God Grant me the Serenity to Accept the Migraines I Cannot Change

July 11th, 2008

I try to live by the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This simple prayer has seen me through family issues, recovery from major illness, life crisis and transitions, grief, job loss, financial difficulty.  It is the mantra I repeat as the pain takes over my head, as I wait for my meds to work, as I practice deep breathing to relax my mind and body.  It keeps me focussed where I need to be, in knowing what I can change and what I can’t, not wasting my energy where I cannot change something, not sitting in useless despair when there is something I can do.  It also keeps me in the moment.  I cannot change anything in the past.  I can only change the future by taking the next right action to lead me where I want to go, not by wishing, hoping, fantasizing or sitting immobilized in fear.

There’s no way for me to write a post about spirituality without talking about what I believe, which is deeply personal and which I rarely discuss.  I grew up with a Jewish mother (from a not very religious family) and a father who was the son of Presbyterian missionaries, celebrated holidays from both religions but was raised pretty much as an atheist, and then became a Quaker (along with most of my family) as a teenager.  Spirituality and faith may never be a simple matter for me.  I don’t consider myself a religious person, but I am a spiritual person.

There’s no way to write a post about spirituality, I think, without turning some of you off.  Some may already be turned off by the use of the word “God.”  Some were turned off by my description of my unusual religious background.  Some will be excited by it and see it as an opportunity to convert me.  Please resist that temptation!  Some will be turned off in a moment when I tell you that I consider myself to be a faithful agnostic.  What does that mean?   I have faith in a power greater than myself, in a power for good, the power of love, a power that unites people, incites altruism, brings us to care for more than our own selfish interests, “that of God in every man.”  I believe there is more out there than we can see, perceive or know in any scientific sense.  But I’m… blessed if I know what it is!  I don’t even think it’s important for me to know what it is!
How does this help me with Migraine disease?  I don’t go down the road of “God gave me Migraines for a reason.”  Whatever else I believe, I can’t get behind the idea of a God who causes suffering, for any reason.  I think more that we live in this gloriously complex world where we have sunsets and earthquakes, roses and poison ivy, kittens and sharks, senses of humor and migraines.   It’s a complex system that somehow all works together, and we are part of it, warts and all.  Migraines and all.

I do believe, though, in my God, my higher power, as a comforter.  As the force of love, of good.  To help me through pain, to help me remember that I am not the pain, that I am more than the disease, that I am here to help others, to make the world better.  Sometimes in the midst of a migraine, I have a moment of feeling like this is all there is, no world exists outside the pain.  I say the serenity prayer.  It reminds me that there is more.  That I am more.  That another day will dawn when I am without pain and can get on with living.  That the beauty of the world is still there waiting.  I do think it takes faith to live with Migraine disease.  Ridiculous faith and unconquerable hope.  I am amazed by the ridiculous faith and unconquerable hope I see in my fellow migraineurs.  And I find serenity there too.

- Megan
Wishing you serenity and freedom from pain

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Posted in Managing, Musings, Religion | Comments (8)

  • MaxJerz

    Megs, thanks for this post. It actually encouraged me to write one for the blog carnival – originally I wasn’t going to.

    Hope you’re enjoying your weekend with Danny!

    Be well,

  • Kelly FlywithHope


    Thank you so much for sharing!

    I am so glad to be reminded of the serenity prayer. It is so important for me to acknowledge that there are things I cannot change, but also things I can.

    I’m going to add the serenity prayer to my toolbox. :)


  • Joy Healey

    Seeing the lovely Serenity Prayer reminded me of the birth of my first son, as it was on a card given to him by guests at his Christening.

    He isn’t yet of an age to put it in practice in his own life (25, going on 5!) but it’s a principle I try to hold to in my own life.

    Particularly applicable today as I have just discovered, completely by accident, that a much needed holiday has been canceled by the organizers without telling us!

    We’re making the best of the lost deposits and ticket money with a hastily arranged alternative, which promises to be just as enjoyable.

    May God grant the organizers of the previous event the decency to return our money, and inform the people who do not yet know!

    Sorry for the moan, but I’m feeling very down, we’d looked forward to this for months. On the bright side, even that didn’t trigger a migraine – they’ve held at bay for a massive seven months now. Shhhhh…..

  • natalia

    hello, I know you may not be interested in replying this…but I’ve search on the internet and cannot find anywhere a song which says that quotation. Heard it once like a year ago and it was a hip hop.

    I’m from argentina so here is not possible to ask anyone about it. just by chance, do you happen to know who performs that song?


  • Megan Oltman

    Sorry Natalia, I haven’t heard it, tho I’d like to! Anyone else heard it and can help out?

  • steve

    hey megan

    though i can’t empathize with your migraines i can empathize with your search for a purpose. i’m not an athiest but I have never understood a God that is defined by a church. I only understand my “God” which is some greater force that I cannot comprehend. I only hope someday that I will have the opportunity to understand things the way they are. In the mean time I wish you the best. There has to be some kind of purpose for the way things are right now….and I hope that purpose becomes clear somewhere down the road.

  • Far

    i m new to this forum…after long time i have got migraine… i was so happy with my life because i thought i got rid of it but suddenly it happnd to me again… the severity incresses this time… nobody understand that i m sick of sufferng frm migraine…i dunt knw how i get back to my life again … i m a student and i want to enjoy evry single secnd of my uni life but i cant after migraine attak i have found myself dizzy lifless
    i really dont knw how i get back to normal life again
    i want to get rid of it

  • Megan Oltman

    Hi Far – I’m sure a lot of us can identify with you. My Migraines went away (almost) for many years too and then came back. We have over-sensitive nervous systems and have to learn to live with them. It’s not easy. Please read as much as you can about how to manage your Migraines. You can register for the free e-course at the top left of this page if you want some basics on managing your life with Migraine. Good luck to you!
    - Megan

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