MY Top 5 Stretches for the EVIL Neck MUSCLES!

Hello friends! As many of you know if you read my story, I have a history of cervical spine surgery, which is great when it solves the problem at hand; BUT, long term can leave you with overly tight neck and upper back muscles IF you don’t get on a daily stretching routine.

These EVIL neck muscles can give me a migraine in a hot minute if I do NOT keep them under control. So I have compiled my TOP 5 stretches that I do to try to keep these muscles under control. I spent MANY years in physical therapy, so some of the stretches come from that, others are from Yoga (my other FAVORITE way to stretch).

  1. Foam Roller- If you have back/neck issues, foam rollers are a great way to work out the knots and kinks that can happen on a daily basis. My favorite foam roller is this one, it’s the one I purchased while I was doing Physical Therapy after my first cervical spine surgery several years ago (it is also linked in my favorite products list on my IG profile). It was purchased on the recommendation of my PT. I really like this because it allows me to work different areas of my body not just my upper back, neck area. To actually perform the stretches on the foam roller, I found this great video, that shows several different ways you can stretch your upper back if you get the pesky cervogenic migraine like I do.
  2. Cat/Cow yoga pose- After three cervical spine surgeries, yoga has become my best friend! This simple pose is something I can do while my son plays or any time during the day that I begin feeling super tight and achy in my upper back and neck. I discovered Yoga with Adriene when I had to completely change my exercise routine after all my surgeries. She’s AMAZING. Here is Adriene showing this pose. She has LOTS of other great stuff on her Youtube channel, you should definitely check her out!
  3. Neck stretches- my PT showed me similar stretches and I can do theses ANYWHERE I start to feel the pain climbing. Here is a great video.
  4. Countertop stretch for upper back- This stretch is WONDERFUL for when the pain train has left the station and you are REALLY feeling those muscles starting to clamp down and induce a migraine. I do this EVERYDAY. The image I found the woman is using a chair, but I was taught using a countertop, basically any surface you can use to do this stretch, as long as it is sturdy!
  5. Yoga for Neck and Shoulders- Again, my girl Yoga with Adriene has a great flow series that feels amazing when you start to feel really tight.

When my neck is REALLY bad, I also have found using a topical cream such as salonpas or a Hemp derived CBD lotion like Lord Jones.

If you have any questions please send them my way! I hope this helps!

Farewell old friends…

I feel like I need to start off this blog post with a disclaimer…have you done your enneagram number test yet? I most recently have gotten interested in this, and I have to say, this test if FAR superior to the MBTI and zillions of others that I have taken over the years. I see these results as a guideline or another tool for my toolbelt of life. By all means, I do not take them for the gospel! But one thing is for certain, the number that I am, is DEFINITELY defines me to a T. So, by now you are curious, what IS your number…well folks, I’m a 2. Two’s are seen as “the helper” the one that wants to be loved, to help out, is intuitive of others feels, thoughts and needs…TOTALLY ME.

Beautiful Image from @brushandbarley

I am the type of person that wears my heart on my sleeve. I pour my entire heart into something that I am passionate about and am fiercely loyal to my friends, family and anyone I come in contact with for that matter. But what I have discovered as I have navigated the uncharted seas of “chronic migraine” is that this personality trait has often have left me in a big crying mess over the past 6 years. You see, I am an incredibly outgoing, and like I said, if I meet you and feel a connection to you, then I expect we will be friends for life. THIS is NOT HOW OTHERS THINK—–Even at my ripe old age of 39, I am still learning and growing as an individual and figuring out what parts of my heart do I want to share with others and whom will be let in to my inner circle.

Over the years, I have had large circles of friends, with whom I just KNEW we would be BFF’s FOREVER. But the reality is that being hit with a chronic illness, doesn’t widen your friendship circle, it actual shrinks it. It’s hard for me to understand how someone could walk away from a friendship with someone WHO CLEARLY is hurting and could use a friend more than anything, but then again is my personality characteristic that gets me in the most trouble. For years my husband , has tried to tell me to “not get too attached” to people, they will hurt you. I ignored his statements because there is NO way someone would exit someone’s life at the very moments that they need it. WRONG..PEOPLE DO IT; and guess what IT HURTS!!!

