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Monday, January 31, 2005

Test of Gold

My brother cuts hair. He's a barber. But, he's so good that alot of women go to him, also, including me.

I haven't been able to leave the house for months, except for during my emergency runs to the doctors or hospital and my hair's been getting pretty shaggy. I think I've mentioned before that where I live is really out of the way. It actually reminds me of that place in O Brother Where art thou? (One of my favorite movies.), where George Clooney's character says, "Well, ain't this a geographical oddity? Two days from everywhere!" Well, we're not quite that far, but I'd say that 2 hours from everywhere is about accurate. lol

Anyway, he came up with his kids for a short visit, and more specifically to give me a haircut. It was really sweet of him. So, he's cutting my hair, right? And, suddenly, just moving my hair began a migraine. I mean, isn't that unreal? He touched a sensitive area with the razor and sent me into horrible pain. I felt like a baby, when I told him that we needed to stop the hair cut for a few minutes, while I got over the initial shock of the pain. By the end of the haircut, I was nauseaus and needing medication for the pain. I couldn't believe it! I just can't do anything!

The simple things, the little things that you take for granted are so freakin' difficult when you suffer with chronic pain. And I feel like a big baby. And worse, I feel like others look at me and think, "Why is she complaining? She doesn't look sick. She doesn't look like she's in pain. What a hypochondriac!" I have seen it when people have rolled their eyes while I'm telling them about how much pain I'm in. And by "people" I mean people in the medical field, because, these days,
they're the only people I see. I'm really fortunate right now to have a compassionate GP's office staff, but I hate it when I have to go to the hospital ER, because that's the response I get. Like I have nothing better to do with my life than hang out in the emergency room.

William Shakespeare got it right when he wrote this stanza in A Comedy of Errors, Act 2:

A wretched soul,
bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much, or more, we should ourselves complain.

And you know, it's true. I think about that sometimes. I am tough as a marine chewing nails. People have no idea the kind of pain a migraneur is in. And worse is when I have a cluster headache on top of a migraine. I'll give you an idea of what a cluster is like. Imagine your typical bad headache and multiply that by about 50 and you'll have a typical migraine. Now, imagine a bad migraine and multiply that by 100 and you'll have the kind of pain you get when you have a cluster. Now, imagine that it comes on suddenly, without warning, at full blast. You don't get to work your way up to a pain level 9 or 10. As soon as you get it, you're at a 9. And you have to endure that for up to 3 hours and the pain level doesn't decrease and it doesn't let up at all. Now, imagine having to have that kind of pain on top of a migraine. That's what I get about every month or so. I was getting it alot more often last year, but for whatever reason it's gotten better or into a different cycle or something. Thank God.

"Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of men." Seneca (c. 3 B.C.–A.D.65)

The most difficult thing for a chronic pain sufferer, in my opinion, is to practice compassion toward others who don't know the meaning of pain. For instance, my daughter scraped her knee at school and probably a couple spots of blood showed up on her boo-boo. You know how it is. And, being a kid, it was a big deal to her and she had to tell me all about it. Now, because she's my daughter, it's easier to practice compassion and say comforting things to her about it. But, in
my head I'm thinking, Big deal. Mean, huh? Well, it's even harder to be compassionate to other adults who talk about their pain. I mean, I'm sorry that you have a sinus infection, but, Baby, that ain't even a drop in the bucket! I'm sorry that the remodel on your house is taking so long. I'm sorry that your ex-husband is a bastard and won't pick up the kids this weekend so that you can have a break from kids.

This is where your mettle is really tested as far as compassion is concerned. When you can listen to someone bitch about their little problems and still feel empathy for them, and are able to love enough to listen, realizing that each person searches for happiness, and, so for them, this is real pain in their lives. That's how you know you are practicing compassion. It's really hard to do.

It's much easier to be compassionate toward people like the Tsunami victims who've really, truly lost important treasures (ie loved ones, parents, siblings, homes, memories). It's much easier to be compassionate toward the Iraqi's who've suffered under torture and tyrany for five decades. It's easy to practice compassion toward these kinds of people. But, that is part of the test we go through to become more enlightened and loving.

"Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. " Ryszard Kapuscinski (b. 1932), Polish journalist.

Until you lose something, suffer physically and have to endure humiliation, I don't believe you can ever, truly attain fullness of compassion. Oh, you can have sympathy or even empathy, but compassion, being able to respond appropriately with love to what another person is sufferring is impossible unless you have suffered and lost yourself. Each one of us is searching for happiness and searching for freedom from suffering. This is why suffering and pain are so subjective.

Migraneurs suffer continually, not just the physical pain and the humiliation of being ridiculed by others, but also constant defeat. The defeat comes from having to try a drug and find it doesn't work for your pain, so then you have to try another and another. Or having to go from one incompetent doctor to another until you finally find one that understands and is willing to do some actual work to help you feel better. It is a constant uphill struggle. You are rowing against the currents.

This is why we are so tough. We don't give up. Most people would give up after a little bit of struggle. I think that the spiritual ancestor of migraneurs is Abraham Lincoln who failed more times than I can count in starting businesses and in running for political office. He should be the patron saint of Migraneurs everywhere. lol

Herman Melville is quoted as saying, "He knows himself, and all that’s in him, who knows adversity." Good or bad, we come to know ourselves when we are forced through the fires of adversity. Pray we come out like gold, tough and beautiful.

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