My name is Alicia, and this is the part of my story that I don't tell.
We all have defining moments in our lives. We expect the influence of some moments, and for some we don’t. For me, one of those unexpected moments occurred when I was asked, "You know that's not normal, right?"
I remember being a kid, and not really understanding what a headache was. What made a headache different from how your head normally felt? I remember being in middle school and coming home from school, not wanting to do anything because I didn't feel good. My mom would give me Tylenol and I wouldn't feel any better, so I stopped taking medicine. I wasn't sure when it was okay to pray to God to make my head stop hurting. How bad did it have to get before I could ask God to make me feel better?
The God I follow is a God who gives me strength when I have none, comforts me when I am helpless, and empowers me with the Holy Spirit when I have no other way to make it through my day. My God is a God who must be followed day by day by day, not from one spectacular event to the next. My God is a God who knows me personally, who knows where I am weak, and shines through those weaknesses to proclaim His glory. My God is my purpose, and my pain is nothing compared to the glory bestowed to Him through each day that I follow and worship.
One day during my freshman year of high school, my mom started to ask me questions. I don't know at what point she realized something was weird, but it culminated in two questions.
“Does your head always hurt?”
“You know that’s not normal, right?”
Suddenly, the way I viewed the world changed. My body was broken, and I had just discovered it. Thus, I started the journey of doctors and medicines and treatments. I got to understand what it was like to have multiple doctors with different opinions, all sure they are right, but all conflicting, of course. What I did learn was that I had inflammation in my brain, probably due to a chemical imbalance. I also learned that neurologists know even less about the brain than I thought. Treatments consist of "try this, it works for some people."
I learned that doctors don’t really know what to do with all-the-time pain. I learned to avoid the term "chronic migraine sufferer" because it brought on waves of Excedrin users and their helpful advice, not to mention the helpful advice of those asking me if I have a brain tumor (I don’t) or explaining some treatment that worked for their uncle's best friend's cousin.
Put yourself in my body by imagining having a migraine every single day. My pain is like waves in the ocean, always there, but some days larger than others. Some days have bigger splashes, some last a long time. Some days I feel okay. Some days I feel like my head is going to explode. Some days the pain is tolerable, but I am overwhelmingly symptomatic.
I didn't get any better; in fact, I have actually gotten worse. I learned to recognize what was going on, learned my triggers, and learned preventative measures. I learned how to control my sensitivity to light and sound, the nausea, my eyesight losing clarity. I learned why I don't like car rides or heat or afternoons or naps.
Life became a delicate balance of avoiding as much pain as possible and trying to live my life at the same time. A balance of wanting to avoid the really bad days because they last for so long, but not letting my pain hold me back, of not letting anything stop me, of not waiting to do things until I felt well enough, of trying to be invincible. I minimize my pain because pain is normal for me. I lived with it for thirteen years without knowing something was wrong. I don't know what life is like without pain.
However much I discount my physical brokenness, God still teaches me through it. I’ve learned who the Holy Spirit is through my pain. When I'm feeling particularly sick, I don't have the ability to live. I lie in my dark hole, and try to fall asleep as quickly as I can to ride out the pain. I can't think because it hurts too much. I can't even pray. However, on these occasions I've learned to feel the Holy Spirit unlike in any other area of my life and in a far more tangible and powerful way. The Holy Spirit comforts not only when I'm looking to Him for comfort, but when I can't look at anything at all.
When I am powerless, as I often am, I have no choice but to turn to God.
The clearest the Holy Spirit has ever spoken to me was when He asked me "Why won't you pray for your own healing?"
There is fear that comes with healing and confusion that comes with asking for healing. My pain is normal and comfortable for me; I feel like I would expect so much more of myself without this struggle. The confusion is between my desire to serve God, as fully as I can through whatever I am put through, and my desire to be healed. I want to be joyful whether God gives me healing or not. Typically, I see that desire as meaning I shouldn’t ask for healing. However, I am learning that is not true.
God is showing me that I can serve him fully and still desire healing. He wants me to call out to Him when I'm suffering, wants me to ask Him and trust in Him for the healing only He can bring. I'm learning that God wants to fulfill my desires, God wants me to be whole. I may or may not ever be healed, but I fully believe in His power of healing and His ability to use my story either way. Healing is not the end-all of my journey. I am learning to love and trust God through the pain. I am learning to let God be strong enough for the both of us.
So here I am, a testimony of the not-yet-healed, learning to tell people my story of pain. If I tell people about my pain, I feel like I'm making excuses for the way I act, or blowing out of proportion something that is so normal for me, or showing dependency or weakness. But here I am anyway, telling you this, because great strength and inspiration comes from those who have no ending to their story, but are faithfully following God anyway.