Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Blessing of A Painful Choice

Sometimes a choice arises that is totally unanticipated. 

I’ve been very fortunate. Although I’ve had CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for thirty-one years, I’ve never had the non-epileptic seizures that are often part of this neurological disease. Until about a year ago. At that point the regular night-onset exploding headaches started to occasionally be accompanied by blinding flashes of light and bed-side-lamp-busting thrashing about. (And yes, after more than three decades I have tried the full range of bodywork, inner work, spiritual practices, energetic healing modalities, functional medicine, food plans, supplements etc. etc. etc.- often with positive results on many levels.)

Two months ago a dear friend with a different kind of nerve/neurologically caused pain tried a new medication and stopped having the daily headaches that had plagued her for decades.

Intrigued, I spoke to my doctor. I’d been resisting meds but, as my doctor’d pointed out, the trouble with seizures is, even if you’re willing to ride out the pain, they may damage the brain (and with two parents with Alzheimer's I'm particularly keen to protect all the brain cells I can.) 

And so the experiment began.

Over the next six weeks there was good news and bad news. The medication (at the smallest dosage I could get, which was less than one tenth of the daily recommended amount) stopped the night-time inner lightning show and the ensuing pain that had often left me struggling and recovering for three to four days a week. Yay!

There was, however, a down side: My never-too-great-energy plummeted. Despite being reassured that my body would "adjust" in a week or two, the decline was continuous. Twice I had to talk well-meaning strangers out of calling 911 when I had to lay down on the floor- once at the post office, and once in the laundry room of my apartment building. (It sounds dramatic I know, but it did seem that laying down and resting until I could move on was preferable and considerably less dramatic than falling down.) By the end of the six weeks it was regularly taking me at least an hour (sometimes two) to muster the energy needed to get out of bed and take the four steps to the bathroom after waking.

Needless to say, not much writing was happening. Or reading. Not much of anything was happening. I was pain-free but unable to walk around the block.

So there was the choice: deal with pain or be pain-free but unable to do anything. To my surprise, my preference was clear. Pain is not fun. Pain takes a lot of energy to manage. But, with good practices and lots of grace, it can be managed at least some of the time so I can participate in some of what I love- so I can write a page, read a chapter, walk in the park, do a little yoga, visit with a friend or my sons. . . 

So, I stopped taking the medication. This was my choice for now, with this particular med. If the pain was more or the dulling of my senses with the med less, I might have made a different choice. And, I am no purist- I do at times use meds to help me manage the pain. 

Having chosen, I felt oddly elated. It felt like a confirmation of my love of life, an affirmation of my choice to be here even when “here” involves pain. The medication encased me in a pain-free fog of deep exhaustion, made me feel like I was sitting (or laying down) outside of life.

It strikes me that this is often a choice we have to make because life includes discomfort in a myriad of forms: grief, loss, uncertainty, anxiety, physical pain, trauma, etc. But it also includes laughter, joy, love, caring, creativity, ecstasy, belonging and all that good stuff. And if we want to be awake enough to feel the latter, we will encounter- and feel- at least some of the former. Don’t get me wrong- I am not glorifying pain. I continue to explore ways to have less pain and more energy. But a solution that eliminates pain while taking away the sense of participating in life is not, for me, any solution at all

There were a lot of things I could not do in the last six weeks, but I could pray. Some days, I felt like I prayed continuously (when I wasn't asleep.) Oh it wasn't all enlightened gratitude-and-love-filled murmurings. I prayed in desperation and confusion, seeking understanding, expressing frustration and letting the tears flow. I prayed for the strength to get up off the floor. I prayed for calm when panic seemed more reasonable. I prayed for patience and wisdom. 

And I prayed for the world, for the earth, for the creatures of the land and the water and the air, for the human family and for those were suffering close by or far away, In particular, I prayed for those who were ill or in pain who did not have a warm cozy nest of an apartment in which to rest or good health care, clean water, and nourishing food. (Prayer is sneaky that way- if I sincerely start from where I am it opens my heart to myself and then, inevitably, to others and the world.)

And. . . having made the choice that was mine to make at this time, I prayed in deep gratitude for the Sacred Presence that is always with me, that holds me and helps me and gives me life. It's like a little miracle really, how connected we are to life- how we are life- even when life is not easy. What we are made of is stacked in favour of choosing life, and I am truly grateful for this, for being here, for the ability to feel what is in this moment.

