Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Changnesia and the Need for Rest: How My Complex Migraine Was a Gift

About two weeks ago, I was having coffee with one of my youth leaders when the precursors to a migraine hit. If you suffer from these occasional severe headaches, you know what happens- loss of peripheral vision, seeing spots similar to when you stare at the flash as someone takes your picture (or when you took a selfie in the mirror), nausea, and the need to turn off all lights and close your eyes.

I had just knocked over my empty coffee cup when I knew it was time to wrap up and head home.

What I did not know was this would become a complex migraine with very strange side effects. As I laid on the couch while my wife bathed our kids, I lost control over my speech, was unable to form intelligible words, and experienced temporary memory loss. I could not even remember the names of my kids.

It was the most horrific experience of my life, aside from my son's seizure in January. I was completely "with it," but something was not right.

This went on for about 30 minutes. My wife was an absolute rock, with our twin toddlers as her little nurses. I later scheduled an appointment with the doctor and underwent a few tests and an MRI, only to discover that what happened was simply the collection of unique side effects associated with a complex migraine. I had experienced "transient global amnesia," nearly identical to what happened to Serene Branson, a West Coast News reporter during a live shot at the Grammys in 2011. Thank God it was nothing more serious.

The frequent cause of this complex, migraine-induced amnesia: over-work, anxiety, stress, and lack of rest. The doctors have assured me this was simply a funny way my body and mind were telling me to slow down, calm down, and remember I cannot do everything!

My wife also likes to add her own playful diagnosis as comfort: Changnesia. [See the clever sit-com, Community, for further explanation]

I asked the doctors and nurses, who phoned me with my test results, what I should do next? Nothing. It was unlikely to reoccur and there were no residual or long-term effects. Instead, they told me to slow down, take it easy, and adjust my life rhythm.

I was moving too fast.

The past two weeks I have made obeyed and made major adjustments to pace, perspective, priorities, and rhythm. My quick bout with Changnesia reminded me- the pace of suburbia is insanity. I had forgotten I am human with God-given limitations and hard-wired for not only work, but also play and rest.

This time of year my heart becomes increasingly heavy. Our attendance in youth ministry encounters some decline, but my interactions with youth does not. Instead, my conversations adjust from youth group commitments to "go home and get some rest." This past week alone I have talked with more youth than I can count who have shared with me how over-worked, anxious, exhausted, and stressed they are in light of AP tests, extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs, college commitments, church and youth ministry meetings, social pressures, family conflicts, and other things that zap them of their life' energy.

Youth are tired. We all are tired.

What will it take for all of us to slow down and be led by the quiet waters and made to rest (Psalm 23)?


In the days, weeks, and years ahead I pray I remember the sabbath, keep it holy, and reclaim a regular rhythm of rest. I pray we all remember that none of us can do it all. We are created for regular breaks- even from church and youth group commitments.

I need it.

You need it.

Our youth need to see us model it. This just may be the best attestation to the good news of Jesus they can encounter alongside frequently tired, over-worked adults...and youth pastors.

"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)


Two Great Songs for Meditation