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A Healing Community of Two

Witnessing my child’s layers of pain
Lands like an uppercut—
Not unexpected, given everything,
but stiff enough to drop me.

Pain connects us, suffering separates. A freakin’ hard lesson, this.

As a kid I suffered—that is, I was alone with the pain. I dealt with it by focusing on it, targeting its center in a kind of home-made meditation. By putting all my attention on it, I could for a moment experience it as a mere physical sensation, like any other.

I also tried to inure myself by asking my sisters to punch me or walking across a dry field barefoot (yeah, I know–too weird). Toughness and perseverance and stamina were my goals, my virtues.

But that was in rural Montana a long time ago, when American parents didn’t really check in with their kids and no one I knew had even the slightest idea about migraine.

Now, after years of coming to terms with the chronic nature of this thing, playing tag with hope, migraine has appeared in the life of my teenage daughter, Jo. Starting when she was around ten she had maybe four migraines a year, but last fall they became more frequent—two or three or even four a month.

Initially I was stunned (thus the poem above). I couldn’t help but imagine that her experience with migraine would be like mine at her age, filled with loneliness and frustration and just hard, hard going.

I could hardly bear to think about it, and whenever she had a headache I focused on action, on trying to relieve her pain (and her fatigue and her nausea and all the rest). We started a migraine journal and I began teaching her what I know, which naturally is quite a lot.

Soon I realized that our success in “dealing” with Jo’s migraines lies not only in sharing my wealth of knowledge or in any specific treatment. It also has a lot to do with our small community of two, our kinship in pain.

It first struck me in the car on the way to school. “Do you have a headache, Mom?” “No. Why do you ask?” “I want to play you this song.” Now she not only knew about my sound sensitivity—she knew what it felt like, and she was making sure the sound wouldn’t hurt me.

How sweet, right? Yeah. ☺

But there’s more here than being thoughtful. There’s compassion, which means “feeling with” (com meaning “with” and passion meaning “feeling”). Because Jo also has migraine, she is more sensitive, better equipped to help me, just as I am better equipped to help her.

That, I think, is the deeper value of tools like Migraine.com—by creating community they transform our individual, isolated suffering, which is all about disconnection and being judged and judging ourselves, into something more concrete, be it pain or nausea or vertigo. That’s certainly not a cure, and having migraine still sucks big time. But compassion in community does engender a kind of healing. And that’s the true virtue.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Maureen
    2 years ago

    You’re poetry and your story of compassion, birth moved me so! I absolutely believe that community relieves as much pain for me as medication in the long run. Without compassion, I would shrivel up. It is the thing that keeps my energizer battery going, that takes the licking and keeps on ticking, that grasps the teachable moment when I’d rather ignore or lash out. It helps me know that I am not lost to the migraine world… sometimes it is SO hard to know that. A compassionate daughter must have a compassionate mother. Good job!

  • P Heinicke author
    2 years ago

    Hi Maureen,
    Thanks for making my day today!
    xo
    Patricia

  • Maureen
    2 years ago

    Your not you’re; )
    The end no more corrections!

  • Maureen
    2 years ago

    Both not birth; )

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi P Heinicke, Thank you for sharing this truly poignant story. How wonderful that you have each other for support, and how especially fortunate for your daughter to have you to lean on.

    We do have several articles on the site which speak to parenting with migraine, and to parenting children with migraine, but it sounds like you guys have it under control 🙂

    Thanks for being here and for sharing this lovely story. -Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • P Heinicke author
    2 years ago

    And thanks for the general invite to write! Migraine has been on my list of things to write about for a long time — other subjects tend to push it aside, I guess. So the open invite was a great motivator.

  • P Heinicke author
    2 years ago

    Thanks, Donna!

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