When I started writing this, I planned on centering the piece on Jesus Christ Superstar, which I saw at the Fisher Theatre last week, and the ways in which art can help us understand Jesus as fully human and fully divine. Unfortunately, my body had other plans. I suffer from recurrent migraines. Though I take Amitriptyline as a preventative, and though it has markedly improved my quality of life, a migraine still breaks through every once in a while. The Rizatriptan I take to treat the pain doesn’t always provide the relief I hope it will.
People have lots of different migraine triggers. Mine are stress, hunger, dehydration and hormonal changes. I learned that these were my triggers after I was advised by my doctor to keep a headache journal. For months, I logged everything I did, ate or drank in the 12 hours before a migraine started. This type of journal is a common diagnostic tool for anyone suffering from frequent headaches. It helps put control back into the hands of the patient, because when we know what our triggers are, we can mitigate the risk we face of getting a migraine or terrible headache.
Yet, even with as much planning as possible, we can’t always stop them. Mine start with throbbing on one half of my head, accompanied by acute sensitivity to light, sound and scents. At my worst, they can include nausea and vomiting. Sometimes, with the help of medication, I can stop a migraine in its tracks. It feels like a huge victory when it works, but it is frustrating when it does not.
We never have total control over our bodies, and that can be difficult to accept. Today, I had to miss out on an event I was looking forward to because a severe migraine took over. In the past month, I have canceled, rescheduled, and canceled plans again with two sets of friends three times because of migraines like this one. It’s enough to make me want to stomp my feet and have a temper tantrum like a child. In moments like this, my body feels like my enemy — a playground bully intent on embarrassing me in front of everyone I know and on inflicting as much pain as possible. Then, I feel guilty for feeling this way. My body is a gift. It does its best for me, and I repay it with contempt. Gratitude takes effort.
This morning, as I laid under my comforter with an ice pack strapped to my forehead, I had a thought that I’d never had before: Did Jesus ever get a migraine? The question itself was a comfort, whether Jesus suffered from migraines or not, because Jesus of course understands the frustrations of living in a human body. He knew what it was to be fully human, and ailments are part of the human experience.
So, I take refuge in the God who experienced pain and illness like me, and the God who helps us find rest and recovery with Him. My body is not my enemy. My body is mine, and my experience in it — though sometimes out of my control — enriches my experience of life. I love my body because God loves my body, because God loves me. God wants us to take care of ourselves, and so, today, though I had other plans, I will try to do what God asks of me.