Hello hello! I am so excited to share a very special guest blog today with you from my Mama herself I truly cannot imagine the last 6 years without this woman’s daily encouragement, love and support. Through every single unexpected up, down, one step forward and two steps back — she has been right behind me to remind me that wherever I am challenged, I am equally supported.
She is my biggest cheerleader, the official “MM intern” (who very generously donates her time to proofreading these blogs!) and I couldn’t possibly imagine how my life would be or who I might have become without the example of her fiercely courageous, loving and generous heart teaching me and loving me through my most difficult experiences. I hope that you enjoy reading these insights from the wisest woman I know as much as I did.
Sometimes, life presents you with challenges that stretch you far beyond where you think you can go and what you can endure. In this time of this worldwide grave uncertainty and fear of the unknown, I am reminded of the day that I first held a tiny defenseless baby in my arms and realized that I had embarked on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I couldn’t believe that they were going to let me leave the hospital and entrust me with keeping this little soul well. I was terrified!
But somehow, we…my daughter and I, made it through childhood and adolescence and she went off to college with all of the vitality, curiosity and zest for life that I could have wished for her. And then came the call one fall day of her freshman year. She had gone to a concert and came home to blinding head pain which had not let up by the next day. She had experienced her first migraine.
In the years ahead, she would suffer increasing headaches, increasing severity and duration and increasing frustration at a medical system with no answers. She is Natalie, the amazing young woman behind @mindfulmigraine. And I am her mom.
While she has been on a journey of discovery as she learned to live her life as fully as possible with chronic migraine, I too, have learned and grown in ways I could not have anticipated while experiencing my own journey at her side.
I’d like to share with you 5 things that I have learned along the way. If you too have an adult child who must endure the searing pain that a migraine attack can bring, I hope that these tips will be useful for you.
If you, as a parent, have experienced any type of serious headache pain, you may think that you will be especially adept at helping your adult child manage theirs too. I had my first migraines in my mid-twenties, and unfortunately, that legacy was passed down to my daughter. At first, we both assumed that what had worked for me, would also do the same for her. She would contact me when the pain hit and I tried to guide her to the things had had helped me cope. Yet, her pain intensified and we both became frustrated because each avenue we pursued with such hope failed to bring her lasting relief or improvement. I watched her suffer and realized that there was nothing that I could do to lessen her pain.
Looking back, I realize that we were not frustrated with one another, but the dynamic that had worked during her childhood no longer served us. Mom could not fix this — and it was excruciating. Thankfully, my husband agreed to step in and begin accompanying her to her appointments. I had to deal with feelings of loss of control, of being “left out”, but the payoff was immeasurable. He was much more able than I was to approach this new challenge without the tremendous emotion that many mothers carry.
As a result, our daughter was able to do the same; she became calmer and more reliant on her own resources and judgment. It was as it should be. Every child needs to individuate and become their own “adult”. This includes making medical decisions. As difficult as it is, give your children the ability to establish their independence (even if it is the complete opposite of what you have done for the rest of their lives)
As my children were growing up, I was the “all knowledgeable parent” in their eyes (or at least I think I was!). Asking questions, getting advice from their parents, was always something that they did freely and often. As they grew up, and my daughter, being the oldest, it was important for her to find her own way at times. I thought I was ready for that separation. I wanted to give her wings to fly…but as she began to have unrelenting migraines, I realized that I was willing to let go of a lot of things, and that list did NOT include health related decisions.
It was very hard to see her hurting, to watch her pursue her own healing journey differently than I would have wanted. And it was especially difficult to STOP GIVING ADVICE, and to learn instead to listen to her, to let her “vent”, to see her hurting, and to merely offer empathy, caring and support. The last part was the hardest. She was out of college, over 21, had a fabulous boyfriend (who will soon become her husband), and a great head on her shoulders. My job was not to provide solutions any longer. She had all of the tools to do that for herself!
It took a long time for me, to let go of the reins, and let her ride in whichever direction felt right for her (and, by the way…she has done a great job doing so). I still offer my opinion, when asked, but otherwise, my role has changed from “all knowing” to most ardent cheerleader. And I’ve found as she empowered herself and took charge of her own care, I’ve learned a lot from her!!!
My daughter is a millennial. She is intimately comfortable with all things techie and with social media. She is a child of the 21st century. I am a “boomer”, firmly planted in the 20th century. I use technology haltingly, and have never wanted to take the time to become really technologically savvy. I get nervous just walking into an Apple store (though I use all of their products). I just don’t speak “computer”. My daughter made me my first Facebook page as a 50th birthday gift! For me, the best way to be with people is in person. Failing that, I love a good, long phone conversation (yes…I’ve been known to be on the phone for hours at a time…occasionally).
For my daughter, particularly since the advent of her increasing headache pain, my preferred modes of communication can be incredibly triggering and difficult to handle. So, I made a decision, some years ago, to forego seeing her as often, and now that she lives out of state, to forego the frequent and sometimes lengthy phone times we had in order to help her to have more ease and less pain in her life.
I have become very adept at texting, messaging, emailing, and checking on social media to see what is going on with her (I am lucky in that she has an active instagram account where she shares her journey with chronic pain so I relish seeing her posts as a great way to connect with her). I let her reach out to me when talking on the phone feels like it’s something she can handle.
We are so fortunate in this time that there are a myriad of ways to communicate! Find the ways that work best for you and your child and become adept at using them! I am now trying to incorporate voice texts into my repertoire…they are not hard to do…I just need to develop a new habit!
This tip is a follow up to number three. Once you have figured out how to best communicate with your child, make sure to incorporate encouraging messages in your daily routine. We find that texting is really helpful because we can reach out when we have a chance and give the other person the opportunity to respond when it’s a good time for them.
I also love to send emojis (my kids call me the emoji queen). Sometimes I send them one at a time, and sometimes I have a great time finding a string of them on a particular topic and creating an emoji story! I also love to gather photos of my own, from the internet, from social media and send out what I call “photo blasts”…a whole group of photos to express my emotions at a particular moment or to send encouragement to my loved ones. It is great fun to gather them, save them up in my phone and pull them out when I get inspired to do so.
A shout out to snail mail too! My daughter uses this more often than I, but I can’t emphasize enough how special it is to get a postcard or note the old fashioned way. There is a permanence to them, and a sense that they brought the love directly from the sender’s hands to mine!
I mentioned above how it is important to let your children take over management and decision making regarding their health care as they enter into adulthood. It is equally important in other aspects of their lives.
One example of this was when my daughter decided, several years ago, that she wanted to get a dog. She was in the throes of serious chronic illness and had become less and less able to function normally. There was so much uncertainty about her ability to complete daily tasks and to care for herself adequately. It seemed like completely the WRONG time to add the pressure of a new puppy to the mix. Nonetheless, she and her boyfriend had been together for some years, knew each other well and were ready to take this challenge on. As a mother, I had my doubts and was worried that they were biting off more than they could chew…but I decided to keep those thoughts to myself. I felt that it was more important that I support their dream of having a puppy, especially since so many of the things they should have been experiencing as young “20-somethings” were not possible for them.
Fast forward to today — their wonderful puppy is now 4 years old! He is a beloved member of their family (and I too love my sweet grandpuppy!!!). He has brought countless hours of joy, comfort and peace to my daughter. I probably could have talked her out of getting a dog at the time, and it would have been a huge mistake to have done so. I trusted her intuition, and am forever grateful that I did!!!
I share each step along my road to wellness and healing and hope that in doing so I can inspire you along your own path. Thank you so much for being here.