Monday, December 10, 2012

Pets As Therapy: December 2012 Headache & Migraine Carnival

Welcome to the December 2012 edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival.

Our theme for this edition is: "Pets as Therapy: How our pets help us cope with our migraine and headache disorders."

A sincere thank you to those that submitted posts for this edition of the Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival. I enjoyed reading everyone's submissions, and I hope you do too!

  • Kelly Lynn Thomas shares how her precious corgi takes care of her in so many ways in CORGI! at her blog, Miss Migraine.
Here's what you need to know about the upcoming January 2013 Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My Shadow & My Honey Bee

I grew up having pets - primarily horses and dogs. They've always been a source of comfort, love, and laughter. Since my car accident, there have been two dogs that have really helped me a lot with living life with chronic pain.

© 2012 Jamie V.

When I had to move back in with my parents, following my car accident in October 2008, I found great comfort in their dogs. One of their dogs, Shadow, became my personal shadow. She followed me around the house to make sure I was okay; and if I was gone "too long," she would come looking for me. She cuddled with me. She protected me. She was perceptive to my needs. She listened to me and sat with me as I cried, trying to grieve the life that I had before the accident. She helped me through some of my darkest times, and I'm so very grateful for that.

When I moved to Tulsa to go to graduate school (about 8 months after my accident), I tried to explain to her that I'd be gone for a few weeks, but that I'd be back. But, she wasn't too happy with it. She shunned me for a few hours, whenever I would come home for the weekend or something.

Now, Shadow is getting older and has injured herself so much that it's hard for her to get up and move around too much. I always try to spend some time with her, when I visit my parents' house. There's no way that I can show her how much she's meant to me over the years, but I'll continue to love on her every time I see her loving face.

Honey Bee
© 2012 Jamie V.
Honey Bee

This summer (July 2012), my husband and I adopted a dog, Honey Bee. She has brought us so much joy and comfort over the past 5 months.

When we adopted her, I was actually in the midst of a horrendous status migraine that lead me to the ER just a few days after we got her, and then to an emergency visit the following week. I wasn't able to spend much time with her - I was at a point where I was so sensitive to anything even touching or being near me. But, she's such a sweetheart, and our relationship is only just beginning.

She's had a difficult past, but she's in such a loving home now. She's actually more responsive to Jeremy, which can be heartbreaking sometimes. She's home with me every day, but I don't feel that she's very perceptive of me. But, I find joy in seeing her and my husband play and spend time together... I find joy in their joy.

Honey  Bee
© 2012 Jamie V.
Honey is a very quiet dog by nature. She mostly minds her own business. She'll snuggle, play, and has been showing more and more of her silly self. She's such a beautiful girl, and her soft, sensitive eyes show such a lovely soul. Her fur is so very soft, and she loves being pet. She reminds me that great things can come from difficult times - she was hit by a car a year and a half ago, and had to have her back right leg amputated... but that hasn't slowed her down in the least!

I do my best to play with her, take her for walks, and train her. She may not always want to snuggle, but neither do I - we each like our space sometimes.

Honey has been such a peaceful and calming presence, and I know she shows her love in the ways that she knows.

Pets have such power to change our moods, help keep life in perspective, and feel unconditionally loved. When I see Honey so excited over something little (like when we get home from a short grocery visit, we give her a new toy, we feed her dinner, etc), it makes me smile. Her kisses are healing. And, I know that I can face the hardships in my life and come out on top.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Last Call: December 2012 Headache & Migraine Carnival

Tomorrow, Friday, December 7, 2012, at midnight, is the deadline for submissions to the December Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival.

The December theme is:
"Pets as Therapy: How our pets help us cope with our migraine and headache disorders." 
As always, posts on any topic related to migraine disease or other headache disorders are also welcome.
Please include the following information with your submission:
(1) Your name as you would like it to appear in the carnival.
(2) The title of the blog post you're submitting.
(3) The url of the blog post you're submitting.
(4) The title of your blog.
(5) The url of your blog.
The December Carnival will be published on Monday, December 10, 2012, here at Chronic Migraine Warrior.

Please email your submission to Diana at (and she'll forward them to me).

For more information about the carnival visit the overview page here:

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ten Years Without a Tree

© 2012 Jamie V.
In a very welcome break in the full-blown migraine pain, my husband and I managed to get some Christmas stuff up around the apartment.

We put up our Christmas tree (that my sister so kindly gave us before she and her husband moved). It's not all that large, but it works for us right now.
"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall" (Larry Wilde, author 'The Merry Book of Christmas')
As I looked at our tree, I realized that I haven't had a Christmas tree up in my own home in nearly TEN years! My parents always have a Christmas tree up at their house, but I haven't had one up in the apartments that I've lived in (thinking about it now, my roommate might have had one up one year... but that would've been about six years ago).

So, I'm very much enjoying having a Christmas tree up in our home. There are no ornaments on it right now, but we do have an angel (seems a bit too large for the tree, but it's our angel and it's staying up - lol). I still have a way to go before I get all the Christmas decor up, but I'm definitely enjoying the season thus far.
"It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air" (W. T. Ellis)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Migraine, Migraine, Go Away... Please!

I'm feeling pretty down right now. I've been struggling with migraine(s) that have been nearly non-stop for 5-7 days... it's hard to tell when one stops and another begins. I called my headache doctor today (so as not to get stuck over the weekend), and I feel like he just brushed me off - I was told that he doesn't have anything else to try and to go to the ER if it persists or worsens.

