Making Time for Love

Some of us may hold too tight, others barely hold on at all. But if we are to keep our romantic relationships from slipping away, we must first learn how to hold ourselves, and then learn to gently hold the ones we love.

Being in relationship with others is not an easy feat. Add in love and you have a learning experience that will last a lifetime. I do not profess to have all the answers and I certainly haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, but I know my shoes well and have learned a few things on my journey.

24 Hours in a Day

Every relationship is different and every couple has different needs and desires. In my relationship, we spend about 20hrs/day together, 7 days a week, and have never spent a night apart. This kind of time devotion is not necessary to build a healthy, strong, and vibrant relationship, but it’s where my husband and I find ourselves and it suits us well.

Perhaps your partner works out of town, or maybe the extra commitments of your children or family members have you rushing in opposite directions on school nights, or maybe you set aside time together on Sundays. Whatever your schedule of work and play looks like, I believe there is always time available to love each other. It’s about finding it, prioritizing it, and being present with it.

And here’s the truth:

Time is so very precious, and love takes time.

Making Time For YOU First

First on the plan to rev up that romantic engine is making time for yourself.

If you are not taking time for yourself to set goals, reflect on your day, your week, your life, you will undoubtedly feel pulled in too many directions and you may not be able to see the amazing opportunities in front of you. You may also have developed an apathetic attitude, “This is just my life now. Why even pretend I can change it?”, or have unknowingly shifted your priorities, “I won’t be home for dinner tonight – I have to stay late and send a few emails.”

One method to encourage this practice is to embed 5 or 10 minutes into your evening routine to reflect and prepare. Spending a few minutes alone with your day can be a nourishing practice, so don’t be afraid of your own company.

Write down 2 or 3 things that went well today. What are you proud of? What surprised you? What made you smile?

Look at your day tomorrow – what will you need to do upon waking to ensure you have a great day? What kind of attitude will you need throughout the day? Determined? Patient? Enthusiastic? What are the most important elements of your day tomorrow? Write those down.

This simple, short practice could really make a difference in helping you feel grateful, relaxed, prepared, and even excited about your life!

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times: couples are struggling to make time for their relationship to grow and flourish.

I can almost guarantee that if you take that 10 minutes before bed to empty your brain from the day and prepare for the day ahead, you will be heading to bed in a much healthier and happier place to connect with your partner! But it goes beyond that.

Making Time for “Us”

Relationships – especially serious, romantic ones – require dedication. You must be committed to your purpose, in this case, being a couple. So what are the expectations around that commitment? What does your partner expect from you? How do they feel and experience love? These are big questions, and if you are scratching your head at any of them, this would be a good place to start.

If you can, open up a conversation around love. Ask questions like, what things do I do or say that make you feel loved? When are some moments in our past together when you have felt close to me? What things are we not doing as a couple that you would like to do more of?

Take notes! I know that may sound silly, but in such an emotionally vulnerable conversation, you both may become swept up, and by morning, you’ve forgotten things you wish you hadn’t. Keep your notepad subtle (you’re not interviewing your partner!) and let them know your intention is to take their words to heart and you don’t want to miss or forget anything important.

Want to know how your partner truly feels and experiences love? Check out the 5 Love Languages Quiz! This free, online quiz can determine your love language, i.e. what experiences make you feel loved. Once both you and your partner know and understand your main love languages, you can begin building your relationship around loving each other in a way that truly feels meaningful to each partner. For example, I do not feel loved when I receive a small gift. I am grateful, appreciative, and I sometimes even feel special, but if you truly want to love me, I want quality time with you. Relationships with individuals who have chosen to love me by buying me gifts have never worked out. I always end up feeling unimportant and lonely.

