Holistic Bliss

I don’t know about you, but until recently whenever I heard the word “holistic” before the word medicine. . . I thought it was a bunch of nonsense. It sounded like a big ploy to get people to pay money for some magical cure for rare ailments and illnesses… The organic cleaners of medicine if you will.

Last summer my Pilates teacher recommended me to a chiropractor to help with my migraines. She occasionally gets migraines as well, mostly when the weather shifts and the air pressure changes. She gave me the card to her doctor and while admittedly I was skeptical, the thought of trying something new intrigued me. Still, I put the card in my wallet and never got around to making an appointment.

Then about a month later I had an appointment with my neurologist. He rushed me in and out of his office like he usually does, barely listening to a word I said and completely disregarded the headache diary I had kept since the last time I saw him. He prescribed me more medicine, increased my doses and told me that if this doesn’t work the next option is Botox. I’ve heard of Botox being approved by the FDA for migraines but at 24 years old I never thought I’d be getting Botox injections. I was hoping I could at least wait until my late forties or fifties. I have tried so many different medications and seen just about every type of doctor you could find but I still believed in the bottom of my heart that there had to be another option besides Botox.

So I decided to give Dr. Margolin a call. I had only been to a chiropractor one other time in my life. I was told that I had scoliosis in high school and since back then I was trying to figure out anything that could have possibly contributed to my migraines, I went but like usual found no answers.

The only thing I knew about chiropractors was that they cracked backs. Since cracking knuckles has always given me the heebie jeebies and is on my list of Top Ten Pet Peeves, I was nervous for what was in store for me.

After meeting with Dr. Margolin I felt optimistic for the first time in a very long time. I felt that he was listening to me and genuinely cared about my history and wanted to help me manage my pain. He offered a fresh perspective on how to go about treatment and deciphering my migraines in a way that no neurologist has ever done before.

In addition to being a chiropractor Dr. Margolin is a certified nutritionist. A strange combination I know, but this allows him to better understand the body and how you can affect a lot of how you feel with what you put into your body. He runs a practice that includes but is not limited to acupuncturists, massage therapists, personal trainers, hypnotists and psychologists. Talk about your well-rounded doctors’ office! After leaving Dr. Margolin’s office and doing my own research at home, I realized much of what he said made more sense than any neurologist ever has.

After going to Dr. Margolin for a little less than a year now, I have been able to better manage my migraines. I went from seeing him once a week to once every two weeks now. Over time I have also tried to couple acupuncture and massage therapy with my chiropractic appointments. I stopped seeing the acupuncturist because I didn’t see any real change.  Now after taking a blood test and finding lots of imbalances, I’m dabbling with my diet and keeping a food and headache diary.

I am happy to say that I feel better today than I’ve felt in a long time. I am not 100% better, but I don’t know that I ever will be. I have come to appreciate any small changes, victories and breaks that I can get. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for Dr. Margolin and of course, my Pilates instructor. Though I may have doubted her at first I am now a believer. Magic really does exist. And I am proof.

Hope in Bracelets

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In honor of the first ever Chronic Migraine Awareness Day on June 29, 2012 I wanted to shine a spotlight on a website that is near and dear to my heart and my cause, www.hopeinbracelets.com. All bracelets on the site are handmade and designed by Michelle Marie Eberwein.

Michelle suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Degenerative Disc Disease of the spine — all incurable disorders, much like chronic migraines. Finding a cure is as important to Michelle as it is to me. By wearing a Hope in Bracelets bracelet, you or a loved one can show your support for a number of causes. All bracelets that are for Chronic Migraine are $20 and 10-15%  of the proceeds go to the National Headache Foundation. I have one that I wear every day and it is quite a lovely addition to my growing arm party.

I am excited and hopeful that the migraine and headache community is finally being heard and making their cause known. I feel that now more than ever there are advancements being made and there are positive changes coming thanks to a lot of active sufferers such as Michelle. Many people are working hard to try to create more research, treatment, and awareness for chronic migraine and headache sufferers. Join me in wearing purple and red tomorrow and spread the word!