I've gone into this doctor for emergency care several times before (same meds they might give me at ER, but in a much more migraine-friendly environment, with my own doctor, and a third of the cost).

These words came crashing down on me... so disheartening, especially while I've been trying to fight this one off all day without meds because I've maxed out for the week. I can take more of my meds tomorrow - and, if I'm feeling this badly then, I'll be taking the higher dosage (an option my doctor has left to my discretion)... which should lead to sleep, and hopefully relief. Otherwise, I guess I might be going to the ER.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

Being a patient has changed me in so many ways. Through all of this, I'm learning to be more attentive about my body and what it's telling me, and I'm learning how to ask for and accept help from others. There are so many lessons that living with chronic pain can teach you... even though you sometimes end up learning them the hard way, kicking and screaming.

But, there are also unexpected blessings that come along throughout life's journey. I've written about unexpected blessings of living with chronic pain before. In my post, Pain & Gratitude, I share a list of things I like about being sick... things in my journey with chronic pain that I'm grateful for. It can be difficult to feel gratitude when we've lost so much, but our God will bless us in unexpected ways... we just need to be open to receiving these blessings.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Update & Triggers

Well, I've clearly not kept up with this month's blogging challenge. :-/ I am trying to get several posts finished up, so I can publish them here soon - it's just taking me longer to do anything right now.

I've been dealing with some migraine triggers - some controllable (time with family), some not (weather), and some in-between (sleep). I think I did well avoiding food / drink triggers, even over the holidays.

Weather - The weather has been a crazy roller coaster, and the frequent temperature drops have been difficult for my head pain.

Sleep - I've been having a different kind of struggle with sleep lately. Sometimes I wake up early and can't get back to sleep, and sometimes I sleep into the afternoon. Sometimes I'm up late, and sometimes I can hardly make it through the evening awake. This past weekend, for example, I slept a lot. Sunday, I was only awake for about 8 of the 24 hours, and I still felt so tired.

Family - No doubt, I've pushed myself quite a lot over the past few weeks, and I've been paying the price for doing so. But, I'm grateful for getting to visit with my sister (who was in town for a week), and my family (immediate and extended).

I've been trying my best to stay in the present moment, and to enjoy and be grateful for the time I have been able to spend time with loved ones.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Call for Submissions: December 2012 Headache & Migraine Carnival

I'm honored to be hosting the December 2012 Headache & Migraine Carnival.

The December theme is:
"Pets as Therapy: How our pets help us cope with our migraine and headache disorders."

As always, posts on any topic related to migraine disease or other headache disorders are also welcome.

Submissions for the December Headache & Migraine Disease Blog Carnival are due by midnight (the end of the day) on Friday, December 7, 2012.

The December Carnival will be published on Monday, December 10, 2012, here at Chronic Migraine Warrior.

Please email your submission to Diana at, and she'll forward them to me.

For more information about the carnival visit the overview page here:

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Caregivers: My Husband

© 2009 Jamie V.
My husband and I were married a year after my accident. We had been dating for over six years, when he proposed just little under two months before the accident.

While we were going out, Jeremy had taken care of me through seasonal sickness (colds, etc). So, I knew that he could be a good caregiver, at least on a short-term basis.

Once I was in the car accident, I hated to think that he'd be immediately placed into a caregiver role, once we were married. We knew that our married life wouldn't look like many other marriages between people our age. We were okay with that, though, because our entire relationship had "looked different" - our relationship was long-distance for almost 6.5 years, including the two months immediately following our wedding. But, it has worked for us (which isn't to say that it's been easy).

Jeremy has proven to be the perfect person for me in so many ways - my friend, my husband, my caregiver. I am truly BLESSED! He is loving, caring, supportive, perceptive.

He's always taken such good care of me. And, since I've been dealing with my chronic migraines, he's only done more. He allows me the freedom to do what I can and to try doing more / to regain some independence, but he takes care of the things that I cannot do anymore or that I'm struggling with due to the migraines.

He takes care of our Honey Bee (dog), and he takes care of the house chores (I try to help as much as I'm able). He often goes grocery shopping and cooks for us.

He's my biggest cheerleader, when I try doing more (though he helps me to not overdo it) and / or try things that I've struggled with since the accident. He helps remind me to celebrate even the smallest of accomplishments and to be thankful for what I have and what I can do.

© 2012 Jamie V.
Jeremy makes sure I take my medications on schedule. He works from home, if I'm starting a new medication or am dealing with a particularly bad migraine. He goes with me to all of my doctor appointments. He helps me determine when I should use my migraine meds, and when I need to get emergency care.

He knows me so well... the me behind the mask. He's been there for me through the best and the worst times. I feel his love through everything he does. And, I try my hardest to share my love with him in everything I do.

I know that God has placed Jeremy in my life to be my lifelong partner, and I'm so very grateful for him.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM), as well as the November PFAM blog carnival.

Caregivers: My Parents

My parents have always been a huge support to me. When I was in a car accident in October 2008, I needed to move back in to my parents' house. They became my primary caregivers, as my mind and body tried to heal.

There are some things in those first few months that are pretty blurry - I remember the day of the accident very well, but several months after the accident are only accounted for by my incessant note-taking of everything and my parents' notes and memories.

