hard mom moment

I’m sitting at my sticky dining room table, listening to some kind of music I don’t particular like but I’m not listening for the musical integrity, it’s playing for one reason and one reason only.

Drowning out James’ cries.

Tonight was a hard one with the kids. I was thriving, making things fun, problem solving, praying in the hard moments, gripping for peace when the chaos was all around, laughing at dinnertime. In cleaning up, I found some notes that talked about staying hungry — aka focused on your goals. Writing daily is one of my goals. A goal I’ve done a pretty crappy job accomplishing, lately.

BUT tonight was the night.

Lukas is out of town. I had the house to myself (well, I WOULD have the house to myself, once my precious children fell asleep).

I just told Alexa to skip songs because the cries were breaking through the slow motion melody. And I skipped another, and another and another.

Screw it.

“Alexa, play modern gospel.”

“I’ll never be more loved than I am right now
Wasn’t holding You up
So there’s nothing I can do to let You down…”

Here come the tears.

And then I stood to my feet.

Arms raised as Jirah sang over me.

“Going through a storm but I won’t go down
I hear Your voice
Carried in the rhythm of the wind to call me out
You would cross an ocean so I wouldn’t drown
You’ve never been closer than You are right now”

The plan was to write, to finish one of the 30 drafts sitting in my blog draft folder. I missed today’s weekly post. It just didn’t happen. I was going to catch up. I was excited about catching up.

And now my heart is focused back on the music…

“Move the unmovable
Break the unbreakable
God we believe
God we believe for it”

“From the impossible, we’ll see a miracle…”

Both kids were sick all weekend. We were knighted during our first “two kids having fevers at the same time” battle and it was brutal, but we made it. Tabby still hasn’t caught up on sleep from her body fighting the sickness and she was exhausted tonight. Everything was pulling teeth with her… actually, now that I think about, her teeth didn’t get brushed before bed…whoops!

I didn’t like that last song so told Alexa to turn it all off, fully expecting to hear screams, from either bed occupied by tiny humans, and yet, it’s quiet. Well, as quiet as it’ll ever be living so close to the city with our train whistles and airplane landings and tonight’s daily summer thunderstorm lurking about. I want to go check on the tiny humans, are they still breathing? **Deep breath** Yes, they are still breathing, they are okay, we are okay, it’s all going to be okay.

There are things in my life I’m not ready to talk about publicly, stuff God is stirring and moving around in this heart of mine. Don’t worry, we’re okay. Shockingly okay. When I prayed the prayer, a decade ago, asking God to be with me as I change my life because I wasn’t happy with it’s trajectory, I never dreamed I’d actually make it, to a life I’m so happy and content to be living.

And yet, even in “shockingly okay” and “content” and “happy”, life, there is doubt, fear, worry, concern, loneliness, etc.

Another prayer I prayed a few weeks before the “let’s change my life” prayer, during a wilderness season through body aching sadness, I crawled myself to the floor of my closet and wept. I hurt, everywhere, all over, and a song lyric came quickly to my heart… “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…” I was in deep waters, my feet were on no kind of solid ground, and I hungered for more, hungered for deeper, hungered for value and meaning and worth out of life.

I’ve never been one to play things safe in the shallow end. Actually, when it comes to a real pool, I hate the deep end and VERY much like the shallow end but for this hypothetical analogy, let’s role with the truth I’ve always been one to take chances, risks, and figure it out as I go. The deep calls to me, not because it’s where I’m comfortable, but because it’s where I’m not. I know the One who calls me into deep waters has never left or forsaken me and I know He never will.

Since that sacred afternoon in my Auburn closet (the same one I sat in to wait out several tornado warnings!), my heart cry has been for the Lord to lead my into the deep waters. I don’t want my feet to touch. I don’t want shallow. I want deep.

The thing about deep with God is there is ALWAYS deeper to go. A decade ago, the deep I was wading into, the stuff that scared me and robbed me of comfort, is now things that don’t make my knees shake. It’s stuff I was terrified to live through and yet, I did, I made it, and I’m living, breathing and THRIVING, on the other side.

Same thing goes for the deep seven years ago and four years ago and six months ago.

Recently, we were recounting with friends all that we went through to secure this house as our home. I can put myself back into those moments, those emotions of the first phone call that threatened the deal falling through, or the weeks of waiting for the appraisal dispute to be completed. That was deep waters, phew, was that deep. But now, it doesn’t feel so deep. We’ve lived in this beautiful home for four months now and life has moved on. God has called me to other deep waters.

I want to close with something profound and memorable. As a writer, as a storyteller, that’s typically the goal. But it’s 8:16pm, I’m PRETTY sure James is asleep but I need to go turn the monitor on just to be triple check sure. I need my daily late reward cereal, my nighttime tea must be made, and there’s Netflix to watch before bedtime calls my name at 9pm.

The dishes won’t get done. The floor won’t get swept. The random junk the kids have found and spread all over the living room and kitchen will stay put in its spread out places. I will care for myself now that the writing and the worship music has helped align my soul with the One who heals. He healed my hurt heart as I sat in the deep waters, tonight. Knowing my son had an upset stomach, having done all the things to help, and still couldn’t calm him down, I had to place him in his bed and walk away, knowing I needed to take a breather, that hard mom moment, yep, that was deep waters.

As I was a decade ago, I’m still here, treading water, grateful to the deep that calls me into its fullness. Full of hard and rich and unknown. Full of Him, in all of His fullness I can’t even begin to comprehend.

Here I go trying to get all profound again…. TIME TO GO VA. Cereal calls.

xoxo, va

seven minutes

At 12:10 pm, I saw I had twenty minutes to get to Mimi’s house for lunch time to stay on track for nap time. 18 minutes of drive time + a chicken kids meal drive thru stop (at the BEST food joint ever, but I might be a biased fan), I just might make it.

At 12:36, six minutes “late” I approached the light to turn into Mimi’s neighborhood. We’re staying here for a week while our aspiring thespian attends theater camp in the south suburb neck of the Atlanta woods.

It’s not that the drive is too far from our house, it’s our nap king (he loves naps, now, y’all!) goes to bed exactly at the time the camp doors open. Since sleep is not simple for James Paul, there’s no way I could mess up his schedule five days in a row or we’d be back at square one. A square I’ve come WAY too far from to revisit. So we are living at Mimi’s so he can nap, and we can get lots of quality time with my favorite second set of parents!

Almost there after a long morning being an actress, Tabby was waiting patiently to eat her kids meal at Mimi’s dining room table and I’d already been notified via text that James was more than ready for his grilled chicken nuggets. Approaching the light, I rejoiced, it was a green left turning arrow. With only one van in front of me I knew I’d make it. Until I didn’t.