As you all know, chronic illness is a very dark and lonely place. I spend a great deal of time inside, in dark rooms. I have lost SO many friends over the past 6 years, I have stopped counting. It used to tear my heart wide open and I would morn the lost friendships like someone who lost their mother. But over time, I have become accustom to not depending on anyone to stick around once they see how complicated my life is. At the end of the day, most people want easy friends, friends they can go grab a beer with or spend time on vacation with. There are VERY few people who will enter your life who want to see all the messy parts. The parts when you cant get out of bed for weeks at a time, or contemplate suicide because the pain is so intense.

But what I can tell you my friends, is that the friends who DO STICK AROUND…they are like buried treasure. Sacred rubies which should be tucked away and treasured. Because friends, life is hard, and at some point the person/people that left you when your life got hard; will need someone because their life is hard, and I hope and pray that they are able to find someone, because THIS person right here has been burned, and is not going back. To truly heal and transform as a human with a chronic illness you have to be willing to keep your eyes on the horizon, hold on to hope and never look back. Every day is a battle and one day when you are old and gray you will look back at your life and have something to be truly proud of …you persevered, YOU held on to HOPE when it felt like it was lost, and you GREW as an individual to recognize TRUE AUTHENTIC friendship.

I hope and pray that each of you has someone in your life that you can turn to and supports you. If you do not, I am here for you. Please feel free to DM at any point. This community of “chronic warriors” need to stick together!

Case Study for Hopeful

A few weeks ago on my Instagram I talked about a podcast and story that has inspired me to try to live my best life despite my illness.

If you haven’t read Katherine Wolf’s story —its a must read: she has taken a broken situation and made it something wonderful.

I was going to write up a blog post specifically on her interview from the podcast, but found this beautifully eloquent write up, that out did ever version my foggy migraine could try to piece together…take a second to read this post Oakway Ministries. And don’t forget to listen to the podcast! Which I have listed on my “favorite Podcast page” on my blog, the podcast is Entitled “Proof that we have lived“.

This is life changing stuff y’all! Also follow @hopeheals on Instagram, this woman and her family are amazing! 💜💪🏼✝️

Favorite Positive Podcast

Hello! These are just a few of my favorites..I’ll continue to add more to this page as I find inspiring and positive podcast to lift your spirts on a gloomy day!

Enjoy!

    Jesus Calling: Stories is Faith- ALL of these are AWESOME!

  • Renew YOU with Quinn Kelly- I haven’t listened to one yet that wasn’t amazing.

• Annie Downs-That Sounds Fun- lots of different topics from marriage to enneagrams!

Oprah Super Soul- First the Pain then the Rising- Glennon Doyle

The Choice

Every morning, the babe and I take an early morning walk around our neighborhood; I’ve made the habit of listening to one podcast (30-45mins) each walk. Mostly its become my quiet time with Jesus; refilling my spiritual tank for the morning. My Dad, Sister and I have gotten in the habit of sending each other podcast to listen to, which is nice because a)I know its going to be GOOD and b)I don’t have to spend hours perusing the millions of podcast to find that ONE thats going to speak to my heart.

Yesterday, my Dad sent us one that, I thought, “ok, Ill add that to my list, and hopefully will get to it before the end of the month”. But this morning, I felt incredibly drawn to this podcast, which to me is my spiritual compass pulling me towards something that God wants me to hear.

There are very few times that I have been brought to tears by a podcast, but this one , spoke RIGHT directly to my heart. It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. The podcast was from Oprah’s Super Soul series, it was a conversation with Dr. Edith Eva Eger, who is a 90 year old holocaust survivor, who has written a book entitled “The Choice”. Dr. Eger who was in her teens when captured by the Nazi’s and sent to Auschwitz, later went to college to obtain her Ph.D in psychology to help and counsel others. She is an incredible soul, that absolutely had a purpose in this world to survive all she survived.

As I listened to her speak, I had to stop several times to type up some of her quotes (much to the babe’s dismay as we MUST keep moving at all times!). Her conversation spoke directly to my heart, she survived horrible atrocities. And I too, as a chronic migraine sufferer endure daily trauma. But how can one say that what she survived is any worse than what I too survive every single day. They are both traumas, traumas to our heart, body and soul. And I CHOOSE every day to keep “never stop climbing” the mountain. I too make a choice every day to be positive. One thing that she said that was particularly heart provoking, was that “you can’t let THIS murder your spirit”, with THIS being whatever it is that you are facing. Whether its a high pain day, or a low pain day; I can NOT let THIS disease kill the person that I am at my core. I make a CHOICE every day to stay positive and to keep going; for “if I survive today, Ill be free tomorrow”. What prolific words from a woman who survived SO MUCH to share her story.