What I do recall, is that my parents were always there for me (as has been the case my entire life).
  • My mom went with me to every doctor appointment (and there were A LOT!) and meeting with the attorney, for at least the first year after the accident. She took notes during visits and asked questions that I either forgot or didn't think to ask. She was my caregiver and my advocate, and I feel that we grew even closer under very difficult circumstances. She continues to be a support by asking how things are going, asking for updates on how doctor appointments go, and being understanding of my limitations and needs.
  • My dad (and my father-in-law) came down to College Station to pick me and my car up (weekend of the accident). My dad offered care and support in different ways than my mom, but still so very needed. He had a car accident several years before that changed his life, too. He helped me to accept and work within the limitations that my illness placed on me (including breaking tasks down into baby steps), and to be able to ask for help (neither of us has ever been good at). We've always understood and related to one another in a special way, and this was just a different situation that we shared.
I will be forever grateful for my parents love, care, and support! I know that caring for me at some of my darkest points, and seeing me struggle so much with things much deeper than the pain, was extremely difficult for them. But, their presence and unconditional love will never be forgotten. Their unwavering love and support helped me through, as it continues to do.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM), as well as the November PFAM blog carnival.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Closet, My Personality

Today's prompt is interesting... "Clean out your fridge or closet in written form. What’s in there? How does it reflect your personality?"

© 2012 Jamie V.
My closet is pretty well organized, though I'm in the middle of getting my winter clothes out (so they're not all in the closet yet).

  • Clothes. All of my clothes are facing the same direction, and organized by type (shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, sweater / jackets, shoes, pajamas, etc) and then by color in each group (except for the pajamas).
  • Shoes. My shoes are neatly organized on shoe stands, and are also organized by color.
  • Pajamas / house clothes. My pajamas / house clothes are stacked neatly on the shelf above the hanging rod - in stacks for pants, shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Since house clothes are what I wear most often, it really helps to have them easily on hand.
Organizing has long been something I've thrived on. I like order. I like consistency. I'm methodical, practical, and organized... in some areas of my life. I used to be (and I'd like to still be for many other areas, too), but I haven't been able to keep it up because of my health. But, inside, I still like order. 

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Songs That Moved Me Today

I've written several posts about how music has played a role in my life. I've even put together a couple playlists:
I know I've kinda fallen off the bandwagon with posting each day (or close to it). I started to feel too much pressure to just "get it done," and that's too much stress. My mind just blanks and I hate the way I feel when writing or blogging feels like a chore or another thing on my "to-do" list. So, sometimes I just step back. I want to write when I have something to say / share... not just to fulfill a blogging challenge. I hope to be able to get back into it soon because I want to feel joy and relief from writing again.

But, today, God is speaking to me through music. I can't stand the flashiness of the TV, so I have Pandora playing on my phone. I'm going to share a song that I've shared before, but it truly has spoken so much to my heart, especially in the struggles of living with chronic illness / pain. So, I'll share it here, again... Perhaps it will touch you the way it has touched me. There's always hope!
There Will Be A Day by Jeremy Camp

Another song just came on, and it touched me, too. So, I'll also share that one. I love when God speaks to me through music. I really need it today... it's giving me some peace and comfort.

Lift Me Up by The Afters
This song is filled with hope and promise. What a wonderful Savior we have! It is in Him that I find strength and hope.
You lift me up when I am weak / Your arms wrap around me / Your love catches me so I'm letting go / You lift me up when I can't see / Your heart is all that I need / Your love carries me so I'm letting go / You lift me up with your love
Word of God Speak by MercyMe
Perhaps God wishes for me to spend more time with Him... I'm not good at being still and quiet, but I know that it is only through His grace and love that I can hold on to hope. So, I'll move when He says move, and speak when He says speak. But, for now I'll try to be still and hear His voice.
I'm finding myself at a loss for words / And the funny thing is it's okay / The last thing I need is to be heard / But to hear what You would say
Word of God speak / Would You pour down like rain / Washing my eyes to see / Your majesty / To be still and know / That You're in this place / Please let me stay and rest / In Your holiness / Word of God speak
I'm finding myself in the midst of You / Beyond the music, beyond the noise / All that I need is to be with You / And in the quiet hear Your voice

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Monday, November 12, 2012

My Favorite Health App

I use a few different apps for my health. I'll just do a quick blurb about a few of them, and then share much more about my absolutely favorite one.
  • P Tracker Lite - a free period tracker that allows you to take daily notes of moods, symptoms, and intimacy. You can personalize / customize based on your own menstrual cycle. There's a paid version that offers more features and functions... probably more useful to help track fertility.
  • Epocrates Rx - a free drug reference that allows you to search brand, generic, and OTC medicines. You can ID pills and check for interactions with the meds you take. You can also read notifications, get manufacturer contact information, etc.
  • MyFitnessPal - a free calorie counter and diet trucker that allows you to track your calories (also includes food information like sodium, sugar, cholesterol, protein, etc. - so you can see your diet breakdown), water consumption, and exercise. You can track your progression toward your goals. I love this app because it allows me to make a goal to actually gain weight.
My favorite health app is, by far, My Pain Diary. You can check out the app website and Facebook page.

