Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Today is the last day I am 32 and I've been reflecting on the last year. Sometime, over a year ago, my mom told me she had prayed on my birthday that 31 would be an epic year for me. It was turning out to be uneventful and filled with migraines. I asked her to please refrain from praying that same prayer on my 32nd birthday. I don't know what she prayed for me in the last year, but 32 ended up being the best and worst year of my life.

In the last year:

  • My migraines have been the strongest in intensity and frequency than they've ever been. Starting in January I had a single migraine that lasted 42 days, with pain that never dipped below an 8 on my 1-10 pain scale. There are not words to sufficiently convey the intensity of the head pain I've experienced in the last year. 
  • Because of the extreme daily relentless pain I was in, I sunk into a very dark depression. I prayed consistently for several months that I would go to sleep at night and not wake up in the morning. I pleaded with Jesus to take me Home. 
  • I was involved in a migraine support group on Facebook. One night there was a post from I girl I knew from the group in which she indicated the pain was too much and she was thinking of ending her life. I threatened to call emergency services in her city on her behalf. She assured me she would never really take her own life, that she was just feeling overwhelmed. Three weeks later she did choose to end her life. I grieved for her as I would a close friend. 
  • My dad had emergency double bypass surgery that saved his life. That day, and the days immediately following, threw my family into a crazy mess of emotions and schedule changes and so many other things I have probably blocked out. 
Also in the last year:
  • My neurologist has started the process of getting me approved for a migraine treatment I've never had: Botox. She said people with the type of migraine I get almost always respond to this treatment and my first appointment should be scheduled before the end of the month. 
  • As I've written previously here, Jesus gave me complete and total healing of my depression in March. I could literally feel it being lifted from me and joy being instilled in its place. Now joy is the new normal and emotional bad days are few and far between. 
  • I had to get out of that Facebook support group. In its place, I've been able to lean on my friends, who I had previously isolated myself from. I feel like I've reentered real life. 
  • Because of my dad's surgery and subsequent hospital stay, I spent more time with my family than I have in a long time. We all learned a lesson about God's faithfulness. He continually provided each of us with what we needed, exactly when we needed it. 
Goodbye, 32. I'm not sorry to see you go. I am excited to see what 33 brings. 

(If anyone asks, I'm still 29. Let's keep this 33 business just between us, m'kay?)

Monday, June 24, 2013

God's Timing - A Story of Healing and Purpose

June is National Migraine Awareness Month, so I figured I better get something up here before the month passed by. The last few months have been epic for me, but before I get into that, I have something to say. Migraine is a neurological disease. It often has more symptoms than head pain. There are many misunderstandings about migraine, but the two that bother me the most are 1) from ER staff: that people coming in complaining of a bad migraine are actually just drug seekers, and 2) from non-medical personnel: that it's just a bad headache. It really frustrates me to hear someone say they have a migraine and to them it means that their headache has gotten so bad it has slipped into migraine territory. The ER is a whole other story. I've definitely had my share of bad experiences, but I've also had very kind nurses and doctors who have sympathized with my pain. I usually find out through the course of my time there that the ones who are sympathetic are usually migraine sufferers themselves. 

The epic part of my journey started March 28. My friend Joy Lightcap hosted a Facebook event that was a day of prayer and fasting for the healing of my migraines. This was a suggestion of a very dear friend of my family, Ken Chupp. This day culminated in a prayer service held at my church where I was annointed with oil and prayed over. It was during the prayer time that God did two very key things. First, he completely healed me from the deep and dark depression I'd been suffering in. Depression is very common for chronic pain patients. There were days I felt more comfortable there than I did in the light. But I was fully healed to the point that I knew what happened and the instant it happened. I won't say Satan hasn't tried his best to drag me back down. Not long ago I was laying in my bed in a lot of pain and my mind was wandering back to the darkness. I reached out to God and he gave me a clear vision of what he was doing that instant. He was holding me in his arms; I was stretched out horizontally and my legs were in this swampy tar stuff. He lifted me completely out, washed me off, and set me on solid ground. 

I said two things happened at that prayer service. The second was while people were praying for me to be healed, God told me he wasn't going to heal me. Not yet. There was purpose to be had in my suffering that had yet to be fulfilled. But when that purpose was fulfilled, he would heal me. 

There is so much more to tell, but this is already long. I'll try to finish the story in the next couple days. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Trigger Identified

And this one hurts. I've discovered MSG is probably my biggest migraine trigger at this time. You know how people say MSG is in everything? Well, I like to say it's in everything else, too. From what I understand, MSG is a very cheap way to add flavoring to food. So naturally, food manufacturers love it. But lately, people are coming down hard on MSG. Some of the research shows it can actually trigger hunger. So there are food manufacturers/restaurants that are promoting themselves as "MSG-free" to provide what is referred to as a clean label.

The FDA requires a food manufacturer to list MSG (short for monosodium glutamate) in the list of ingredients if a food contains actual MSG as a stand-alone ingredient. However, food companies have gotten sneaky and have found ways to hide MSG in their foods without listing it so they can label themselves "MSG-free". It turns out, if an ingredient already listed in the ingredient list of a food contains MSG, the FDA does not require the manufacturer to list MSG.

I thought I had gone all MSG-free, but was still getting these multi-day, super severe migraines which were reminiscent of my MSG-triggered migraines. I was eating a ham and cheese sandwich almost every day for lunch, assuring myself it was an MSG-free meal. I did some research and came across this website: I discovered that my cheese slices contained whey protein concentrate and my bread contained yeast nutrient, both of which contain MSG. The website I referenced lists 46 ingredients that either always or usually contain MSG.