My Inner Katniss

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I am the baby in a family of successful, outspoken, type-A, self-sufficient bad-asses. I’ve always been proud of the family I was born into but it hasn’t always been easy being deemed the “weak” one. It seems like whether it’s sports or business my family members are always excelling and I’ve always felt myself trying a little bit harder to find my niche and keep up, even long before any chronic illness came into the picture.

My big sister and I used to play Gladiators — a fight to the death, where we would stand on top of one of our beds and hit each other until the other fell off. I always fell off first.

When my idea of catching the softball was to stick my glove in the air, close my eyes and hope for the best, my parents agreed it was best to pull me from the team. Everyone felt a little bit safer with me watching from the sidelines and cheering on my sister instead.

So when I started getting migraines in 8th grade and had to stop playing basketball, something that I finally found out I was good at, it made me feel weak and left out from my competitive family of all-stars. The rest of my days became crowded with doctor appointments, tests, surgeries, missed days of school. . . soon there was no doubt in anyone’s mind — I was the weakest link. Goodbye.

But now looking back on all that I’ve been through I would never use weak as a term to describe me. I think though I may feel physically weak at times, my mentality has never been stronger. I don’t know that anyone could go through what I go through on a daily basis. I have a severely high tolerance for pain. Though I may look normal on the outside most days I have some degree of a headache that’s only a fraction of the type of headache the average person has experienced, and hopefully will ever experience, in their lifetime. Some might have given up by now, and believe me there are many times when I have thought about it, but its my mental toughness that keeps me going. My body has put me through a lot and has tested my limits. But I refuse to let it break me.

Recently, my strength was tested yet again.  I got a new medicine to try from the doctor. It’s an injection with medication in it to stop a migraine once it has developed. At first, I was very against it. I didn’t think I could give myself a shot. I am extremely afraid of needles and couldn’t come to terms with the idea. Granted, I waited till I got the news that they came out with a needless injection. . . but that’s neither here nor there.

Whenever I find myself about to chicken out, I take a deep breath and say to myself, WWKD “What Would Katniss Do?” You know. . . Katniss Everdeen . . . the kick ass heroine of one of the greatest trilogies of all time The Hunger Games. Because say what you will about the hype or the tweens, this heroine was one mentally tough chick who was able to do what she had to in order to survive and do the right thing for herself and her family. I admire her and if she helps me get through one day without a migraine, then so be it.

I’ve had to give myself lots of shots and though it never gets easier, the small amount of pain for a short period of time is worth the possibility of eliminating the extreme pain in my head for an extended period of time.

You never know what you are capable of until you are pushed to the limits. I’m sure Katniss didn’t think that she was capable of killing anyone before she volunteered for the Hunger Games.

Ridding Yourself of the Toxins

Thanks to the fabulous Miss Britney Spears I can no longer think of the word toxic without simultaneously thinking diamond-studded nude catsuit. Now I don’t know what rolling around in said catsuit has to do with a toxic relationship but it sure as hell caught the world’s attention.

When I think of toxic relationships I think more along the lines of Whitney and Bobby. Ri-Ri and Chris Brown. Paula Dean and sugar. Superman and Kryptonite.

When anyone is faced with a toxic relationship they learn a lot about themselves. They are forced to find strength within, to stand up for themselves and hopefully learn to walk away and lean on others. There are many different kinds of toxic relationships – frenemies, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends with benefits, evil stepparents, and the worse one of all – the relationship you have with yourself.

There are stages in life when those significant relationships in your life may change and  the people who are more important to you at one point may be less important to you at other points. For instance, when you first come out of the womb you rely on your parents for everything. Your parents are your best friends in the entire world and you can’t wait to come home from school and tell them everything. As you grow up you become embarrassed by your parents, reply with a dismissive “Fine,” when asked how your day was and your friends slowly become the people you confide in the most. Then as you grow up the amount of friends you have may decrease in number but the value of your friendships increase in value. Once you move away from home, whether it’s for college or whatever reason, your relationship with your parents most likely changes once more. You go back to relying on them for all their wisdom and expertise. No matter who comes in and out of your life, you often learn in the end that its your family that always remains loyal and trustworthy, whether that family is biological or chosen.