Here's the review I've officially submitted for the app:
This has been a great app to use as a health tracker for my chronic migraines, fibromyalgia, etc. I would definitely recommend it to others. 
Update: I've been using this app for 6 months now, and I love it even more. With the last update, I (like many other reviewers) had some problems with the app. But, Damon (the app developer) worked with me to correct the issue. I've never known an app developer that is so passionate about his creation and who will go out of his way to help others. I love the updated things he's added and is looking to add in the future. This app is simply amazing!
I'm beyond picky about what I use to track my health, but this has been so great!
  • I love the customization that it allows. There's no pre-set list of symptoms that I have to sift through. I get to add the intensity (you can customize the intensity descriptions to what each number / intensity means for you - it does come with some pretty good descriptions, but you can customize), location and type of pain / symptoms; any triggers that might've caused it; remedies that I use; and notes where I can freely write. Everything is filled in by the user - completely customizable!
  • There are even color flags, so that you can track multiple conditions or people.
  • You can make entries posts private, attach photos, star entries (I do this on the days I take my migraine meds, so I can easily look at the calendar and see when I can take meds next), and automatically track the weather.
  • You can view history (it hi-lights days based on the intensity of the pain selected for each entry (green, yellow, or red).
  • There are customizable graphs, and you can customize reports that you can provide your doctor (the color flags I mentioned earlier can help you provide more specific / relevant reports for different doctors).
  • You can back it up using DropBox, and now there's iCloud synchronization.

Clearly, I can go on and on and on about this app. I don't take recommending resources lightly, so my enthusiasm for this app is well-rooted and completely sincere. I'm happy to answer any other questions that people might have about the app - just ask away.

What are your favorite health apps?

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Giving Thanks

I'm thankful for so many things in my life, despite living with Migraine disease.

I've written about gratitude several times before, as I truly am blessed beyond measure:

I'm so thankful for having a place to call home... for having food and drink... for having a God that's always with me and loves me unconditionally... for having such an amazing husband, and for him having a good job (and good insurance)... for having a wonderful family... for having a sweet Honey Bee... and for so much more.

Since having chronic migraines, I've found myself noticing and feeling gratitude for even the "little things" - for being able to eat a full meal... for being able to take my dog outside... for being able to help cook dinner... for some days, it's being strong enough to know that I need help / assistance, asking for it, and allowing someone (usually my husband) to help me... and for completing micro-tasks that others so often take for granted.

I'm so grateful that God has allowed me to be more mindful and thankful for the amazing gifts and blessings that He's placed into my life.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM), as well as the November Headache Carnival.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Being Mindful: Living in the Present

Mindfulness is "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience" (Psychology Today).

Living in the present moment has never been something that comes easy to me... I have a difficult time taking time to be still, calm, and in the present moment - to "rest in stillness—to stop doing and focus on just being" (Kabat-Zinn). I've always been a planner. I was always looking ahead to the future. But, with the chronic, debilitating pain has come complete uncertainty.

I'm learning how to truly "enjoy the moment... Living in the present moment is a wonderful... though sometimes a difficult and painful... lesson to learn" (Lessons: Learning From Life With Chronic Pain). But, it's a gift / lesson that I'm learning along the journey of life with chronic pain.

A dear friend of mine messaged me, in the midst of me having a panic attack (I'm proud of myself for reaching out for help to get through it), something that really helped me stay centered:
"Remember that you are safe. Look around you. See where you are. Hug Honey Bee. Listen to the noises of the house you are safe... Darling remember pain takes away our perspective. And you are really suffering right now and having memories [I was fighting off PTSD flashbacks]. Try to stay in the moment just for right now" (Kelly at Fly With Hope).
What beautiful words of truth. Pain really does take away our perspective. And, if we're an already anxious-natured person, the pain + anxiety = a very distorted perspective. With so many possibilities, scenarios, etc constantly racing through one's mind, it can nearly drive a person mad. Untypically Jia wrote a great post along these lines (Being Mindful of the Present). Here's a snapshot from the post:

I've often described OCD as a computer in your head that is constantly running future scenarios in order to find the best/safest/easiest route to follow. It's a GPS that is aware of every stoplight, car crash, traffic jam, road construction, detour and flock of baby ducks crossing the road. It's exhausting. 
Anyone with Fibromyalgia [or other chronic illness] will tell you that planning ahead is difficult because you never know when you'll run into a flare up of symptoms that can be anywhere from mildly annoying, to completely debilitating.
[... Finding that] my inner OCD computer jammed and the future disappeared in front of me. Without the future ahead of me to plan in great detail, I turned and looked back on the past.
[...] With a past full of unanswered questions and a future with limited visibility, I found myself stuck in the present. It felt like quicksand and the more I struggled to accept it, the faster I was sinking.
So I stopped struggling.
And immediately I stopped sinking.
This is such an amazing description of OCD, or even just anxiety. It very accurately describes what happens in my mind (I'm getting a little better at silencing the "what-ifs" and stuff, but it's a process). I'd never thought of what exactly my mind has been doing; but it's a good explanation that it's constantly running possible scenarios, and being hyper-vigilant. And, it IS exhausting!

"I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened" - Mark Twain

I can also relate with my computer jamming and my future disappearing in a moment. I have felt stuck in the present and struggling (and sinking) to try to accept it. It's a cycle, for me, I stop struggling and accept things for a while... then I start struggling and sinking again... and back around. But, it's when I stop struggling that I can truly be present in the moment - "letting go of what you want is the only way to get it" (The Art of Now: Six Steps Living in the Moment).

