How do we choose? We are faced with choices on a daily basis. We lose sleep over them; they feel momentous, life-changing. Rarely are they an Indiana Jones moment:
- if I step on the wrong step it will crumble below me and hurl me into the rat/snake/cockroach infested pit, or
- if I stake all on drinking from the gold cup my eyeballs will melt and I will desiccate into a human husk, so that the 2000 year-old crusader can say “he chose unwisely.”
Most of our choices change our lives more gradually!
For those of us with Migraine disease and chronic illness, choices often revolve around
- what treatments to try, and
- how to manage to make our living.
Most choices in life are reversible; we can change our minds, have a chance to learn from our mistakes. Usually there is no one clear right choice. In medical situations we often wish there was one. How about the doctor coming to us and saying, “Well, Ms. So and So, here’s the choice
1. If you take this course of treatment it will cost you $2500 and you will feel worse for 2 months, 3 days and 16 hours, but then you will lose 30 pounds, become a natural blond, your Migraines will cease forever and you will never age another day.
2. On the other hand if you don’t take the course of treatment your fingers will gradually turn to pretzel sticks and crumble away, your brain will become a giant chicken heart and eat Philadelphia, your best friend will never speak to you again, and you will have a Migraine every day forever.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d go for the treatment. And I don’t even want to be a blond!
Okay, I’m being extreme. I hope I didn’t lose you there in all my silliness; there really is a point. It is rarely given to us to know whether we are making the right choice, before, during, or after. We have to weigh our options, but then we just have to choose.
Before I had my first child I fell and herniated a disk in my low back, causing two years of back pain. Then I had a difficult labor with an erratic pattern of contractions, wearing me out without making progress. After 18 hours of labor, I chose to use pitocin, a synthetic hormone, to stimulate the labor, and the pitocin made the contractions strong and painful enough that I felt I needed anesthesia. I had to choose between taking pain-killers and having an epidural (where anesthetic would be injected into the dura, or sack, around my spine). With an epidural there was a chance that my disk problem could become worse, even to the point of permanent back pain. With pain-killers, if I ended up with a cesarian section, I would need general anesthesia. The choice was to be awake for my daughter’s birth and risk disabling back pain, or to risk being knocked out for her birth with no back complications. I chose the epidural. I did have a cesarian; I was awake; and I did not develop any back problems from it.
My husband and I will never forget when I was lying in the birthing chair, pitocin-induced contractions sending me into ever higher spikes of pain and exertion, trying to make a choice in the panting moments between. We were 31 years old, and we felt like we became adults in that moment. If I had ended up with disabling back pain, I don’t know if I would have said it was the right choice. To be awake and hold Rachel in the moment after she came into the world was a joy I did not want to miss. That was what I chose. But who can say if it was the right choice?
The choice I made recently was to start on Migraine preventive medication. I spent at least 6 months making that choice. It was a choice I was considering for at least 4 years. Sometimes a choice needs to stew on the back burner of our minds. In that 6 months I:
• Found a doctor I could trust (which took several tries and months of waiting for appointments);
• Did a lot of on-line research, and read about other’s experiences with preventives;
• Recommitted to my meditation and relaxation program;
• Tried magnesium and B2 supplements;
• Tracked my Migraine numbers; and
• Talked about the decision with my friends on and off line, my husband, my family.
Eventually, the choice just felt clear.
I will be returning to this subject of choosing in several more posts in the near future – if you’ve read all the way down here I’ve kept you too long already! What I’ll leave you with today is to say that those times when you must make that life-changing decision right now are rare. We usually have some time to make our choices. Use that time. Let things simmer on the back burner. Let your subconscious mind do its job. Will you make the right choice? Nobody knows. But you can make the choice with much less anxiety in the meantime.
Pretzel sticks image coutesy of Windell Oskay; image of window at Mesa Verde is by me to illustrate being between a rock and a hard place - Mesa Verde is all rocks & hard places. And amazing.
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