestly, when my pain is high and my fatigue is even higher, I have a difficult time holding onto hope on my own. I depend on others for prayer and support... much more than I'd like to (I've never been good at needing to depend on others). Thankfully, I have a handful of people in my life that are willing to pray and hold on to hope for me, when I cannot do it myself. I'm forever grateful for these individuals!

By the way, this song is a good reminder, too...

"Keep On Keepin' On" by Jack Ingram
http://youtu.be/8lQhTFMW7lQ

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

5 Things That Have Changed My Life as a Patient

Today's challenge is to write about 5 things that have changed your life (for the better or worse) as a patient, caregiver, or health activist.

April 6, 2001 - I injured my hip (and my low back the following year) at a high school track meet. My running (cross-country and track) and softball years were never the same.

October 10, 2008 - I was in a car accident that has changed my life. This is what started the chronic migraines that I still struggle with.

October 17, 2009 - I married my best friend. He's helped me through so much with my chronic pain, over the years.

August 2010 - I entered the world of blogging. I started my Chronic Migraine Warrior blog, and I found a network of others that live with chronic illness... somehow it makes things a bit easier to take, knowing that there are other going through many of the same things that I'm going through.

September 2010 - I attended a seminar for Ascendant Neuro, where I learned about a possible treatment option (neurostimulator) for my chronic migraines. I had the stimulator trial in October, and the permanent implant in December.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Blogging Process

Today's challenge is to do a quick blog meditation on blogging itself: my blog-writing and post-publish process. Do you immediately tweet a link? Email it to everyone? Re-read it for spelling errors?

I don't have one single process for writing for my blog. I begin in one of any number of different ways, including... thinking of an interesting title (though this often changes, once I write the post), coming up with an idea, writing about an image or quote that inspires me, or expanding on something that I've previously written (either on my blog or in my written journal).

There are many times that I come up with an idea, and then the writing part comes so easily... the words just pour out of me. Finding an image that truly adds to the post can sometimes be a little more difficult.

Before I publish something to my blog, I edit and proofread it... multiple times. Typically, I come and go from a post multiple times before it ever gets published to my blog. Especially if it's an emotionally charged post (such as venting), I feel like I need to get it out, separate myself from it for a while, and then come back and see if it's really something that needs to be shared (sometimes just typing it up or writing it out is enough... then delete or throw it away).

Finally, I do a final proofread of the post in its entirety, and preview it (multiple times), before posting it to my blog. I try not to make changes to the post, once I've pressed "publish"... unless I see some really bad typo.

Depending on what the post is about, I sometimes post a link on Facebook (I don't have Twitter). I periodically check the site analytics, and I try to respond to comments that I might receive.


This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dear 18-year old Me

Today's challenge is to write a letter to myself when I was 18 years old - what to do more of, what to do less of, and what you have to look forward to in the coming years.

Dear 18-year old Jamie:

Congratulations on doing so well in high school! Honestly, you're already on the right track, in so many ways, so continue dreaming big and striving hard to be the best you can be. I just have a few thoughts I want to share with you, so that you can enjoy the coming years as much as possible.

As you head to college, remember that grades aren't everything. Perfection is an impossible feat, so relax and just do your best... don't be so hard on yourself. Spend more time with friends, and cherish what you learn from one another. Balance your time, and enjoy every moment because it goes quickly. By the way, during your semester in Europe, get plenty of dried strawberries in the Florence, Italy market!

Try not to worry so much, don't take things so personally, and don't keep things bottled up inside. Enjoy each step of life, as it comes. Be more flexible and spontaneous... but learn that it's okay to say, "No."

I know you're in good shape, but life gets busy. Try to get into a routine of working out - maybe try yoga, since you're still struggling with hip and back pain. It's best to try to get into a workout routine now, otherwise you may never do it.

Always do the best you can and stay true to your morals. Remember that God will faithfully provide you with what you need. Try to keep your eyes on the Lord, even when it seems impossible. You have a wonderful and loving family that is there to support and care for you... let them.

Remember... you're smarter, stronger, and more beautiful than you think you are; God is always here for you; and you're loved.

Blessings,
26-year old Jamie


from Heart Prints
This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Weather

www.WeatherHeadaches.com
I didn't particularly care for today's prompt, so I'm going to write about something else. I've been wondering all day what to write about, but I haven't had any luck (due to migraine-brain). So, when at a loss for words, what better to talk about than... the weather.

Our temperature has dropped almost 30º in the last few hours (and the winds have increased, gusting to around 40mph). I live in Texas, so I expect the craziest weather patterns... It's a roller coaster! Starting in mid-October (10/17-18), each week has delivered a cool front, dropping our temperatures at least 20º in a few hours. The temperatures go back up, and then a big drop again.

Unfortunately, my health seems to follow a similar pattern as Texas weather... drastic ups and downs. I'm seeing a pattern emerge with some of my migraines, when the weather changes so quickly. I love Texas, and I love fall so much... but they're both torturous. Unfortunately, there's no magic bubble that I can surround myself in to protect myself from the changes in weather.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Titles of My Future Book(s)

I've decided to participate in National Health Blog Posting Month  (NHBPM). I've been out of the writing/blogging world for a little while, so I hope I'm able to keep up. WEGO Health is going to be providing a daily blog prompt. I'm looking forward to getting back into writing, and seeing what prompts there are.

Today's challenge is to come up with 5 working titles and a quick book jacket synopsis for a book about my life, community, condition, or Health Activism. This came at a great time! One of the reasons I've decided to participate in NHBPM is because I need to work on disciplining myself and getting back to writing. One of my goals is to be a writer and publish books. It can be so easy to fall into a rut, especially when dealing with constant, debilitating pain.

Here are a few of the working titles I have (by the way, any feedback anyone would like to share is welcome):

Relationships and chronic illness
Chronic illness can change all of the relationships in your life - with yourself, your family, friends, coworkers, and with God. Some of these changes will be losses that need to be grieved, but others may strengthen in ways you never expected.
Re-defining 'normal'
There are many different events in life that require us to re-define our 'normal.' From changing schools to moving out of your parents' house to getting married to starting a family, and so forth. Many of these changes are just the natural progression of life, while others are personal choices. But, sometimes something happens that is completely unexpected, and you must re-define what your 'normal' is. Chronic illness changes your life in so many ways, and your 'normal' has to be adjusted to account for new limitations and other life changes someone living with chronic illness faces.
Expectations: Yours, Mine, and God's
Whose expectations are you measuring your life by? What do your priorities reveal about whose expectations are important and guiding your life? Life never seems to go as we think it will. Taking a deeper look at our priorities and choices can help us examine who's expectations are really guiding our lives. 
Prayer: How the power of prayer can bring peace and happiness to your life
Life is often moving at the speed of light. There is so much going on, and it never seems to slow down. Bringing peace and happiness into your life can begin with prayer. Prayer calls for you to "be still" and focus on God. Incorporating prayer into your daily life offers you a refuge where you can rest in the Lord's presence, and both prepares and energizes you to fulfill God's calling for you.
One of the books I started working on before my car accident is... Finding your way through a landmine: A young woman's guide to navigating the business-world
The business-world can be like a foreign land to women. This book will serve as a guide to navigating aspects of the business-world, including relationships, obstacles, expectations, perception, and balance.