I have MUCH to learn about mindfulness, so it's a topic that I'm sure I'll bring up again in the future.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Letter to My Mind & Body, Revisited

Today's post is to write a letter to my health. I've written a letter to my mind and body in a previous post, so I'm taking the "easy way out" and linking back to it (here).

I still have all the same questions, except I've now dealt with the chronic migraines for 4 years - so, I've healed from the neurostimulator, but still don't understand why it's not working / helping with my migraines.

I've really tried my best to keep my promise to continue trying to improve and to be more appreciative of how much my mind and body constantly endure. I'd like to renew that promise here and now.

Please take a couple minutes to read the letter to my mind and body.

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

It Was A Great Day (10/13/12)

So, I've fallen a little behind with blogging each day, so I'm going to try to get caught up.

* OCTOBER 13, 2012 * was a GREAT day! Here's what I wrote in my journal that day:
Thanks to a 2-day course of corticosteriods, and hitting the pain hard yesterday with some heavy migraine meds... my week-long bad migraine seems to have ended. 
I slept well last night, and woke up feeling good. I got dressed and put on some make-up, and went out ON MY OWN for 3.5 hours - I drove myself! I spent about 2 hours at Hobby Lobby - I felt so creative and free. My creativity was going crazy, which was so great! Then, I went to Best buy for an hour. I found a camera that I really like, and I got 2 blu-rays for Jeremy (an anniversary surprise). I came back home, and Jeremy and I went to Cheddar's for an early anniversary dinner. It was great recounting my afternoon out alone with Jeremy. 
Today was the BEST day I've had in MONTHS (in at least the past 6 months)! Today was such a huge and wonderful BLESSING!!! 
Being able to have some "me time" was great! I had an afternoon of feeling independent, confident, carefree, creative, relaxed. I can't even remember the last time I felt many of those! I wasn't on anyone's timetable (ex: I don't like spending a lot of time at craft stores with Jeremy because I know he'll be bored / miserable). I also wasn't doing something that I felt obligated to do. I just did whatever I felt up to doing, with no guilt or stress. 
* Lord, thank You for blessing me with an amazing day - enjoying myself (alone and with Jeremy) with low pain levels. Prayers of thanksgiving to You, my King. Amen * 
Having a day of low pain levels and higher energy is so wonderful. However, the temptation to go into a frenzy of productivity (ex: clean up, start / finish projects, run errands... try to catch up) is sooo STRONG! It's extremely difficult to stop and rest before pushing too hard.But, it's necessary. I found myself actually feel some fear / anxiety tonight because I don't want this good day to end. But, I'm heading to bed to get rest - maybe I'll be blessed with some more good days.
This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thankful, Excited, Inspired

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21)

I've written on the topic of gratitude several times in the past. Here are just a few of my previous posts:

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1 & Psalm 136:1)

"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20)

I'm grateful for so many things. The Lord has truly blessed me. I'm learning to be grateful for even the "little" things or the "little" victories. Living in chronic pain offers the opportunity to show gratitude for things that we may have never even noticed before the pain began or became chronic and/or debilitating.

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17)

Today's prompt is to write a list of 3 things that I'm thankful for / excited about / or inspired by. I think I'll do a top 3 list for each of these.

3 things I'm thankful for:

  • having a generous and merciful God
  • the ability and opportunity to share God's gift with others
  • our little Honey Bee

3 things I'm excited about:

  • my sister coming into town for the holidays
  • one of my best friends getting married next summer
  • Honey Bee's progress with our new training program

3 things I'm inspired by:

  • other chronic pain warriors that I've met online
  • my loving family
  • my faith / my God

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

What are YOU thankful for today?

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Struggle With Food & Weight

In the spirit of Disclosure: An Open Book, there's something that I'd like to share.

vintage weight gain ads
I've been struggling so very much with food and weight over the past few years, but in a very different way than most others.
I don't need to lose weight; I desperately need to gain weight.
There's not really an outlet for those that are having difficulty maintaining or gaining weight. Most people just say, "I wish I had that problem." Not to this extent, you don't!

I don't have an eating disorder... well, it's possible that what's happening to me may actually be part of a disorder that I'm not aware of. I've been labeled as anorexic my entire life because I've always been very skinny. I hated that being said about me, especially back in my school days. It's the equivalent of people saying nasty things about people that are overweight (like calling them a pig or whale). It's hurtful! When I was younger, I used to eat and eat and eat, and I was active in sports. I knew I was skinny, but I wasn't afraid of gaining weight. And, I never binged or purged.

My challenges have been different. I know that I need to gain weight. I know what to eat / how to eat well. But, I still can't do it consistently. I also know that I need to work out to regain some of the muscle that I've lost; but I have to get the eating under control, or I won't have enough energy to even think about working out in any capacity. It's a daily battle!

vintage weight gain ads
I sometimes feel a sense of helplessness because I truly am trying my hardest to do what I know I need to do. I don't want to be or stay an unhealthy low weight. I want to be back up to what I was before the accident... it would help with my treatment, too (neurostimulator, medications, etc).

I don't really care for looking at myself in the mirror (I've written about it before in a post called Mirrors). There was a day in late September that I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was frightened. I looked like a skeleton. It scared me, but I still haven't been able to eat more or put on weight.

To be completely honest, part of why I may not be eating enough could be that I fear the debilitating abdominal pain and cramping that I get (due to IBS). People that haven't experienced such wrenching pain simply can't understand. It's such a heavy burden to know that the pain is possible anytime I eat anything.

