When Insight Comes From Unexpected Places

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June is National Migraine Awareness month. Here is a story about releasing some of the pain from migraine and how I keep learning more about my own migraines, no matter how long I have them.

I never realized how funny it sounded until someone else said it, “So you have pain in your head and your feet?”

I laughed. And since I did, she did too. She was only a student at the massage clinic, but was taking this intake process more seriously than most doctors took medical exams these days. I had come to the clinic for a cheap $30 massage, only fifty cents a minute, not a complete medical exam.

“That’s sort of funny when you think about it,” I said. “I have pain on both ends.”

It reminded me of the way my mom talked about someone who was both vomiting and had diarrhea, or had it coming out “both ends.”

The woman nodded her head and told me I might want to consider cutting peanuts and red wine out of my diet. She said it would it may help eliminate my migraines but would do nothing for my feet. There was a fungus in both that some people reacted to. She was not only a massage student but an Ayurvedic practitioner.

I thanked her for the advice as my mouth began to water at the thought of a spoonful of peanut butter. I decided I would mix a tablespoon-full into some vanilla ice cream when I got home. I may try to give it up, but I might try to see if it gave me a migraine first.

The woman left the room and told me to disrobe to my “comfort level.” I always wondered about that phrase. My comfort level was wearing my underwear and nothing else under the sheet, but I wondered what other’s comfort levels were. Was I a prude compared to those who went completely naked? Or were there some who were so uncomfortable they left their shirts and pants on?

When she returned, I was waiting with my face down under the sheet as told. She touched my head softly. I wanted a little more pressure, but it seemed like a lot of work to talk. A few minutes later when she asked me if the pressure was too soft or too hard, I could only grunt, too relaxed to speak. Even when it felt like she was bruising my back, trying to work the tension out, I couldn’t say anything.

As she moved down my body, my feet waited for their turn. When she got there, she pressed hard on the undersides now exposed upward and were rewarded for their patience.

“Which part of your foot hurts?” she asked.

“My big toe.”

“I thought so, there are actual knots in here, can you feel them?”

“Yes, I feel them releasing,” I said.

“You know your big toe is a pressure point for your head.”

“That makes total sense,” I said.

It made sense that these points on my body carried my pain. I had surgery a few years before to correct a bunion and previous damage from an incident where I dropped a desk on my big toe. It was a few years after I had the right side of my head opened to remove a benign tumor from my temporal lobe.

Though the tumor was gone, I still had migraines that pulsated on the right side of my head in the same spot, like a ghost of what had lived their previously. During an attack I would grab my head and hold it as if I could pull it off.

But now the hands of this caring student had teased out the muscles where they wrapped themselves tightly around past pain and trauma. I had expected relief, but not so much insight from a student.

Originally published at https://catherinelanser.com on June 6, 2019.

Narrative nonfiction and memoir. Querying my memoir about my family, told through the lens of brain tumor and father’s stroke. www.catherinelanser.com

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