Thursday, January 4, 2024

A Year in Review (2022)

Note: I wrote this in December 2022.

I don't always do a year in review sort of post, though I did in 2021. I was recently part of a writing group that prompted me to consider some questions about this year.
eberhard 🖐 grossgasteiger on Unsplash

This year has been an intense year. There has been a lot of deep sadness and grief. Depression has taken hold multiple times. Anxiety has spun me around more times than I can count. Pain remains my daily companion.

Through it all, God has remained faithful. I'm grateful for His provision, especially when I don't know what I need.

I have overcome a lot this year. I've made it through every single time that I wasn't sure I would. Every time. Every. Time. I will continue to make it through, even when I'm not sure how.

I did a lot of hard work this year. I tackled depression with TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), Ketamine, and therapy. I completed a 3-week intensive pain rehabilitation program. I consistently showed up for physical therapy, both in office and at home. I made it through pelvic trigger point injections and acupuncture. A lot of needles. A lot of pain. A lot of work.

I am a warrior. I’m tired of fighting, and I'm doing my best to find balance.

I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be. Where I thought I would already be. I'm doing my best to accept where I am and continue working to get to where I want to be.

I spent time with family and friends this year, both virtually and in-person. I enjoyed moments of love and laughter.

I want next year to be full of peace, calm, grace, and abundance. I want to flow through the challenges that will inevitably show up. I want to be present in moments of beauty and joy.

Intentionally reflecting allows me to recognize how far I've come.
  • Writing about the obstacles that I overcame reminds me of my strength and resilience, and God's faithful provision.
  • Remembering the people and moments that brought me joy reminds me of all that I'm so very grateful for.
  • Looking forward to the coming year reminds me that there's space to grow and change, and that there's always hope.
Questions for reflection (and sharing, if you'd like to):
  • What did you overcome this year?
  • What brought you joy this year?
  • What do you want next year to look like?
"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." - Hal Borland

Saturday, October 21, 2023

A Letter to Myself

It's been 15 years since I was in a car accident that altered the trajectory of my life. I've written and posted about it multiple times over the years. Each time differs, as the grieving and healing processes continue. 
Note: links to previous posts about the anniversary of the car accident at the end of this post.

This year feels different. 

The past year has included a Pain Rehabilitation Center (PRC) program, Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET) course, and attending a writing support group, all of which have provided me resources and opportunities to make important changes in my life and within myself. I will share more about these in future posts. 

Today, I want to share a letter I wrote to myself. I've written multiple different letters to myself over time. These letters offer compassion, guidance, and encouragement to myself, reminding me that I can and will make it through whatever hard thing I'm facing. They serve as a gentle guide, map, or light for me to get through the difficult times. Here is one such letter. 

My dear self,
I know you’re struggling and your heart feels heavy. Pause and take a breath. 
Feel the air come in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice how that feels in the body. 
You are going to get through this, just as you have every hard thing before. 
Identify and acknowledge the emotions and core beliefs that come up. 
Be gentle with yourself. 
Write. Writing helps to gain clarity and release hurt better than anything else. 
Pray. Ask God to come alongside you and provide what you need in each moment. He is faithful. 
Reach out. Jeremy is your strongest supporter in life. Allow him, and others, to be there for you. 
Use the skills and tools you’ve learned and strengthened over the years: breathing, healthy coping and distraction, and resilience. 
You are so resilient! You persevere through challenges. You are a warrior. 
Listen to music. Look for beauty. Bake a cake. Play a game. Write, write, write. 
Do these to help you feel like you again. 
Breathe and let go of what you’re able to. 
I’m so proud of you! I'm proud of you for never giving up, for doing the hard work, for always holding onto hope as well as you were able. 
Keep going, you’ve got this.
Love, Me

Photo by Jamie Valendy
I wrote this letter during the PRC program in 2022. I wrote it on October 10. That day has a history of pain and redemption, over the years.
  • It was the day that I was in a car accident that changed my life. 
  • It was the day that I started seeing my amazing headache specialist.
  • It was the day that I wrote this letter to myself and graduated from a pain rehabilitation program. 
A lot has changed in the past 15 years. I have picked up the pieces of a shattered life, more than once, and chosen what to keep and what to let go of. I have fought battles within (and out) that few or no one knows about. I have worked hard to become the person I am, and I will continue to keep (re)building and growing. 

I've got this!

If you'd like to listen to me read this letter, you can! I was asked to share on a recent US Pain Foundation Building Your Toolbox talk about the importance of writing. Click here to listen on YouTube ( I read at 24:00.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Suicide Prevention Awareness

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Suicide is something that hits close to home for so many people, yet we often don't talk about it. There is a lot of shame, guilt, and stigma associated with mental health and suicide. 

We need to talk about our mental health. 

I've shared some about my experiences with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, grief, loss. It's all part of my journey and it's important to share so others know they're not alone. 

You're not alone.

My cousin died by suicide in 2020. It's a heartbreaking and complicated loss. The stigma around suicide affects how we process the loss and grieve. For me, I found that it's further complicated in light of experiencing deep depression and suicidal thoughts at various times in my own life. 

