Category Archives: Connection

So not self-helpful…

I think I may have PTSD when it comes to self-help books, books on migraines, or generally any written device intended to explain to me how to make my current state in life better.

I have been trying to unwrap why I loathe self-help lately and I have hit upon a theory. It’s a relatively new theory so bear with me but here we go.

Ours is a society of the quick fix. If we have a cold and can’t sleep we take NyQuil. If we have a cold and need to go to work we take DayQuil. What we don’t do is rest long enough for our bodies to battle the cold on their own.

Due to our quick fix mentality we have a tendency to offer solutions to the people in our lives who express problems. We rarely actually commiserate. It’s not because we don’t feel sympathy or even empathy for them, but our language of caring has morphed over time from listening and empathizing to offering solutions.

As a migraine sufferer I have had a lot of experience on the receiving end of solutions. It doesn’t bother me from friends or family but it’s the complete strangers that make me crazy. Usually when I meet someone and they find out I have migraines I get asked my entire medical history by someone without a medical degree because their fourth cousin once removed has migraines and maybe they can mention something my nationally recognized neurologist hasn’t thought of yet. It is exhausting and not a way I want to spend one of the rare times I actually leave my house to go out into the world.

I think this is why I hate self-help mechanisms. Rather than listening to each other, talking about our feelings, and creating deep, strong bonds of friendship we are offering other people’s takes on our interpretations of someone else’s problem.

Meet someone at a party going through a divorce? Offer them this book. Got a brother with MS? Here’s a book on how one person worked through their experience with it. Children being… children? Here’s a book on how to parent in a way the person who wrote the book likes most.

Now I am not saying seeking self-help is a bad thing. Personally, if you want to read books on parenting, relationships, investing, whatever medical diseases you may have, and that helps you handle life, go for it with my blessing! There is nothing wrong in my mind about seeking out information.

What upsets me is offering these unsolicited solutions to others in lieu of care.

I get it, caring is hard. It’s time consuming, it takes real listening and empathizing to truly succeed at it and none of us have the time or the energy.

Is that last part true though? Would we find consoling someone less tiring if we did it more often? Could it be we are out of practice and therefore it seems more tiring and time consuming then it truly is?

Here’s my truth: My best memories are from times when I opened up my mind and heart and joined someone in their hardships. Really joined them. Crawled down into the hole they were stuck in and sat with them for a while. I have been blessed enough to build truly amazing relationships with people because I was simply sitting with them and listening when they were having a hard day.

Sometimes the way to be the most helpful is to offer no help whatsoever.

Misery loves company…

I met another migraine sufferer last night and he and I spent a few hours discussing various symptoms, treatments, and attitudes about migraines.

It was wonderful.

It puts me in an odd place to feel happiness at learning someone else is going through this. I recognize it’s not that I would wish this on anyone so much as it is having the opportunity to discuss my situation with someone who truly understands it. Talking triptans and DHE derivatives and triggers with anyone who doesn’t have migraines doesn’t seem like a good plan.

Truthfully, discussing migraines with people who don’t have migraines isn’t usually a good plan. I either get the infamous “Have you tried…” or I get “Wow. How do you do it? I couldn’t do that.” The former is something I sit through because everyone means well and is trying to help. The latter just makes me feel badly. I’m no superhero. I do it because the other option is to die.

I don’t want to die.

So having a discussion with another person who understands aura and triggers and the crazy side effects of all the weird medications they try on you is awesome, even though a part of me feels like a bad person for celebrating that another person has this too!

It just goes to show you that misery truly does love company. It’s so nice to find another person who feels your pain.

Celebrating the fourth…

I had intended to take the children to see the fireworks display down by Elitch Gardens. I had the three top spots all mapped out and planned to create a dessert picnic with glowing arm bands and pop-its and everything. They were excited. I was excited.

Then about an hour and a half until we were supposed to leave, as I was preparing dinner, my headache went from it’s normal manageable state of background noise to it’s angry roommate screaming in your face setting. Impossible to ignore and work around. My spirits plummeted.

I went to lie down and took some medication. It didn’t get any better. I tried to stay calm and relaxed but the unfairness of it all just hit me all at once and before I knew it I was sobbing. Then it really didn’t get better. Dan came upstairs and offered to drive me and the kids to the fireworks display even though it meant another night of less than six hours of sleep. That calmed me down. I told him no. I reminded him that managing my disappointment when this happens is part of having an intractable migraine.

I came downstairs and told the children we would have to stay home. They both threw their arms around me and said it would be better this way. Then Marlena went with Dan to get some fireworks for the house and Oliver helped me make dinner. He chatted and smiled the whole time. When Marlena returned home she triumphantly showed off the fountains, sparklers, and other ‘splody devices they had picked up.

Neither of them were disappointed. They enjoyed the food and the home sized fireworks display. We lit sparklers and fountains, snakes and smoke bombs. We stood back in the alley and watched them light up the night. Neighbors across the way cheered at our little fireworks display. This was the first time my kids had sparklers and fireworks at home so a night that looked as though it was going to be ruined was actually wonderfully memorable.

It was all ok. Despite my constant and inconvenient shadow, we had a lovely and close-knit fourth of July.