I went to bed last night feeling fine and woke up depressed and headachy. While my rebound headache situation subsided in mid-June (thank the Lord, a big answer to long-time prayer), what's emerged since is a clear pattern of menstrual migraine. It's ugly and two weeks ago it left me begging for mercy.
For many women menstrual migraine spans the three days before the start of menses, and continues until about day 3 of menses. But for me, probably because I'm perimenopausal, it lasts about 8-10 days because the hormones are in more of a flux, leading also to anger, anxiety, mental confusion and depression. Most of the time medication doesn't help these headaches, or it only takes the edge off for a couple hours.
It's amazing how precise hormones are. They're like a well-oiled machine, sometimes leading to joy (a blue line on a pregnancy test) and sometimes leading to pain.
The same day I woke up depressed and anxious, I also got a headache and my varicose veins hurt and swelled, whereas the rest of the month I don't feel them. All traced to the same cause: fluctuating estrogen. The whole syndrome has become like an illness and I have to plan for it the best I can, knowing I won't be at my best. I won't be a very good mother or wife or friend or daughter, during this time.
Is there enough mercy to go around here at home?
It occurred to me today that I've felt great for two weeks. That's what I can look forward to for a while: two good weeks a month. Some women experience this monthly for decades, but for me it remained mild until my mid-forties.
Can I handle perimenopause? Will I break down and ask for hormonal replacement eventually?
I want to scream "No!" , there's got to be enough grace in the Lord's arsenal to get me through this without medical intervention. Hormone replacement therapy was given to my mother for ten full years, leading to a small cancerous breast lump (though no problems since it was excised 9 years ago).
A friend of mine is 55 and had her last menses in February. Prior to that it disappeared for a few to many months at a time. She still doesn't know if it was her last one or not. Menopause is said to occur after 12 consecutive months of no menses.
This same friend suffers hot flashes at night that wake her up, but she said it's all minor compared to what she went through in her forties. She doesn't know how I'm enduring this with young children, and I don't know how she endured it with teen children around, also in hormonal flux.
At any rate, I need to take the advice I gave my son earlier tonight.
We had to take Peter's bike away for two days because in an impulsive moment, he sent his brother's bike, sans a rider, rolling forward, crashing into our fence. The impact appeared forceful and I was shocked at the senselessness of this act...so like an ADHD child. An impulse hits them and they act on it, experiencing remorse and frustration afterwards. They feel stupid and of course as the parent experiences frustration and anger over the acts, which are sometimes dangerous and/or expensive, the child feels worthless and hated and has trouble calming down, even as everyone in the house moves on and wishes the child would as well.
They can't seem to say, "Well, I made a mistake; I'm sorry" and move on. They have to dwell on it for an hour and make everyone thoroughly miserable.
Peter's OCD makes it more challenging. He starts apologizing profusely, going in a downward spiral of hysterics as he wonders if God will forgive him or if he is "under sin". OCD can have a religious distortion component, which, as I wrote before, Martin Luther experienced. The personal suffering Luther endured eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, which was a blessed thing. We are saved by grace, not by works. As this realization settled Luther's heart and mind, he became a warrior for the Lord.
OCD comes with what's called "checking behaviors". When we have an appointment, Peter will ask 20 times if the elevator is going to malfunction, but more often, around the house, he asks me 20 times if I forgive him.
A friend's OCD child has a fear of throwing up; she asks her parents many times a day if she's going to vomit. If they don't answer, or if I don't answer my son, the child becomes increasingly agitated.
These verbal "checking behaviors" are akin to an OCD sufferer needing to go back to the house to check for the 10th time to see if they really shut off the stove burner, or if they really locked the door. Verbal checking behaviors are maddening to everyone around, while the more personal, quiet checking behaviors normally just drive the OCD person crazy.
At any rate, it's all tragic.
Tonight as my son went on and on asking for forgiveness, I reminded him that the Cross already has it covered.
"Peter, asking for forgiveness is good, but asking for help is better."
I explained that one of the reasons God has us suffer, whether from OCD, ADHD, or perimenopause, is because he wants us to humble ourselves and ask for help. He wants us to need Him. Our weaknesses drive us to fellowship with Him; our strengths drive us away from Him, as we focus on how capable we are on our own.
Weaknesses remind us that life here is not so great, but something better is awaiting. They give us a Kingdom mindset and that's what pleases the Lord most...a grateful, generous heart with a Kingdom mindset.
I want to encourage you tonight. I don't know what your specific trouble or weakness is, but rejoice.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Mature and complete, not lacking anything. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? My idea of a mature, complete person is one who never hesitates to go to the Lord, begging for help. Clothed in humility, this person doesn't waste time trying to endure or solve a tiresome, hopeless situation on her own.
Pride sends us looking for answers within ourselves or elsewhere, but humility sends us straight to the Lord...the source of all true strength.
Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Frustrated tears streaming, my son wanted to know if he would always be impulsive and if so, how would he make it in life? His father has a similar condition and still suffers from impulsivity at times, so the truth is, yes, outside of healing, my son will always fight impulsivity.
But I didn't say that.
I reminded him that the answer lies in his relationship with God. God would strengthen him, sustain him, shower him with grace, and possibly heal him.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
The thing we get wrong is that we wait so long to go to the Lord, we suffer needlessly.
This week and next, as my hormones turn my life upside down, I will take my own advice. God may not heal me, but he will soften the blow and sustain me through it. He will also sustain my family.
He's faithful...he's proven that time and again.
Psalm 16:8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
As we grow up we stop running to Daddy because that's frowned upon in our society. In earthly terms, running to Daddy means we never really left the nest; we're a perpetual adolescent.
Not so with our Heavenly Father: running to Daddy is the best thing we can do. The wisest thing to do, the humblest thing to do.
It's what mature-and-complete, lacking-nothing people do.
I'm sincerely sorry about whatever you're suffering tonight, but I wish for you the same thing I wish for myself and my son: maturity and completeness, lacking nothing.
You're on your way; rejoice with me!