One of the best things I learned when my son became ill with chronic migraines was patience. That and teamwork. The Doctors will tell you that adolescents with migraines have to keep interacting with the world. That is really difficult for parents to get their heads around. Kids have to keep going to school even if they are in pain. You feel like a bad parent. But if you don’t do it, the results are worse.
My wife’s job every morning was to get my son out of the house and into the car. There were days when that was akin to getting a mule to go up a ladder backwards. My job was to drive him to school, give him the time he needed to pull himself together if he could, and to get him in the front door of the school. This required patience. It required learning where the shadiest parking places in the High School parking lot were: The shadow of that maple tree that disappears at ten o’clock. In the shadow of the huge truck that one kid drives to school every day from the farm. Memorizing the name of the farm painted on the truck’s door after having seen it day after day for several months.
It required learning to talk with the Police when they pull over and ask why you have been sitting in the school parking lot for over two hours with your engine idling. Exactly what they should be doing by the way, but it is embarrassing. They do get to know who you are.
But the real thing about patience and migraines is that you have to be willing to wait, calmly, with no radio, no video, no texts going bing-bing-bing. Hypersensitivity to light and sound is like having an uncontrollable annoying super-power. I don’t know how Clark Kent managed. A person with a migraine can hear the buzz of your earphones and it will drive them to distraction. You have to be willing to wait in silence. You get really good at reading books quietly. At one point I was going through a mystery a day. Did you know that Tony Hillerman mysteries only have seventy to eighty thousand words? You can read them fast. Thank goodness for public libraries. But I digress. I often had two or three books in the car, in case I finished one (or hated one) and needed a second book (or a third.)
Some days I would find myself feeling too antsy to sit still. Felt that if I didn’t do something I was going to pop. That’s how I was raised. You have to be working. You have to be doing something.
Now here’s a little aside; parents with kids with migraines often feel like they would do just about anything if they could help their kid and stop the pain. I know I did. If it would stop the migraines if I amputated a leg below the knee, well, get the saw. Maybe a big bag of ice too.
But something like that doesn’t help. A prosthetic leg just makes it harder to get the kid in the front door of the school. So, what is one to do? I felt too antsy to sit still and be patient. I gave up coffee. I gave up tea. I gave up caffeine in all it’s various delivery systems. Now I’m a guy who used to drink so much coffee I would make jokes before getting another cup like, “I have too much blood in my caffeine stream.” People said, “What? No coffee? You?” “It helps me be patient.”
I ceased being a coffee achiever and moved on to being someone who could sit and wait glacially and give my son a chance to get things together before going into the school. I won’t soft pedal it. Some days that didn’t work at all. We went home. Some days it took hours and hours and my son would stagger into the front door of the school well after noon. His Principal, bless him, was there every single day to say, “We’re glad you could be here.” And he did graduate, so it was worth it.
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