The van ahead of me put his right blinker on, ugh, dude, move! At some point I even honked my horn a bit. Toot toot.

Yellow light.

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Red light.

Dang it.

Now stopped with nowhere to go, a man exits the van with a sad look on his face and his arms raised in a shrug. “I think I’m out of gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

If I delay lunchtime I’ll delay nap time and yesterday’s delayed nap time was a nightmare. Lukas is out of town, James decided to party from 2-4am and I just can’t have another hard night.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you.” — Robert Fulghum

What do I want my three-year-old sponge watch me do?

“How can I help?” I asked the man.

With pleading in his eyes, he said, “you could take me to get gas.”

GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

It’s going to take forever, we are going to miss nap time entirely. The kids will be up for days.

“Sure, get in!”

He hustled to grab a gas can out of the back of his work van and scooted into the front seat after I chucked all my “traveling mom” gear to the second row.

His name was Javier, a worker from Gwinett county in the area tackling a residential project. His boss warned him the gas gauge was broken in the van but as his first time driving it, he had no idea how broken it really was.

Approaching the next intersection where I sort of knew a gas station sat, we saw tons of emergency vehicles and traffic blocked in every direction.

“Yikes, that’s a bad accident” is what I said, but what I thought — GOD, I REALLY, REALLY DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.

Finding my way to the right lane and up the hill to a gas pump, Javier jumped out, filled the tank, used copious amounts of paper towels to make sure it was clean, and looked at me with sad eyes again “it’s going to smell bad”.

“No big deal, I’ll leave the windows open!”

The father of two kids, we talked about the joys of being parents and he told me his job down south was going well. I asked him if I could drop him off at the light and would he be fine walking back across the street to his van so I could make a quick right to Mimi’s house.

“Oh yeah!” he said before getting ready to jump out of the van and thanked me over and over.

I gave a quick wave, put on my blinker and pulled into Mimi’s neighborhood. Peaking at my GPS ETA it shocked me how much time had passed. If I had a dollar for every time I thought “GOD, I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS”, I could have purchased a full tank of gas (even at these ridiculous prices) for the work van.

SERIOUSLY, God, I didn’t have time for it. I don’t know how we had time for it. I sat in awe, so grateful I’d listened to Spirit, and acted on the nudge to “show” instead of “tell” my precious little girl about being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Helping Javier? The getting him in the car, down the street, up the hill, to the gas pump, following the detour around the accident and back to the van? The thing I REALLY didn’t have time to do.

Yep, helping Javier took seven minutes.

xoxo, va

almost cancelled

Sitting, watching Iron Chef during the few sacred minutes I have when both kids are asleep at the same time (it’s truly holy!), my eyes started blurring a bit. Getting kinda wonky and cross eyed, hard to focus. I know what that means. After a month worth of blogging about how great I’m doing with migraine life, here I was, facing the very beginnings of a migraine attack.

Within 20 minutes my fingers started tingling, I started pounding water (lukewarm not cold because I can get it in faster). With the tingling creeping to my hand and traveling up my forearm I decided I had to break my life rule — NEVER wake sleeping babies. Desperate times call for desperate measures and my sleeping three-year-old was in the way of me getting to my supply of magnesium, the one thing that just might hold back the pain.

I popped my head into the bedroom and saw she was awake anyway (halleujah) and raced to my bathroom as a barage of “mommy, what are you doing?” questions followed. I sent the princess downstairs to grab my cell phone. By the time she got back, there was magnesium in my belly and on my calves and I curled up in bed next to her. Turning on Peppa Pig, she laid there, while I rolled over and willed the pain to not come. Tingling continued, through my shoulder, up the side of my neck, to the back of my head and like a slow moving tide, made it’s way up and over my scalp.

I woke, 35 minutes later, to Bubba crying. I’d fallen asleep, and let my daughter have more screen time then I’m typically comfortable with. I felt hung over, like I’d woken up from a bad night of good cocktails, but the tingling never made it to my eyeball. That’s where the pain hits, and where it sits, sometimes for two full days but this time, by the grace of God and Tabby’s patience, I knocked the migraine out before it really started hurting and I couldn’t come back from the pain spiral.

Climbing out of bed to grab little man, I felt heavy, my head and my body felt like I was moving through a slow moving river. We made our way downstairs and I looked over at the Instant Pot I’d set up on the counter, hours ago, ready to make dinner.

With Lukas out of town, I’d planned to cook dinner for our neighbors who have become family. With the pain encroaching in my head, the obvious answer was to cancel. In the past, that’s what I always did… cancel.

This time, before sending the “need to cancel” text, I paused. After writing a month’s worth of migraine posts, focusing on how depression and migraine are so interconnected in my life, I challenged myself. Why cancel?

Well, I don’t want to entertain people while I’m hurting. VA, you know these people require no entertainment.

Well, I don’t want to cook dinner for anyone. VA, you have to cook dinner for you and the kids anyway. It’s the instant pot, it’s easy, there’s no extra effort to have more join.

Well, I don’t want to be in pain around people. VA, you have your two little people you’ll be around anyway. And wouldn’t it be better if Tabby had someone else to talk to instead of her hurting mama?

Well, I don’t want to be a bad version of myself around anyone. VA, these people aren’t just “anyone”. You’re allowed to be yourself with them, even if yourself is fussy and in pain.

I didn’t get too much farther. That’s all I needed to put the phone down and trust that the neighbors I had been investing in were people who I didn’t have to be “the best version of me” around.

They walked into my house an hour later with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. I’d bought the wrong noodles for the recipe and later burnt my Instant Pot Spaghetti (how did that even happen??) and I told them it might be awful, but they gobbled up bowls, anyway. We sat at our dining room table and they talked to the kids (which was a much needed reprieve for my hurting head) and talked to me about stuff that got my mind off the hurting.

At 5:30 I took James upstairs for his bath time and the three ladies (a mother, daughter and granddaughter — how cool is that??) stayed with my girl. Once little man was asleep, I made my way back down the stairs to find my kitchen completely cleaned (cleaner than I ever would have gotten it on a good day!) and Veatra, our resident neighborhood hairstylist, putting “fairy hair” into Tabby’s locks. HOW AMAZING ARE THEY???? Goodness, I love them dearly.

This is why we neighbor. This is why we invite people into our lives who live in physical proximity. It’s not easy, it takes vulnerability and opening ourselves up to exposure, which always means opening up to risk of hurt, awkwardness, and uncomfortable situations. BUT. Y’all…it’s been so worth it.

