A Change of Mind
For those of you whove never experienced a migraine,(and בעה,I hope you never do!), you should just know that it’s not just a little headache. Aside from the intense pounding and throbbing pain, which feels like the head will actually explode from the pressure, migraines are totally debilitating and basically affect all of the senses. While usually preceded by a group of warning signals such as fatigue, flushed cheeks, stuffy nose, increase or loss of appetite, visual disturbances and then a gradual worsening of head pain , migraines can also come on suddenly in a frightening intensity which words cannot describe. Extreme nausea accompanies the head pain, and when you’re finally in the mood to eat something you have to hope that it stays down and doesn’t make a grand reappearance. Noises are magnified, sense of smell is heightened and adds to the general nausea, and the eyes can’t open fully to admit in the light which increases the pain. Talking is strained and difficult and takes much energy. Any movement at all, causes terrible pain. You barely sleep from the pain by night, and by day you lay down quietly waiting for the tumultuous storm to pass. When the pain finally does pass, its still not over yet. The pain dissipates, only to be replaced by this run-over-by-a-truck feeling where you are still totally immobilized. Plus, on top of that your head is so full of fog that you are left dazed, confused, and unable to think clearly. This phase of the migraine can last for a full day or more!
So now that we’ve established what exactly a migraine headache is, let me tell you that I’ve been suffering from migraines for over 30 years. It wasn’t so bad in the beginning. I would take over the counter painkillers, lay down a bit and the pain would pass rather quickly. As the years went by, the pain started getting more intense and the duration was longer. The headaches started to last for a full day, then three days, then a whole week, nine days, then for two weeks straight. I’d get a headache for two weeks, have one sort-of-recovery-week, then get another two week headache. I became so weak even when I didn’t have a migraine that I stopped driving, stopped doing the food shopping, stopped bathing the kids and putting them to bed, and l felt grateful and lucky if I got dinner on the table. Yom Kippur became a nightmare for me. Of course I was absolved from fasting all other fasts during the year including תשעה באב, because fasting triggered a migraine that could not be reversed even if I were to break my fast. I would be terrified for months before Yom Kippur and it wasnt because I was afraid of the impending דין! On most Yom Kippurim I would be in such horrible pain that I needed to go to the emergency room for IV and strong painkillers. On a good fast I would walk to a local hospital, and on a difficult fast it wouldnt be uncommon to see the Hatzolah men in their white kittels who would interrupt their davening to rush me to the hospital. In the best case scenario, I would stay in bed all day and my girls would take turns between running the house and seeing if I needed anything and going to Shul.
The hospital knew me by name and had my cocktail of drugs prepared for me: Toradol, Morphine, Benadryl, and Zofran through IV, and I would come home a little more able to bear the unbearable pain. Sometimes I would be admitted in the hospital until they found a steroid to bring down the pain. I was going through Percocets like water. 120 Percocets would last me about a month, which was aside from all the other drugs I was taking.
Throughout the years I missed many of my kids plays, important milestones, family Simachot and get togethers, graduations, my daughters Sheva Berachot, and most recently, I missed my own daughters engagement party because of a severe migraine!
Now let me share with you what I’ve tried to help the headaches. I went to the top neurologist. I took beta blockers, anti depressants, and anti seizure medications. I did nerve blocks. I got shots in my head. I drank water, did exercise, went to a chiropractor, did acupuncture. I traveled to Florida to see a special Japanese acupuncturist. I used a tens machine daily. I had a whole bag of vitamins that I carried around with me everywhere. I did kiniseology. I took Chinese medicines. I also tried avoiding foods. I stayed off of sugar completely. I went off wheat, dairy, MSG, chocolate, and night shades. This is just a partial listing of the things I have tried over the years, as I don’t think you have the time or patience to hear everything I’ve done!
I also went to Rabbis for Berachot. We went to the Greats in Eretz Yisrael, or anywhere for that matter. Many Rabbis graciously gave me a Berachah or Segula which infused me with hope each time anew.
