Friday, June 13, 2008

The Gift of Pain

So, I was reading a book that I kept flinging against the nearest wall. I would pick up the book off the floor and read some more until the book would go airborne once again.

As I made my way through the book, The Gift of Pain, I was more than a little bothered at what I was reading. The book asked me to believe in the impossible: that pain is a gift.

Eventually, I came to understand the premise of why the authors viewed pain as a gift. One of the authors, Dr. Paul Brand, worked with people with leprosy (in India and in the U.S.) for most of his life. He discovered that a big reason people who have leprosy have deformities are because they lack one important thing: the ability to feel pain.

A person who has leprosy may put her hand on a stove and not retract it because she does not feel it to be painful with an obvious result of possible severe burns. Dr. Brand discovered that people with leprosy often did not tend to wounds because they were not painful and infection would develop. The examples go on and on where pain would normally protect the body, and its absence caused injury/disease/amputation/death.

After working for five decades with people with leprosy, it is an understatement to say that Dr. Brand developed an appreciation for pain. For him, pain is good, a gift even.

I understand Dr. Brand's perspective. However, one of the main reasons my copy of his book kept hitting the wall with force was because my migraine pain, my New Daily Persistent Headache pain did not seem to fit into his understanding of pain. My pain does not tell me that something is wrong. It just exists.

How could I ever see my pain as a gift? I have many reasons why my migraine pain, my NDPH pain is a burden. I have not been able to work for the last two and a half years. My friendships have suffered. I am homebound much of the time. I miss out on activities I used to do. The list goes on.

But, I could not dismiss the book. I felt the challenge to discover reasons why my pain is a gift. And, I did, but perhaps not in the sense Dr. Brand or his coauthor were suggesting.

Through things I have lost, there are things I have gained. It is hard to put into so many words all the things I have gained as a result of my pain. A lot of what I have gained are moments of enlightenment. I learned things about myself, such as I needed more of a balance in my life instead of pushing myself to the limit. I learned to stop caring what others thought of me. If I had to go to a store with side effects of medications making me incoherent, I had to let go of what people might think when they saw me and/or talked to me. These experiences brought me freedom.

I found how I could be there for others in a different way than I had in the past. I could participate in my support network in the forums at MyMigraineConnection. I discovered my new "job" of praying for others. I used to pray for people, but never had the time to truly devote to everyone in my life. My compassion for others has greatly increased. Having to "detox" off of pain medications that had induced Medication Overuse Headache gave me compassion for others in similar situations. Having to drive cautiously and slowly because my preventatives have slowed my brain down gave me patience for the car in front of me who is driving slow.

Most importantly, this disease has solidified my relationship with my DH. We were engaged just ten days when my migraines and NDPH started. We have had to walk through the fire, but it has refined us. I believe that we have a closer relationship now then we ever would have had if we had not had to deal with all these obstacles so early in our engagement and in our marriage.

Dr. Brand and his coauthor, Phillip Yancey wrote in The Gift of Pain, "Gratitude is the single response most nourishing to health." The reality of how the pain has affected and changed my life is sometimes difficult to swallow. But, I feel challenged to continue to find how to be thankful through and despite my pain.

Here I am

Hello blogging world.

I am not exactly sure what I am going to share or how I'm going to share it. But, I am excited, none-the-less, to send my thoughts out there and see where they go.

My blogs will probably hover around the topic of how Migraine disease and New Daily Persistent Headache affect my life as well as how my faith in Jesus affects my perspective on those.

I am looking forward to sharing, learning and discovering.