Once you have had the chance to talk about your relationship with your partner, it’s time to make time for each other! This will look different in every couple and could be largely influenced by the results of the Love Languages Quiz. Maybe the time spent together is doing household chores: you mow the lawn while he weeds the garden beds. Or maybe the time put aside for each other is spent leaving work a half hour early to arrive home with a small gift of flowers and bubble bath for your loved one. Maybe you put aside time during the day to send little funny, positive, or sexy text messages to show your partner you are thinking about them. Or in our case, we make sure we are setting aside quality time each day to connect with each other – no work, no phones, just love.

Making Time When There is No Time

If you’ve put aside some reflection and goal-setting time for yourself (even if it’s in your own head while you brush your teeth), and you’ve had your open conversation with your partner, the next step is to actually begin carving out time to love each other more fully.

Now, if you’re feeling like life is already too busy, perhaps you’ll want to read my post on banishing “busy” from your life. But if you’ve already crafted your 24 hours into a well-oiled machine, and there’s just no wiggle room to add in more time, I have one last trick for you.

Be present.

Now hear me out. If you and your partner spend the evenings eating dinner and helping the kids with homework and bedtime, then truly be there with each other and do these things together. Unplug from your texts, emails and social media. Put on some of your favourite music during dinner. Read stories on the couch with your kids together. Play footsies under the table. And once the kids are asleep, take a shower together. Truly be present with each other and honour the time you do have together. This little shift in mindset could make a big shift in your relationship.

Choosing Love is Worthwhile

There is nothing more fulfilling or life-giving than my marriage. It’s the single greatest thing in my world. But it takes dedication. I have never liked the saying that “marriage is hard work”, because it doesn’t feel like that to me. Loving my husband is a choice I make with great joy. Ensuring our relationship is strong and vibrant may take commitment and attention, but it is a life task I willingly and lovingly embrace.

“I’m Too Busy”: 3 Tips to Banish Busy For Good!

Busy is a badge of honour.

As a business owner, I am often asked the question, “How is business?” To indicate we are successful and prospering, I used to answer, “Busy!” But this association between success and being busy is flawed.

I have nothing against hard work – in fact, I love working hard. Productivity and achievement are two of my favourite things. And I know success is often a product of dedication, perseverance, and focused effort. But do I need to create a busy life in order to be successful?

What do you think about when you hear the word ‘busy’?

Right away, I associate it with stress, full calendars, alerts on my phone and apple watch, picking up the kids and eating on the way to our next destination, missing phone calls, forgetting to call my sister, multi-tasking, auto-pilot, is it Monday already?

In the words of Bilbo Baggins, ‘busy’ has left me feeling “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

But what about my desire to achieve personal and professional success? Surely this busy life is just temporary and I will arrive at my perfect, balanced life any minute now. This is a necessary sacrifice. Things will get better. Likely by the Fall. In a year or two. Once I’ve paid off my loan. As soon as the kids are out of the house. Insert rationalization here.

Let me turn this on its head for you here:

What if being busy is simply a choice and is not necessary to live a successful and fulfilling life?

Ask yourself this – what would you do if you weren’t so damn busy? Go on! Write it down or list it outloud. I can almost guarantee that your response included things, experiences, or people that are truly lifegiving, rejuvenating, joyful and sacred. And these are the things you would get to if you weren’t so busy sending emails, driving here and there, juggling a hundred balls at once.

So here is a gentle approach to experience the opposite of busy. Take it or leave it, try it or turf it. But remember, in the end, we won’t regret all the emails we didn’t send or the errands we didn’t run. We will wish for more time to be un-busy. Late lunch with friends on a sunny patio, Sunday morning fishing trips with our children, witnessing the beauty of a sunset and being in complete awe of this amazing world in which we live.

Slowing down, even for just a few moments, could truly change your outlook on life. Give some of these a try and tell me how it goes.

Single-Tasking

There is magic in a solitary focus. Choose one thing you do often, even daily, and do that one thing in exclusion. Maybe it’s cooking breakfast. Instead of flipping the laundry while the eggs are burning or listening to the news while you turn the bacon, engage your senses during the entire process and stay present with what you are doing. Yes, I am saying, wake up and smell the bacon! If you find your mind begins to wander and you start drafting an email or planning out your day, just gently bring yourself back to the task at hand.

