Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hanging On . . .

Remember the posters of the kitty cat holding on the knot at the end of the rope with the saying “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!”? That’s how I feel right now. I’ve had this migraine for three and a half days and I’m kind of hanging on. I had an appointment today with my counselor and another with my doctor, both of which were very helpful. Since then, I’ve been thinking a little about hanging on – getting through an acutely difficult phase in life. Here are some of the things that help me.

1. God. I know that there are people out there who manage to cope with chronic pain exacerbations who aren’t Christians, but I don’t understand how. I truly believe that my faith in God gets me through a lot of days when I would otherwise hide under my covers. Even when I feel like (*&%*& and can only pray the simplest of prayers, God is there and provides comfort. (I still wish He’d just take away the headaches, sometimes, though.)

2. Family. My husband is the most supportive guy in the world. He never makes me feel guilty for being in pain (which is good since I do an excellent job of that myself). He very willingly steps in to help when I can’t do what I need to do. He asks how he can help. I don’t know where I’d be without him. Even my kids are great about my illness. They don’t fuss when I ask them to adjust their activities because of how I feel. Wild Man has been very understanding about my missing some of his baseball games because of the headaches.

3. Counseling. One great thing my counselor and I did was to work through a book called The Chronic Pain Care Workbook. I learned a lot about myself, how I react to pain, and how I can structure my life to deal with pain. One of the best things about seeing a counselor, though, is having someone outside my situation to help me “reframe” things. I was in bad shape when I went in to see her today because I was still in pain and felt like everything else was out of control. She helped me see that this headache was not just the normal long migraine; it started after camp, so the house is a mess, we are out of groceries, and we aren’t in a routine. Once I was able to see that, we made a plan for me to get more pain medication (which I was trying to avoid) and to ask Mr. Math Tutor for specific help around the house and to do the grocery shopping. My head still hurts, but I can see the situation more clearly and it doesn’t look nearly as hopeless.

4. Friends. I communicate with lots of my friends on Facebook. I have gotten lots and lots of promises of prayer which makes me feel truly loved. There is nothing like it!

5. Being outward focused. Pain makes me selfish. Basically, I hurt, so I think only about myself. One thing I’ve learned to do to combat this inward focus is to pray for others. Since I don’t sleep well when my head hurts, I get lots of time to pray for others. I have a list of people right now who need specific prayer and the last few days have provided plenty of opportunity to focus on someone else’s needs besides my own (if only for a few minutes).

6. Keeping busy. How can I keep busy when I’m in pain? Well, as long as my pain is below about a level 9 (out of 10), I can usually read or knit. I have to make sure to knit only easy stuff or I’ll have to fix it later, though!! Generally, when I’m in pain, I have to read novels or histories that are pretty easy reads. Theology or other heavy-duty stuff has to wait until my brain is in better shape!

So, I’m hanging on. I’ll be productive again when this migraine has eased up. Until then, God is still good and Jesus still loves me.

What about you? How do you hang on when you reach the end of your rope?

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