Painting/electronic illustration of migraine pain

Consecrating the Migraine

The migraine started a week ago. This one began with pain behind my right eye, heaviness on the back of my head and tightness in my shoulders. When I reached for the heating pad, I knew reaching for medication should be my next step. I descended into the lodge of pain for four days.

The Minnesota Zoo has a beaver lodge displayed so that human visitors can see both above and below the water. When I am experiencing migraine pain, I am inside the lodge. I can leave the lodge sometimes and swim around underwater, but not until the pain lifts can I emerge into the fresh air and sunshine.

Now I am on shore, blinking, shaking off the water and reminding myself where and who I am.

Can I find blessing and consecration in this monthly trip to the lodge of pain?

There is a part of me that shouts NO! It seems way too woo-woo-new-agey (hereinafter referred to as “woona”) to suggest. Life includes suffering. No need to sugarcoat it and pretend otherwise. [Okay, here is serendipity: as I’m writing this, I hear whistling from the attached communal garage. It’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. All those guys hanging on crosses, cheerfully singing…]

I’ve just pondered the meanings of “blessing.” Favor, mercy, benefit, gift – it seems masochistic to apply any of those words to the lodge of pain. I don’t want to do that. I don’t, though, want to make pain the enemy and my “self” the victim of it. Many spiritual traditions make room for the darkness. I can’t make the pain go away (the medication knocks it down a couple notches, but it doesn’t go away and mental fog increases). These headaches are part of my life and I want to transform them and my time with them into something sacred. That’s consecration.

Sacred is a word I can use: devoted to religious purpose, entitled to veneration, connected, reverently dedicated. Religion: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe.”

My pain leaves me in awe of biology.

Migraines are, they say, a neurovascular disorder causing the unpleasant (a.k.a. excruciating) sensation I call pain. That constriction is probably, in my case, set off by shifts in hormones.  Hormones and nervous and vascular systems are found in many creatures on the planet, so my discomfort can be a reminder of my connection to other creatures. Yowza, that’s amazing! That is worthy of veneration.

In future I will remind myself (with the lacy edges of my mind that are not consumed by pain) to consecrate the migraine.