I became the symbol for migraines. If people would meet me on the street, they would inevitably greet me with, Hi! How are the migraines? And I would answer with the latest thing I was doing or the latest Beracah I’d gotten, and say Hashem has a Zman for everything, and hopefully mine will be soon
I’m sure you’re wondering by now, So what did work in the end? I’ll answer you by saying Hashem Himself cured me, בכבודו ובעצמו!
Let me tell you how it came about. My brother, David, had become close to a Rabbi from Cleveland and he was totally inspired and enchanted by him. Whenever I was with my brother he would tell me stories of his Rebbes Bitachon and advise me to give him a call for the migraines. Each time I would tell him, He sounds like my type, but what do you want me to tell him, Hi, I have a headache?! What will he do for me already? But my brother persisted. A few days before Sukkot, David excitedly informed us that Rabbi Yisroel Brog שליטא would be giving a Shiur in his house that night. I was in bed with a migraine ( surprise, surprise) and I told my husband, Eliyahu, to speak with the Rabbi and get me a Berachah. When Eliyahu spoke to Rabbi Brog after the Shiur, the Rabbi said that he couldn’t really help me as it sounded like my situation was above his head and he never dealt with this before. When my husband came home, in answer to my hopeful inquiry, So, what did he say? Eliyahu very wisely told me about the beautiful and inspiring Shiur Rabbi Brog gave, and suggested that I call him myself. Had my husband told me that the Rabbi couldn’t help me, I wouldn’t have been surprised, but I never would have called him at all.
Sukkot came and went, with my brother talking of course, about his beloved Rebbe and trying to convince me to call him. After Yom Tov was over, David called me up and said, Listen, how about if I call Rabbi Brog first and tell him about you, then you can call after and hear his advice? I was okay with that and I told him to go ahead. David called me back that night and told me that I could call Rabbi Brog at 9:30 . I called exactly on time , but the Rabbi didn’t answer. A little while later I was surprised to find Rabbi Brog’s number on the caller ID – he was calling me back, as he had missed my call! I introduced myself as David’s sister, and I started to tell him about my migraines. He asked what I had done for the pain, and I started rattling off a bunch of different things I’d tried. I ended off by saying that for the past year I was working very hard using the Doctor Sarno method. Then on the spot, he started telling me, OK. If a person has a headache and he takes medication and it goes away, then it’s just a כפרה and he can move on with his life.
But if you’re telling me how you have suffered, and it’s getting worse and worse, and nothing is alleviating the pain, then it’s Hashem that is giving you a message. Rabbi Brog continued, Hashem is knocking on your door with a message, and you’re not answering! So number one, what I want you to do is to say, I’m sorry Hashem. I’m sorry that You have been trying so hard to give me a message and I’ve been turning to all these different forms of healing but I haven’t been turning to the True Source, which is You! He said to say, I acknowledge that the pain is only from You, Hashem, and You alone can take it away and heal me.
I thought to myself, All right, that makes sense, I can do that. Then Rabbi Brog continued, Number two, what I want you to do is use your head. Use your head like you have never used your head before! Use your head to thank Hashem, to appreciate Hashems kindness. Don’t use your head for negativity or negative thoughts. If you use your head the way Hashem wants you to, then there’s no need for Him to give you a headache to wake you up.
He told me, I don’t really know you from beans, only you can know yourself and you know exactly how you have to use your head properly. I thought that was logical.
"And number three, people look at you like you are a good person, and if people always see you with a headache, then you’re making Hashem look bad! People will say, Why is a good person suffering? (In fact, I did hear this exact sentiment quite often from people) He said, I don’t want anyone to ever hear from your mouth I have a headache. Your children should constantly hear you saying, Thank you Hashem that Mommy doesn’t have a headache! No more complaining! ( He would later come to add a number four and a number five. Number four was to try to bring Kavod to Hashem with my head and to think of ways to bring Kavod to Hashem. Number five was to take time each day to think about the עשר זכירות and focus on each one of them.)
