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There is a Wisdom,
Buried deep in my bones,
A Gift,
Passed down to me,
From Ancestors of Old.

Today we call it a curse,
And fight and rail,
We give it names,
Arthritis and Migraine,
And call the wild Wisdom,
By another name: Pain.

But, is it, really,
Just the song my bones knows?

5,000 years ago…

…I would have been honored amongst my Tribe. I would have warned my People four hours ago that a change in the weather was coming, something I knew because I felt the change coming in my ears, my head. We would have had time to take shelter before the raging winds arrived, as they have now.

…I would be warning my Tribe now that an even bigger change was coming. I feel it, in my bones – in the bad knee and shoulder that suddenly twinge, and the deep ache in my bones growing sharper by the moment.

My bones know. They are singing to me, singing of the changes to come.

Tomorrow, the temperature here will drop from 35 degrees to something-below-zero, with wind chills of -30 degrees.

My bones are telling me that, a Gift that could have meant the life or death of my Tribe.

I can tell you when rain is within 50 miles and headed this way, whatever the season, by the pang in my shoulder. There was a time when that would have been very useful.

Now, I have no need of this life-saving Gift. Who does? We have the Weather Channel, and weather apps on our fones.

But maybe, it’s time I stopped complaining about the “pain” of my “reactive inflammatory arthritis” and “weather migraines,” and started thanking my body for giving me the warnings it was meant to give me.

It is only my body singing to me with ancient Wisdom.

Maybe, it’s time I started just listening, just being with the sensations, without labeling them as “pain,” and instead, think about what they would have meant a thousand, or five thousand, years ago.

Survival. Life. Or, death.

Maybe, it’s time I stopped running away, and just lay still, curled up, and listened to the Wisdom buried deep in my body.

I think it has a lot to say.

I wrote that last night, but then didn’t post it.
I was too busy, listening to my bones sing.

There is a craft to this, the listening, one I’m sure our ancient ancestors refined. Just as I know the approach of rain by my very reliable shoulder, what exactly was the singing in my ribs, my bad knee, then most of my bones, even into my hands, telling me last night? If I had no weather app on my fone, I would need to know.

Waking far too early this morning, writhing from the ache in my bones, with pressure in my head, I knew the temperature was soon to start its drop and more change was coming. I could hear the wind roaring outside. When I got up, I discovered that yesterday’s mild south winds, that had changed to west winds last night, were now hard and gusting even harder from the north.

My mind flashed back to reading about the “polar vortex” and coming “arctic plunge,” with temperatures so low that “if you are younger than 40 you likely won’t remember anything this cold.” I put that out of mind.

Why stay awake and thrash and fight the “pain,” when it is only my bones singing to me, with the ancient Wisdom, as the bodies of some have done for countless generations before me?

Instead, I thanked my wonderous body for the warning, and told it that I understood why my bones were singing, the Wisdom it was sharing with me.

Muscles relaxed instead of spasmed.
The song became a lullabye.
And then, I went peacefully back to sleep.

It will take time to break long-engrained habits – the tightening of muscles around the signals my body is sending, the labeling of those signals always as “pain,” fighting and avoiding them, causing my body to only send them out louder and stronger, more urgently. But, it’s a start.

I’ve wondered before if weather-related migraines were an evolutionary advantage – if a small proportion of members of a tribe had them, they would have been, I think.

But, I never tried to consciously work with my body, to acknowledge that its messages were received, other than to say, “yeah, that part hurts, I understand, you can shut up about it now.” The flare of inflammatory arthritis I’ve been having has given me a new incentive to work on how I deal with “pain,” and acknowledging it while in deep relaxation does help – to a point.

Maybe, only “to a point” because I wasn’t acknowledging the whole message.

Yes, my wise body, I hear the song in my bones now, and I understand. You’re right, a big change in the weather is coming, a dangerous one. Thank you for warning me. I am safe, warm, and protected – and listening.

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Laying curled up in bed tonight, I suffered through yet another severe migraine. This time, I asked myself exactly what my body was trying to tell me, and, more importantly, why??? I think I found the answer…


Imagine:

It is sometime during what is commonly called the Stone Age. Small groups of people, hunter-gatherers, spread out across the face of the Earth.

You are travelling with such a group, gathering ripe raspberries from a thicket. You begin to notice strange flashing lights around the edges of your vision. (The migraine warning aura).