I've been using a calorie counter app (I finally found one that allows you to set a goal to gain weight). It helps me see just how little / few calories I often intake. After I enter everything in that I've consumed in a day, it'll tell me how much (or little) I'll weigh if I eat like that for five weeks. Seeing that number is sometimes pretty scary. So, I'm trying my hardest to reach the goal caloric intake, but I often feel like I'm just so desperate to meet the calorie goal that I'm actually looking for high calorie foods to eat (which are often very unhealthy).

I have to be very, very mindful about my eating. It's utterly exhausting!!! I hate that it's a daily struggle just to make myself eat (some days are worse / harder than others). I constantly have to fight horrible nausea and often have to try to force-feed myself. But, there are times that I just can't eat - even the thought of eating makes me feel physically sick, and it just worsens with the smell and taste.

But, I'm not giving up! I want to get back to my normal weight. I'm still trying!

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

Disclosure: An Open Book

Today's prompt is about disclosure - how I decide what to share or not.

I've always been a pretty private person, but I'm allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable.

I battle with things that have a huge stigma around them. Migraine disease, Fibromyalgia, IBS, depression, anxiety... these are all invisible illnesses. People can't easily see the battles I face with these diseases. But, I've found that by discussing parts of these illnesses that aren't openly discussed, I'm inviting others to know that they're not alone in what they're facing.

So, I try to be open and willing to share anything... with people that I feel are sincerely / genuinely asking (either out of concern and / or necessity). People that I meet in life that don't seem to really care, often get a shortened version of things. But, I simply go with my gut - unless I feel uncomfortable with something someone asks me (which, again, is usually due to insincerity of the person asking), I'm pretty much an open book.

It's taken me quite a long time to get to a point where I can share this much about my journey. And, I've found that allowing myself to be vulnerable has brought with it great blessings. Others will sometimes tell me that I've put words / a voice to something they, too, have been facing. I feel like I'm staying true to myself, and it seems to be helping validate aspects of some other people's experiences / journey.

I share because I can. I share because it helps me sort through things. I share because it may help someone else out there. I share because God has put a desire to in my heart.

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

Small Things With Great Love: An Update

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love" - Mother Teresa

What a beautiful reminder of what life is all about!

One of my grandmothers has been having a really rough time. She had foot surgery on October 11. She was taken back to the hospital on the 25th, and has been there since. She had surgery on the 27th, due to a blood infection from the previous surgery. She's been in the hospital for a week, and was scheduled for surgery this morning to move a vein from her right arm to her left leg because she's not getting enough blood flow to her foot for it to heal (I haven't heard an update on how she's doing yet).

I have, in many ways, felt helpless. I'd love to have the strength and energy to go to her house and unpack some things (they moved a few month ago and haven't been able to get completely unpacked and settled yet), while she's still in the hospital - well, anytime, but it'd be a nice surprise. But, I haven't been able to, thus far.

So, I've been doing what I am able to do.

  • I've been keeping her in my thoughts and prayers.
  • I've been asking others to keep her in their prayers.
  • I've been able to visit her twice (so far) in the hospital with my mom.
  • I've tried to be there to help support my mom, as well, because this is a difficult situation.
My grandmother is a strong woman, and she's going to be alright. The reality, though, is that "alright" might not look like she or we would like it to. Physically, she can't do a lot of things that she used to and would like to still do. But, she is surrounded by love and support, and we'll work together to adapt however we need to.

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

Why I Write

I know I haven't really been able to keep up with my blog lately, but I'm still here. We have some things going on with the family that have needed to be high priority. I'm going to try to participate in National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM) this month. I've been out of the writing/blogging world for a little while, so I hope I'm able to keep up. I'm not sure whether I'll follow the provided daily blog prompt or just write whatever comes to me, but I'm going to try to get a post in each day in November... I know I'm already starting a day late, so I hope to catch up and get 28-30 posts done this month.

The prompt for November 1st was "why I write about my health." I've written about this topic here and here. I can't really think of more to say on that topic right now, but here's a quote that I absolutely love:
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say" - Anais Nin
This quote means a lot to me because I think that it describes the beauty and power or writing. There are times that I'm able to write things that even I can't say aloud. Writing, for me, is a way to express myself in ways that I may not otherwise be able to. I open up my heart and just let me fingers start typing.
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart" - William Wordsworth
I often surprise myself with what I'm able to express through writing because I go on tangents that need to be explored, but that I may not have been aware of (or had dismissed as unrelated) before. It's almost magical!

This post was written as part of the National Health Blog Posting Month (NHBPM). Other bloggers will share their posts on this FB page.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Action Needed (by 11/1/12): Comment to FDA About Migraine

The FDA is in the process of compiling a list of 20 diseases to receive intense focus as part of a five-year pilot program. The FDA will hold quarterly meetings with stakeholders (patients, doctors, caregivers, etc.) to try to understand the current state of each disease from all angles.

Migraine Disease (and headache disorders) was not included in the preliminary list of possible diseases.

Patient advocate and educator Teri Robert attended the public meeting on October 25, and had a chance to speak for 2 minutes. It's impossible to share the severity and impact of Migraine Disease in a mere 2 minutes. Fortunately, though, the FDA wants to hear from us, the citizens, before they make a final decision. We must do our part by submitting our comments online (I'll include the criteria the FDA is using to choose the final 20 diseases, so that you can allow them to guide you in your comments - see below).

