Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Perspective: Waking Up in the Middle of the Bed

I often get terrible migraines. The type of headache that make you feel like you're going to vomit, that make your eyes throb and your teeth hurt. These headaches can last for days at a time and leave you in fear that they might recur at a moments notice.

My migraines are triggered by many things: what I eat, how much I drink, what I drink, how much sleep I've gotten, whether or not my neck is out of alignment, and sometimes they strike for what seems like no reason at all. It starts out harmlessly enough - a slight tension in the neck and head, a flicker of light, an inexplicable feeling of dread. But soon my eyes begin to feel sore and heavy, my temples start to throb, my forehead (just above the sinuses) begins to feel thick and tight. The migraine has begun.

The problem is that I get headaches frequently - it's even become a bit of a joke with my friends. "Oh, sorry, I can't have that. Red food dye gives me migraines," I'll say as they roll their eyes. There's always a bit of a headache hidden behind my thick skull, so it's easy for me to mistake these regular headaches for an incoming migraine.

After so many years you would think I would know better. Unfortunately my body is constantly changing, what was once a trigger is no longer, and what is a trigger now may never have been a problem before. This causes a host of new problems when I find myself, say, in Korea experiencing a new culture and environment - a new climate, new diet, new physical demands on my body, new everything - each of these exciting new experiences have the potential to be a new trigger.

But this is where the durability of the human body and mind reasserts itself.


I woke up in the middle of the bed. You know, there's a wrong side and a right side. The crab-ass in line at Starbucks woke up on the wrong side; the whistling jolly woman woke up on the right. But here I was, in the middle and not sure which way I would turn.

On one hand I had just awaken from an eleven hour migraine-induced slumber. My neck was tight, my head felt raw, and I was more than a little afraid to move. On the other hand, I was awake. I no longer felt tears running down my face from the pressure in my skull. It was a new day.

I stood up. This is always the first test. Does standing make the blood rush through your body re-establishing the throbbing, pounding pain? Today it didn't. Bathroom break. Back to the bed. Sit down. There. I had just stood up twice and sat down twice and the headache hadn't returned. Success.

The right side it is.

 A big breakfast followed by a delicious homemade latte left me the smiling fool walking to the bus. The world was clear, lacking the migraine haze, I was happy. 


It's amazing to me how such pain can leave me feeling so happy the next day. It's as if my body attacks itself as a way of reminding me how fortunate I am. By crippling me and leaving me craving the merest of essentials (water, adequate food, sleep) it allows me to appreciate the rest of my experiences.

The migraine that I loathe, the pain that I hate, and the experiences that I could do without never cease to remind me of the beauty in the world. It sounds cliched and it probably is, but without those negative and awful experiences I wouldn't be as ready to marvel in the mundane.

I hate to say it, but sometimes I'm grateful for my migraines. They force me to remind myself to take care of my body, to release the tension and stress from my perspective, and to appreciate the world for what it is - a hard and relentless place where one can find beauty and pain. Happiness and stress.

We have the choice. We all have different problems, whether physical or mental, and we all struggle with them at times. But I've learned that I have two options: I can dwell on the negative and wish things were different, or I can allow for the bad things to happen and let them remind me of all of the good things. I can do my best to make sure that the migraines don't return, but at some point I will slip-up, something will happen that I don't expect, or my body will change again and I"ll have a host of new triggers to look out for. But I can be happy, even with all of that.

It all depends on which side of the bed I decide to roll onto when I wake up in the morning.

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