Rabbi Brog told me about his grandfather, Rabbi Avigdor Miller ,זצל who worked very hard never to complain, even when he was in great pain so that he shouldn’t make Hashem look bad. I laughed and said, Rabbi Brog, I don’t think it’s possible for me not to complain that I have a headache! Not only that, but I don’t need to say anything at all, people can see it on my face! He told me, You can do it. He then went on to tell me about how he once fell down a whole flight of stairs in his house and his knee was broken so badly that he actually saw it protruding from his pants! Rabbi Brog relayed to me how he concentrated on the four letter Name of Hashem in a deep meditation to get himself to rise above the pain. By the time the ambulance got him to the hospital he wasn’t in pain at all! The doctors were shocked when he said his knee wasn’t hurting at all since that type of break is usually accompanied by excruciating pain. They asked the Rabbi if they could touch the knee and he said, Sure. They proceeded to push and prod the affected area fully expecting Rabbi Brog to cry out or just wince in pain but it really wasn’t hurting!
What Rabbi Brog was in essence conveying to me was that I was relating to my migraines from an emotional standpoint. When a person is in pain and he cries out, he is acting based on his emotions. What he wanted me to do was to use my head or my שכל to rise above the pain. By not complaining when I would have a headache I would be letting logic or שכל rule over the emotions and that’s exactly what he wanted me to do. He also told me, Imagine if you had terrible teeth and you needed tons of work done by a dentist to correct it. A good dentist offers to do all the work for free. After about an hour and a half of him working on you, he tells you he will be taking a short break, but will continue in a few minutes. Meanwhile, your husband walks in and asks how you’re doing. You tell him, This is terrible! This guy is killing me! It’s horrible! The dentist overhears you and says, Hey, that’s how you talk? I’m doing you a favor! This is what Hashem is doing for us, but even more! Rabbi Brog said, When you’re in the dentist chair it may be uncomfortable, and it might hurt, but you’re not afraid because you know you’re in good hands. That’s how we have to feel with Hashem. He made sure to stipulate that he wasnt guaranteeing that this would help for me, but at least, if I listened to his advice I would be getting a מצוה of exercising בטחון. He then reviewed with me everything he had told me so I shouldn’t forget anything, I thanked him for his time and we hung up the phone.
I was visibly moved and excited. When I had called him my head was hurting, and I was on steroids to bring the pain under control (which wasn’t even helping.) After I hung up with the Rabbi, my head was still hurting but I decided I wasn’t taking any more steroids and I would immediately put into practice everything the Rabbi told me. I felt as if Hashem was talking to me directly through Rabbi Brog.
The next morning I woke upFINE! No headache! I was exhilarated! I called up Rabbi Brog to thank him ( profusely!) and he told me to keep it up. As the days passed I was surprised to find that I was feeling better and better. I saw the סייתא דשמייא that Hashem was giving me from day to day and I started to feel like a new person. At the same time, I didnt tell anyone about my conversation with Rabbi Brog(except my brother, of course) because although I knew without a doubt that what he was telling me was the absolute אמת , I thought that I wouldnt be able to keep up the initial excitement to work on myself the way the Rabbi prescribed. What I didnt take into account was, Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was in such a desperate מצב ,with no one but Hashem to turn to, that I put all of my effort into working on myself in ways that I never in my wildest dreams thought were possible. Things like כעס ,negative thinking, or getting upset became not things that I have to work on(one day) ,but things to work on today-right now ! I saw that Hashem was with me and helping me, and I began to realize that even a regular, plain person like me could build a close relationship with Hashem.
It’s a year later now, and I’m not going to say that I lived happily ever after, and never got a headache ever again. But I will say that I lived happily ever after and I learned some unbelievable lessons on the way. I am so grateful to Hashem for allowing me to build this relationship with Him. I feel like Hashem is showing me exactly what He wants from me. When I am excited about life, about having a healthy body, about having a husband and children, parents, in laws, and friends, (who by the way, went beyond the call of duty to do everything to help me), about air to breathe, about Torah and Mitzvot, I won’t have a headache. But the second I complain, This house is so messy! Why do I have to keep cleaning and it never stays clean? Boom! The headache comes instantly. If I realize my error, apologize to Hashem, and improve myself, it will go away very quickly, even instantly. If I don’t use my head properly the way Hashem wants me to, He lets me know it. Sometimes I can’t figure out what I did wrong and Hashem is still so good and kind, that if I focus on trusting in Hashem and אין עוד מלבדו it will also go away considerably quicker than before.