Being a mom, wife and chronic pain suffer is not easy, but I have a CHOICE every day to be a better version of myself. Some days are harder than others, but hearing this woman’s words brought tears to my eyes. One thing that she speaks about is how keeping secrets; hiding whatever ails us from the world and ourselves, is extremely detrimental to our soul; “when we don’t allow ourselves to grieve our losses, wounds and disappointments we are doomed to keep reliving them. WOW..did she hit the nail on the head right there. I have walked a long battle with this pain, but by pushing it down and not allowing myself to grieve the loss of the life I dreamed of, of the daily pain that keeps me from working in a career I love so deeply, of not allowing myself to “feel the feelings” I have about the mom I wish I could be—I am hurting my growth process and making my bad days seem worse than what they are.

If you have a moment, listen to this podcast, I think it will speak to your soul as it did mine. Chronic pain is a trauma and we need to process that grief so that we can CHOOSE to be positive and to “never stop climbing” the mountain to a better version of you. If you don’t feel strong today, then try again tomorrow, or the next day. And if you need someone to cheer you on, send me a message..I’ll be your cheerleader. I am forever changed by this disease, but the growth and deep spiritual connection that have come out of all this change has made me a better version of me. So yes, those dreams that I had as a child have been squashed, and my life may look nothing like I thought it would…THATS OK…keep climbing friends….KEEP climbing!

Creating your Migraine Tool belt

When I began my chronic migraine journey 6 years ago, my tool belt was empty. The only thing I knew that would help me was sleep, so as soon as I got a migraine, I would take medicine and sleep. But over time I realized that was not going to work for the situation that I was in now. Being chronic means that I have 15 or more migraines a month. So having a well stocked tool belt of things I can do utilize to ease pain and help me to get rid of an attack is crucial. Over the past several months I have blogged on some items that I have in my tool belt, but I felt it would be advantageous to have them all listed neatly in one blog post. So, what may you ask is in my tool belt, well here you go:

  1. Headache Specialists- Finding and curating a doctor that you can trust is critical to managing migraines. When we moved from OR to NC two years ago, I was in a situation where I had to find a new doctor and fast. I went through several doctors before I found the right one for me. For one, he is a headache specialists. Not to say you HAVE to see a specialists, but in my experience, Neurologists don’t have the laser focus on just headaches and the most up to date headache research. So IF you can find a headache specialists that you like, then build a relationship with them. This website helped me to find my doctor: Headache Specialist
  2. Support System/Community- This has been critical for me as I have trudged through most of my 6 years of chronicness with only my family and close friends helping me to sort out all the emotions and ups and downs that come along with being a chronic migraineur. It hasn’t been until just recently that I have tapped into the social media aspect. And I have to tell you, IT HAS BEEN AMAZING. Knowing that there are other people out there JUST like ME has helped my mood/depression/anxiety, etc. In my last blog post “The Confidence Killer” . I go into some depth on this topic. In short, YOU need to find a community or support system. If you cant find one, send me an email or find me on social media, I will be yours! We are all in this together, and often I learn more about new treatments or new tools from other migraineurs than from doctors
  3. Alternative Treatments- Again, I spoke about some of my experiences with alternative treatments in my blog posts “Alternative Treatments for Pain Relief” and “CBD for Pain Management” . Over the years I have tried MANY different treatments to alleviate the pain. Some that have worked the best for me, might not be the best for you, so that is why it is critical that you try as many as you feel comfortable trying! I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding “medical marijuana”, but Ill be honest, I’ve tried it; and it helped me IMMENSLY during the times when I had lost 20 lbs from not being able to eat from nausea. I currently do not live in an area of the country that allows for medical marijuana, so I choose to use CBD derived from Hemp, which is helpful to alleviate the pain, and doesn’t get you “high”. But I’ve also tried other things like acupuncture, reiki, EFT-Tapping, Chinese herbs, special teas, specific vitamins and minerals. One particular regiment of vitamins that I am on per recommendations from my doctor and acupuncturist is: Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids, Fish Oil and Magnesium. If you do any research on these you will find that they can be helpful in the reduction of migraines. I have not noticed any HUGE reduction, but what can it hurt to take them!
  4. Exercise/movement- I hesitate to say exercise, because, sometimes exercise does nothing but exacerbate my already throbbing head. But some sort of movement throughout my week, can help, even if its some light stretching, yoga, or a walk around the block. For years, exercise (specifically running) was my stress relieve. After my 3 spinal surgeries, running is completely off the table for me, so I’ve had to find other ways that I can get my blood pumping. Yoga has been great for me because you can do it at home (which is nice with having the baby), and it doesn’t take much to set up your own personal yoga space! If you want to give yoga a try (which I would highly recommend if nothing more for the relaxation aspect)- check out my favorite you tuber yoga instructor – Yoga with Adrien
  5. Detox baths- Soaking in a tub with Epsom salt once or twice a week can do wonders on an aching back and shoulders. If you are like me and have headaches that will start at the base of your neck, an Epsom salt soak can help to relieve that tension and also is a great way for your body to absorb magnesium (which has been found to be depleted in individuals with migraines). If you don’t have time for a bath, a 20 min Epsom salt foot soak can also do the trick.
  6. Massage-A majority of my migraines begin at the base of my neck and are as a result of tension and stress in my back. I try my best to stretch daily, but lugging around a 20+ lbs. toddler its hard not to have some tension. So that is why I will treat myself to a 30 minute massage every few weeks that focuses specifically on my upper back and neck. If you can’t afford a massage, no worries, you can easily purchase a foam roller and give yourself a little massage that way. I foam roll daily to keep things loose. Another way to get a massage and not pay a huge price, is look into local community colleges that have massage therapy programs, they often are looking for individuals to practice on for a cheaper rate!
  7. Self- Care- Until having a baby at the ripe age of 38, I was HORRIBLE at providing self care. I would do the occasional face mask, but now that I have a child AND struggle with chronic migraines, I find that carving out a few minutes a day JUST for me is critical. Sometimes that can make or break a headache. Self-care is NOT SELFISH! Remember that. Self Care is needed to provide you with the support you need, and is yet another wonderful tool for your tool belt!

I could go on and on with my the tools in my belt, but I will save that for another day. Remember guys, BE KIND to yourself. If you are having a hard day, stay in bed and rest, but if you feel ok then go out and LIVE! We are only given this one life, lets try to make the best of it- Chronic Migraines and all!

The Confidence Killer

If you had met me 10 years ago, you would have seen a energetic, positive, driven, passionate, perfectionists who had it all figured out. At home or work, I was polished, put together and had a to-do list a mile long (with LOTS of check marks). If I couldn’t figure out a solution, then I would search endlessly till I found one. I was confident. Not in a cocky or off-putting sort of way. But I knew who I WAS, I felt good in my skin.

Then, in walks years of chronic pain, failure, infertility, depression, and defeat. In an instant my confidence and self-esteem diminished. I begin not being ME. The person I had known for 30 years. It was an awful feeling. Besides all the terrible effects of being in constant pain and living from one migraine attack to the next, I now felt unworthy of anything in this world. Which is a very lonely place to be. You being to question EVERYTHING about who you are. Your choices. Friends. Faith. It was a horrendously lonely place to be. NO one in your life understands; unless they too have dealt with a chronic condition. Many sympathize, but the number who understand is less than you could imagine.

As a born researcher, I immediately tried to figure out WHO I was, but kept coming back with NOTHING. MORE defeat. MORE frustration. I tried pushing the feelings down, but then they would manifest into more headaches, more pain. Over time, I begin to despise my body and everything it had done to me. At one point, I was so very low that I felt like not being here anymore”. THAT my friends, is when I knew, I needed help. I recognized that my confidence was SHOT and I needed to figure out HOW can I get back to ME.

