By Gloria Nesloney
Migraines. Just the word makes me cringe. If you have ever experienced them, you know how debilitating they could be. I suffered for many years. They started the day I went through some major trauma. In my life, waking up in the middle of the night was not uncommon with intense pain radiating through the right side of my already weary head. My eyes would open just enough to keep the light at a minimum as I would try to see from the slits to reach over the nightstand for the Zomig or Gabapentin to relieve the accumulating pressure. My hair hurts, my gums and teeth become sensitive, and every sound is unbearable to my ears. How can I sleep knowing this time the migraine may last a couple of hours or up to ten days? My thoughts would race until I am finally able to go back to sleep several hours later.
I knew that if I didn’t have an outlet for the anger, I would hurt someone. Instead, I would hurt myself or throw things to watch the item break against the wall. A migraine was so intense with the thought of trauma playing in my head that I tried cutting myself and started grabbing items to throw. Radios, isocelting fans, footlockers, televisions, computers, if it was reachable, I would grab it and throw it as hard as I could. If only I could stop the memory or nightmares that triggered the migraines. If only the mirages of what was once a reality would cease. If only I could control the voices in my head. If only I could control the anger. Maybe I would be able to perform my daily duties required of me at the office or function like a normal person at home. When the night of unrest would end and it was time for me to get dressed, I would do a physical, mental, spiritual checkup before planning my day.
As if it wasn’t enough that I could not find joy in living, having regular migraines kept me bound to my home. To physically break through the madness of my reality, I would exhaust myself being a workaholic. I preferred working alone at jobs that were fast paced, needing my attention to gather lots of data, charts, or perform redundant activity. This seemed to help keep the ungodly thoughts at bay. As long as I was helping someone else or keeping myself busy, it would be more profitable than sulking at home. I wanted the migraines to end, but when? I was caught in between the desire to move forward with my life without the constant trigger reminders and the aching for a freedom that screamed inside out of frustration for it to be over.
One day I was confronted by a co-worker. “Why don’t you just go home? I can see you are not feeling well.” Oh no! What if I slipped up and said something? Would they know why I was getting the migraines? What would they think of me? What if I got fired if I slipped up and acted out in rage and started breaking things? No one could know the truth. Working at the office was my safe place. I tried my best to conceal irrelevant topics to the worksite and keep my focus on the task at hand. I tried to make myself look fresh and ready for the day. I tried to function all while my head throbbed, auras swirled around the room, and every sound pounded with decibels that vibrated like a jackhammer. While at the office, I would work intensely and hurried as if everything was more important than the way I was feeling inside. When I would finally get home I was so physically exhausted, it was the only way I knew I could finally rest. It was just my body that would get rest, while the mind still conversed and recited the details of my traumatic past.
Insomnia was a friend of mine for so many years that functioning with two to three hours of sleep was enough for me to survive. I could live without the dreams, nightmares, memory recall, feeling like the trauma was happening again. I had no control over what my mind did while I was asleep. I did not want to have nightmares. My mental state was stable until the day that I was raped. After that, my mind went to places that recorded, stopped, played, replayed the broken record. It had been years since the horrible incident, so why was I still reliving the trauma? It didn’t make sense to me since I was doing everything I knew to do to try to break through the suicidal thoughts or the destructive self talk. My mind was fragmented and the thoughts played evil games with me. I would later find out that when the mind is on overload, it tries to drive itself. I needed something more than just my own self talk.
I built a wall between my family and friends that they could not cross over into my real world. I showed them the me I wanted them to see, but it wasn’t the real me. I needed them, but I didn’t want them to know what I was thinking or how I was feeling. My greatest fear is what if they found out and would want to commit me to counseling or mental health professions. I just couldn’t handle the thought of getting that kind of help. I would be trapped like when the rape first began and the counselors or mental health professionals tried to have me medicated instead of dealing with the real issue. As long as I presented myself to look proper on the outward physical appearance, my mind didn’t speak through my words. I was playing the game of deception correctly. “I’m ok. I’m fine. I don’t need help.” The thing is I was only deceiving myself. I was not ok. I was not fine. I was in need of help but I didn’t know where to go or who to trust. If it wasn’t for the migraines, I could have pulled the scheme off.
Friday nights were dreaded because I knew I was going to be alone for the weekend. I had to keep myself occupied, anything to keep my body moving and my mind quiet. I looked forward to Monday mornings, but it was important for me to focus on planning what I wanted to do on the weekends. My to-do list grew and if I could get through at least half of what I had planned without a bad memory, I felt accomplished. When there was something I was doing where a familiar sound of dripping water, certain smell of cologne, a voice of a man in a distance, triggers allowed my physical body and mental memory to be petrified, and would set off a migraine. I would stay home suffering alone. The pressure was intense. When will it end?
