"Think Positive"

In the first class I took towards a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, the teacher spoke to us about how counselors should not give advice to clients because, amongst other reasons, it is not helpful. This was a statement that has been repeated many times during my education. Instead a counselor should attempt to see the world through the client’s eyes and use empathy to convey understanding. In giving advice, the counselor would be leading the client to think that the counselor is an expert who knows how to solve the client’s problems better than he does. Instead the client should be seen as someone who is an expert on his life who can solve his own problems with assistance. The counselor may help the client explore other options and possible consequences, but the client holds the ability and responsibility in making his own decisions.

Having chronic illness has given me many lessons concerning how it feels to be given advice. When I tell people I have frequent migraine attacks that prevent me from working, many people give well meaning advice about methods I might use to stop the migraine attacks. Many include possible treatments, supplements, et cetera. I appreciate these sorts of advice giving because although my doctors and I have tried a wide variety of treatments, I know there are many I do not know of that I can try. I am willing to try most anything.

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Letting go

One of the many things I do most days to keep my head above water is listen to a dharma talk, a talk given by a Buddhist teacher. As I listened to one given by Annie Nugent this morning, I realized how much energy I have been expending the last 3 and a half years trying to keep myself from falling apart at the seams. Of course, I have been aware of the constant fight, but the totality of the effort struck me this morning.

I fight the pull of giving up and losing hope that I will get better. I fight to remain positive though few of the interventions my doctors and I have tried have resulted in any relief. I am exhausted mentally, and I am so tired of trying to get better. I am tired of being isolated because I cannot leave the house more than once or twice a week. The activity, noise, light, and smells that accompany leaving the house frequently trigger a migraine attack. I realize that it is not the case that the migraine attacks have only had negative effects on my life. Being unable to function normally has given me the time to read so many books that will help me as a counselor, but I am fed up with trying to feel positive. I am sick of trying to muster up excitement when I have small improvements such as thirteen instead of fifteen migraines a month.

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In February 2007, I began experiencing migraine attacks twice a month. Since that time the frequency has increased up to thirteen to fifteen a month. Since February 2007, I have been under the care of various migraine specialists. I have tried several preventative medications, attended physical rehabilitation twice, been trained in two forms of biofeedback, have begun daily relaxation and meditation practice, changed my diet, and entered an intensive outpatient program for migraine patients for 10 days at a clinic 4 hours away from my home. I have only begun to see improvement in my symptoms since June when I attended the multidisciplinary intensive outpatient program, though I still had thirteen migraines in August.

My ability to function has decreased since I began experiencing the migraine attacks. Between February 2007 and February 2008, I left two jobs because the attacks prevented me from completing job duties and, many times, going to work at all. After each job, I assumed that by leaving the emotional and environmentally stressful situations, the migraine attacks would decrease in frequency. (By environmental stress I refer factors that can trigger migraines such as light, noise, and smells.) The frequency of attacks did not decrease when I left these jobs.

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Finding Hope

Went on an unplanned trip to Migraineland yesterday. Over the last three and a half years, I have experienced an increase of migraine attacks from a few a month to fifteen a month. Few interventions have resulted in a reduction in the number and intensity of the migraine attacks I experience. For the last six months, I have had migraine attacks three to four times a week. Thankfully most respond to medication and allow me to bypass the intense pain and leave me to sit with the other neurological symptoms of migraine attacks such as fatigue, confusion, clumsiness, noise sensitivity, and light sensitivity.  About once every week or two, I have a migraine attack that does not respond to the medication and slowly the pain and nausea ramps up to a level 10 on a scale of 1-10.  Unfortunately yesterday the migraine attack followed the latter path.

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