Yes the clean kitchen was nice, and the camaraderie at dinner, and the hairstyle for Tabs…those things were great. Even better was what the night communicated to the deepest parts of my soul. I am loved, I am cared for, and I am not alone. Even on my worst days, when I may show up as the worst version of myself, I am still chosen by people who’s house is spitting distance from my own. And with that hindsight, it’s pretty crazy to think I almost cancelled.

xoxo, va

dear Mrs. Obama

While scrolling through the internet one day, I stumbled upon an opportunity to contact the Obama family. I almost scrolled to the next page but stopped. What would I say to them if I had a chance? Would my note actually be read? Probably not, but at least I could try. Try because, after watching the Becoming documentary, I recognized my own role in the pain the family experienced. Yes, I’m just a little tiny white woman from the south, my impact was small. Microscopic, even.

But… was my role really that small?


Hi Mrs. Obama!

I want to say thank you and I’m sorry. I didn’t vote for your husband, actually, I was one of those folks who was pretty vocally against him, pretty vocally against you, as well. After watching your Becoming Netflix documentary last year I was blown away with how ignorant I’d been. In 2008, I believed what the media said about you guys, I was sucked into the criminalizing rhetoric. I justified my racist thoughts because I was against his “policy”. And for that, I am sad.

Sad I didn’t get to cheer for you guys when you were in the White House. Sad I didn’t get to vote for a man, a family, who I now see, understand and know, ABSOLUTELY belonged there (and who I wish could be there again!). I’m sad it’s taken me this long to expose myself to the amazing speeches and work the two of you did while in office, work you continue to do and that I’m learning from like a dry sponge soaking it all in. As a white woman who’s grown up in the south, my ignorance has been on full display for most of my life and I’m blessed that by God’s grace, He’s allowing me to see it and repent for it, to continue to repent for it, something I know I’ll be doing all my life as I let Him undo this yuck that’s been instilled in me from my neighborhood, my community, and my country, from an early age. I didn’t know then, but that’s not good enough. I want to know, I want to learn. Thank you for your courage in standing up to the ugliness that we spewed in your direction. Thank you for your bravery. You stared into faces like mine and did the thing God had called you to do, anyway.

I didn’t get a chance to be a part of history when your husband became President but I learned, I got better, because of your story, I’ve done both. I was able to participate in this past monumental election. My husband and I took our two-year-old daughter to drive around Atlanta while we all honked horns at Biden and Harris’ election. We teared up. We felt like love won that day. As the mother of a daughter, I was able to watch Harris’ speech and again, tear up, knowing I would be able to proudly tell her when she’s older that the world changed that day and that her mommy got to be a part of it. A tiny, microscopic part of the right side of history, where I believe, in 2008, I was on the wrong one. I’m sorry for my ignorance. I’m sorry for being a part of the “them” that hurt your family. I wish I could take it back, but since I can’t, I’ll just move forward and do better. I promise to do better.

Thank you again, Mrs. Obama, I’m thankful you are in this world because you make it better place!!!


I never heard back from my email, nor did I expect to get a response. In writing group, we learn to write for the one — even if that one is yourself. The one for that piece of writing was myself. I needed to write it, I needed to apologize, I needed to repent. Michelle Obama didn’t need my note. She didn’t need my apology. She didn’t need my repentant attitude. She doesn’t need anything from me, personally. What she needs from me is to be a part of the whole group of white people pushing to not forget, to keep learning, to keep pressing into the discomfort that is the race conversation in this country.

One I forget about, more than I’m proud to admit, but one I want to keep engaging in and to keep fighting to bring to the forefront of my mind. IT IS SO EASY to get sidetracked, to lose focus, to get off course in the pursuit to be an advocate for justice.

On our way home from a fantastic week visiting my parents in St. Simons, here’s a shot of my four people at the beach…

…Lukas mentioned a podcast he’d heard about, called Love Thy Neighborhood. Y’all KNOW how much I love neighboring so I jumped on the bandwagon and was surprised at what we uncovered. A GEM. At least, it’s a gem for the likes of me who is questioning a lot of the narratives I’ve believed about faith, the Gospel, God, grace, and more, as I’ve learned some ugly truths about what people like me have done to people in the margins, under the banner of Jesus’ name.

I appreciate the podcast host’s perspective. It doesn’t seem as polarizing or extreme as a lot of the other content you find on these types of topics. I plan to listen to more podcast episodes in the future and only have one official episode under my belt, so can’t say I wave a banner of THE BIGGEST FAN (yet?) but it was thought provoking and educational. A glimpse into the history of the American church, especially in the south (aka where I was born, raised and went to college), where a whole bunch of white people used a whole bunch of power to protect their way of life against a whole bunch of people that didn’t look like them.

My letter to Mrs. Obama feels, well, a little silly, and yet, it’s the culmination of a A LOT of thought provoking soul work where I’ve had to look at my own racist tendencies square in the face. Like a bicep being strengthened at the gym, my muscle of learning about racial justice (and injustice!) will never be finished or complete. Rather, it’s a desire I have to constantly invest in relational strength with the people around me, never giving up on not forgetting.

If you’d like to join me in not forgetting, click here for the podcast episode I listened to. Or here, here, or here for three other episodes that are high on my “listen to next” list. Or if you are unsure about all this race conversation, it makes you MEGA uncomfortable (don’t worry, I’ve been there!!), and you aren’t sure where to even begin, check out this post that shows you where I began my learning journey. If you have specific questions, I promise to be a safe, listening ear, for you to ask them. PS if you know my mom, she’s a really safe place on this topic and pushes herself to not forget, as well! In the deepest part of my gut, heart and Spirit, I believe that until white people (me, us, and maybe you staring at your cell phone screen) start talking about race, regularly and often, we will not see Kingdom shaking change on Earth as it is in Heaven.

xoxo, va

two peas in a…bedroom

Getting James and Tabby sleeping in the same room has been a dream of mine. There are selfish reasons, like how we have 3 bedrooms upstairs in our new house — one for us, one for the kids and one for the playroom. If we want the guest suite we have in the basement (another dream!), then we can’t have a playroom down there. If we don’t have a playroom downstairs and we don’t have one upstairs, our living room becomes a playroom (more like a nightmare!). And then there are other reasons — like the stuff I’ve learned from mama friends ahead of me — benefits in lessons of conflict resolution, bonding, learning to accommodate someone else in their space and set boundaries for themselves, accordingly.

Having the two kids, sleeping in the same room, was always something I worked towards. In how we talked to Tabby when James was in my belly, laying expectations for her to share a room with her brother, in how I set up and managed their schedules and in what furniture we bought (bunk beds) when moving to the new space.

Oh and tents — tents are a MUST! We started using the SlumberPod (tent on the left) when we traveled with baby Tabby and she loved it so much we upgraded to a big girl version when she got out of the pack and play. James got used to the tent during our house buying drama and he loves it so much, we never transitioned him back to the crib.