Technology Boundaries

If you’re like me, much of your life is on your phone. I can do business anywhere, and while this is an amazing testament to our technological advancement, it also means I need some firm boundaries as to when I allow technology into my life. For example, do you always eat dinner in front of the TV? Dinner is a great opportunity to connect with your family members about their day, express gratitude for the food on your table and the home that you live in. Or maybe members of your family (yourself included) bring their phones to the table. Create times in your day when technology is not welcome. Another great time for this is before bed. If you have last minute ideas or tasks that need to be recorded, grab a piece of paper! There are many studies suggesting technology before bed can disrupt our sleep cycles anyway, so improve your sleep hygiene and tuck that phone away. Take the dog for a walk, do a puzzle, have a bath, read a book. TV isn’t the only way to decompress after a long day.

Calendars & Day Planners

If you have a ‘busy schedule’ and you’re not using some kind of day planning system, it might be time to give it a shot. The great thing about laying out your day in advance is you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish. You also start considering what the most important tasks or events of your coming day are so you are more likely to prioritize those and stay on track. Even if you don’t have a conventional day job, there is still much value in planning your day. Schedule time to hit the grocery store, have date night with your partner, call the doctor to book an appointment, get to your exercise class, plan your family vacation. Seeing your day laid out in advance with realistic times represented will not only prevent you from overbooking yourself, but it will also shed some light on how you spend your time. Perhaps there are areas of your life that are not being prioritized in a given week. Laying out your day or week in advance can help you make the most out of your time and encourage you to include not only your “have-to’s” but your “want-to’s” too.

And if none of these sit well with you, then simply try answering the question “How are you doing?” differently. Strike the word ‘busy’ from your vocabulary. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, other honest responses could be “My days are pretty full lately!” or, “This is an exciting time for me with lots on the go.”

When we reframe our life to see the positive, a ‘busy day’ can turn into an opportunity to experience gratitude for the fulfilling job you have, the growing children you’re raising, or the concerted efforts you are making to build the life of your dreams.

So go seek that success! Just remember that sacrificing your joy and sanity is not mandatory. Our lives can be full without feeling ‘busy’.

Where Fear Meets Love

Fear can be paralyzing.

And sometimes, when you start to feel your legs again and you notice the beating of your heart, you decide the only option left is to run away.

But here’s a truth I am learning that I want to share with you: 90% of your fear is all in your head.

And here’s the kicker…. The most influential, loud, convincing, and present voices in my life live inside my head. Now, I am no more crazy than the next gal, but I will definitely admit I am influenced daily by voices no one else can hear. And some of those voices are rooted in fear.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You let people down.”

“You are damaged, broken, and sick.”

“You will never have what you dream of.”

“You are nothing.”

Who gave these voices a house key to the inner temple I have been building?! Someone or something must be to blame for all these “toxic thoughts”!

And so I venture down the rabbit hole of blame and shame – who did this to me? Why did I let this take root?

But none of that really matters. These may not be accurate truths about me, but they are valid feelings. Feelings worthy of love and compassion, not anger, disappointment and shame. And so, when I sense a fearful behaviour or thought, I follow it gently and tenderly.

Hello, fear.

What’s that?

You’re feeling insecure.

I know. I can see you are hurting.

What’s underneath that feeling of insecurity?

You feel unloved? Unlovable? Oh… come here.

And in this place, I hold myself. Mostly emotionally, but sometimes a self-hug is very comforting. Sometimes there are tears, a nauseous belly, more fears, but I stay with it. Often it’s at this point that begin to write, letting it all out on the page.

And I do all of this without judgement. As if I am actually comforting a close friend. In her time of need, I would never say, “You are so selfish for having these feelings!” or “Watching you cry and sit in insecurity is so pathetic.” But I have said those things and worse to myself when I am at my most vulnerable.

Instead, I offer true friendship and love to the parts of me that are in fear. Through being with these emotions, breathing, writing, crying, meditating, running, staring into space, I begin to open up to the healing powers of the universe.

