Daddy's Time - A Migraine Patient's 30 Days of Gratitude

  • Migraine diagnosis can be a tricky thing. In decades past, many patients with headache symptoms were told they had sinus headaches, when we've learned now they actually had Migraine.

     

    Migraine is a spectrum disease. Some patients have one or two attacks a year and get by with acetaminophen. They may not even have to take time off work. Other patients are disabled, every day living with pain that most people can't even begin to wrap their minds around. Both ends of the spectrum are suffering Migraine, but it's easier to diagnose when the symptoms are severe and clearly follow the ICHD-3 "rules."

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    My father is a retired state policeman. An easy description of our life was - difficult. Dad worked day shift for a month or so, then swing shift, then night shift. Then the pattern began again. This meant he spent most of his time sleeping during the day, his circadian rhythm was completely ruined, and sleep deprivation meant he was rarely a very happy guy. It must be hard to be happy when your job is looking for the worst in everyone around you. So, this was tough when we were little.

     

    Luckily for us, we were poor. This meant vacation for us was the yearly hunting trip our family depended on to survive until the next hunting season. Living in Oregon meant we could get by with little money by living literally off the land. For me, comfort food is seafood, river caught fish, crawdads, wild game and the things we picked in the woods to accompany it. These things bring memories of time with my family on the beach, the docks, and my beloved forest.

     

    From my earliest memories, Dad brought me hunting with him. The rule was, I had to always be behind him for safety, and I had to be quiet. He taught me how to walk silently through the forest, and I learned to be very aware of my surroundings, because you never knew when the next step might bring a deer, elk or other animal into view.

     

    I was about six years old the day my dad shot a deer in my presence. What happened afterwards, changed his perspective of me forever.

     

    I had always told him I wanted to be a vet. But lots of kids say that. Despite my tomboy passions of playing football, climbing trees and playing with snakes, he assumed I was one of those soft little girlie girls because I loved animals so passionately. He knew being a vet meant being tough, inside and out. It meant looking at, smelling and touching things that most people couldn't stand to be near. It meant being in charge of life, and of death, and understanding how and why both were necessary as well as how to make sure both happened respectfully.

     

    That day, my dad and I were together, and it was time to field dress the deer. For those non-outdoorsy people, this means gutting the deer so that we could drag it to the truck and prepare it for hanging and butchering so we had food to eat through the winter. Dad asked me if I wanted to watch him, and I was soooo excited! He was far from convinced, but was going to prove a point. He really thought that getting the knife out would be the end of the story.

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    He was wrong.

     

    That was the day I learned about all the things that were inside our bodies. Stop now if you're easily grossed out...

     

    Dad let me help him. Not only did he answer every question I had, but in detail. He let me feel what the organs, bones and joints felt like so I could better understand how they all fit together and worked to keep the deer alive. We talked about how they worked, what their jobs were, and that people's organs and internal parts looked almost exactly the same. I easily understood how what I was seeing, translated to people.

     

    I never forgot that day. It was one of the best days I ever had with my pops.

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    This week is my father's birthday. I've missed a lot of those since moving away. There's a lot of things he doesn't understand about me and my life with chronic illness. He doesn't understand Migraine, although I suspect the recurrent and really bad "sinus headaches" he was diagnosed with in the Air Force are most likely Migraines. He says that, since they aren't as bad and disabling as mine, they aren't Migraines. He hangs on to that diagnosis made so many years ago, that we didn't even really know what Migraines were.

     

    That's his choice. So long as it doesn't put his life in jeopardy, I try to keep my mouth shut. He laughs at me anyway, so it's pointless. The last time we talked about Migraines and chronic illness, and my job as an advocate and educator, he laughed aloud and told me "Nobody's gonna listen to you - you're not a doctor."

     

    "Ouch"

     

    My dad gave me some of the most important moments of my life, including an appreciation of how magnificent our bodies are, and the importance of respecting that each moment. If it wasn't for that day, I don't know if I'd be where I am today, writing to you about deer, guts, and Migraines, lol. We'll always disagree about some things, including this disease that changed me from a vibrant, active and athletic person into someone just trying each day to survive. That's okay.

     

    Today, on day #17, I'm thankful for the gift my dad gave me on that mountain when I was a little girl, trailing behind him on the forest hillside. The things I learned between the trees on a bed of pine needles, paid off all through school during health class (which I totally rocked!) but forever after as well. I grew up thinking I would be working with healthy animals, and ended up working with chronically ill people. It's unexpected, but I don't regret a single second.

     

    Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the ways I cope with being disabled by my Migraines. Teri and others find it helpful for them too, and they're sharing their thankfulness things with you here.

     

    Would you like to join us? It's easy to keep a gratitude journal, and you're always welcome to share any of it here in our community. Journals can be handwritten or kept on your computer. To share here, you can create a SharePost of your own, or you can post comments to our posts.

     

    For a listing of all of our 30 Days of Gratitude posts, see A Migraine Patient's 30 Days of Gratitude - Introduction.

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    © Ellen Schnakenberg, 2013.
    Last updated November 16, 2013.

Published On: November 17, 2013