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Something to ponder as we begin Inspiring Hope for this year’s Migraine and Headache Disorders Awareness Month.
“Hope, if we are lucky, is our most formidable ally in the struggle against fear. This is fortunate, as we tend to rely upon it in the most fearful moments of our lives.” ~ Robert Kachko, ND
Dr. Kachko shares personal insights from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in this insightful blog post.
The more successful this blog, the more often I receive offers of help from people who claim they have the answer to solve my health issues. While I am sure that many have good intentions and truly believe they can help, I almost always politely decline. My refusal is sometimes met with accusations that I don’t really want to be healed. I have to question the motives of anyone who will respond by patient-blaming when their offer is refused.
While I used to say that I would “do anything” to get better, I am no longer willing to “do anything”. Sometimes the price is just too great. So now I weigh all the pros and cons, conducting a thorough investigation before I agree to any course of treatment. I examine the science, pray for wisdom, and trust my gut.
I get a lot of offers to try natural remedies and turn most of them down. I’m not opposed to using complementary medicine, or even abandoning modern medicine altogether. I spent over 10 years trying nearly every natural and holistic treatment I could find. From special diets, supplement regimens, exercise routines, energy medicine, manipulative therapies…you name it, I tried it. It is presumptuous of anyone to assume that their answer is so unique that I have never heard of it or tried it.
The ones that bother me the most are people who are really trying to sell me something or recruit me to sell something. They disguise their promotion by wrapping it in pseudo-compassion. As a general rule, I do not accept offers from direct sales or network marketing companies. My refusal is based on the premise that such businesses are not compatible with the marketing strategies of Seven Portions. It’s not about the quality of the product or its effectiveness. The offers simply don’t work with our business model.
Those who offer their cures don’t know my medical history. Not once have I been approached by a true headache specialist. None of the offers have ever come from someone who truly understands the science of headache disorders. I might actually take the offer seriously if the individuals weren’t so obviously ill-informed.
If I could be helped by natural methods alone, it would have happened long ago. Unlike many patients, I exhausted all natural options before even considering medical intervention. That delay may have cost me the opportunity for remission. The research proves that early intervention and aggressive use of preventives along with lifestyle changes (trigger avoidance) is the best option for a good outcome.
This blog doesn’t exist as an invitation for people to offer me treatments or cures. Its purpose is to share my experiences, good and bad, so that others will know they are not alone. I have a good team of doctors and healers. I am satisfied with the treatment plan we have created. I don’t need or want unsolicited help. If something is missing from my treatment, I am mature enough and responsible enough to seek it out.
Having three incurable, chronic diseases does not mean that my life is miserable or that I am emotionally unhealthy. The source of my health problems is not unresolved emotional issues or poor lifestyle choices. My life is full and satisfying. My mindset is healthy. I don’t spend my days unhappy or feeling sorry for myself. I wake up most mornings looking forward to the day. I have a very good life with a sense of purpose and supportive loved ones. If anything, having these health experiences has made my life richer and healthier.
Around the time that I wrote “Burnout” and “50% is still failing,” I started to look for ways to improve my results without taking more pills. I knew about a lot of natural supplements available but really didn’t want to swallow another pill. I just wanted to live life without worry that migraine would continue to impact every day of my life. I wanted to be carefree.
I knew that wouldn’t be totally realistic, so I started looking for pill-free holistic options that I could use myself. Acupuncture is great if you have the money to pay a qualified professional. Same goes for massage or reflexology. None met the criteria of self-use, until I remembered aromatherapy. It could be administered by a professional but could just as easily be applied by the patient. I just needed to re-acquaint myself with those oils that have therapeutic benefit for migraine. I would then practice mixing them until I found a blend that worked together.
In the past I have used unscented carrier oils by massaging them on the tender places on my face, head, and neck. I discovered that this massage oil blend was a great addition to my migraine toolkit. It is a great comfort measure — soothing and relaxing the sore muscles that tighten in response to pain. The scent is mildly invigorating, yet not overwhelming. After testing it between sessions, I have determined it will not trigger an attack by itself either.
I have also used herbal and essential oil blends as a nasal spray. The problem with previous nasal sprays was that they all contained cayenne. They were very strong and a lot of migraineurs complained that it made the problem worse. This nasal spray yielded a completely different result. I generally don’t do nasal sprays for migraine attacks because they just don’t get that bad that quickly. However, cluster headaches do come on fast and strong. About half the time, this nasal spray will abort the attack before it gets out of control. The key is to start treatment very early when the pain is still tolerable. You really only have minutes to decide.
Here is the breakdown of medicinal properties for each ingredient, explaining why I chose this particular blend. You may decide, after doing your own research, to change the blend to better suit your needs.
Peppermint has a long history of relieving headache pain. Having used it successfully in the past, I believed it to be essential to any migraine-relief formula I might create. As I did more research, I discovered more reasons to include peppermint in the blend. It calms the major gut muscles (reducing the risk of vomiting or diarrhea) and increases the flow of digestive enzymes to improve the absorption of medicine, food, and liquids. As a sudorific, it also helps regulate body temperature by increasing circulation and inducing sweating if needed. I have a hard time regulating my body temperature during an attack, so it made sense to include something that might help.