When you begin to offer yourself love in your times of greatest need, you become your own lifeboat, your own best friend, your own parent, your own guru.

Next time you find yourself paralyzed in fear, seek solitude. Tune in instead of turning away. Face those emotions and tell them they are not only welcome, but that you will be there for them. Strengthen your relationship with yourself by bringing love to all the parts of who you are. Especially the parts you usually push away. Those are the parts that need it the most.

Minimalism

We don’t have a storage unit. We don’t have a crawl space or a basement. We don’t even have a garage.

Sure, there’s a tool shed out back and that’s where we keep our holiday decorations, and our summer cooler and tent, but there’s more room in that shed than we need. Our home has three bedrooms and one bath. It’s plenty of space for my husband and I as well as a comfortable home for my two stepchildren when they come to stay. I have a home office and a closet to store luggage, linens, cleaning supplies, stationary, and hide birthday presents. In its layout and functionality, my home is likely not much different than yours. It’s what my home doesn’t have that makes it different.

My husband and I choose to live in a minimalist home.

So, what does that mean exactly?

It means our home has only those items which serve a meaningful purpose or we truly enjoy having.

This applies to things like furniture, clothing, nick-nacks, artwork, kitchen utensils, and bath & body products. Everything that comes into our home is celebrated as a very special item and typically heralds the departure of something that we no longer need or want. We call this the “one in, one out” policy. I keep a donation box by the front door, and even with our limited possessions, I still make trips to our local thrift store a few times a year.

What began in 2015 as an attempt to purge unwanted or unnecessary items and tidy up our new apartment, rapidly turned into a lifestyle that fit us both perfectly.

Within weeks, our initial purge and tidy process was complete, thanks to the help of Marie Kondo (who wasn’t as well known then as she is now!) and we were bursting to share our experience with anyone who would listen. I lent out Marie’s book to so many people, I lost track of the copy and had to buy a new one – a purchase I was happy to make so I could refer back to her simple, effective strategies in the future and have this amazing resource on hand to lend to anyone interested in this joyful process. I’d be happy to lend it to you if you’re interested.

We lived in our “Kondo-ed” life for 2 years. Our apartment was tidy, clean, organized, and filled with items that brought us joy.

When we bought a 3 bedroom rancher in 2017, the process of packing up our tidy apartment was relatively painless and offered an opportunity to again hold each of our belongings and consider their usefulness. A few more items were donated that week and we were excited at the prospect of unloading our boxes into our new home.

We had the entire interior of our new home painted white, Oxford White to be precise (choosing the right white was quite a decision-making process, who knew?). We had the carpets removed as well as the laminate flooring and replaced them with vinyl plank in a soft grey-wood finish, spreading from the bedrooms to the kitchen to the bathroom. The entire home had the same feel from room to room: relaxing, calm, and cool. It was perfect.

When we unloaded our 4 or 5 pick up truck loads of possessions into our new home, we were surprised at how much more space we had truly acquired. Our little rancher felt huge on account of our lack of furniture and wall decor.

In the following days and weeks, I grappled with this feeling of needing “more”. I felt like our home looked unfinished, unpacked, sparse, naked, boring.

One day, I was home with a migraine, and while recovering on the couch, I found a film called “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things”. Reading the description, my interest was piqued. I had nothing else to do and certainly wasn’t moving from the couch that day, so why not? That decision changed my life.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, I would highly recommend it. My home was already tidy, organized, and pretty simplified. So much of what these guys were talking about was already how I was living my life, but I was missing the intention that they had. My motivation was simply enjoying seeing my home clean and well-ordered, full of things that make me happy and are useful. While this is still how I feel and a great place to start, it seemed Minimalism meant more than having a clean and simple home, it was motivated by more than just your enjoyment. I was captivated.

