Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel. Psalm 27:9 NKJV
I remember when I was officially diagnosed.
The doctor said I was in denial.
My husband chuckled.
I glared at him and contemplated kicking the doctor. But my head hurt too much.
I had just returned from a ladies’ retreat in Breckenridge and Scott had driven me straight to the Acute Care clinic because I was certain I had a severe sinus infection.
The doctor declared otherwise.
After an examination and some probing questions (“Have you been under any unusual stress?” he asked. “No,” I replied. Scott coughed and mentioned the start of the Aurora Theater Trial, and some work stress, and that I was completing finals for a couple classes, and that I had spoken at the retreat. That’s when the doc looked at me and stated matter-of-factly, “You are in denial. And this IS a migraine.”)
I quit arguing and meekly accepted a prescription for migraine medication. (Okay, okay…I quit arguing; meekly is stretching it a bit.)
Since that time, nearly a year and a half ago, I’ve tried to be mindful of things that are triggers for me. Perfumes and chemicals odors, even if the smell is barely detectable. Too much sun. Major changes in weather or altitude. And the biggie…stress. Many of these things I have little to no control over except to control my attitude or to remove myself from a situation.
Sometimes I go lengthy periods of time with no trace of headache and convince myself that I don’t really suffer from migraines. Then there are those seasons when one strikes and God uses it to teach me important lessons.
“Gonna be ready for a walk before the sun gets too hot?” Scott asked. I pulled the covers over my head and grunted some unintelligible reply. My head was pounding again and even though I WANTED to walk, I wasn’t sure my head would cooperate. For the past few days I had been battling the onset of a migraine and this morning it had hit in full force. I hadn’t refilled my migraine medication prescription because, well, I hadn’t really thought I needed to. (You know…because I don’t really have migraines…)
I pulled the covers back down.
The sweet sing-song voice of my almost one-year-old grandson was unmistakable. He and his siblings, along with their parents, had moved in with us several weeks prior and I was still getting used to the sound of toddlers on Saturday mornings. I cautiously sat up, then put my head in my hands and grunted at the pain and nausea the movement caused. But T-Bear’s hugs were the best and worth the head pain getting up might cause. Moving slower than usual, I put on my threadbare bathrobe and went in search of the boy with chubby cheeks and a smile that makes me squeal.
I found him in the kitchen, keeping his exhausted mom busy as he toddled from cupboard to cupboard seeking whatever he wasn’t supposed to get into.
“How about if dad and I put him in the stroller and take him for a walk with us?” I picked Theo up, and he lay his head on my shoulder. Best hugs indeed.
“If you’re sure.” My daughter’s relief was in her voice if not her words.
Soon Scott and I were headed out on our familiar trail, the crisp September breeze countering any persuasive attempts from the sun to remove our fleece jackets. When we returned home an hour later, I noticed that my head was no longer throbbing; the dizziness and nausea were replaced with a renewed spirit. Determined to get some writing done while I was feeling better, I took a quick shower and closeted myself in my bedroom where it would be somewhat quiet. It wasn’t long before the throbbing returned.
Then came the proverbial lightbulb.
When my daughter, son-in-law and grandkids moved in with us, we told them only 2 rooms in the house were off-limits. The craft room (because it is so full of…stuff…), and mine and Scott’s bedroom. We kept the doors to those rooms closed all the time so the Adorable Littles wouldn’t wander in.
Lately the windows were closed as well because though it was still warm in the afternoons, the weather was sliding into colder temperatures in the evenings.
And lately I was spending a lot of time in my bedroom.
Where Scott had recently used a rented steam cleaner on our old carpet.
Which meant cleaning chemical residual in a closed off room.
The worse I felt, the more I just wanted to lay around, to be away from the noise and chaos.
So there I was, shut in a room with no ventilation, with the very thing that was likely causing the headache in the first place.
But I had been feeling too miserable for it to even dawn on me.
Once that lightbulb came on, I opened all three bedroom windows, as well as the door. For the next week we kept the windows open, used a children’s gate to keep the door open during the day, and completely aired out the room.
Even though I woke up each morning shivering, with a Rudolf-red nose despite extra blankets to burrow under, the head pain disappeared. The migraine was thwarted. Life was good again!
And of course I got to thinking how I can be just like that with my spiritual and mental health. When I’m struggling with something, my tendency is to pull away from others. I suspect much of it has to do with the sin of pride; I like to be the encourager, the counselor, the helper, the healthy one…NOT the one in need. So I hide when I’m hurting or struggling or sick.
Just a little bit at first.
Maybe slip on a happy face mask to cover some exhaustion, a bit of depression.
But then I start hiding, not wanting to be around others.
Before long, I’ve sealed myself off, locked myself in.
And all too soon I’m like a dying old woman, alone, in a cheap hospice room, where sadness and depression drip through IV tubes; and the air is filled with nothing but the scent of my own putrid and poisonous thoughts. I’m too weak to fight for the joy that was as natural as breathing itself.
Still, I want to live.
So I crawl over and open a window.
Just a crack.
“I think I’ve lost my joy,” I whisper to a friend.
And so the discussion begins.
And so the window is opened a tad wider.
A faint breeze rushes in; autumn is in the air, the scent of cinnamon and pumpkin and change and possibility bring new life.
And I’m brave enough to share again, to let words out.
And others share in return, encouraging and cheering, and lifting, and crying, and laughing, and praying.
encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone 1 Thessalonians 5:13 NASB
Then suddenly the door is thrown wide open.
Laughter and giggles down the hallway.
Healing words both taken in and released.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NASB
Birds chatter outside my window.
I rip out the feeding tubes; I hunger for that which I can taste.
A fuller-ness of joy.
There’s still much to be worked out, to be worked through.
We’ve got this.
With hearts knit together.
The Bible places a great emphasis on encouraging one another. We live in a world full of grief, and sorrow, and difficult times. Even here in America where comparatively we have things pretty comfortable, struggles are real. It can be easy to lose faith, to grow weary. Perhaps that is why we are told over and over again in Scripture to comfort, console, encourage and lift each other up.
We make it difficult for others to do that for us when we go into seclusion, when we hide, or when we put on masks and pretend everything is okay. That just leaves us alone with what can be potentially fatal struggles…fatal to our faith and hope and peace and joy.
I’m gonna remind you (and me) today that sometimes it’s okay to admit everything’s not okay.
We should be wise and discerning about when/how/with whom we share of course, but I’m learning to not distance myself from others when I’m going through a difficult time. How about you?
Sometimes there is nothing sweeter – or more healing – than the counsel of precious friends.
(This photo was taken at Rocky Mountain Wildlife Refuge while on a therapeutic walking and talking session with the HH 🙂 )
Grateful for this messy, abundant life,
Marie with a 🙂