I'm going to get a little serious here...if you want to read one of my super happy blog posts where I talk about how much I love rainbows and butterflies and puppies, I suggest you skip this one and maybe reread "Seasonal Santosha" (which will definitely make you feel better on this gloomy winter day).
I usually like to be a Polly-Positive (as opposed to a Debbie-Downer), but sometimes life is hard, and ignoring those times in this blog just doesn't feel like the honest thing to do. So, I'm going to write this post about a topic I try not to talk about too much...about my struggle with living with a chronic illness, and how yoga has helped me along the way.
I have chronic migraines. What does that mean? While there are some people who get migraines a few times a year, or for many women once a month based on hormonal changes, I rarely experience a completely symptom-free day. That's right....I get migraines pretty much every day.
So what are these migraines like? First there's the prodrome - I can always tell a migraine's coming when I get really exhausted and angry for no reason. Also, I'll have issues speaking, to the point where I'll sometimes stop using words and start pantomiming without realizing that I'm doing it. And I often get a terrible stomach ache too...no fun at all.
Then there's the aura - I get blank spots in my vision like someone smudged things with an eraser, and little floating amoeba shapes in my vision too. And things look distorted, sort of like I'm looking at the world through really old handmade window glass...this can make driving pretty difficult, and working on my art downright impossible. I'll also smell imaginary smells (usually onions which is kind of weird) and my hands will go numb - I'll drop things left and right and sometimes can't even hold a fork right to eat (or a pencil to draw).
Then the fun begins with the headache phase - the pain is hard to describe. It usually starts behind my left eye and spreads outward until it feels like I have a headache/ear infection/sinus infection/toothache. The pain can be dull and throbbing at it's best...at it's worst it feels like someone's trying to pull my left eye out of my skull. And then there's the "ice pick headaches" - random jolts of pain where it feels like someone's trying to drive an ice pick through part of my skull.
The headache pain is usually accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound (to the point where I wish I could wear sunglasses and earplugs inside in a dark quiet room), nasal congestion, major dehydration, and a complete inability to regulate my body temperature....one minute I'll be so cold I have goosebumps, the next I'll be sweating.
Finally, there's the postdrome - during the "migraine hangover" phase I feel slow and tired and dumb...the simplest task can seem impossible. I unfortunately have a huge number of migraine triggers, which means that by the time I hit the postdrome phase I'm usually already transitioning into the prodrome of the next migraine.
I know what some of you must be thinking - "But you don't look sick...if this is really what you're going through all the time, why haven't we seen it?" The answer is simple...I try really freaking hard to keep my act together and at least appear to go through life like a normal healthy human being. There are some people with chronic illnesses who act like complete victims...I choose not to be a complainy-pants. It's bad enough that I'm suffering on a regular basis, I don't want to make my friends and family suffer too.
Where does my yoga practice fit into all of this? In my first ever blog post, I wrote about a period in my life when I spent 6 or more hours a week attending classes at an amazing yoga studio, and how much I miss those days. One of the things I miss most is that during that period my migraines got a heck of a lot better. It astounded me that pranayama and asana and meditation could alleviate my suffering when multiple neurologists and dozens of prescription drugs were unable to help me.
So that's why yoga is so important to me, why I'm trying so hard to develop a regular home practice. Someday I hope to return to attending several yoga classes a week, but in the mean time, I need to focus on healing myself at home.
P.S. If you read this far, thank you...it means the world to me. I promise my next post will be astonishingly cheerful :)