Thursday, June 28, 2012

Learning the hard way

Migraine Awareness Month: "I learned the hard way..."
I chose a substitute prompt for today's original blogging challenge prompt. So the prompt I'll use today is: We learn a great many things the hard way, through experiences that are often difficult and unpleasant. Of all the things you're learned the hard way, what sticks in your mind the most?

I learned the hard way that I am more than a series of accomplishments. That sounds cheesy, but for me, it was hard to learn. I always thought I would be successful in life by conventional standards, and be accomplished and known for my accomplishments. Migraines had another plan for me. Rather, migraines planned to teach me that success can be measured in other ways. Success isn’t just what can be measured: degrees that you can hang on your wall, money in the bank, or awards you’ve received. A successful life also includes friends who are loyal, family who loves you and supports you, a spouse who is faithful, loving, and supportive. Accomplishments include all those ways you can contribute and build into the lives of those around you, by loving them, supporting them, being a loyal friend, spouse, or family member. Contributing to society, and trying to make a difference in something bigger than yourself, through volunteering and sharing your experiences with others when you can, count as accomplishments too.

I learned all this because I tried to be successful every other way. I graduated college with a good GPA. I planned to work a year then go to law school. I got that really cool job in PR at a local hospital, and I got a full scholarship to law school. None of that mattered, because those migraines that once were episodic, about once per month, became chronic and daily. So there went that cool job. I started law school anyway, but that effort was futile. I made it through a few semesters, with a medical leave of absence and two hospital stays in between, but ultimately the physical and emotional toll it took on me, my husband, and my family who felt responsible for me and my health was too great. So, I couldn’t work, and I couldn’t go to school. For the first time in my life, I had no way of measuring my worth, of measuring my success, or of knowing what I was going to accomplish. It was difficult. I felt lost—like I had no purpose. I was aimless, goalless, just….lost.

Gradually, with the help of therapy, friends, family, and my husband, and by finding ways to volunteer in things that I love (namely, politics and causes related to women’s issues) I finally feel like I have a purpose again. I finally see that I have value regardless of the degrees on my wall, the awards I have received, or the money in my bank account. I am successful because I love and am loved. Because I am a loyal, supportive friend who is surrounded by loyal, supportive friends. Because my amazing husband thinks I am amazing too. Because I come from a family that circles the wagons and supports each other, no matter what, and that’s pretty cool. I have more than some people with degrees and awards and tons of money could ever dream of having.

I just wish I weren’t so hard headed, and it took something less painful than migraines to teach me this. I learned it the hard way, but I am glad I learned it, nonetheless.

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger's Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.

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