But what is ME now? I certainly am NOT the person I was 10 years ago? I have a few more gray hairs, and pounds, I’m a MOM; something that I NEVER thought I would have the privilege to say. And I manage daily chronic migraines and pain. ME is not ME anymore…at first this was a HARD pill to swallow. I remember looking in the mirror at one point during the past year, and thinking, I have NO idea who I am. And it was SCARY. Recently during a therapy session; my sweet, kind therapist asked me, “what do you mean when you say you don’t feel like you”?. I was at a loss for words, I could not even articulate what I was feeling, I’m pretty sure I said something like, “you know, like ME”. Her response, was, perfect; “Well”, she said, “lets find YOU again”. In that moment, I knew she was correct. I had been looking at this ENTIRELY wrong. Instead of focusing on the negative of ,”I’m lost and don’t know who I am”, let’s look at this from the positive perspective; “I’ve been through SOME VERY BIG life challenges, BUT, that’s OK”. At some point in everyone’s life you will be faced with a life challenge that knocks you off of your chair, and makes you take a good long look at your life. This, had been my first (of many) BIG life challenges; and I plan on taking it on head first.

It has taken me nearly SIX, LONG PAINFUL years to get to this point, but friends, I am here to tell you; it IS possible and IS achievable. YES, chronic pain SUCKS. YES, going through years of INFERTILITY SUCKED…but you know what, I am a MUCH better version of myself. I have a deep compassion for others who suffer from chronic conditions and those who have walked the long lonely infertility road. This is a softer version of me. One that, YES will have to sometimes spend days (or a week) in bed crippled by my pain. BUT, I also have seen what it is like to be at the bottom, and know I DO NOT want to be there anymore, so how can I keep myself and my confidence in the “positive zone”. I have put together a list of my confidence keeping things that have been helping ME, find the NEW ME:

  1. NO NEGATIVITY- This one is tough, and will take SOME time. I am still working on this. Whenever I feel a negative thought enter my mind, I try hard to squish it and find a positive look. YES, I still have down days and have to work through them, but now that I know that my confidence is low and needs to be built back to its NEW level. Old ME is gone, and THAT is OK!
  2. Journaling- I’ve always been a journaler, but through all my trials and tribulations I have found that journaling can take a negative, panic filled day into something positive. This is now my outlet for any negativity. I also try to note in my journal when I am having a negative day and some list some ways I can squash that thinking.
  3. DAILY Self-Care- Every. Single. Day. I do ONE thing that takes care of me. At this point in my journey, I am still managing 3-4 migraines a week, so self-care is CRITICAL for my survival (have I mentioned I also have an 18 month old son- who requires A good amount of my time and energy, so it is vital to my mental health).
  4. Therapy/counseling- Over the years, I have seen therapists at all points in my pain journey. But seeing a therapists, I have found, is a great way to get a third party perspective on you. It helps me to rephrase my way of thinking and often can get me on the right track. I am blessed with insurance coverage that allows me to do this. If you are not, there are many apps, and sometimes even free or reduced mental health counseling within your community. Therapy helped me realize how close I was to giving up, and just letting go. I am forever thankful for all my therapists over the years that have helped me navigate this life challenge.
  5. COMMUNITY- THIS is huge. Until, recently, I did not have this part. Yes, I had friends and family who tried DESPERATELY to understand what I was going through. But, you need people in your tribe who GET IT. Chronic pain and migraines is TOUGH. So whatever it is you are struggling with, FIND your tribe. For me, social media has connected me with people all over the world, who lift me up and I am blessed to call friends and fellow warriors.

At the end of the day, KEEP FIGHTING..I know I am. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I recognize that it will take a bit of work to get my confidence and self-esteem back, but, this is not a race! I will get there!

Alternative treatments for pain relief

Having been in the “chronic pain gang” for going on 6 years now,I have tried just about everything besides boring a hole in my scalp to help alleviate the pain. Through years of trial and error I have found several treatments that actually work when used in conjunction with modern medicine.

1)Acupuncture- I was SUPER skeptical of this before I tried it. But now I’m a HUGE fan. Being as we lived on the west coast in a fairly progressive area when I first tried it, it was covered by our insurance and cost me 11 bucks a visit. Now that I live in NC, our insurance won’t touch it and most places I have found want to treat it as a “spa” like treatment charging 200 bucks an hour. I personally do not have a money tree, so I do not get to have this alternative treatment as often as I like. It helps me tremendously with active migraines and nausea. It also will calm me , so any anxiety I may be having us released thru a treatment.

