scar

If you are one of the poor souls who reads my bloggages regularly you will know that from time to time I mention that I suffer from Chronic Migraine and Cluster Headaches. From about 2002 onwards there has been a constant Migraine headache going on inside my skull. The only variation was in intensity of the pain levels. To go with this is a regular routine of Cluster Headaches. The CH attacks make the migraine feel pleasant by comparison and are debilitating beyond belief.

Before you start getting the handkerchiefs out for a sob story let me say that since I had an operation to install an Occipital Nerve Stimulator I have been more or less Migraine and Cluster Headache free while it has been working, which is life-transforming. The headaches are still there. They are still firing away, which I discovered to my painful cost when the battery in my first ONS expired and the headache pain resurfaced almost instantaneously. But the ONS means that my brain no longer pays attention to the pain signals.

(If you don’t like the idea of surgical implantation you might like to skip the next paragraph and pick up the bloggage below the picture).

I am SO grateful to have this gadget implanted within me and to feel the reassurring ‘fizz’ in the back of my head where the wires are implanted. Each week I sit for a while and re-charge the battery that is inserted just under the skin at the top of my chest (no, I don’t plug in, it’s an induction charging process).

charge
recharging

 

 

(If you skipped the last paragraph, welcome back). The great news for me is that because of this implant I am pain free on the whole. The headaches are there still, but I can’t feel them because my brain has been tricked into ignoring the pain signals.

However, occasionally I get a bit self-conscious about the bits and pieces inside me. Last weekend I attended the Baptist Assembly and as we were sitting in a row in the auditorium one of my self-conscious moments came over me as I realised that all of the people behind me were able to see the scar in the back of my head (oops, sorry, another potential squeam moment). I started to wonder what they were thinking about it, and if they were put off by it. I started to feel uncomfortable about it and wanted to put a hat on to hide it.

And then I realised that most people weren’t likely to be feeling as awkward about it as I was. I realised that if anyone asked me about it I would be able to tell them about the wonderful life-transforming nature of the surgery that led to that scar. And I realised that, once again, I was grateful that I have the scar rather than the headaches. I still wouldn’t mind if my hair regrew in that area and covered it (or indeed the rest of my scalp too) but I became comfortable once again in my own skin, scars and all.

That then got me thinking about how people can be really uncomfortable about how other people perceive them. We all want to be liked and appreciated. We don’t want other people to think badly of us. We try to keep our weaknesses and failures and difficulties hidden from others.

But as a follower of Jesus I want people to know that I have not got myself completely sorted, I still make mistakes, I still let people down, I still get things wrong. I want people to know that I am a work in progress. And while I don’t rejoice or revel in these things they are like the visible scar on the back of my head and I am happy that they are visible because they are testimony to the change that God is bringing about in me. I want people to know that my relationship with God, the example, teaching, forgiveness and fresh start offered by Jesus Christ and the personal experience and presence of the Spirit of God make all the difference in the world to me. Slowly but surely I am being changed to become a better person. The scars and wounds of fragile human nature and fecklessness are still present, but they now point to the fact that my identity in God has been changed to ‘forgiven’.

Just as my ONS means that my headaches no longer have the debilitating effect on me they once had, and it gives me the opportunity to live life with a broader smile on my face, so my relationship with God described above makes all the difference. It’s not that I am perfect and that bad stuff will no longer affect me – far from it. The bad stuff still happens but it happens in the wider context of God’s forgiving, all-embracing gracious love, his gentle presence, a certainty, a hope and a meaning for life within me that are life-transforming for me.

And my story includes an experience that without that forgiving, all-embracing gracious love, presence, certainty, hope and meaning for life within me during the darkest days of the rampant Migraines and Cluster Headaches I would not have been able to live in even the semblance of coping that I had. God’s grace was enough when there was nothing else but pain. The pain didn’t go away, but the all-consuming meaninglessness of it was given a different context of life, hope, love and strength that came from God, not from within.

I hope and pray that you might experience that for yourself too.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

if the wind changes your face will stay like that

:-PWhat is the origin of that old wives’ tale? Presumably an old wife told the story of how someone pulled a silly face and the wind changed just at the moment that person suffered a facial muscle spasm and couldn’t change their face. I did some online research and have not found a conclusive answer, although one person suggested that we all pull silly faces when wind changes from internal to external (ahem).

