Moving forward is not starting over

“Don’t confuse action with progress,” Hal Barker.

When you read that statement, can you think of areas in your life in which you are employing ‘action’, yet not truly progressing?

Upon reflection of my own life, it has become clear there tends to be a catalyst for me to take the action of moving forward. To open the next door. To evolve. Whether it’s a grim shock of reality, a doctor uttering a medical condition, or via positive influence of friends. 

I’ve contemplated the concept of moving forward and evolvement quite a lot over the past couple of years. 

Three key steps I believe in that allow us to successfully move forward (to healthier eating, finding a new doctor, or making a job or personal situation change), include:

  1. Setting comfortable milestones for yourself (baby steps, attainable goals – you know yourself best).
  2. Journaling your days – feelings, progress, ups and downs. I assure you it’s baffling to recall precise things when months and years go by. Sometimes, without journaling or charting your progress, it can be easy to lose sight of how far you’ve come.
  3. Leaning into a counselor, good friends, family, and healthy hobbies (reading, walking, crafts). Your support team and me-time are immensely influential.

When I think of moving forward, I automatically think about when migraine entered my life.

At first, I had no plan. I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place.  When my primary medical group denied me a neurologist and my primary care physician deemed my symptoms to be nothing worth exploring, I was home-bound and ill the majority of each of the early months after my hospital discharge.

I was also young and this was my first rodeo with chronic illness. I was navigating the unknown waters of medical groups where doctors feel they have the upper hand, and I had not learned that I could be an advocate for myself. 

— Wow, times have changed. —

Once I realized that nothing was going to magically change without significant effort on my part, even though I felt less than capable, I slowly starting making actionable plans.

First on the list was getting out of my medical group and into a new doctor’s care. The new doctor I sought needed to have a respected background, solid mission statement, and of course, impress me on the first interview, if you will. 

Second came listening and trusting her knowledge in the first few medications to see if they would lessen or completely take away my pain and accompanying symptoms.

Third was taking her advice to be referred to a neurologist for his consultation and examination. 

Once I got to my neurologist, we discussed everything and he outlined how long it typically takes for Botox for migraine to take effect, i.e. when the average patient starts seeing improvement.

We set an “emergency” plan that I could get nerve blocks in between the 12 weeks of Botox administration, a lot of times the day before Botox was administered. I’d also get Toradol shots when needed.

The plan was to attack migraine from all available angles. This was done with the assurance that with consistency and patience, I would get relief

I journaled. I trusted my neurologist. I never missed an appointment. The reality was that I was probably his most frequently seen patient for many months.

What does today look like? Consistent management of migraine where I’m still receiving Botox every 3 months, taking emergency medication when I need it (unknown migraine trigger or breakthrough headache), getting a nerve block when a vicious migraine cycle won’t break, and living a lifestyle that I’m happy with and that is tailored to aiding my migraine wellness.  (You know – plenty of sleep, lots of water, exercise that moves my body and doesn’t drain it, healthy eating, surrounding myself by positive influences, and listening to my body.)  

“Goals affect the intensity of our actions and our emotions – the more difficult and valued a goal is, the more intense our efforts will be in order to attain it, and the more success we experience following achievement.”*

My goal was to be able to live the next chapter of my life in a happy, healthy and fulfilling way. That meant one where migraine didn’t dictate my every move.

I’ve worked so hard, shed tears, felt so much relief, and will always offer a helping hand to my fellow patients in our community. I want you to reach optimal wellness. 

As Pablo Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

When you move forward, it’s not like “starting over.” You are never truly starting over. You are fine-tuning the next chapter of your life.  Best case scenario, you’ve learned and grown. The next chapter is exciting, your confidence levels have peaked, and you have a clear head about the new beginnings that are about to unfold. 

When I review the past twelve years of my life, I’m beyond grateful things have evolved – both in an independent sense of self and collectively when it comes to professional, personal, and medical. 

The shy, nervous-to-ask-the-hard-questions young woman I was has evolved into an individual purposefully navigating life, asking those hard questions with conviction. The “new me” suits me. I’m proud of myself. 

I swear the domino effect is a real thing. Several years ago, death of some loved ones coupled with unforeseen endings, and a job that wore me down, tested me at all angles. 

I had churning emotions longer than expected. At times, it felt like the pain would never end. I was looking for a path that I just couldn’t seem to locate. You can limit yourself pretty easily in a situation like that. 

I still pay frequent thanks to loved ones who are no longer with us. I’ve unraveled what I deem the purpose of relationships were that are no longer in my life. I understand that those tough, energy-draining jobs provided finely honed work skills and knowledge that allow me to do what I do today.   

I realize that each previous moment has defined the next moment and today. I look forward to the moments of today that define the future. 

Staying perfectly still – i.e. stagnant – appears from outside looking in, to be much easier. Less strenuous? Less testing of our abilities to put mind over matter, or mind over heart? I think some people feel it’s easier to just live with the pain – physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Stagnant is not the answer for me. Upon writing this today, I can say no area of my life is stagnant. But in sheer transparency, it didn’t come easy. Continuing to propel myself forward and not stay stagnant required effort, courage, and self-awareness. 

My solution ended up being the opposite, it took energy and action. My life is now flowing like a smooth waterfall. I always look up to see if I can catch sight of a rainbow above it, too.  

The way my life is today, 12 years later, looks very different than I could have imagined. To me, that’s icing on the cake. It makes me smile.

We all have the choice to start anew today. I know a few people who have. It’s worth a round of applause. When you ‘move forward,’ choose to commit to personal growth, to a better understanding of medical conditions and lifestyle adaptions, or to understanding human behavior.  

Limiting yourself based on your past choices, your upbringing, your education is depriving you of a newly-constructed, solid foundation for your future.

So, when a catalyst pushes things either positively, negatively or neutral in your life – what decision will you make next time around?

My diagnosis of meningitis and migraine years ago propelled me forward. I now have a discerning eye for who I allow to treat me medically. I review treatment options, I weigh the pros and cons of procedures, and I verbalize what’s truly happening day-to-day with my health. 

In relationships, I’ve come into my own. I have a clear vision of my strengths and weaknesses. I am happy with myself. I know that inner peace is what I need to feel and that’s solely on me. I thrive in a loving and fulfilling partnership.

With work, I don’t allow my cup to overflow into other important elements of my life like my family, my health, and my friends.

“You know you are on the right track when you become uninterested in looking back,” Anonymous.

Yes, indeed.


Coming next: When “no” benefits you more than “yes”