During the movie, I was logged into my library account, requesting book after book to be sent to my branch to further my research. I read authors like Joshua Becker, Francine Jay, Greg McKeown, and Courtney Carver. I sat down to the documentary a second time a few days later so I could share it with my husband. He too was inspired and moved by this concept. I knew right then that this was it for us – a way of life we had been coming to since we first moved in together.

To me, minimalism is about gratitude.

The possessions I own are beautiful, intricate, fascinating, functional, pleasing, accommodating, comfortable, sexy, intimate, unique, irreplaceable, and loved. They remind me of where I’ve come from and where I am going. They remind me that life is short, that things aren’t always what they seem, that less is more, and that one is often enough.

I love my warm, fuzzy winter boots. I make sure to oil them each year to protect their functionality – I only have one pair and I bought them in 2012. My winter boots are 7 years old and in great condition, so why would I need another pair?

My kitchen doesn’t have a junk drawer. Not because there’s no space or because I don’t have any kitchen utensils, but because I have no junk in my kitchen. I have no junk in my entire home.

I know where everything is. All of my possessions have a “home” within my house that makes sense and is where they are always returned after use. I value the items in my home that allow me to live a rich and satisfying life. I handwash my kitchen knives to prolong their lives and I make my bed each morning.

Minimalism might not be the right fit for everyone, but gratitude is a practice I can’t say enough about.

When I began to truly appreciate my belongings and dampen my desire to consume, the chaotic wheels of my life slowed down. I could see more clearly what I wanted, loved, and needed. My decision-making became easier, my relationships with others improved, my confidence skyrocketed.

I now know with effortlessly clarity what I want and need. The simple life is my idea of perfection. In it, I can see and hear myself better, I can share and give appreciation and love with ease, and I can focus on the pursuit of happiness without the clutter and chaos of the world standing in my way.

Minimalism is my desire to live simply; to elevate what’s important and remove the rest.


Losing My Hamster

I want to believe I can get better. That healing is possible.

I want to believe I can break free from the inescapable hands that close in on me and squeeze the life from my body. Am I strong enough to withstand another attack?

Yes.

I hope so.

I think so.

The tears suggest otherwise.

I am constantly seeking my own strength. It’s like playing hide and go seek with a hamster. I know it’s around somewhere – I can hear it running about from room to room… maybe it’s under the dryer? And when I finally find it, it’s not a simple matter of reaching out to grab hold. I try to stay calm and find my sweetest voice to coax it out from its hiding place. “It’s safe out here, I promise,” but somehow both the hamster and my strength know I am lying.

So I sit and I wait.

Leaving little seeds to help it find its way back to me.

Eventually, I am successful and how incredibly accomplished I feel! I’ve got the upper hand now, I am back in control. Things are looking up. You’re not getting away this time!

And then somehow, in the dead of night, the bloody thing escapes and we start this dance all over again.

It’s hard to feel strong, to feel brave, when there’s an illness crushing you from the inside. The fear is crippling. Some days I can’t bare to face the real world, as I am sure they can see just how weak and insecure I have become.

I don’t want to admit to my loved ones that I’ve straight up lost the hamster.

Again.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I actually DID have a hamster and he DID escape and hide under the dryer. It was a long night.

But through all this fear and searching, I cling to one thing:

Trust.

To me, trust is more than hope. Hope is a wish and a dream. Hope is often not enough to get me through the dark days. It feels fleeting and light, as if it could blow away on the wind when I’m not looking.

Trust is belief and certainty. Believing I will get better is the cure to the paralyzing fear. Knowing for certain that my story will change and I will rise above the pain and suffering stronger than ever, is the tonic I desperately need to withstand these constant trials. I can’t rely on hope to get me through. I have to truly trust that the hamster will come out from under the dryer and everything will return to the way it was.

Absolute certainty. That’s my cure.

I WILL reclaim my life. The full width and breadth of it. It will be better than it’s ever been and the most wonderful days of my life are yet to come. I will wake each day with a smile and a sigh of gratitude. I will confidently take on new projects and pursue new goals. I will be there for the people who are always there for me. I will navigate these waters to find my sandy shores where I will live out my days in peace, health, and joy.