It hasn’t been easy. It’s been a pain in the arse at times, and yet, Spirit kept leading my mama gut, one “next right thing” baby step at a time, to get the kids in the same room. I thought we’d have them in the same room when James was WAY younger. As I sit here and go back down memory lane this past year, I think of all the small steps we took to make it happen. I’ve tried to type them out but they are so small, the changes unable to even be captured in words they were so incremental, hardly even noticeable, and yet, I see the milestones. The first time we moved James out of our room to be with her, the first time we let Tabby sleep with us because James was having a regression night, the first time I sat in the rocking chair with both kids to prep for bedtime, the first time Tabby tiptoed out of the bedroom and shut the door quietly, the first time James cried and didn’t wake Tabby up, the first time Tabby cried and didn’t wake James up.

Bedtime was definitely easier than nap time. Nap time took months to work through the kinks. The days Tabby slept in our room or the playroom to not disturb her brother. The times I barked at her to go back downstairs because James was struggling (not my finest parenting moments). And then, just days before James’ first birthday, it happened. THEY TOOK A NAP IN THE SAME ROOM AT THE SAME TIME.

I’d crossed the finish line of my first “parenting with two kids” mama marathon. Twelve months of doubts and tears and hope and optimism and feelings of failure. Days I questioned was it worth it and should we just move them into separate rooms, always holding the shred of the dream close, tight, willing to let go if it wasn’t working but committed to trying everything before giving up on the dream. I’d done the hard work. We’d done the hard work. We fought for something together and made it happen. We are warriors. I am a warrior.

In college, there was “the va”. A hand motion/tongue thing I did so many times, a bestie who thought I was awesome before I believed it, myself, named it after me. Here’s a collage of pics, borrowed from my “Bye 20’s” post showing off a few of the many times I’d stick my hand up and tongue out to signify “This is awesome!”

An awesome hair cut, a birthday celebration, beer pong win, Auburn victory, road trip, night out, anything where the moment deserved a “THIS IS AWESOME”. So a few weeks ago at nap time, even though I hadn’t done “the va” in a looooooooong time, when I closed the door on my kids sleeping in the same room, at the same time, it was the only thing that felt appropriate. I FREAKING DID IT.

I’m an amateur parent. This is a new gig for me, I’m only 3.5 years into being a mom and only 393 days into this whole “parenting two kids” thing. Any expert will tell you if you’re striving for a goal, you HAVE to celebrate the wins. Big wins, small wins, even finding microscopic wins in the sea of failure. Being a mom feels like failing, a lot. There’s no dashboard on my computer that gives me a score for how I’m doing as a mom. There’s no wearable tracker that helps me know I’m “red/yellow/green” in motherhood. There’s no boss giving me a bonus check for my performance.

Sure, I look at my kids and think THEY ARE AWESOME, we must be doing a great job, but that’s a slippery slop because let’s be real, measuring my worth as a mom in the behavior of my kids is a **warning***warning** danger zone opportunity for disaster. Thank you years and years of therapy to help me identify when I’m doing this!!!

Who knows how long James and Tabs will be sleeping in the same room? It might be never again (if tomorrow is another hot mess nap time like today, I might jump ship on the single bedroom dream pretty dang quick) or they might be together for years to come.

For now, I’m celebrating this win. I did it, THEY DID IT.

The way they love each other already, is something to marvel at. James is obsessed with his sister, follows her around everywhere, wants to do everything she does, and is totally confused when she’s not around. Tabby is obsessed with him in her own way, a little more low key about it, slightly envious of having to share her mama, but heaven help the person who hurts her “Bubba”. They are my two peas in a…bedroom…and I’m so proud to be their mom!

xoxo, va

migraine life (part 4: getting better at it)

PART 1: The Beginning
PART 2: The “Other Way”
PART 3: Chronic Pain Consequences
PART 3B: Reality

“Does it get any easier?”

“No, but you get better at it.”

Life with migraine hasn’t necessarily gotten easier, but I’ve gotten better at managing it. I know what foods to eat and what to stay away from. I recognize when I’m close to my threshold (aka pain threshold) BEFORE I get to pain level. I know the warning signs. I feel my head literally getting heavy, like now, right now, in this moment as I type this.

The way I communicate this to myself and others is “my head is heavy”. If there was a two armed scale in my brain it would be tipped heavily to the right side. I feel pressure, behind my right eye ball, up and over my skull, down the back, towards my spinal cord. It feels, well, heavy. Magnesium. Glare glasses. CBD oil. TONS of water. Super “migraine friendly” diet. Laying down, or at least sitting to rest a bit. Deep breaths. Reminding myself I’m not in control and that’s okay. These are my primary tools in my wellness arsenal for migraine I pull out at the first warning signs.

Interestingly enough? The past 5 days, I’ve also experienced depression symptoms. Not enjoying things like I used to, decreased appetite, sadness or anger for no reason, brain fog. In the same way I pay attention to the warning signs for migraine, I recognize depression warning signs as yellow flags that lead to action. When is the last time I got physical exercise? How about sunshine? Have I had a therapy appointment recently? Called a friend? Prioritized alone time?

The goal is always to cut off migraine before it hits pain level that affects daily functioning, and to cut off depression before it gets there, as well. I’ve gotten really good at doing so. I’ve been forced to get comfortable with the life changes I’ve had to make in order to care for myself. Like asking for help, admitting my limitations, accepting that this is a part of my life, every single day. Yes it’s a daily part of life AND when managed it can stay a small gnat in my ear instead of an elephant on my back.

Several years ago, a full weekend, out of town, with a different schedule than normal, weird foods and lots of time in the sun would have caused me a whole bunch of social anxiety. What if I’m in pain? Will I act like a brat? Will I be friendly? I only see these people a few days a year, will I be able to hold it together? These questions used to make me spiral, turning something as simple as a three day family reunion into a seemingly impossible-to-pull-off excursion.

Not this year, though. Nope! This year, equipped with all the tools I’ve learned, I went into our annual family time feeling strong. “Bigga Bigga” — what we call our annual family gathering (the name given years and years ago by the now extremely tall, college attending “almost-not-a-teenager anymore” white t-shirt wearing fella on the right side of this pic) — felt way more doable.

Was it perfect? Nah, when is family time ever that? But when the harder moments cropped up, I had tools to cope. I’d made phone calls ahead of time to clarify expectations. I communicated what my kids (and therefore, me!) needed in regards to sleep and food, to function well. I asked for what I needed before I got to desperate level (I went to a sushi lunch all by myself in the middle of one of the family days!!) Lukas and I worked together, supporting the other in getting our individual needs met while staying present with family and being as flexible as possible to maximize time together. And you know what? It was awesome! I left with a full heart, having connected with family I don’t see very often, and the best part — getting to experience my kids bringing so much joy and smiles to the group.