After realizing that my self assessments of my physical and mental checkups were failing more often than not, I needed something to change. I wanted change. I did not want to live my life in constant fear of the truth, in dread of uncontrolled memories, and the pain of migraines. I decided I would fill my schedule with going to church. Even when I didn’t feel well, it was better for me to be at church than at home alone. It was there I heard the minister ask a question. “What do you call it when you keep doing the same things over and over again and expect to get different results?” He said, “It’s called insanity.” I had never heard that quote from Albert Einstein before. It changed my life.
What I never realized was being a workaholic did not deal with my physical pain, it only compounded the deeper issues. Being alone was not going to be good for my mind, it only amplified the noise going on in my head that I was already in agreement with. I found the answer I needed for my breakthrough, I had a spiritual awakening and have had it since. I came to a conclusion that what I was doing wrong all these years was hiding behind the veil of shame, guilt, unforgiveness, and anger from my past. I never faced it. I never told anyone since the day it happened so many years ago. I felt like I was going to burst from the seams once I felt free.
I faced my giant. I began to pray about it. I began to write about it. I began to speak about it. I began to forgive the perpetrator. I began to forgive myself. As I would include this prayerful life in my to-do list, I was able to find more quality restful nights. I began to have less nightmares. I began to notice that migraines were getting fewer or didn’t last as many days. I began to capture the thoughts when they would race through my head, stop ungodly thoughts by quoting scriptures, and commit the promises of God for me to my memory. When this transformation happened, people at the office would ask me if I was on a diet or what I was doing because I was looking healthier, and more lively. I couldn’t believe that my relationship with my family and friends was also restored.
Finding my spiritual breakthrough was a series of events and it took some time. Though I had included church for my weekend routine, I was still missing something. I prayed for forgiveness. I believed I forgave everyone. I still had a gap in my spirit that felt empty. It was like I was going through the motions with no real emotions. Now that I was able to share more freely with my family and friends, I knew I could open up to them. Our topics were not always about the trauma, but I enjoyed sharing my new found joy in life, Jesus. This was definitely a turning point because now I could be real with my feelings and truly say, “I’m ok. I’m fine. I’m blessed to be alive today.”
So, what was the piece that was missing in my spiritual walk? Inner healing. I had hidden the trauma of rape for such a long time not realizing it caused previous traumas seem less significant. Wait, what? All traumas are significant. That is true. I believe that rape was the trauma that I dealt with the most because being disgusted with my younger years of molestation was minor in comparision. I buried that so deep, so long ago, that when the rape happened, the significance for life for me lost it’s value. Now that I was experiencing a new freedom, I knew there had to be more.
One of my prayers was, “Lord, please have my face reveal what’s in my heart.” I may have looked like the living dead with my meloncholy solemn look, so the expression of joy was not evident. Though I felt different inside and I was experiencing a healed heart, something needed to change. That’s when I learned to ask for help. My spiritual breakthrough happened during an inner healing session. Through sincere and diligent care of topics that came up during my inner healing session, I was able to recognize the lies I believed as an innocent little girl. I used to believe that it was my military training that taught me to keep a straight unemotional face, when really it was my innocence stolen that kept my face from smiling. The expression in my eyes came back and I felt the darkness leave. My spirit was not just awake, but it was alive again. I am totally free! My face now has the countenance of what’s in my heart, joy, laughter, happiness, and peace.
The days of migraines are not completely gone, neither are the nightmares, but they are few and further between. What I have learned is that though I don’t have control over what my mind does while I am asleep, I do have control over what I allow myself to think before I go to sleep. I experience physical breakthrough when I finally had one night of full rest with no rude awakenings from a nightmare. It effected my physical performance because I was no longer a slave to be a workaholic, but I would go to work and enjoy it. I would have more energy and when I got home to rest, it was a reward not a challenge. When I had my physical breakthrough, my countenance changed. I didn’t dread the night hours. I didn’t want to break things. I didn’t want to hurt people. I didn’t want to hurt myself.
I learned to embrace prayer when my mind would try to escape into the dark truths of my past. I accepted what happened to me, and now it had no more control over me. I choose to break through the mental torment. I was no longer afraid of what others might say or think. Instead, I share how I received my victory. Now when I do my self assessments on my physical, mental, and spiritual checkups, I can testify. I had to let go of my identity with being a victim and be dragged down with shame, guilt, unforgiveness, and anger that caused severe migraines and nightmares. With my physical and mental health healed, I have more room to hold on and carry the freedom I have in Christ.
I am able to break through the lies and have spiritual breakthrough so that I can help others who suffer in hidden pain and shame. When I learned that the physical and mental state of my being was related to my spiritual health, I was able to recognize that when my spirit was free so was everything else in my life. When the thoughts were focused on spiritual growth, on the promises of God, and the truth of who I am now, the attachment that it had to the migraines no longer had power over me.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36