Bear and Lions and Church Oh My!!

By: Lynne Pitchford Nov. 3, 2013

This Sunday it happened again. My husband and I arrived early and found an empty pew in our church. By now most of our friends and acquaintances know that for health reasons I prefer to not shake hands. They don’t all understand that the perfumes, after shaves, etc. that are poured onto their hands can produce a migraine, but I have learned to guard against it, and most respect that.

I have also learned that another trigger is music, or make that noise that is loud enough to vibrate your body. It’s not always that loud at our church, just sometimes. I carry earplugs to wear during the music part of our service, and take them out for the sermon. Most people don’t even know that I have had to use them. Occasionally, the music is so loud that it vibrates everything! One friend that has a pacemaker with a defibrillator has had to leave the service because the music was so loud it was vibrating her defibrillator. Most people enjoy loud music. I enjoy the songs and want to sing with the rest of the congregation, so I put my earplugs in and do my best to protect myself and enjoy the experience of being in church when it isn’t loud enough to cause vibrations.

This Sunday it happened again. The triggers were there. Two wanted to shake hands even though I reminded them politely that I am unable for health reasons to shake hands. They laughed and insisted as though it was a joke. My husband took the hand of one and shook it and stepped in front of the other. Then the music started. I put my earplugs in and instantly realized that even others were cringing because the music was so loud it was vibrating the pews. The music director was giving a “thumbs up” and an approving smile to the music booth indicating that they needed to turn the music up even more and nodded and smiled in approval. A lady across the church that had shared with me earlier that this was her first time back in three weeks due to her migraines frowned, picked up her things and left.

Once again, my husband and I had to gather our things and walk back up the aisle and leave as others were still entering for the church service. Shaking hands, listening to music, attending church are such “normal” things in most peoples lives, but not necessarily to a migraineur. I had to make a choice – stay and take a chance on a migraine or leave and protect myself.

We live in a rural area of Oklahoma. If one of us were in the presence of a bear, a mountain lion or a rattlesnake we would backtrack to an area of safety. That’s what we have to do sometimes when we recognize we are in the presence of migraine triggers. Bears and lions and church oh my!!

Learning my triggers and constantly adjusting to medications has been a lifelong battle. I want to do the things others get to do and not be different, but if being different is what it takes to survive then I will do whatever it takes. The hospital stays and ER visits are getting further apart because I’m listening to my doctors and my body. Who knew shaking hands and loud music could be triggers that could put a person in bed for days at a time? I do now!

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