Lately I’ve taken moments to stop and find myself soaking in my reality — I love my life. I love my life, not because it’s free of hard stuff, but because I’ve gotten so much better at coping.

“I’m not afraid of the storm because I’m learning to sail my ship.”

This quote has been posted in my bathroom for several years as I’ve focused, not on making the “waves” calmer around me (aka trying to manage everything to make it easier and less tumultuous) but using my time and energy to equip myself to navigate the waves when they are big and crashing.

Cause here’s the thing — whether it’s migraine or depression or a break up or death of a loved one or becoming a mother or waiting to become one or a move or parenting challenges or social unrest or a hurricane or job loss or surgery (or another surgery!) or a crisis of faith religion — there will always be waves out of my control, waves that WILL rock my boat. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy and MONEY, I spend to make things easier, to make myself more comfortable, there will always be things that threaten to knock me over.

While laying in bed last night, I rolled over and told Lukas I needed to tell him something. Something, from my years learning to cope and manage depression, I knew I needed to say out loud. I didn’t want to do it, and almost didn’t, but rolled over and said “I don’t want to tell you but I know I have to”. He met me where I was in the dark (literally and figuratively) and we talked through it together. He reminded me I was okay, and, most importantly, that I wasn’t alone. Lukas is a physical representation of the ever-present God who loves me.

“…this God is in it for the long haul. We will not be abandoned.” That’s a really easy thing to repeat. My Christian upbringing has taught me to TRUST GOD. Trust Him, just do it. He’s worthy of my trust. YES…AND…it’s hard at times. I sit on the “other side” of a lot of those “wave crashing” things I listed above so I have hindsight. Hindsight to declare with confidence that God has never left my side, that He’s been with me through the long haul and that I’ve never been abandoned. It’s easy to sit here, in the bright of day, with a good night’s sleep under my belt, finishing this post to you, to see that. And yet, in the dark of the night, when all was quiet, it was hard to cling to that truth. It was hard to find that truth by myself.

Hard doesn’t mean wrong. Just because it’s hard to trust God doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong, doesn’t mean I love God any less, doesn’t mean I’m being a bad Christian. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean He loves me any less, either.

Trusting God, thriving with migraine and depression, learning to sail my ship — it all hasn’t gotten any easier. But, over time, I’ve gotten better at it.

And you will, too, I promise. Keep going. Don’t give up on yourself. And if things feel too hard, fight to roll over in the dark and tell someone you don’t want to, but you need to talk about it. Make the phone call, grab a lifeline, get the help. You might not believe what I’m about to say right now but I’m going to say it anyway. Pretend I’m shouting this from giant speakers attached to the side of a helicopter as I fly around you declaring to the world —

You are absolutely, 100% worth it.

You are not broken, you are not wrong, you are not messed up.

You are exactly who you are, right now, in this moment, for such a time as this.

Your pain matters.

Your story matters.

The world needs you…we need you.

This won’t get any easier, but you WILL get better at it.

xoxo, va

migraine life (part 3b: reality)

PART 1: The Beginning
PART 2: The “Other Way”
PART 3: Chronic Pain Consequences

As the last week of June comes to a close, you should be receiving “migraine life (part 4: getting better at it)”, and you will… next week.

Because this week, the time I would have spent finishing that post, was used recovering from a migraine attack. The second of the week and one of the worst I’ve had in quite some time. It came on with vengeance on Sunday morning and now, even now, Monday evening around 7:30pm, is still lingering. As soon as Lukas got home from church with Tabby, he took over with both kids and I went straight to bed. I asked him to come check on me after he put Bubba down and by that point, I was in tears, sobbing, I thought this wasn’t my reality anymore. He offered to bring me a few things and shortly after that conversation, I, mercifully, fell asleep, waking to a tray of food and an ice pack on the bed (best husband ever!). Several hours later I drug myself out of bed, and went to Home Depot with the family.

When I came downstairs Lukas said “so you’re going with the ‘distraction’ method of pain management?” Sometimes pain requires me to rest, and other times the pain is so miserable, even resting in bed sucks so why not wander around Home Depot with my people, instead? We started out with me driving because I thought the nausea might be better with me at the wheel but after the second “hon!” from the passenger’s seat, I realized my inability to focus well was endangering my family, so we pulled over to switch drivers. I stuck a grocery bag and a napkin in my pocket, just in case nausea became something more and I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. The lights from the ceiling were almost excruciating but watching James have a blast riding in the cart and Tabby running back and forth with seeds for the garden she begged us to plant for her, was soul medicine.

Next week’s post is about how I’ve gotten better at managing my health, how few migraine attacks I have these days, how few depression symptom days I have, and yet, the reality is, both are still a part of my life. I know how to manage my health and doing so is still a conscious reality on a regular basis.

What’s also a reality is the amazing life I’ve been able to live in the moments I don’t have pain, like at Bubba’s first birthday party celebration a couple Saturdays ago. While pregnant with him, we set out to build a physical community around us. We are blessed with so many people in our corner but most of them were spread far and wide. Digital connection is awesome AND we longed for a physical one. People we could touch and see on a weekly or even daily basis. We are blessed to have that, now. Church family and neighbors fill our home and hearts with their smiles and hugs on a regular basis and having a lot of them in the same place at the same time was pretty cool! Happy 1st Birthday, James Paul, you are one loved little dude!!

xoxo, va

migraine life (part 3: chronic pain consequences)

Did you catch part 1 and part 2 of this migraine life series? June is the month designated to bring awareness to migraine, a condition affecting 39 million people, based on the American Migraine Association’s figure. That’s a whole bunch of people with a whole bunch of stories. Stories primarily kept quiet because, if they were anything like me, they are suffering in a dark room, praying for relief.

When asked about how I’m doing with my migraine journey, my latest response is “really well. I manage my symptoms primarily with diet and the more I heal from depression, the more I heal from migraine.” Which came first — the depression or the migraine?

The statistics on depression and chronic pain are staggering. 85% of people suffering chronic pain were identified as having severe depression. One fifth of the country is suffering from chronic pain and depression is the third largest contributor to the worldwide disease (aka money, money, money), burden. Reading the data, my brain can’t even take it all in. People are hurting. A LOT of people are hurting. And the connection between chronic pain and depression is so interwoven it’s hard to identify. At least it was in my own life.

The more I learn, the more I heal, the more I recognize how interconnected these two ailments were. So which came first — chronic pain through migraine or depression? Honestly, it’s unclear.