When you are sick this process is kicked into high gear and you may need to weed out your toxic relationships at a quicker pace than most. After suffering from migraines for over 10 years now I have learned a lot about myself, my family and my friends. People continue to surprise me but one thing has always remained constant.  No matter what I’m going through its so important to have a strong support system to fall back on. I would be nothing without mine. I know I can be difficult when I need to go to my dark, quiet place and whether that’s literally or figuratively speaking varies on the day. But when and if I need to cancel plans last-minute or turn all the lights off in the house, it’s important to have people around me who understand, get it and don’t make me feel guilty for it – that is truly priceless.

Now don’t get me wrong, not everything’s all rainbows in butterflies between my family, friends and I 24/7. It’s taken me a long time to train my support system into the lovely bunch they are today and it’s still a work in progress but here are some key tips to weeding out the bad eggs and spotting the good ones.

Toxic friends and family are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. When you are sick the last thing you need is a friend who is a bad influence, who doesn’t understand or who is going to pile on the guilt. We have enough guilt already that we put on ourselves. The last thing we need is our friends making it worse. I would love more than anything to go out and run a marathon with you. Unfortunately I can’t do any intense physical workout without my head feeling like there’s a fire inside it. I’ll be waiting at the end with a bottle of water for you though. Please don’t give me those puppy dog eyes. You want to go out and get wasted? Woo hoo. I used to love taking shots! And margaritas? My fave! But count me out. I’d rather not wake up with a 10-ton brick on top of my head thank you very much.

And no, I don’t expect you to understand how I feel. And I wouldn’t want you to either. The best thing you could do is take an interest, become educated on the subject and be understanding and empathetic. If I have to cancel plans, don’t make me feel worse than I already do. You think I want to miss out on all the “normal” things Yuppies my age should be out doing? Just go! Continue on with your plans and hopefully we can do something next time.

And please, don’t assume you have the answer to my illness or know the cause. I know you’re trying to be helpful but if it’s been 10 years don’t you think I’ve tried and researched just about everything with a lot of different doctors? After seeing neurologists, allergists, ophthalmologists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists; getting MRIs, CT scans; trying endless combinations of pills, nasal sprays, injections; doing yoga, Pilates . . . If I haven’t found a cure by now then I doubt you are going to come along and all of a sudden figure it all out. It’s just not that simple.

Now the toxic relationship I have with myself isn’t so easy to fix. I can’t just stop being friends with myself, get mad at me and phase me out for a while until we stop speaking altogether. No, the relationship I have with myself is a little more complicated than that. I need to face myself because whether I like it or not I’m stuck with me.  FOREVER. dun dun dun. Queue the dramatic horror film music. This means I really need to learn to get over my own guilty conscience. Whether my friends and family understand or not, I have a tendency to feel extremely guilty for the plans cancelled and the good days ruined by my condition. However forgiving or understanding my family and friends may be, I can’t help but feel guilty and paranoid that I’ve let those around me down.

There’s also a feeling of anger and resentment that I need to let go of. My condition has hindered my abilities greatly. I’ve had to face facts that there are certain things I’m not able to do. Rather than let the anger or jealousy get the best of me I need to learn to appreciate the things I can do and live in the moment, the now.

When you’re sick it’s especially important to rid yourself of toxic relationships and only surround yourself with either people who understand what you’re going through or are able to be flexible. Think frequent rain checks. You need friends who are willing to love you through good moods, mediocre moods, appreciate happy moods and learn when to just leave you alone.

So thank you to all of my family and friends who have stuck by me through it all. In a way my condition has really been a blessing in disguise and has allowed me to find out who’s really there for me and for that I am truly grateful. You know who you are. This one’s for you.