The treatment themselves are relatively pain free..the actual needle they use is thinner than a stand of hair. If you have the option to try this for chronic pain management DO IT! At least once and see what you think! Be wary of acupuncturist who haven’t had the proper training, always check credentials!

My acupuncturist in Oregon ,whom I still stay in close contact with believes there is a three pronged approach to helping support migraines. These are simple supplements that have been shown to to be depleted in migraineur.

  • Fish Oil/Omega 3s-can be taken orally or through eating wild salmon, sardines etc. make sure you get a good quality fish oil!
  • Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids- I take about 1000mg a day
  • Magnesium- I take around 500-800 mg a day, but you can also absorb magnesium through your skin, so epsom salt soaks or foot soaks are great!

2) Massage-getting a massage every few weeks has been a game change for me. i opt for short 30 min massages every 10 days that specifically focus on my neck,back and shoulders. One of my BIG triggers is my neck- trigger what the doctors call “cervogenic headaches” just like migraines but stem from your neck .

3) Yoga- I’m not taking sweaty yoga having you in all sorts of contorted poses..this is gentle and helps to keep muscles loose and body and mind centered. I often come up a mantra before I begin each practice.

4)Meditation- take 10 mins of your day and sit quietly…there are all sorts of apps and YouTube videos to get you started..yes it’s weird at first but give it some time it can help!

5)”Tapping”/Emotional Freedom Technique- if you haven’t tried this yet DO IT! One of my big triggers is stress..after several rounds of tapping I feel as good as ifI had taken a sedative. There is LOTS of info online about this..here is a simple tutorial EFT .

I hope this has been helpful in coming up with some non medical ways to control pain! I know it has helped me tremendously when coupled western medicine! Send me questions if you have them! Good luck!

Darkness in the rear view can change how you see life today..

Chronic pain is HARD, REALLY HARD. Probably the hardest journey I’ve ever had to walk through outside of my infertility issues, which is a different kind of hard. For the longest time, I felt as if I was walking through quicksand, slowly trudging through step by step, praying I could make it through one more hour, minute, second. Prior to all my cervical spine surgeries, I was a “regular” migraineur. With an occasional headache here and there, but BOOM, in one instant, my life changed. You NEVER think its going to be YOU.

I was BITTER, very bitter, for a LONG time. I tried to cover up my pain with smiles and shrug it off. Spend my weekends drinking wine and numbing the pain that was constantly throbbing inside me. Yeah wine made my headache worse, but NOTHING was making it better, so why the heck not enjoy myself.

This went on for years…in between all this I had 3 spinal surgeries and numerous other procedures to try to alleviate the pain. This pain was unlike anything I had before, it slowly ate away at my soul and turned me into a glossy eyed, brain fogged idiot. But the real me wasn’t like that at all, prior to all this, I had a successful career, had finished a masters degree and was completing my Ph.D. But once the chronic pain settled in and made my body it’s home EVERYTHING changed…my physical demeanor, my personality, my will and drive to be successful. All gone in a single poof,like a magician. It was AWFUL and depressing.

During this time we desperately were trying to get pregnant..we were the 1in 8- unexplained infertility..no rhyme or reason why we hadn’t gotten pregnant. As a final Hail Mary pass we tried IVF. We had decided if this didn’t work, then we would close the baby chapter and live happily ever after with no kids.

God had other plans, we got pregnant on the first round of IVF, a miracle! I still struggled with migraines and neck/back pain during pregnancy BUT I would endure it all, for God had answered our plan..after 8 LONG years of praying. My son’s pregnancy and birth were textbook..he was even born ON his due date (punctual just like his momma)!

Soon after he was born I realized the migraines were worse, which I attributed to sleep deprivation (no sleep is a trigger of mine), so my hubby and I slogged thru the first six months like zombies. Around 7 months old, right around the time I was getting a semi regular bouts of sleep I noticed my migraines were INTENSE..nothing like I’d experienced before. It was incredibly hard having a baby you PRAYED for 8 years for, and now unable to get out of bed to even care for him,or comfort him. My mom moved in with us in September. Her job keep the baby alive..my job sleep in a dark room. It was a lonely and depressing existence. I had struggled with depression years ago,but NOTHING like this.

