Today I awoke with a piercing pain on the right side of my forehead, just above and slightly behind my right eye. I awoke to that, plus nausea. I immediately thought to myself “CRAP.” I had the sinking feeling I might be in for a migraine attack. Fear rose and I deliberated between muscling through the day or making the calls to cancel appointments and clients.
As soon as I stood up to go to the bathroom and drink some water I knew it: this one was for real. Sometimes I wake up with a mini-migraine that subsides after going through morning rituals of drinking water and moving around. The quality of pain is different than that of the full on migraine attack. The migraine attack includes the piercing pain traveling down the back of my skull to the top of my neck, that metallic taste in my mouth, and the nausea. These things signal it’s time to slow down and take care.
And what I’m learning, is that these migraines require time and patience. I’ve gotten to know them, to understand the ebbs and flows, the build up to peak pain and nausea, and then the slow descent back to feeling like myself again. Where I notice things like how blue the sky is, how wonderful it feels to move around, and how delicious food tastes.
To provide some background, for the last year I was on a clinical trial drug where I received a monthly injection to prevent migraines. Doubtful as I was, the trial worked and I was nearly migraine free for an entire year. When I say it changed my life, I really mean it. Long gone were the days of regularly canceling work and social events. And the PediaLite that sat in the back of my fridge for nearly a year finally got tossed out as I no longer needed it.
To wake up with this piercing migraine today triggered fear that “the migraines are returning.” I really don’t want to return to the way I was living my life where I would be out of commission for 2-3 days at a time 3-4 times per month. The only places I visited were the couch, the bathroom, and my bed while waiting for the migraine to pass. Needless to say it was a big lesson in impermanence: I constantly reminded myself “this too shall pass.”
As I venture into this new chapter of my experience with migraines, I am vowing to be gentler with myself. I wonder: What can I learn? How can I move more slowly? How can I take better care of myself? This process is sweet, soothing, and softening. Even just by taking this new perspective, I feel more at ease.
I spent an hour this afternoon lying on my floor supported by two bolsters and covered by a cozy white blanket with gongs playing in the background. I was transported out of the pain state. Even though the migraine didn’t totally disappear, the pain lessened and I felt more relaxed.
I felt grateful to surrender to the process of migraine and at the same time to take accountability for my own self healing. After giving myself this mini gong bath, my faith that “everything would be ok” was fully restored.
I love being surprised by what fills me up inside, by what makes me feel lifted.
On Tuesday I felt drained by 11:30am after a full morning of teaching that started at 6am. I felt off and short of breath for all of my classes and had many moments of “what the f*ck am I doing?” and dreams of days off, massages, and other things I could do to fix this feeling.
I had a new client Tuesday afternoon: a couple in need of yoga as part of their physical rehabilitation program. I had a description of the clients’ cases and understood it would be a challenge. This case turned out to be one of the biggest challenges of my yoga teaching career. I had to really stay close to my center. Stabilize. Breathe. Be strong AND soft. And trust myself. Big time.
I walked away from the session feeling a deep desire to help the couple get stronger and heal. And when I did my own practice Tuesday night I felt a fullness that wasn’t there before. I felt a renewed sense of trust and belief in myself.
So it wasn’t a massage, or a day off that I needed to fill me up. Instead it was an opportunity that asked me to fully rise to the occasion.
It’s true what they say: we rise by lifting others.