How you might ask?

By being absolutely certain.

Autoimmune Protocol Diet

Today marks the start of my elimination diet.

I have a firm belief that we must endeavour to control and manipulate the elements of our life that we have power over. If you feel tired in the morning, go to bed earlier! A more common solution is to down a venti americano and chase it with a grande latte.

I believe supplementation and medication is phase two.

Phase one is looking within and taking a fine tooth comb over your daily habits, routines, beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. If you already go to bed early, but you still feel tired upon waking, take a look at your evening rituals – screen time, food choices, topics of conversation – or look at your sleep environment – temperature, lighting, other sense stimulators. Attend to your sleep hygiene before you reach for that extra shot of espresso. You may find you don’t need it after all.

I have tried many supplements and medications to relieve myself of persistent migraine attacks, and when asked what works, my answer is always morphine and Jason Momoa.

And even if a supplement or medication works, they can be very expensive, and many come with a litany of awful side effects that could significantly restrict your quality of life. Not to mention that you are commiting to taking them, sometimes daily, into the foreseeable future.

So instead of focusing on what I can add to my already taxed body, I am focusing on what I can remove through the use of an elimination diet.

Food is something most of us have a fair amount of control over. Hopefully, no one is forcing food down your throat and you have a say in the family grocery list. The internet is flooded with articles and videos about nutrition to give you guidance, so there’s really no excuse for ignorance these days. We all know processed foods, sugar, and alcohol are bad for us. There is still some debate on other foods, but those we know for sure. And yet I still see people regularly partaking in these damaging eating habits, even those who I know suffer from chronic illness and migraine.

The Paleo Diet – My Current Status Quo

I have been eating the Paleo Diet for over 4 years now. Besides getting rid of the aforementioned nasties, this diet basically involves eliminating grains, dairy, and legumes. The focus shifts to eating lean meats, fish and eggs, ample fresh veggies, seasonal fruits, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut, and a variety of nuts and seeds. This diet has been fantastic for mood control, weight loss and maintenance, fueling my athletic pursuits, and reducing my susceptibility to common illnesses.

But it hasn’t touched my migraines.

Today, my wonderfully supportive husband and I have started an elimination diet called the Autoimmune Protocol, or AIP for short. This is actually a diet designed to heal autoimmune disorders (of which there are countless!), but as trying it causes no risk to my health, it’s worth a try. Reducing inflammation and strengthening the immune system is a worthy cause in and of itself, and if I can manipulate my food intake and see positive results with my migraines, I will do it!

I would rather make changes to my diet and lifestyle than start taking supplements or medications that I might need to stay on for the rest of my life. Those options aren’t going anywhere, and they shall remain my “phase two” until I have created the healthiest, strongest version of myself and determined whether those efforts have yielded enough positive progress.

So what is the Autoimmune Protocol Diet?

Well, you take your basic Paleolithic Diet and make some further cuts. The main cuts being eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables (think potato, tomato, peppers etc.). There is no demonizing these wonderful foods, but for the sake of science, they must go. These foods, and those previously eliminated through the Paleo Diet, are less optimal for those whose health is already compromised. Being that migraine is a hypersensitivity or reactivity in the brain, it’s hardly surprising that I find myself sensitive to many other things that don’t seem to bother the average person. An interesting parallel between autoimmune disorders and the neurological disorder of migraine is that with AI, the immune system overreacts to “normal” stimulus (let’s say a tomato) and begins wreaking havoc on the cells of the body. In migraine, the brain overreacts to “normal” stimulus (like hormonal fluctuations or the smell of perfume) and begins sending out pain signals as if it’s being attacked. It would seem there’s a correlation between these two disorders, where the body isn’t responding in a typical fashion and produces undesirable outcomes of pain and sensitivity. Perhaps the AIP diet can help to ease the reactivity of not only the immune system, but the central nervous system too.

We’re going to find out!