Oriah (c) 2014


  1. Oriah, I see your suffering and I send a big hug. I join you in praying. I have a deep trust that you are in the middle of finding your very personal path in your very personal situation. All the best!

    1. Nora, thank you so much for your emphasis on this story being "personal" as in unique in the details. It reminded me that I had not done here what I did do on Facebook- which was to add this- "This was my choice for now, with this particular med. If the pain was more or the dulling of my senses with the med less, I might have made a different choice. And, I am no purist- I do at times use meds to help me manage the pain." The last thing I want to do is suggest that my choice is in any way a "right" choice for others- we all have different responses to pain, pain itself has infinite variations, and our response to meds is very individual. Have added that little caveat to the post- thanks for teh prompt :-)

  2. Your beautiful spirit and attitude are lessons for me. Thank you.

  3. Oriah,

    You made the right choice. I can tell by the feel of your post today, and for that I am happy for you. I love the sincerity and vulnerability with which you write. It makes me feel more connected to myself and to the Great Mystery around me.
    I bow to you with gratitude.

  4. Oriah, I admire your ability to see through the pain and see what is necessary for your own purpose, it is amazing. Did you try to change the vibrational rate of the medicine so that it matched your own specific being and that anything that you didn't need was easily released from your body? It could help with being able to use the medication or at least have the option on days when you can't see the light through the pain anymore.

  5. Oh my, Oriah. My thoughts and prayers go with you as you lovingly work through this. If I may. I'd like to share something that was passed on to me that has resonated and been key in my life in addressing some long-term issues. I know you have exhausted so many avenues on this. But, for what it's worth, it may be something that resonates with you as well.

    It's called The Presence Process by Michael Brown. Here's a couple of introductory YouTubes by him (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2lOBYoeCs4 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hbd86ptvP1o).

    He had a neurological health issue and, like you, traveled the globe in search for answers to help in relief. He had Horton's Syndrome and the doctor's told him there was no cure and only relief he found was to check out via drugs. It literally brought him to his knees feeling hopeless and to the point of possibly taking his own life as the only means for a way out.

    In one of his searches, the one thing that helped start him on this path of The Presence Process was in a sweat lodge in Tucson, AZ and through the guidance of a Yaqui Indian Medicine Man. His painful neurological condition revealed itself not as his enemy but as his friend and facilitator.

    You can also go in and read some of his book "The Presence Process" (revised edition) on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/The-Presence-Process-Journey-Awareness/dp/1897238460 for more insight.

    I wish you well, Oriah, and pray you will find exactly what you need in healing and well being on this journey. God bless you.

  6. Thank you Pat, very familiar with the Presence Process and Michael Brown's journey some of which parallels my own since my healing journey began with a shaman with whom I later trained. I lead ceremonial healings and facilitated shamanic retreats for over twenty years. Many blessings, Oriah

    1. You're welcome, Oriah, and I'm happy to hear you know of Michael Brown and his journey. You're so knowledgeable and attuned to these types of spiritual practices. I'm not surprised. Just had to share.

      Bless you on this journey, Oriah. I have no doubt God has a special plan for you and that you're exactly where you need to be.

  7. Isn't your new book about choices? Well, I guess you listened to your heart and made the right choice for YOU. So in a way you were "writing" for your book while living your life, even though you think you did nothing. You were experiencing choice first hand. However, I pray that the next choice is a less painful example for you. Pain simply sucks, when it hits. The one who is experiencing the pain right now doesn't really give a damn about its deeper meaning -that comes later- but at the moment of pain everything anyone wants is for it to go the hell away. Sending you tons of LOVE and a huge HUG! xox

    1. Thanks Sabine - and yes, you're right, it is in keeping with my writing and I am very grateful that I had a real choice in this situation. O

  8. Ronaye; Oriah. we do have choices and I wonder if you have looked into cannabis in tincture from? I ask that you research this area. I too do not like that drugged feeling from medication from DR. however recently I chose to take the risk of taking cannabis prescribe by DR. referral to the cannabis-compassion club. No high feeling nor doziness. My Mind is clear and relaxed. You speak well of our spiritual self and the strength in prayer as well, thank you

    1. Ronaye, I did look into this but because of a heart/aortic condition I cannot take THC (it is a smooth muscle relaxant) and even very low dose cannabis has 1%. Disappointing as it does work well for many. Thanks for thinking of me.

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