I’ve let the cursor flash on my screen for over thirty minutes. I’ve searched for photos on my phone, I’ve had ideas for other posts I’ve started, I’ve stood up from my stool a couple times when my back started hurting, I’ve popped my knuckles and talked to Tabby and Lukas, and almost wanted James to cry so I could go rock him back to sleep instead of sitting here writing more about this.

It’s not that I can’t write about it or that it hurts to write about it… it’s just I don’t know what to write. I don’t know how I can put into words what it was like to live with chronic pain and depression. The lines are all blurry. When it started, how it started, how I survived it all. I look back at pictures and I feel sad, and then strong and bad ass that I still lived a life with memories I cherish. To attempt to chronologically lay out how it happened and what it was like in the middle feels dauntingly impossible.

Then there’s this pressure I feel to give you warning signs, to help you recognize you’re not okay if you’re suffering, to help you see yellow flags before they become red flags, to give steps for prevention so you don’t have to suffer the way I suffered.

I feel like I have so little to offer. No tips, no advice, no counsel. As I put myself emotionally back into those days, those hours, when I was suffering, I had so little to give then, which makes me have so little to give, now. My brain will switch back to the logical side eventually, hopefully soon, so I can give you “something something” (as Tabby calls it when she’s strategically and diplomatically asking me for some kind of sugary sweet) but for now I sit in the trenches.

Everything seemed hard.

Everything.

My therapist and I talk a lot about “doing the dishes”.

Now, I’ll unload the dishwasher in less than 10 minutes. Sometimes I play music, sometimes I just knock it out in silence, either way I do exactly that… knock it out. As long as little hands and feet don’t get in the way.

But then.

Oh, then.

Doing the dishes was my Mount Everest.

It was impossible. I couldn’t get it done. Day in and day out, if the dishes did, in fact, get done, it was the big event for the day. I needed a nap afterwards. I don’t say that in jest. I say that in total seriousness. Doing the dishes would wipe me out, if I even was able to get there to do them at all.

And let’s talk about naps.

I would nap, and nap, and nap, and nap and never get rested.

I’d sleep eight, nine, ten hour nights and wake up more tired than before I went to bed.

That wasn’t every day or all the time. Just sometimes. Sometimes that came on without warning and lasted any length of time it wanted. I never knew when I’d be trapped in darkness. I’d get reprieves, where things would look light, life would look hopeful, and then back to the darkness.

The waves of darkness were unpredictable and therefore made planning anything, impossible. Lukas wanted to go and hang out with people, meet new people, go on fun adventures and experiences, and I was scared. Terrified of when the next migraine would hit, fearful of how I’d act around others if the pain came on, embarrassed about how needy I’d become.

I couldn’t leave home without a myriad of support resources. Glare glasses, medicine just in case, essential oils, water (so much water), snacks. And heaven forbid I had to eat at a restaurant. That was hell.

Trying to find a menu item that followed the diet restrictions, or even worse, trying to explain my diet requirements to well intentioned servers. Or, still worse, when the server and chef would work really hard to meet all of my needs but the dish would come out with the one ingredient we had forgotten to tell them I couldn’t have. I’d pick at the dish, mortified to send it back but even more terrified to eat something that might trigger pain.

One of my favorite quotes is from a Good Wife episode. A client, who suffered a great loss, asked her lawyer, who’d suffered the same, “does it get any easier?” The lawyer replied “no, but you get better at it.”

“Getting better at it” hasn’t been a solo endeavor. Lukas never gave up on me and the life we wanted to live, free from the chains of chronic pain. My mom has logged hours upon hours of tearful phone calls and texts as she’s suffered, carrying the pain along with me. My mother-in-law has been in the trenches in our lives on a weekly basis, witnessing pain and depression first hand and supporting me through it. There has been a church community who has been a safe place for me to “not be okay” and allowed me to show up however I am on Sunday mornings. There are a handful of key friends who have been encouragement, cheerleading and prayer warriors. There are also some friends who couldn’t handle the constant suffering and decided they’d rather spend their attention elsewhere. I GET IT, I don’t hold grudges. Chronic pain, depression, this stuff is intense and the burdens are heavy.

There have also been two AMAZING therapists (one who diagnosed depression and was the crisis treatment navigator and the second has been my longterm treatment facilitator). I start to cry thinking about these two women because, well, Meagan saved my life and JaNeen has helped me get my life back. Is it weird to link them in this post? It feels a little socially inappropriate to call them by name and even point you to their websites. Which is DUMB because if I had an amazing physical body doctor, it wouldn’t be taboo to shout their name from the rooftops. Y’all see me starting to climb up on my soap box? I’ll stop myself from getting to the top and get back to the point…

Getting better at managing migraine and depression hasn’t been a solo affair. Actually, if it had been up to me, I might not be here. I hesitate, hovering my fingers over the keys, desperate to delete those words. “Is it too dramatic?” “Am I just writing that for attention?” “Stop being the victim.” And yet, if you’re reading these words, and you’re suffering either mentally or physically and you are just not okay, I need you to know, am pleading with you to know, you can’t do this alone. You can’t survive chronic pain alone. You can’t survive depression alone. If you’re anything like me, alone is exactly how you feel, and yet, you can’t stay there. Send a text to anyone you halfway trust. “I’m not okay”. You don’t have to give anymore details. Keep it simple. Hell, why don’t you just send them the link to this post and say “help.”

My advice for those who might receive “help” texts? Be available. Be safe. Don’t fix. Don’t try to solve the problems. Just be there when they text or call. Drop off ice cream (in a cooler with ice because the person might not get out of bed for awhile) Don’t make them get out of bed if they can’t, just be there when they want to. Send snail mail, silly ridiculous snail mail that has no purpose other than a smile. If you’re tempted to ask “how can I help?” Try something like “I really want to help but I know it can be stressful for you to try to figure out what you need. Just know I’m here and I’m willing to navigate it all with you.” You could even throw something in like “If it’s dark, know I will sit in the dark with you and I won’t bring my flashlight.” Flashlights hurt your eyes when you’ve been sitting in the dark a long time. I wanted to find the light, oh desperately I wanted it, but the light was also scary. It’s a whole lot easier to walk towards the light when you’re holding someone’s hand.

I did start seeing the light, thanks to all the hands who were holding mine.