I do my best to speak about mental health, chronic illness, and suicide with honesty, vulnerability, and language that reduces the shame, guilt, and stigma associated with them. Life is hard enough without these piled on. 

You matter. You are enough. You are not alone.

*The following resources include additional information, support, and helplines*

  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) highlights the Talk Away the Dark campaign: "There are countless ways you can help Talk Away the Dark by initiating open conversations about mental health; speaking up and making sure more people know what research reveals about how we can help prevent suicide; lighting the way for those in distress to feel comfortable asking for help; and knowing what to say to support survivors of suicide loss and provide them the care they need." 
About Suicide
If you, or someone you know, is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 or text TALK to 741741. For those that are deaf and hard of hearing, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Depression: What Does It Feel Like?

This is a post I wrote six months ago exploring depression. At the time I wrote this one, I posted Depression: An Update.
Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash
Depression is an insidious disease. Mental illness and pain are liars. I battle with multiple diseases, which has taught me that you can't always see the depth and intensity of pain another is going through.

The ways I've learned to cope with and survive depression, anxiety, pain further complicate things because one part of that is that I hide it. Not consciously, most of the time. But, I've become a master at hiding pain (of all kinds). It's so engrained in how I move through life, that it's mostly been through feedback from other people that I've really seen how "well" I do it.

For example, my therapist said that it was difficult for her when we first started meeting because my demeanor and my words weren't aligned. I was sitting in front of her, completely put together, while my words were filled with pain and despair.

Hearing that others typically don't see the chaos inside of me is bittersweet. I want to be seen and known. I think we all do. Yet, much of the pain I experience is invisible.

In an effort to pull back the curtain, both on depression as a disease and on my personal experience with it, I explored the question: What does depression feel like?

It's a question I wish there was a simple answer to, but the answer is as complex as the disease and people that face it. I've experienced depression in more ways than I can even recall. Here are some descriptions that come to mind.
  • Apathy
  • Nothing matters... yet everything matters (depression + anxiety)
  • Emptiness
  • Anguish
  • Despair
  • Heavy darkness
  • Weighted blanket over everything
  • Trying to walk in quicksand
  • Drowning in the depths of the ocean
  • Carrying a boulder
  • Fatigue and lack of motivation
  • Breathing takes everything you have
  • Spiraling into the abyss
  • Gasping for breath, while an elephant is on your chest
  • Moving in slow motion
  • Thoughts out of my control
  • Stuck in a nightmare or twilight zone
  • Sleepwalking
  • Endless blackness / darkness
  • Tunnel
  • Spiral
  • Deep dark pit
  • Perpetual 
What does depression feel like for you?

"That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious—and it compounds daily—making it impossible to ever see the end. That fog is like a cage without a key.” - Elizabeth Wurtzel

Monday, May 15, 2023

Welcome Back, Email Subscribers

I've made some changes to some behind the scenes aspects of the Chronic Migraine Warrior blog. For instance, I set up a new email service. 

If you're reading this in email, welcome back! You should be all set. 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Note: For existing subscribers, there might be a line at the top of your email to confirm that you'd like to continue receiving emails. 

Here are a few blog posts that you've missed receiving via email over the past months: 

If you're reading this on the blog and would like to subscribe by email, that feature is available once again. You can also follow me on social media (Facebook, Instagram).

Friday, December 16, 2022

Depression: An Update

Depression is hard. 

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
That's true. And, yet, a huge understatement.

I can see ways that I've improved:
  • I can more readily spot the signs of depression worsening.
  • I have been growing my toolbox with ways to help me in battle.
  • I find myself reaching outside of myself more than I used to.
I'm trying to focus on those things, but the truth is that there's so much other stuff chattering in the background... that I'm right back where I've been time and time and time again. Like there's no way to not.

Over the years, I've experienced depression to varying degrees. It's always there, though the depth, intensity, and disruption vary. Each episode is a unique and ever-changing combination of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks... making it a moving target to identify and manage. 

I've been in a depressive cycle for nearly 4 years. There have been moments of sheer beauty and joy, but the lows have been just as impressive as the highs. 

Depression does its best to push those positive moments out of my memory, while latching on to the painful ones. I'm doing my best to allow the space to grieve the losses and experience the joys, both with the intensity that shows up.

I seem to have more recently turned a corner to experiencing the deep lows, but the highs feel dampened. This may be partly due to deep sadness and grief stacking atop the depression. It's too heavy. 

I'm so tired and weary. The daily battles feel like a permanent fixture in my life.

I'm not sure how to get through all of this... but, there is no other way but through. 

Update: I wrote the above some number of months ago. 

There have been ebbs and flows to my experience of depression. Sometimes, depression is in the background and things don't feel quite as heavy and dark. Other times, there's a sense of emptiness and it feels like there's a blanket over everything. It takes a lot of hard work and energy to try to allow and accept even the difficult moments. I'm trying.

"I’ve managed to live with and through Depression before and can do it again. And that is a truth Depression cannot dispel." - Marie Shanley (Mxiety)

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.