I will be sharing meal ideas and overall impressions of the diet through my Instagram account @missmaggiejayne so head on over there to follow my journey.

If you have tried an elimination diet for your chronic illness, migraine or otherwise, please feel free to share your insights! They could be very valuable for others in a similar situation.

Want to know more about AIP? Check out The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. She is not only incredibly knowledgeable, but a fabulous person too!

And remember, life is what you make it. Make it happy.

My Life with Migraine

Allow me to introduce you to my life with migraine.

I had my first attack in art class in the seventh grade. I was waiting in line at the teacher’s desk when I suddenly got tunnel vision and lost my hearing. I sat down with my head in my hands until I somehow ended up in the Principal’s office. The next thing I remember is being at home, throwing up, while my mom held my hair off my tear-stained face. And the pain. I remember the pain.

Although I wasn’t explicitly told what was happening to me, migraines lurked in the shadows of my life after that. They would show up when I got the flu or a bad cold. They were inconsistent in their arrival but always came with a solid dose of mind-numbing pain.

In University, I always wondered why my hangovers seemed worse than others. Why couldn’t I stand up to the stress of full-time studies and a part-time job? I didn’t put the pieces together at the time that it was migraine. I often ended up throwing up in a bowl on my way to the clinic and hiding in my car from embarrassment.

I thought it was normal. Maybe everyone goes through this?

After graduation at 24, I moved overseas to land my first teaching job in London, England. I distinctly remember calling in sick and spending days in bed, writhing in pain. By this point, I understood that I was suffering from migraine, but I had no idea what that meant. It was the last thing I wanted to research. I took as much extra strength advil as seemed appropriate and got on with it. As the British say, keep calm and carry on.

Everything changed in the late summer of 2012 when I moved back home to Vancouver Island.

Seemingly overnight, the migraines I had been dealing with for 12 years became chronic. The International Headache Society states that chronic migraine is “living” with 15 days or more per month with migraine for at least a 3 month period. I put living in quotations because when you have migraine that often, it’s questionable how much “living” you are actually doing.

You don’t realize how precious your health is until you spend half of your life in debilitating pain.

It’s been over 6 years at time of writing this post. I would say I’ve lived about 3.5 of those years. The rest of the time has been spent in bed, on the couch, in the hospital, crying, puking, avoiding my favourite places, my favourite people, sleeping during the day, heavily medicated, and basically being a shadow of myself.

This disorder takes everything from you.

My first thought every morning is, ‘How is my head today?’ I can’t commit to any plans or even a consistent work schedule. I am constantly canceling appointments, get togethers, date nights, meetings. Migraines have rendered me unreliable. I let people down. The people who mean the world to me. I have very little control over the attacks that dominate my life. I am at the mercy of my body.

And it’s all invisible.

No one can see the throbbing, stabbing, pounding pain. No one can see how heavy I feel on the inside. The burden I know I am to those I rely on. Invisible hammers smash against the bones of my face and something is stabbing into my neck and shoulders. I wear my sunglasses in the grocery store and you’ll have to speak up, because I probably have ear plugs in.

You know that moment when Spiderman first gets his “spidey senses”? When everything is coming at him with such vivid intensity? That’s migraine for me.

But there’s another side of this story…

Migraines have shown me just how strong I can be. They have gifted me increased empathy for others. I have learned that health is a top priority and that we can control more factors than we think. Migraines have taught me about honesty and moderation, about forgiveness and acceptance. But most important of all, migraines have taught me to never give up hope.

I am a migraine warrior.

I now know more than I have ever known about migraine and I’ve begun helping others in their migraine journeys. I am opening up about my illness to increase awareness and decrease stigma. Migraines are a seriously debilitating neurological condition that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and they are made worse when you suffer alone.

If you struggle with migraine, please reach out. Support, questions, ideas – I welcome it all and will help in any way I can.

If you know someone who is suffering with migraine, please consider sharing this blog with them so they know they are not alone.

And maybe one day, we will find a cure for migraine.