Next week, I close out this series talking about what it looks like now that I’m a little better at it.

xoxo, va

PS If you don’t have a hand to hold. If you don’t have a number to send a text or anyone you trust will answer if you call. Call this number. 800-273-8255 Now, don’t wait. You’re worth another breath, another hour, another day, and they will help you find a hand to navigate the darkness with you. Here it is again, seriously, call. 800-273-8255

migraine life (part 2: the “other way”)

Once I was a Young Living Essential Oil member on a team (what happens when you buy a kit from them), I was exposed to a whole new world I knew so little about. It was SO MUCH MORE than essential oils for me. It was about learning this new lifestyle with a group of women who were trying to figure out their own health journeys. My research brain went crazy. Living in New Jersey, in a hotel, surrounded by nothing but farm land, this new world I was experiencing was a divine gift. Something that even later became my first attempt at starting a business. I could talk way too much about that but I’ll stay focused on the migraine piece.

That was July. I started learning and experimenting and seeing enough impact that I wanted to learn and do more. Yet, I was still chained to my medications. The holistic stuff I was doing was helping migraines not happen AS often (like maybe one less a month) but I was still feeling intense migraine symptoms on a chronic level.

Knowing the end of our insurance was nearing, I stocked up on enough medication as the doctor would write a prescription for, knowing I had a runway to figure out this migraine life sans medication OR start paying the high bills.

Communicating with me via telephone, I’d told my neurologist my medication had started not working. “Level one” had stopped really doing much a few months prior but now “level two” was beginning to fail me. I now know this was drug tolerance — my body was getting used to the medication because I was taking it regularly and therefore it stopped working as effectively as it once did. The doctor prescribed another medication, I’ll call this “level three” (even though it technically replaced “level two”) because it felt more intense. This was a snorting medication. I had this contraption where I’d put a capsule into it, push a button which broke it into a powder, and then I snorted it into one nostril. I’d repeat the process with the second nostril. Awesome, right? (insert insane sarcasm there!)

That medicine worked…for a very short time. The MAJOR turning point for me was October 2017. My friend was getting married and another friend had come into town to stay with us. The wedding was on a Friday evening and my out of town friend showed up around noon to hang out for a bit. While we were getting ready for the event, my fingers started tingling. I was DETERMINED not to ruin this night. Determined that migraine wasn’t going to ruin, yet another, social situation. I willed myself not to be in pain. Used all the oils. Took all the meds. And put on a happy face and my big girl pants and dammit, refused to let it happen. Here are pics from the night! It was so special. I even found out that TWO of my girlfriends were going to have babies!!!!

Between the lights and the loud music and the dancing…by the time I got in the car to head home I was in more pain than I’d ever been in my life. Once we got home I used one of those fancy snorting medicines and was able to feel enough relief to get in bed. I awoke 4 hours later in WORSE pain. Yes, the pain that was the worst I’d ever experienced in my whole life got worse. I used another snorting medicine and was able to sleep again. The next morning I woke up feeling terrible. So I’m readily, absolutely terrible. I survived the weekend and then by Monday morning, I had the energy to want to do something different.

Back in the summer, a friend recommended a book called Heal Your Headache when I first announced my holistic health journey. I’d bought the book and never actually read it. That morning, I went to find the book and climbed into the bath tub (my safe place).

I got to page 18ish, burst into tears “THIS MAN GETS ME”, read a few more chapters and then fast forwarded to the recommendations page. First step is to get rid of all medication (okay, well, that’s not going to be hard, that crap isn’t working for me anymore anyway!), step two is the HYH (Heal your Headache) Diet, and third is introducing prevention meds if necessary.

With step one out of the way, DONE, I was off to the grocery store to buy things that worked with the diet. I went VERY unprepared and was VERY overwhelmed.

Literally all my favorite foods I couldn’t have, and the things I could, BLAH. This sucked. It was awful. So awful. I wish I had a quick happy ending bow to put on the migraine diet story but the real deal? It was hard for almost two years. I realized I relied on certain foods when I was having a bad day — like Kraft macaroni and cheese — and I couldn’t eat that stuff. Food was my happy place in a myriad of ways and with those happy places stripped away, in the midst of one of the hardest fought physical and mental battles of my life, I was like a lost little puppy with out my comfort food.

After that day in the grocery store, it took a few weeks before my first headache hit. We were in Dallas at a resort before heading home after spending time with dear friends. The pain came on and no matter how bad it got I wasn’t going to use meds. And the pain got BAD. Real bad. I had to board a plane and get home with the pain, the nausea, the intense neck and shoulder muscle strain, it was as bad as labor pains with no relief for two straight days.

But the relief did come, finally. Followed by a “migraine hangover” and intense anxiety about it happening again.

I think I made-up the term “migraine hangover” but it fits perfectly. The after wave symptoms after the pain subsides: mental fog and extreme mental and physical exhaustion. That takes about 12-24 hours to clear for me to get back to normal, a new normal that remains terrified of it happening again.

As hard as those first 6 months were, navigating the holidays, frustrating family members who were trying to make food I could eat, crying at restaurants because it just felt too hard, spending WAY too much time on food selection, it started to get exciting as I entered the reintroduction phase. This is the phase where you reintroduce foods one at a time to see what triggers you the most and then you abstain from those foods and eat everything else on moderation.

I’d done two weeks of that, citrus and avocado were my firsts, and then I found out I was pregnant. The massive hormone shift brought on a new level of migraine intensity coupled with pregnancy symptoms and I was a mess. I was working part time, and couldn’t even maintain those hours anymore so we decided I’d step down permanently.

As I get into describing this next season of life, I’m experiencing physical signs of anxiety as I recollect it. This was a HARD season. Hard on me physically and mentally, hard on my marriage, hard like I wouldn’t want to wish on my worst enemy. Perinatal depression was identified by a therapist that summer. I never sought treatment after the diagnosis because I didn’t realize it was necessary. I wasn’t under the care of a therapist at the time and from Lukas and my limited knowledge of depression and our focus on the intense physical symptoms I was experiencing, we didn’t know what we didn’t know and didn’t seek professional help.

Next week, hear more about the consequences of chronic pain and the impact living a life of fear had on every aspect of who I had become.

xoxo, va

migraine life (part 1: the beginning)

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. For the month, I’ve written a series of posts sharing my chronic migraine story in an effort to bring awareness to the cause and increase advocacy for suffering patients. This story is not an easy one to write. There are emotional triggers for me all throughout these posts. It was a scary, intimidating, painful, and lonely time in my (and my husband’s!) life. It’s a hard one to write but not a hard one to share because there are people suffering every single day with migraine (35 million people, actually!) and I want to shout from the roof tops — you’re NOT alone! If you are one of those 35 million people and feel alone, please email me virginialeefortunato@gmail.com. I’d love to advocate for you, personally!


Recently, Lukas had a colleague ask him for essential oils for migraine recommendations. It reminded me how that was our life, SO MUCH of our life, in earlier years. Migraine life is NOT my life anymore. And yet, it’s such a big part of my story I want to capture it here. To encourage others in their own migraine reality and to give hope that there IS life outside of physical pain.