I knew I was at rock bottom when I began praying to God to just take me..let me go to sleep and never wake up. Yes , I would leave my husband and son behind,but I would be FREE of this pain that was slowly turning me into something I didnt even realize. The pain was so intense there are huge chunks of my son’s first year that I do not remember…it was bad!

Finally after months of trying all the magic my doc in Raleigh could do he said you have to go to the inpatient program in Ann Arbor,MI. Soo off I went for 10 days of Inpatient tests, regular medication infusions and therapy. I checked out on January 5. I felt better than I had in YEARS ! The team of doctors there discovered I had a spinal fluid leak.. which they were able to fix..the second that procedure was over..I felt better not fixed but better. Over the following days we worked on lifestyle and medication changes. When I left the clinic I was armed with many new tools for my belt..and my headache pain was at 0-1…it hadn’t been that way in YEARS!

Reflecting back over my last year, I realize how lucky I am..I was inches from suicide..the only thing that kept me going was my son. The thought of him being without me have me the drive I needed everyday to keep going. I do believe that is why God placed him in our life at the exact perfect time. To motivate me to not take my life.

Today, I’m doing 100% better than before, I still have bad days,and pain days…85% of the time it’s manageable without meds. But I’m having to learn how to live and be happy in a VERY different box than I’ve ever been in before. I am a chronic migraineur. Somedays I’m ok, others not so much. But taking all this one tiny step at a time has made me realize how close I came to death. I am forever thankful for my family, doctors and husband who saw the signs and pulled me up by my bootstraps. For without them, I really do not know where I’d be today.

My goals right now are simple, don’t look back, keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with, spend time with my family and regain enough of myself so that one day soon I’ll be able to go back to work. Who knows how long I will be in this box, could be weeks, months or years..whatever it is..I’m keeping my eyes on the waves and staying ever present with my God.

This May Be Like This Forever….

When you receive a diagnosis of something like chronic intractable migraine, you immediately begin researching a “cure”. There has to be a “cure” a “fix” something to make it go away. We are taught throughout our lives that if you get sick, you take medicine, you feel better. That is what is supposed to happen. But the reality is..there is no cure for migraines. In fact, until recently there wasn’t even a drug specified JUST for migraines. For the past however many years, doctors have been using trial and error to deduce which concoction of medications will MANAGE your migraines.

For years, I served as a lab rat for all the specialists I went to see, each time leaving with a new pill to take and try for a few months to see how my body chemistry reacts to this medicine. Migraines are COMPLICATED. Studies have shown that a person is born with a genetic predisposition for migraines. So what does all that mean…..WOW, I could have this forever. Coming to terms with that, has taken me some time. Yes, I have an arsenal of drugs, lotions and potions in my toolbelt. Yes, I was hospitalized for 10 days, on a constant infusion of medication to try to settle my nervous system down. But no matter HOW many pills I take or trips to the hospital I make, I WILL ALWAYS have migraines. I read a great quote the other day, that said that migraines are like having asthma…its always there. It may be managed but its always there. There are stories of women who grow out of them, but they are mostly linked to hormones, which my migraines ARE NOT.

The emotional toll coming to the conclusion that you will forever be plagued with this horrible illness, can seriously knock you down. Like deep into a dark place. You have to decide…how do I want to live with this illness. Miserable and negative, or miserable and positive. I choose positive. Yes, there are days I cant leave my home..and cant care for my child. But there are also days when I have little to no pain, and can live a semi normal life. But you have to make adjustments to your life as well, which can take time to really settle into. You make choices. Do I drink the wine tonight and have a headache tomorrow, or do I not drink the wine.

When I lived in Oregon, I had the most AMAZING neurologists, who also happened to be a migraineur and had all the same surgeries I have had on my cervical spine. He had a no bullshit attitude, which I appreciated. He used to tell me; Emily, you will have this illness forever, and sometimes you will make bad decisions that trigger a migraine, but don’t let that ruin your life. You have to keep living. Figure out how to live within your box, you will be a MUCH happier person if you do this. So, that is how I chose to live. Call me Pollyanna, but I am going to make lemonade out of these lemons I was given!

I hope (and pray) that through advocacy and education, there will be a cure for migraines…but for now, I will have to just manage with the tools I have and keep going, if not for me..then for my son and my little family that we worked and prayed SO hard for.