When Headaches Mean Something More

Haley has suffered from severe headaches for four years. She’s been to many doctors, but none of them can find anything wrong.

Courtney always feels anxious. She wants to feel normal but can’t figure out how.

Jessica is tired all the time. No matter how much she sleeps or how much coffee she drinks, she always feels like she’s in a fog.

These are real girls with real problems. They are girls I know and love. They have something else in common—they feel crummy, and they can’t figure out why. I’m not a doctor, but as I spend time with these girls, I can’t help but wonder if there is more happening beneath the surface.

While looking for answers, I came across this broadcast that aired on Revive Our Hearts. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (co-author of Lies Young Women Believe) interviewed a woman named Kathy who used antidepressants to help her cope with severe depression and anxiety. The focus of the broadcast was Kathy’s decision to ditch the medication and ask for God’s help in controlling the emotions of fear, anxiety, and sadness.

Kathy said that the pain she felt over a tumultuous childhood eventually led to chronic headaches. In other words, her emotions were making her sick.

Let’s listen in for a moment to this eye-opening conversation between Kathy, her friend Holly, and author Elyse Fitzpatrick.

Kathy: I was dealing a lot with sexual abuse in my past for several years, and it was at that point, after dealing with a lot of those issues, that I started getting headaches and just not wanting to get out of bed. I stayed in bed several days. . . . I was going to doctor after doctor after doctor, and one put me on an antidepressant, because none of the other medications that they tried were helping with my headaches.

Elyse: That’s a very typical story, Kathy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that story—that people are given anti-depressants even when they’re not depressed, for headaches. Because a lot of times doctors will say, “You know, we can’t find anything wrong. There’s nothing really physiological wrong. But this person seems to be in distress, so we want to help the person.” So then they will prescribe anti-depressants for that.

Holly: I think too, Elyse, what you’re saying is, if we’re not careful, we only treat what we see at the top of the tree and never get to the root of the issue. I think that’s what was happening in Kathy’s life. She had spent years trying to fix the outward symptoms of a very deep hurt that had never been dealt with. So as she tried more and more to fix the outward symptoms, it got worse and worse because the deep root of her hurt had never been addressed.

Elyse: I think it’s really important at this juncture to point out a couple of things. First of all, I don’t think that what we’re saying is that anybody who has pain has pain because they have anger or bitterness issues. That’s not at all what we would say. There are real diseases that people have that cause pain that basically don’t have to do with anger or bitterness.

However, a lot of what we feel physically is influenced by what’s happening to us emotionally. And Kathy, just the same way as that doctor gave you drugs that basically blunted your emotions without actually dealing with the circumstance, that’s how many women are going through life now with their emotions blunted, but never having changed the circumstance or even having the energy to go back and say, “It seems to me I have anger and bitterness in my heart over what someone has done to me.” Instead of handling that in a godly way, we use these drugs to basically blunt our emotions so we don’t feel those things anymore. (For more on this, check out tomorrow’s post on antidepressants.)

Kathy went on to describe how she found freedom from her physical and emotional pain through learning to trust God and His promises. It was a process, not a quick fix, but the end result was lasting health.

Kathy: The benefit of getting to the root of the issue is that you pull it out of the ground, and it’s not there anymore. You can live a life of freedom and not have to go back to that issue again.

Yanking Up the Root

Have you ever considered that your chronic pain or headaches or exhaustion are just the leaves and that there is a root that you need God’s help to yank up? Or is it possible that the root is a lie that you’ve believed that is contrary to God’s truth, and the fruit that lie is bearing in your life looks like sickness or chronic exhaustion? Maybe your body is sending up warning flares God has designed to get your attention and turn it toward Him.

If you’ve turned over every rock looking for physical causes to your situation, it may be that you’ve believed one or more lies that have become deeply imbedded in your thinking and have placed you in bondage (Lies Young Women Believe, 29).

There is a connection between what we believe and how we feel.

It’s true that not all physical pain can be traced to an emotional or spiritual root. But there is a connection between what we believe and how we feel. If you’re feeling crummy all the time these days, I want you to consider that your body may be telling you that something is wrong below the surface.

Here is a prayer that I would like to encourage you to pray:

Lord, give me wisdom to understand what’s happening in my body. If my emotions are making me sick, give me the strength to deal with the root cause in a godly way. Help me to depend on You. If I have believed a lie that has put me in bondage, expose it so that I can be free to pursue Your truth.

If the root is holy, so are the branches (Rom. 11:16).

Be sure to check out tomorrow’s post: Should Christians Take Antidepressants? In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you:

  • Have you experienced chronic pain or exhaustion?
  • Why do you think so many women struggle in these areas?
  • How do you think Kathy’s story would have turned out if she had not turned to God’s truth?

About Author

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Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

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