Here is patient advocate Ellen Schnakenberg's call to action:
We desperately need your comment TODAY! 
It has begun. Teri Robert is right this moment in the FDA discussion, standing up for the 37 million of us who suffer Migraine Disease, and the countless others with one or more of the other over 300 headache disorders that are being ignored, most likely as a result of the pervasive stigma which has turned so many heads away from us. Very few of you have taken the time to sign the FDA comments that we so desperately need.
You need not be a headache patient to do this!
This week is sooooo very important, and I am counting on YOU to take 5 minutes out of your day to literally change the lives of millions. Teri, Diana and I have had your back for years. This week I need you to have ours. All I am asking for is a few minutes of your time...
Step 1: Read Teri's article here which tells what the FDA wants you to say.
Step 2: Read Diana's post here which tells what the FDA wants you to say.
Step 3: Write a short comment to the FDA panel that will be choosing the 20 diseases and disorders that will receive their time. Do this in a word document or note, but not on the FDA site yet. This is so you can perfect it by going back through the two articles to be sure you have hit on at least some of the points necessary.
Step 4: Go to the FDA link and post your response, either directly there, or if it's longer than 2000 characters it may be sent as a document.
*** Comments must be submitted BY November 1, 2012 ***
Step 5: Post this on your Facebook page and beg and plead for your friends and family to help too.
37 million Migraineurs are counting on you. Peeing at night was put on this list over Headache disorders or Migraine, which have been stated by the World Health Organization as more debilitating than quadriplegia. Whadda you have to say about that?
These are the criteria the FDA is using to choose the final 20 diseases. Please keep these factors in mind in writing your comments to the FDA:
  • Disease areas that are chronic, symptomatic, or affect functioning and activities of daily living;
  • Disease areas that reflect a range of severity;
  • Disease areas for which aspects of the disease are not formally captured in clinical trials;
  • Disease areas that have a severe impact on identifiable subpopulations (such as children or the elderly);
  • Disease areas that represent a broad range in terms of size of the affected population; or
  • Disease areas for which there are currently no therapies or very few therapies, or the available therapies do not directly affect how a patient feels, functions, or survives.
Other tips for writing your comments:
  • Prepare your comments in advance before you go to the FDA submission page. This will allow you to spell check, proofread and perfect your arguments and wording.
  • Balance your personal story with the big picture of the impact and burden of Migraine disease.
  • Try not to be overly emotional. Stick to the facts.
  • Utilize this up-to-date list of facts about Migraine and other headache disorders: Stats and Facts About Migraine.
  • Don't forget to consider the FDA's decision criteria (listed above).
  • Be as concise as possible.
*** And, if your comment is longer than 2000 characters, save it as a document and send it to them by clicking the document button on the FDA comment page.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lessons: Learning to Accept Imperfection (Part 3)

When I was in my car accident (October 2008), my life suddenly came to a complete hault! I couldn't work, I had to move back home with my parents (oh, how I'm so grateful to have such amazing parents!), and I had to face a whole slew of imperfection that I wasn't prepared for. We'll fast-forward a bit (partially because I'd rather not even try to remember, and partially because I simply can't remember, the months directly following the accident).
"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches.
If suffering alone taught,
all the world would be wise,
since everyone suffers.
To suffering must be added
mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness
and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
After living with my parents for the 10 months following the accident, I moved to Tulsa to start graduate school (and live alone, until Jeremy and I were married and he finished school early the following year). I felt that I was ready to try to return to school... and/or maybe I just couldn't cope with the thought that I wouldn't be able to return to and do well in school. I didn't have a clear-cut financial plan, but I was able to get an assistantship lined up a few days before classes started. Everything seemed to be falling into place.
"A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault." -John Henry Newman
So, I became a full-time student, a part-time graduate assistant, and I was planning a wedding for mid-semester... not the best of ideas, but I was excited and determined... things that I hadn't felt in months. My health didn't play along well with my plans, though.

I felt like I was keeping up well with my classes, so I never disclosed or sought accommodations for my disability... at least not until the end of the semester, when it was "too late." I was scared to death by some of the things that I was feeling for the first time... I'm actually scared to even say it here... I'd never even thought about cheating before I started having so much trouble with grad school. I lost a lot of productivity because of my health, and my brain simply didn't work so much of the time -- I wasn't able to read and/or I'd start reading and have to constantly re-read passages, knowing that none of it was going to my memory... I misunderstood even simple questions... I couldn't think on the spot, which affected my participation in class... I struggled with recalling information on tests, even once I sought assistance and was given more time for testing (it helped a little, but I still struggled so much). I HATED myself for the mere fact of even having thoughts of cheating. I didn't act on it, but that showed in many of my grades. It was an extremely rough cycle.
"Unless I accept my faults I will most certainly doubt my virtues." - Hugh Prather
I did start seeing a therapist / counselor on-campus, but it didn't help at all. I started seeing someone off-campus in the spring / summer, who was able to help me with my PTSD, which had been getting worse (flashbacks, still super-jumpy in cars, etc). It seems to have helped a lot (with my PTSD, but not with coping with chronic pain), though I still struggle with being jumpy in cars.

