Sunday, January 3, 2010

Migraines, my great leveler

Okay, so it won't surprise anyone who knows me well that I had a migraine tonight. It started with an aura, which is pretty routine for me. I threw up, took the medications, and laid down for a little while. The nausea is gone, but the purple "fuzzies" are still taking up about 1/3 of my vision. Again, none of this is particularly unusual for me.

I was thinking though, while I was laying down, that there are some things that are levelers. They are things that no matter how smart, pretty, or careful we are, we can't control. Sometimes a leveler is a natural disaster, or something that takes us completely by surprise. Others are like my migraines, unexpected when they happen, but a part of our lives that come and go, without any control on our part to when they happen.

My thoughts about this are a little fatalistic. I stopped trying to pretend that I thought I would ever have a life completely without migraines a number of years ago. I have tried countless medications, diet changes, tracked the headaches to look for patterns, and tried to find triggers to avoid. The only thing we ever figured out was that having an exposure to onions, which I am allergic to, is guaranteed to give me a migraine. That does not mean that all of my migraines are allergy related though. I know that after a long period of stress, I am likely to get a migraine when the stress lets up, but that isn't a guarantee. I also know that extreme weather changes are also likely to trigger a migraine. All that said, during the year I tracked them very closely, we couldn't account for any particular trigger in over 40% of my migraines.

I might be led to ask why God would give me migraines. I am not that tempted though. I know that there are lots of challenges that are given to us, and while we might understand why many of them are given to us, many of them we only understand in the retrospect of experience. No, I don't question why I have migraines. I am more interested in what I am supposed to learn, and how having migraines is supposed to teach me those lessons. I think one of the things I am learning, is that there are things I can't control, and that by letting go of that control, and doing my best, that it is good enough.

When terrible things happen to others, we are often tempted to judge how they got in the situation that has hurt them. When we are judgmental of those circumstances, we assume that we know more than the other person, and if it is a circumstance outside of their control, we are questioning the intelligence of God. I don't know how many times I have been given advice about how to stop having migraines, from people who not only don't have migraines, but who haven't bothered to ask what I and my doctors have tried in the past.

So, over the last few months, I have tried to make sure that before I give advice, or suggestions that may seem judgmental, I try to ask as many questions as possible. If the person I am talking to doesn't want to answer questions, then I assume that they simply wanted someone to listen to their "story" and not to have advice given. I try to then hold my tongue. If they are willing to answer questions, I then try to give advice only within the context of my own experience. So, I might say, "when something similar happened to me, I tried this with some success. It might work for you, but since the circumstances are different, it may be completely useless." If they ask for more information, then I share more. If they don't, then I leave it alone.

I think that no matter what happens to us, we all need help from others, but that help can't be forced on us. As we listen more than we talk, and have more compassion than judgment, we have the chance to become more like Christ. I think often of Job, and all of those to told him to curse God and die. I want to stand with Job, and instead trust in the Lord, taking each "leveling" event that comes my way as a lesson, and not a judgment of me.

1 comment:

Kathy Haynie said...

Good insights. I wish you didn't have to have migraines. I have a migraine essay from last term that I think you would enjoy, by Joan Didion. Remind me to pull it out for you.