As with Peppermint, I have already used Lavender successfully during a migraine attack. Its tonic properties have the ability to calm my over-sensitive nerves and keep me relaxed while other treatments take effect. When combined with Peppermint, it provides decent, temporary pain relief while I wait for abortive medication to take effect.
I had not used Orange in a migraine remedy before this experiment. However, I had been exposed to some blends that included it and felt strongly drawn to it. As I learned more about its properties, I understood why it has such a strong pull. It can reduce inflammation, relax mind and body, calm muscle spams, and quickly eliminates toxins from the body. One whiff of the scent and I instinctively knew it had to be included. Please be careful though as it can cause phototoxicity. Stay out of the sun or keep well-covered while using Orange oil.
Lemongrass has been my long-time laundry friend. I never thought I would use it for anything other than cleaning. However, upon discovering that it also has pain-relieving and nerve-calming properties, I had to reconsider its use. I knew that it had been used to improve concentration and focus in children with ADHD and wondered if it might do the same for my “migraine brain.” I was pleasantly surprised at how much it did help.
I was hesitant to include Eucalyptus at first because I knew it had a tendency to increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels. While vasoldilation isn’t always present in migraine, I didn’t want to take the chance of making a bad problem worse. So I held off and kept doing my research. What I found was that it is a nice compliment to Lemongrass – stimulating my brain just enough to help me recover from cognitive slowness a little faster. Just use caution because it can cause contact dermatitis is sensitive people and is toxic when taken in large doses. This one is definitely a case where more is not better.
I finally came up with a blend that I thought might help without being too strong:
20 drops lavender oil
10 drops peppermint oil
10 drops orange oil
10 drops lemongrass oil
10 drops eucalyptus oil
8 oz. carrier oil (Apricot)
Shake and mix well in an amber glass bottle
20 drops lavender oil
10 drops peppermint oil
10 drops orange oil
10 drops lemongrass oil
10 drops eucalyptus oil
4 oz. distilled water
Shake and mix well in an amber bottle with nasal spray atomizer.
I would love to hear what kind of results other brave souls get from this blend. Please check in with your doctor before starting something new though. I used a combination of NOW and Desert Essence brands purchased from a local health food store. I already had the bottles on hand. You can obtain bottles at your local health food store or from Mountain Rose Herbs. However, they do not have the nasal spray tops. You can find those at Herbal Remedies for $2.99 each. Some people prefer to get their essential oils from doTerra or Young Living Oils and that’s fine. However, please know that oils from Aura Cacia, Desert Essence, or NOW Foods are made with the same strict quality standards and tend to be cheaper because there are fewer “middle men” to get paid with each item sold.
I haven’t eliminated any of my pills just yet. It’s too soon to tell if that will be possible. The fact that the oils work in any capacity at all make me hopeful that I have yet another handy tool in my toolkit.
I was first introduced to the ancient healing practice of Reiki by my sister-in-law. It was not long after I started getting cluster headaches, during a time when I was searching for answers and questioning just about everything. One of the first things I noticed was that some people use Reiki like a religion. Depending on the views of your Reiki Master, training may include concepts like chakras, spirit guides, angels, and more. I tend to be somewhat of an amateur anthropologist, enjoying a good search for the origins of practices and ideas. So naturally, I did the same for Reiki. What I found was that pure Reiki practice, as taught by Mikao Usui was not a religious practice at all. It was a spiritual practice of self-improvement, much like yoga, tai chi, or qi gong.
Its principles are not a secret. They are simple, timeless, and cross all religious, economic, political, social, racial, and gender barriers. I feel comfortable embracing Reiki because its principles mirror my own values and those of my family’s company, Seven Portions. There is absolutely nothing in the practice of original Reiki that contradicts my faith or personal ethics. In fact, the practice of Reiki is complementary to my professional, personal, and spiritual values.
Western culture places great emphasis on the scientific process, focusing only on what it can observe. Yet other cultures, with a much longer history, embrace both modern science and less tangible practices. They understood concepts that western science is just beginning to comprehend — namely, the human energy field. All matter emits a mild energy field and vibrates at a specific frequency. At their essence, all things are made of energy. The practice of Reiki taps into that energy field and helps to harmonize it.
The spiritual practice of Reiki is a form of healing. However, we must understand that there are many forms of healing. In western medicine, “healing” is defined as the eradication of symptoms by the destruction of invading pathogens. This is not a universal view and does nothing to heal a broken spirit. Scientifically speaking, it is not yet possible to regrow a severed limb. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. That doesn’t mean that an amputee can’t experience healing or live a vibrant, satisfying life. This is the type of healing that is best done far away from a doctor’s office.
For many years I moved away from regular Reiki practice. Due to purely random events that can only be explained as divine providence, I find myself drawn to the practice once again. It was through daily self-treatments that I learned how to ground and center myself in the middle of even the most severe migraine attacks. It is because of Reiki that I no longer panic in the middle of most attacks. It is becoming natural again as I continue daily practice, meditation, and a renewed commitment to its principles:
The secret art of inviting happiness
The miraculous medicine of all diseases:
Just for today, do not anger
Just for today, do not worry
Be grateful for everything
Do your work honestly.
Be kind to all living things.
Every morning and evening, join your hands in prayer.
Pray these words in your heart and chant them with your mouth.