When I was in the middle of a particularly bad situation, I scoured the Internet looking for something like this...something that would tell me I wasn't alone - that there is hope, and that things will get better. Now that I am working my way to the other side of that pain, I realized that I can be that "someone" for another person. So whatever you Googled out of desperation that brought you here, I hope you will be encouraged. And please feel free to contact me if you want to talk more.
Before I was 28 years old, I had never had a migraine headache.
Okay, I take that back. I had one. That was the day I decided to give up caffeine cold turkey [and at the time, I was consuming most of my liquids in caffeinated form]. Silly girl.
But other than that unfortunate day, my headaches were by and large annoyances that were easily controlled and kept at bay by Tylenol. Not that I was normally afflicted by headaches – I had about as many as your average person, usually during allergy season.
All that changed when I was going through a very stressful situation at my last church. I’m not going to rehash all that happened – those of you who have been following my life for awhile know the jist. Suffice it to say that I all of a sudden started to get major migraine headaches. We’re talking “hurts to move; break out into sobs because I hear the dog running across the floor and the sound of her nails clacking against the hardwood floors was too much; and then crying because it hurt my head to cry” kind of pain.
I am not one of those people who labels every headache a migraine [I have no patience for people who do that!] – so when I say it’s that bad, it’s bad.
And I started to notice a correlation between stressful situations and migraines. They came more frequently as my time at that church was ending. My last night there was a Wednesday night. I woke up that Thursday morning completely elated that I no longer had to deal with that den of dysfunction, but by that afternoon, exhaustion engulfed me. It was like the recovery period from a thousand migraines…the tiredness minus the pain…all hit me at once. I came home from work and slept. I woke up, ate, took the dog out, and slept some more. I woke up briefly and went back to sleep. It was at that point that I realized just how damaged I was.
A few months after moving, I ran into some old friends from that church, who said, “Wow – you don’t have dark circles under your eyes anymore!” When I smiled, my whole face smiled again – not just my lips. And…no more migraines.
What’s weird, though, is that they’ve started again. I had another nasty one this morning. And I realized that they always seem to come after something stupid has happened. Now…my current church is nothing like my last one. In any way, shape, or form. I am supported here. I am loved and respected. But people are still people, and, as such, they are not perfect.
I am starting to think that my body’s “fight or flight” response is starting to kick in – just like a body that is going into starvation mode when it doesn’t get enough calories, it doesn’t know that things aren’t really that bad. All it feels is me starting to tense up and get stressed out [even if it's minor!]. And it triggers something.
On the plus side, I haven’t experienced a panic attack in quite awhile. That was another fun physical manifestation of the stress I was under before. I can also stomach actual foods – not just coffee and Diet Pepsi, which is pretty much what I subsisted on for the entire summer of 2005 – my stomach was that tied in knots.
When I start to despair and wonder if my therapy is actually doing any good, I look at myself and see how far I’ve come. Besides the fact that when I smile, I am really smiling, I haven’t bought concealer [to hide the dark circles] in almost four years. I may have put on some weight – we’ve been hitting the junk food a little too hard in our house lately - but I have no problem eating actual meals now.
I may stress out too much and worry over insignificant things, but not to the point of having a panic attack. When I am upset because of an issue at church [to my fellow ministry people - that NEVER happens, does it?], I vent my frustrations – sometimes yell and scream, but I haven’t curled up in a ball, paralyzed by fear and frustration – or the other extreme, gotten violently angry to the point of screaming and throwing things across the room.
This is probably the most honest I have been on this blog about the “me” I became during that time in my life. It really was that bad. To me, it was normal. That was the way ministry was supposed to be, because I hadn’t known any different.
It comes to mind today because, just as the Advil Migraine was kicking in this morning, I read a friend’s Facebook comment asking people to pray for her because she and her husband are under attack in their ministry, and just want to make sure they’re staying in God’s will. I replied back to her [she knows a little bit of what my husband and I went through, but not nearly all of it], “Spiritual abuse is NEVER God’s will. I always used to wish that someone outside my situation would tell me to get the heck out, so I am going to be that person for you today. Get the heck out!”
Just by saying that, I realized how far I have come in four years. Even though I feel like I will never be healed and that I still have so far to go, I know that I have made progress. My wings are still sore, but they’re not broken. I can even fly a little bit!
As my mom would sing [I don't know where she learned this, but it's a stinkin' awesome song!], “We’re all messed up, but that’s okay – Jesus is gonna heal us anyway!”
Selah and amen.