This has happened to you many times before, and you know what it means; a weather front is coming, quite likely with strong storms. You know you have only a short time to get to safety – you do not want to be on an exposed hill. You need to find shelter from the coming storm, protection from pounding rain, howling winds, and crashing lightning.

The pain starts soon after, a deep throbbing behind your eyes. (Pain is the body’s messenger, it’s way of telling us to stop what we are doing.)

As your group hunts for a place to ride out the storm, your body continues to send you warning signals: light begins to seem too bright, and you instinctively respond by wanting to find a dark, sheltered, location. When the first lightning strikes you will recoil from the increased pain it causes.

Sounds, too, become suddenly louder to you. The crunch of a branch underfoot causes a sudden increase in your pulse – that pounding in your ears. (Adenaline is being released, triggering your flight-or-fight response.)

You become nauseated, and lack interest in eating. You may even throw-up. You wouldn’t want to have a full belly if you suddenly had to run for your life.

Once safely in shelter, you instinctually huddle in a ball. Your shoulders creep upward, providing protection for your neck. (Protect your vital organs is your top survival instinct.)

The fear & anxiety caused by any slightest bit of sound or light (photo- & phono-phobias) cause you to be hyper-vigilent. You hear the tiniest of sounds, and actually feel your body respond to them with twitches & readiness to flee before your mind can process the nature of the sound or light. Were it the click of a pedator’s claw you hear, or the flash of lightning, you would be ready to move or fight. Falling rain can be noisy – the ability to detect the slightest sound approaching you might save your life.

Even your sense of smell is heightened, important when rain, fog or wind could dampen the scent of something dangerous coming towards you, and useful in discerning whether a cave you investigate for shelter is the lair of a cave lion or bear.

Stoked with adrenaline, sleep is hard to come by. You remain ready for any eventuality all night.


Our hypothetical story was likely repeated hundreds of thousands of times during early humans two million years of nomadic existence. People who had migraines would have had a higher incidence of survival, equipped with an early warning of weather changes & able to seek shelter, and with heightened senses to alert them of any approaching danger.

If so, it is enshrined deep in our psyche, buried in the instinctual mind. This would explain why millions of people get migraines, and all the weird sensory changes that accompany them – something that, so far, scientists have no answer for.

After reflecting on this, the possible evolutionary origins of migraines, one of the biggest banes of my life, I decided on a course of action.

My understanding is that the human body sends us pain signals as a way to get our attention, and tell us to stop what we’re doing. If we ignore those pain signals, the body screams with pain even louder. To reduce the pain, we first have to consciously ackowledge it.

Laying in bed in a dark room while everyone else tiptoes around us does not solve anything, as anyone who gets migraines knows. The simple click of my own dogs’ claws on the floor outside my closed door set off more cringes of sound-induced fear (yes, fear – migraineurs get photo-phobia & phono-phobia). And they really are cringes – I feel sound before I actually hear it, or, at least, before my mind identifies it.

So I started talking to myself, things like, “Yes, I know there’s a storm coming, but I am very safe from harm here,” and, “There is nothing to be afraid of,” and, simply, “I am very safe.”

I pulled my shoulders down from my ears, and, repeating to myself, “I am very safe,” removed myself from bed. I went out to sit on our porch, watching the lightning play on the horizon. I noticed my arms were folded tightly across my belly, and relaxed them, let them fall to my sides, and repeated, “I welcome the rain. There is nothing to be afraid of. I am very safe & protected here.”

The pain & anxiety the migraine was causing was greatly reduced almost immediately. It wasn’t gone, but it was certainly better, especially since I’d been laying in bed afraid to move a muscle lest I puke.

I also took a good sized dose of Klonopin (clonazapam), an anti-anxiety medication, while going, “Oh! So that’s why ambien often helps my migraines!” – take ambien & stay awake & you get very relaxed & happy, which is why teens use it as a party drug.

Everyone experiences migraines slightly differently, and there are the weather-related migraines (which 90% of mine are), the hormonal migraines (hmm, telling our primal selves we need to get to a safe spot where predators won’t be able to smell the blood?), and food related migraines (telling us in emphatic ways not to eat that again).

Whatever the trigger, you can bet I’m going to be practicing self-talk, and trying to decode the hidden messages in the pain and other symptoms. Since migraine meds almost always fail me, there’s certainly nothing to lose… except the migraine.

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