I started to call Rabbi Brog more and more for general guidance or other עצות . When my son got engaged, I was overtired and exhausted since my daughter was also engaged at this time( a sure trigger for a migraine). As the time for his engagement party drew nearer, the pain in my head became more pronounced. Half an hour before I had to leave to the kallahs house, I called up Rabbi Brog with a splitting headache, and asked him what I should do. He told me, Take some time to yourself and try to focus. Tell Hashem, Hashem, You gave me this son, and now that I can give my son to his kallah to get married, it is also from You. I stayed in my room for twenty minutes concentrating on what the Rabbi told me, and then I was totally fine! The music, lights, and people at the engagement, which definitely should have aggravated a migraine in progress didnt bother me at all! The next day, which was Friday, found me really overtired now. The migraine was coming back with a vengeance, and I was a little embarrassed to call back Rabbi Brog for an עצה again. When it was almost Shabbat, I was in unbearable pain. I got over my embarrassment and made the call. He said, Shabbos is coming! Think about Shabbos! Think about honoring the Shabbos! Think about the beauty of Shabbos! Tell Hashem that you want to keep His Shabbos and enjoy His Shabbos! Try to focus your mind on this, and בעה ,youll be better. I asked him, Im in a lot of pain. Should I take a painkiller? He answered, If you need it, you could take it. But try first without it. I did what Rabbi Brog told me, and guess what? I didnt need painkillers, and I was GREAT over Shabbat! I called the Rabbi right after Shabbat to tell him the good news.(I think he was getting used to my nudging phone calls by now!) On another occasion , I woke up with a pounding headache. I became filled with dread and thought, Oh no, Hashem, please not now! I sat down at the table barely able to move. Then one of my younger daughters just decided on her own to wash the little ones נטילת ידים instead of me. I became confident that Hashem was with me and helping me. I used every ounce of strength to say out loud, Kids, let’s say thank you Hashem that Mommy doesn’t have a headache! After that the headache just magically disappeared!
Hashem in His mercy shows me that Lashon Harah is REAL, and you have to pay for it. Hashem shows me that Shabbat is real, and we have to treat Shabbat properly. He shows me that being negative is not something that He wants. Hashem shows me that jealousy is a Middah He’s not fond of. Hashem shows me that He really doesn’t like complaints. One time, I thought if I make a joke out of my complaint and laugh about it, then it wouldn’t really be complaining, but Hashem didn’t think it was funny. And He let me know it.
I am extremely fortunate to be getting these love messages from Hashem all the time. With Hashems help, I started doing my own food shopping again. I started driving again. I do homework with my kids, and say Shema at night and Modeh Ani in the morning with them. We thank Hashem together for His kindnesses to all of us. This past Yom Kippur was the first Yom Kippur that בה I was able to fast, take care of my kids AND daven! On the morning of the fast my girls had their usual discussion of who is staying with Mommy at what time and who would go to Shul. I cut into the conversation and said, Girls this year no one has to stay with me. You can ALL go to Shul if youd like. By the end of the fast I actually looked better than all of them!
I thank Hashem tremendously for sending me the Refuah through Him alone. Had I gotten better from medicine, vitamins, or even a Rabbis Berachah, I would have been mostly thankful and indebted to that thing, and I would say Hashem cured me through this. But here, although I have a great Hakarat Hatov to Rabbi Brog for showing me the right Derech, I know it is Hashem alone who put me in touch with him, and it is Hashem alone who holds the key to Refuah. I also know every second that I don’t have a migraine is only due to Hashems Chessed and absolutely nothing else! I am grateful to Hashem for showing me His hand so clearly, and I am especially grateful that He sent me a shining role model of Bitachon, Torah, Avodah, and Hashkafah whom I proudly call, Rebbe.