Tomorrow morning I am heading into London early to have some injections that may give me some relief from the constant migraine that I experience. They are Botox injections.

[pause while you laugh and make derogatory comments about me needing to lose all the wrinkles on my face].

It seems that Botox injected into the correct areas of the scalp can provide some relief for people with chronic migraines. It’s not permanent but it’s worth trying in my opinion, having exhausted all of the current drug treatments and tried some others that also failed. I have been waiting for a new battery for an occipital nerve stimulator since February and have had the chronic migraine since then. (You can read about ONS here). The wonderful news is that the ONS worked brilliantly and I was headache-free while the battery lasted, and I will be getting a replacement in November. But until then… aaaaargh!

When we experience chronic pain we tend to get a bit desperate when normal pain relief does not work. I guess that’s why people in the past came up with all sorts of bizarre remedies for different ailments and why the victims were willing to subject themselves to indignities and invasive procedures in the (often vain) hope that they would be cured. Leeches anyone?

In circumstances like this evangelical Christians can struggle. When we are busy singing about Jesus having the victory and I have a screaming pain in my head I can feel less than victorious. When I hear people saying that all we need to do is trust Jesus and he will sort out our problems and I have had this headache since February I want to stand up and raise an objection. When I read of preachers who say that if we only believe then we will receive all that we want from God I find myself ranting at the article about how that is not my experience.

Does this invalidate my faith?

Does this mean I don’t have enough faith?

Does this mean God is punishing me?

No. No. No.

I find solace in the honesty of the psalms, where the writers can express joy in God (and I can too) and at the same time express their pain, frustration and sorrow and ask God to sort it. They often find some sense of peace in knowing that God is with them, even if they are frustrated that they can’t see any evidence of him in action.

God is bigger than my headache.

God’s love will not be erased by my pain.

God gives grace beyond the frustration.

An image that I find helpful is that of a hug. There are times when words are not enough, or when they are inappropriate. The only thing that communicates deeply and effectively is the embrace of a hug. It speaks volumes.

I am not a naturally huggy person but I do have a sense that God hugs us when life is at its worst: reassuring us that he is there, that we are held, that we are not alone, that we are loved, that we can hold onto him.

And God may choose to deliver a hug through you: perhaps not in the physical sense, but maybe through a phone call, a text message, an email, a visit, a cupcake, a prayer…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

And if you see me in the next couple of weeks and I don’t smile it will be because the Botox has made my face stay like this, or the wind changed!

bloggage update about my health – if you are not interested I won’t mind at all if you don’t read it!

Ouch!
A less-documented cause of head pain

I am a migrainist. I have suffered from chronic migraines since 2002 (ie constant) until the installation of a wonderful device called an Occipital Nerve Stimulator. Since it was plumbed in in 2010 I have become more and more headache-free. BSOF*

However, it is battery-powered. And the battery has almost expired. No matter what you think, I don’t have a solar panel fitted to the top of my head, so the battery will need replacing.

Today I went to the National Neurology Hospital in London (where wonderful people do incredible things to brains) and found out that because of the funding hoops through which we have to jump in order to get a new ONS fitted, and because of the waiting list, it may be anything from 6 months to a year before it can be done.

In the interim the headaches are coming back. There aren’t any short term solutions available, so it’s back to grinning and bearing it. DGF

If you are a pray-er, I would appreciate prayers for grace to cope and a smooth journey through the NHS bureaucracy. If you are not a pray-er, perhaps you could just think nice thoughts for me and be tolerant if I am out of sorts.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A man who had just undergone a very complicated operation kept complaining about a bump on his head and a terrible headache. Since his operation had been an intestinal one, there was no earthly reason why he should be complaining of a headache.

Finally his nurse, fearing that the man might be suffering from some post-operative shock, spoke to the doctor about it.

The doctor assured the nurse, “Don’t worry about a thing. He really does have a bump on his head. About halfway through the operation we ran out of anaesthetic.”

 

A little girl went up to her mother one day while holding her stomach saying, “Mum, my tummy hurts.” Her mother replied, “That’s because it’s empty, you have to put something into it!”

Later that day when the Minister and her husband were over for dinner. The Minister began to feel bad. Holding her head she said, “I have such a terrible headache!”

The little girl looked up at her giving her the sweetest smile that any little child could give. Then she said, “That’s because it’s empty, you have to put something into it!”

 

*Big Smile On Face

*Disappointed Grumpy Face