The list of foods I can eat is now much shorter than the list of foods I can't. And although there are a few restaurants that claim to be MSG-free, I can't eat out unless I can read an entire ingredient list for everything in my food. For example, Arby's claims to be MSG-free but their sesame seed bun which their roast beef sandwiches are served on contains yeast nutrient, which contains MSG.

It has been very difficult to completely cut MSG out of my diet (I'm a processed foods, eating out kind of girl and I really don't like too many whole foods). But the few times I've slipped up the result is terrible pain and I'm just not willing to risk it. I know I've only scratched the surface of what I know regarding migraines and my own personal triggers, and I still suffer daily migraines, but the intensity of the pain has definitely lessened now that I've nixed the MSG and I'm so glad I figured that one out.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Prayer unanswered?

I haven't blogged in a long time, not because I didn't have anything to say, but because this blog is supposed to focus on the positive things in my migraine life, and I didn't have anything positive to say. I've been in a pretty dark place for several months. I've been questioning my belief in prayer, and at times, whether God even cared about me. My prayers for many things, not just personal relief from the pain have gone unanswered. I wondered if God was even listening. I believe a lot of my doubt was my own doing: I rarely go to church and I hadn't picked up my bible in weeks.

This past week I've been staying at my local church camp, participating in both the family camp activities and helping the teen camp staff as much as I've been able. I've always loved the teen camp here and I wanted to be a part of that ministry so desperately. I'm seeing now that God has been very gracious to me this week, both in lessening the intensity of my pain and in allowing my head to respond well to the pain meds when I've needed them. I've had a great week, but I couldn't stop those same doubts that have been my constant companion these last few months from creeping in. I had a great conversation with my former youth pastor about what I was feeling, and I told him I felt like I was at a crossroads where I either let God restore my faith in prayer or I stopped praying altogether. He recommended a great book for me to read and the last three days I've been diving in to both that book and my bible.

I realized I missed my Abba Father immensely. Last night I came across Lamentations 3. This is a chapter I've read many times in the past, but it had new meaning for me.  Verses 22-24 state, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" I so desperately needed to be reminded that the Lord is compassionate toward me, and that when it feels like my prayers aren't being answered, I just need to wait for him.

My motto used to be "Life sucks, but at least it's short." My new motto comes from another book I recently read: "I'll be okay. God's carrying me." (Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury)

I found myself in Psalm 46 tonight and verse 1 hit me like a wave of reassurance and mercy. I like it best as it's written in The Message: "God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him." You might more easily recognize this verse as it's written in the NLT: "God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble."

The book my pastor recommended is called God on Mute, by Pete Greig. In it is a short section titled Engaging the Silence. I'm going to copy it here as it is written and formatted:

There is
And where there is prayer
There may be
But where miracles may not be
There are
And where there are questions
There may be
But silence may be
More than
May be presence
May not be nothing, but
To explore
Defy accuse
This is
And where there is prayer
There may yet be

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Once Upon a Time

I remember well my first migraine. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. My best friend from high school was at my house and we were watching tv when a piercing pain shot through my head. After watching my mom suffer migraines for many years, I kind of figured that's what I had. I sent my friend home and went straight to bed.

I'm very fortunate that my migraines were very mild and infrequent during my time in college. Even for several years after college, my migraines were very manageable. It wasn't until this last couple years that they have become more severe and frequent. Before this last year, I went to the ER with a migraine maybe two or three times per year. Now I go about once a week.

I've learned a lot during these last couple of years. When I've been inpatient at the hospital in Chicago where my neurologists have a wing, I've been required to attend classes about migraines. I've learned what my food triggers are (aged cheese and caffeine) and I've learned how to be assertive without being aggressive about my pain. I've learned the most common food triggers and even if they don't trigger a migraine in me every time, I've started avoiding them. The most helpful "class" was a support group meeting. It was so nice to know there are other people that feel exactly like I do. Diamond Headache Clinic makes you really take advantage of every opportunity when they hospitalize you. As I've worked my way through different neurologists it's been frustrating, but I'm grateful for where I've landed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

On the Rebound

I just typed a whole post and it disappeared. I'll try again.

There's a condition Migraineurs can suffer called rebound headaches. They're also referred to as medication overuse headaches. They happen when someone takes too much pain medication, although they feel just like a regular migraine. The only way to get rid of a rebound headache is to stop taking all pain meds. It's brutal for a while, but eventually the pain goes away.

I'm currently rebounding. Sunday I decided to go off all my pain meds. Tuesday night I ended up in so much pain I couldn't take it anymore. I gave in. I took pain meds. The same thing happened last night. Now, instead of being five days post-medication, I'm only 11 hours. I don't regret taking the meds. I was in incredible pain. But it's frustrating that I keep giving in. I know I will eventually beat this rebound headache and go back to having regular migraines, but I sure wish that would happen soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Intruder That Did My Laundry

Right now I'm on a med called DHE. It's used to break up a migraine cycle. I give myself a shot of DHE every 8 hours for 3 days with shots of pain meds in between. I always forget the side effects of DHE until I'm on it again. For one, the shots bruise me terribly, worse than any of my pain meds that are shots. Also, the DHE causes me to have super weird dreams. I just woke up from a short nap, and as I was trying to wake up, I became convinced someone had broken in. See, I knew my load in the dryer had already buzzed, but I was sure I heard the dryer running. Clearly someone had started it up again. And every creak was someone walking through the house. So I wondered if I should pretend to be sleeping (which I still sort of was) and hope the intruder left without hurting me, or should I force myself to wake up, grab my phone and keys and make a run for it? I forced myself awake enough to reach for my phone and became aware that the sound I thought was the dryer was the fans running downstairs (we had a minor flood and we're trying to dry out). Wow. What a dream. While the DHE is necessary for pain management, those side effects are something else.