Anyway, I completed the semester by being placed on academic probation (because my GPA was 2.67, less than the required 3.0). That was a breaking point for me! I know that grades aren't everything, but school and academics has always been "my thing." I've always identified myself, at least in large part, by my intellectual capacity. And, then, I found myself on academic probation?!
It wasn't even just that... I was barely able to work any hours for my graduate assistantship (I won't even say how few I was able to work because it's embarrassing and heartbreaking to me). Between my migraines, anxiety, and trouble keeping up with classes... I just couldn't do it. Then, the spring semester got even worse! My graduate assistantship was with a different professor. Between her being sick, my health being worse than ever, and lack of communication between us... let's just say that I was chewed out and humiliated several times, putting  things like my dependability and hard-working qualities into question. I hit another breaking point! All of those things that she criticized me about (communication, dependability, availability, and hard-working) are things that I felt confident and proud of myself for being... at least before the accident. Another huge piece of my identity missing.
Back to academics - I worked so hard during the spring semester (on academic probation), and utilized the assistance from the school's center for student academic support - Jeremy and I were married, and he was living with and helping take care of me. I was determined to get myself off of probation. I knew I may not be able to return to school, but I wanted it to be my choice - I couldn't bear the thought of getting kicked out of graduate school (the pain of that thought was even more painful than the thought of not being able to finish the program). I completed the semester with a 3.67 GPA, which raised my overall GPA to 3.17. My health took a huge beating, though.

I decided to take a leave of absence, not knowing if I'd ever really return. It was extremely difficult to make the decision to not return to school to finish the 2-year program (plus internship). There were a lot of different considerations in making the decision, but it was the right choice for many different reasons. Honestly, I knew for a while that I wasn't going to return, but I couldn't handle making it an official decision... I had to work to get to a point of accepting it, first. This kept us in Tulsa longer than we would've liked to have been, but Jeremy was very understanding that I needed to really come to terms with my decision about school before I could leave.
"The imperfections of a man, his frailties, his faults, are just as important as his virtues. You can't separate them. They're wedded." - Henry Miller

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lessons: Learning to Accept Imperfection (Part 2)

I know that no one is capable of being perfect or always being #1... we're all imperfect humans. But, the impossibility didn't seem to affect the standards I held for myself.
"Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing." -Harriet Braiker
I breezed through school pretty easily. I did my homework, studied for tests (I think - ha), took honors classes, etc... but, I really never struggled much with school. I participated in sports (cross-country, track, softball), I had friends from many different cliques (I wasn't popular, but I had a good group of close friends). I don't think it really occurred to me that people smoked, did drugs, drank alcohol, had sex, etc. - I knew that some of those things happened, but not in my circle of friends - yes, I lived in a protective little bubble.
"All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible" - William Faulkner
When it came time to apply to colleges, I applied to three private universities... and was accepted to all three. I selected my favorite (and the one that offered me the most money - still very expensive, but the best financial option of the three) - it instantly felt right, when I stepped foot on campus. I definitely chose the best college for me! I did very well in college, but it was the first time I had to try that hard and the first time that I had to truly come to terms with it being okay not to get all A's (not sure I ever really did come to terms with that, but I tried). I made some great friends and memories, and grew so much as a person.

I worked (part-time) through much of high school and all of college. I got every job I applied for, and even completed two paid internships during college. When I began searching for a full-time job for after graduation, I applied to A LOT of different jobs. I had several different interviews, and got a job offer from all but one. I accepted a job about a month before graduation, and started working just two weeks after graduation.
"One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection." - Chuck Palahniuk
I succeeded at my job in ways that I didn't even expect. I learned a lot, even though it wasn't the right job for me. I never thought of it as permanent... my intentions were simply to do the best and learn the most I could from the job, earn as much money as I could to start paying off student loans, and then return to graduate school to continue my studies, marry my boyfriend (since high school... and long-distance relationship all through college), and live happily ever after (so to speak). Let's just say, that's not exactly what happened.

I applied to several different graduate school programs, but I was only accepted to one (I was "runner-up" to one of the other schools, but all of those accepted to the school decided to attend). It was pretty difficult for me to come to terms with not being accepted to more schools. I know how selective and competitive these programs are, but it didn't matter... I expected more from myself. I didn't know how I was going to move away and pay for yet another private university, so I postponed my graduate school for a year. That would've been fine, but I had my auto accident a few months after making that decision...
"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." - Samuel McChord Crothers 
By the time I was in my mid-20s, several lessons became abundantly clear (painful, yet important lessons):
  • Grades aren't everything. It's more important to integrate the knowledge and formulate your own self-philosophy than to simply regurgitate the information on a test.
  • Life experiences and achievements are not to be forced... they are to be lived and savored.
  • A full existence requires a combination of "rain and shine."
  • Just because I want something, and work my hardest to get it, doesn't mean that I can get or do it. I can do everything I'm "supposed" to do, and things still may not work out like I want (or expect) them to.

Lessons Series:

Lessons: Learning the Hard Way (Part 1)
Lessons: Learning the Hard Way (Part 2)
Lessons: From Suffering to Empowered
Lessons: Learning From Life With Chronic Pain
Lessons: Finding Joy

Lessons: Perfectionism (Part 1)
Lessons: Perfectionism (Part 2)
Lessons: Learning to Accept Imperfection (Part 1)
Lessons: Learning to Accept Imperfection (Part 2)
Lessons: Learning to Accept Imperfection (Part 3)
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.