For many, many, MANY days, weeks, months, I didn’t believe that. The thought of not living with migraine on a regular basis was a reality I saw no end in sight. A dark, dark tunnel with no light to be seen. I don’t label my life like that anymore and it’s truly because of God’s grace seen through support from my hubby, a few key subject matter experts, and a whole lot of stubbornness and refusal to accept that my life was “as good as it was going to get”.

If you are suffering from migraine, I want to tell you that you’re in hell. Literal, absolute, hell, and don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise. If you’ve been battling for awhile, you’re probably in survival mode and the thought of doing ANYTHING probably feels daunting and stressful and overwhelming and… yep, all of those words. Reading this blog post might even be triggering you, the blue light emanating from your phone, the focus required to read the words, you might not even make it past this paragraph and honestly, that’s okay. You are surviving hell and all I want to say is that you’re a freaking warrior for doing your life day in and day out.

I say migraine, not migraine(s) with an “S”, because, even though it’s common to hear “I have a migraine” or “I suffer from migraines” this is actually medically inaccurate. MIGRAINE is a neurological condition that can cause multiple symptoms. Headaches (typically severe) are one of these symptoms. Others include: ringing in the ears, intolerance to light and sound, nausea and vomiting, neck or shoulder pain, numbness or tingling, and difficulty thinking or speaking.

The symptoms I have (and still continue to face occasionally), I bolded in the list above.

My journey with migraine started in college, my sophomore year, sometime in the 2011-2012 school year when I was 19 or 20 years old. I remember sitting in the hallway, spread out with my class as we worked on some kind of design project. All of a sudden my fingers started tingling and then went completely numb. The numbness began climbing up my arm and I started to feel pain in my head. My teacher released me from class early and I started walking back to my apartment. By the time I arrived I was in hell. Thankfully, my studio apartment only had one window and I put pillows in front of it to block out every bit of light I could.

My grandmother suffered from migraine pain for the bulk of her life so I wasn’t totally “in the dark” on what was happening to me. I can’t remember what I did in that moment to relieve symptoms other than hang on for dear life. Attacks came few and far between for many years. I can count on one hand how many attacks I had before I was 25 years old. While in corporate America (2014-2015), things started ramping up a little more. I ended up in a neurologist’s office to get help. The doctor gave me one pill to take when an attack was coming on. That worked…for awhile. Then it became as soon as I felt oncoming symptoms, if I left work, went home, got in bed, and took the medicine, I’d be okay in a few hours, left with a “hangover” feeling, but at least not in pain.

Leaving work wasn’t an option on a regular basis so I found myself back in the neurologist’s office. I don’t remember exact timing on this but it was either right before or right after I met Lukas. At this appointment the doc gave me different medications, and this time it was in two phases. I had a “level one” and a “level two”. Level one was a powder — if I could drink it within 10-15 minutes of the first symptoms, I’d typically be okay. If the powder didn’t work, or I wasn’t able to make a powder potion quick enough, then I’d have the level two option. Level two typically knocked me out mentally and physically and I often times had to go to bed and wake up an hour or so later groggy and “hungover” but again, no pain.

This phase of the journey was when things began really starting to affect regular life. Even the phrases “level one” and “level two” cause trauma triggering reactions in me because of how much life was affected in that part of our journey.

I remember headed to (or from) Niger on a plane where everyone was sleeping, when I started experiencing the first symptoms. I scrambled over the people in my row to get to the aisle, scurry to the stewardess’ cabin, and beg for a cup and a tiny bit of water, to get that powder into my system. I started carrying a water bottle with me everywhere so I’d be able to mix this myself, sometimes even in the cap of the bottle because there was no other option. Then there were the times we (Lukas and I after we were married) were “out and about” and I’d realize I didn’t have my medication. Either before or after the symptoms (typically tingling/numbness) started coming on. The latter would cause a full on panic attack, but the former wasn’t any less intense. I can’t count how many times we have turned the car around to get my medication.

The medical definition of “chronic migraine” is having 15 migraine days a month with 8 days of having migraine features, for more than 3 months. In the summer of 2017, I was officially at that point.

In this season, anxiety really started ramping up. Anxiety around if I had my medication, anxiety about being in social situations and being “stuck” in a migraine attack, anxiety around migraine ruining social situations or events or plans or, well, just about anything. At the time, Lukas nor I had language for what we were experiencing. And I say “we” because even though I was the one with the physical symptoms, I’ve learned now that chronic conditions don’t just affect the patient, they drastically affect the support system, as well!! We didn’t know how to talk about it — all we knew was I could be in intense pain at any moment, and that affected us, oh man it affected us so much!

Speaking of medications, the two I was taking weren’t cheap. We were blessed with incredible insurance so our medication bill (for two prescriptions) was about $40/month, but with the end of Lukas’ Chick-fil-A employment on the horizon, and doing the research on new health insurance, I realized we’d be paying the bulk of the cost of the medication out of pocket. “Level one” medicine was about $10 each powder pack I used and “Level two”, each pill, was $68. Yes, $68 PER PILL. I was at the point of taking both medications 6-8 times a month.

Because of our traveling around, I’d been calling my Atlanta neurologist to get medicine refills but wasn’t being seen by anyone regularly. Once the reality of the cost of my migraine medication faced us, I decided there HAD to be another way. We couldn’t spend $1000 a month for medication, seriously, there were far better ways to spend the money and I was determined (this is where that stubbornness comes into play!) to not affect our family’s finances this way.

In July of 2017, a friend of mine got really into essential oils. She was seeing incredible health benefits from those powerful plant juices and it felt like a great place for me to start. I bought a kit from her and so began my holistic health journey.

Expressing my desire to do things differently, more holistically, Lukas was concerned I wouldn’t be under the care of a doctor. He asked that I get an MRI of my brain to verify there was nothing else going on. At the time, we were living 15 hours away from my Atlanta neurologist so I just found a random one around the corner and got on their books to get checked out. I am so grateful for this office because, not only did they confirm that my brain was “okay” and I was again diagnosed with migraine, they also were the first doctor’s office that introduced me to vitamin supplementation for migraine relief. They recommended the “migraine trifecta” — Magnesium, Riboflavin (B2) and COQ10. I started taking those daily and even to this day, take them occasionally. With the “all clear” from a medical professional, Lukas supported my pursuit of the “other way” of doing things.

So, that’s the beginning! The next phase of the journey was exploring this “other way” which included getting rid of all medication — a pretty scary thing for someone experiencing chronic pain on a regular basis!!!!

xoxo, va