One of my co-workers walked by me and said, “Ugh, I have this headache today and it just won’t go away.” As he turned away to grab something, I literally had to clamp my mouth shut because the words, “Uhhh… I don’t want to hear it.” almost came out. After I redirected my thoughts and attitude, I said, “Aw man, I’m sorry. That really stinks, doesn’t it?”
What he doesn’t know is that I have had constant daily headaches for almost 2 years now. What does that mean? It means every single day I wake up with my head hurting and I go to bed with it hurting. The pain varies in intensity but it’s always there. There are things I know that make it worse such as: caffeine, sugar, lots of stress, exercise, social gatherings, loud noises, and the list goes on…and a few things that help such as: sleep, massages, and dark places. They aren’t migraines (I’ve had a few of those and boy are they terrible!) but more of a constant pressure with sharp pains here and there. I sometimes say that it would feel so much better if I could just poke a hole in my head to let out all the extra air that must be up there. So that being said, sometimes I can really relate to others with headaches and sometimes I have to remind myself to be compassionate.
Over the last couple months, since my seizures have stopped, I’ve been kind of holding out, hoping the headaches would dissolve too. But slowly, the thought has been growing on me that they might not go away. I hadn’t really considered that before, but veeerrrry slowly, God gave me grace to accept the idea that that may be the case. I started thinking of how I was supposed to adapt my life to these headaches, instead of sitting around waiting for them to leave. I’m not really a newbie to chronic pain (I’ve had back issues since I was about 11) but headaches somehow affect more of your life than other pain. They are exhausting in addition to the pain.
However, my neurologist and best friend have wanted me to see one of the headache specialists at Cleveland Clinic for a long time now so I finally agreed and went last week. Looking back it has occurred to me that as I prayed about the appointment, I never really prayed for him to have answers. I really just prayed that he would be a kind and compassionate person and that prayer was certainly answered. He sat and listened to me for over an hour and asked a lot of questions. He acknowledged how painful and frustrating these sort of headaches can be. He also admitted that they are very difficult to diagnose and are usually very resistant to treatment. I wasn’t a huge fan of being put on a medicine that he wasn’t sure would work and the side effects were tiredness and dizziness (I deal with enough of those!) so he gave me some natural supplements to try instead. I didn’t really feel disappointed or excited after the appointment because I hadn’t had any expectations for it anyway.
But now that it’s been confirmed that the headaches probably aren’t going away (short of a miracle from the Lord), I realize how many of my favorite activities are affected and how I didn’t really think this was going to be a long-term deal. I found myself stuck in a “What-if” rut the other day. Have you ever been there? I thought I was already surrendered to the idea of chronic pain but things like this started to run through my head: But what if I never run again without my head feeling like it’s going to explode? What if I can’t ever make it through a whole evening with my friends like I used to? What if I can’t sit and read for hours on end like I want to? What if helping out in nursery at church will always hurt my head this much?
Ha! And here I thought I was completely at peace with the whole idea! Again and again I countered those thoughts with the same verse: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Cor. 12:8-9
To be honest, some days I don’t understand how God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, how everything is working out for my good, how I can count it all joy, or how light momentary affliction leads to an eternal weight of glory. BUT I do know that these are the promises I fully believe and cling to. It is SO helpful for me to remember that Paul also was afflicted with something and asked God to take it away and the answer was no!
And like Paul I need to learn that his grace is completely sufficient.