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Sometimes You Need to Feel the Dark to See the Light More Clearly

Last week I had the worst migraine of my life, and I’m grateful for it.

The list of what can trigger one in me is getting longer the older I get: too much sugar, sangria, not enough sleep, too much sleep, strong cleaners or perfume, having hormones, too much caffeine, not enough caffeine, getting motion sickness, flashing strobe lights at a concert, and now apparently I need to add to it watching movies with any sort of action scenes.

I took my kids to see a movie, which we never do. I was so excited to just hang with them and have a nice, slow day together. There was one scene that made me a little woozy from all the jumping around on the screen, so I looked away and thought I’d be fine.

By that evening, I knew it was coming for me. By the middle of the night it felt as if someone were chipping away at the left side of my brain with an ice pick. By that morning I couldn’t even look at my cell phone, the light sending me into such bad pain and nausea I sobbed.

So I spent 2 days in bed in silence with the door and blinds closed a good majority of it. I am not a person who can do that easily. My brain gets itchy, and I want to be productive.

I kept thinking as long as I was home from work, I should be doing something instead of curling up in a fetal position with a sleep mask on. The longer I stayed there, the more hopeless I felt, but the more I tried to get back on my feet, the more I realized I just couldn’t yet.

My husband was on total kid duty downstairs while I stayed in bed, laying in dark silence while the rest of the world moved on without me. He and the kids were having dinner at the table, laughing and chatting, and I wanted to tear down the door and scream, “Wait for me!”

I don’t know about you, but I’m really good at complaining about how tired I am, how there’s so much to do in life and how I never get a moment to myself. Well, it turns out, I really don’t want much time to myself. Give me the chaos, the arguing, and chatting about the mundane parts of our day around a dinner table.

Being alone in that dark bed was near torture when I couldn’t be a part of the life I love that exhausts me to the core. Exhaustion means I’m alive and doing this thing. Laying in bed in dark solitude means I am not in charge, so to chill out and soak it all in when I'm back on my feet.

I’m totally fine now, and even more appreciative of my health, which is excellent aside from having a brain that’s prone to migraines if you even breathe the wrong way near me.

My heart hurts for people whose health is failing. For the mom who has cancer and can’t join her kids at the table. I can’t wrap my brain around the anger and sadness she must have.

We can have plans for life, but when our health fails us, it all comes to a screeching halt. I had only the tiniest of glimpses into this, but it was enough to remind me to keep savoring all this and not assuming it’s owed to me.

When I returned to work, I was going through my purse to try to get back on track with what I needed to get done that week. I found a tattered grocery list and post-it notes reminding me to return the library books and to write down that funny thing my daughter said about how most of the kids in the chess club she's in are dorky boys who talk about Stephen King movies.

I smiled and shook my head at those crumpled pieces of everyday life in my purse. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge waking up after the Christmas ghosts visit him, and he views the world in a brighter lens, wanting to dig in and feel it all.

I’m not looking forward to the next migraine waiting around the corner, but when it does come for me again, I’ll remember the lesson it chipped into my brain with the ice pick this time: Everyday life is precious and exhausting, so appreciate it and quit your whining. You’ll get your alone time one day, and it will suck.

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