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.

In Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Yalom argues that instillation of hope is one of eleven therapeutic factor that effects change in group members. Hope, or lack there of, has played a prominent role in my own experience in the last years. With each new specialist, medication, or intervention, my feeling of hope ranged from unadulterated conviction that I would get better this time to me, feeling terrified of hoping that this would make a difference when all the others failed.
My varying feelings of hope remind me of a roller coaster I rode as a youngster. I slowly climb the ramp believing this medicine or intervention will reduce the frequency and intensity of the migraine. Few times have I not felt the dizzying, stomach lurching descent back to the realization that for whatever reason, the intervention failed to improve my quality of life. I have grown leery and scared of the climb. I am terrified of taking that the leap of faith that this new intervention will make a difference.  

Yesterday as I lay in bed, my hands pushing on my pulsing skull that felt like it would explode from the pressure, I reminded myself repeatedly of the Buddhist belief that whatever arises will also pass away. Observation of the impermanent nature of my migraines, the pain, and the intense nausea pulled me through an otherwise horrible experience. I am learning that I may not be able to readily hope in new interventions, but I am learning to hope that regardless, I will be ok. Although I felt hopeless and helpless yesterday, I realized that the pain was not unrelenting though it certainly seemed like it. I observed that the pain did ebb and flow ever so slightly. I started to understand emotionally--not just intellectually that the pain and nausea would pass.

I am slowly learning to hope in myself and make the leap of faith that I will endure and carve some place for myself in the counseling world. I fear that my dream of being a counselor working with people diagnosed with serious mental illness may not come to pass. I completed several credits towards a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling. And although I was unable to finish the classes I took in the spring, and have not been able to take classes this summer or fall,  I will find a way to help people with serious mental illness. I do not know what capacity I might have in the future, but I am coming to hope and believe that I will find some way to realize a portion of my dream.


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