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Never Said It Was Easy

Cartoon sketch of a man in glasses using a long rod to paddle a raft past a city skyline and birds flying in the sky. Illustration by Earle Levenstein.

So, to continue my gripping narrative; thanks to Biofeedback, my migraine headaches were gone, never to be heard from—or experienced—again.

That was way back in the eighties, but I still cross my fingers when I talk about it; I'm conditioned from childhood experience, day after day, year after year to expect instability, impermanence, migraine headaches defining my life.

Well, now, you never really know, do you? as my mother would say, to calm—I'm being charitable—my heart-pounding excitement, on our way to the circus, or Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or anything that had Joy written all over it.

Underscored regularly by my father's unpredictability. I—we—never knew which father would come through the door after work. Loving, funny, playful, or angry, unable to contain his rage.

A child's interpretation? Life is: Chaotic. Formless. Transient. Impermanent. Don't count on anything.

How do you deal with it?

You don't. You lay low. Bob and weave. Evade. Avoid. Tip-toe through the tulips; shhhh. Don't say a word.

Result? Well, of course, issues by the carload.

Exhibited early on by repetitive nightmares, anxiety, headaches, nausea, sleep-walking, episodes of silence, terrors.

Pediatricians, from early childhood on, never finding any physical problem; various explanations: too much of this, too much of that. Not much difference with physicians I saw in later years, until finally, I started psychotherapy; not as common then as now, but didn't take long for me to get the semblance of a picture: seeing connections, identifying stimuli, observing while experiencing, admiring the creative imagination that fueled my issues.

Enough marvelously inventive material there to explore and continue to explore for a lifetime.

So then, you will remember, my migraine was finally diagnosed and explained, not by my physician, but by the neurologist he called upon when an MRI rejected stroke as the cause of my déjà vu.

I was simply amazed as I was introduced to the migraine family; seeing each symptom I'd been suffering with all my life, listed in the index of the book Migraine, by Oliver Sacks as an expression of migraine, finally providing me with an understanding of the connection between my emotional—psychologically-informed life—and the symptoms I'd been experiencing for a lifetime.

For me, the diagnosis and amplification was life-changing.

Now, then: back to my magical Biofeedback experience.

As I said last week, for me, the Biofeedback process as I experienced it: listening to the tape that focused entirely upon relaxation, breathing, feeling, peace. At the same time measuring my level of stress with an attached monitor, then repeating that process at home, with the same tape, but without the monitor for thirteen weeks, intermittently; back and forth: with the monitor at the psychiatrist's office; without it at home. Ultimately, this trained my body to—in effect—block the potential headache by a process of relaxation, contemplation, and release of the stress.

Gradually, headaches gone, my ongoing engagement with psychotherapy was of enormous help in addressing my carload of usual symptoms—nightmares, anxiety, sleeplessness, fears—as I would any migraine issue; with the same use of association, reflection, breathing, meditation and happily, with the same level of success in restoring emotional balance.

Not 100% for sure.

I mean, I am still the same person who suffered for years with my afflictions, treating them individually, medically, by various physicians through the years. My persistent headaches, as far as I knew, were just one of my army of assailants, and Biofeedback appeared to offer a cure.

Headaches ended, other attacks continued unabated, and unrelated as far as I knew, to anything else.

It wasn't until later, when my déjà vu episodes opened the door when I could finally understand that the symptoms and suffering I'd been experiencing through the years were related, part of the same family, expressed in various ways.

Biofeedback, which ended my headaches with a technique involving relaxation, meditation and reduction of stress was effective—not for everyone, perhaps, but certainly for me—and by using all the conscious and unconscious material available for exploration, psychotherapy provides a path for me to address the basic content that is responsible for the course of my life.

Bottom-line: I believe strongly that migraine is the expression—emotionally and physically—of my feelings, of my sense of stability, of peace or the absence of peace, and that it's possible to impact what appear to be spontaneous attacks with complete understanding of exactly who or what is the driving force:

Me, myself and I.

#biofeedback #migraine #emotions #feelings #headaches #books #stress

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