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My Journey From Severe Migraines and Workplace Hostility to Reinventing Myself

“So now I’m still having migraines and nerve pain, have been removed from my job and friends, was ordered to not contact anyone from my unit, my future livelihood was at risk, and my leadership was only willing to try to remove me from sight. This lasted for almost three years.”

Hello! Who are you?

My name is Adam Grimm. I currently live on the eastern edge of Oahu, an island in Hawaii. I’ve started a business that I’m currently launching. I’m happily married. I have a 9-year-old stepson who is kind and doing well in school. I’m in a graduate program. And I get to go paddling in the ocean for exercise a few times a week. Life is pretty amazing at the moment! But it took work. A lot of it actually.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

At the beginning of 2018, I was diagnosed with severe migraines. I know that doesn’t sound too bad, but mine were extreme. I would have headaches that lasted for up to two weeks without letting up.

Additionally, I found out migraines are an inflammation issue, and the inflammation can cause issues in the part of the brain being affected. What this meant for me was that I developed sporadic debilitating nerve pain.

If I wasn’t experiencing a headache or migraine, I would have random nerve endings fire off that was so strong it felt like I was being stabbed at times. If you’ve ever stubbed your toe and was unable to move for a moment from the pain, you know what I would experience sometimes dozens of times a day for no reason.

I would be walking and a nerve in my right femur would trigger, and my leg would stop responding…while crossing the street. Or my forearm would trigger and lock up…while steering my car. Every day was headaches or nerve pain. It got bad.

At this time, I was a team leader in the United States Air Force (USAF) as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician (bomb squad). My supervisor and I despised each other.

She had already been targeting me trying to get me in legal trouble to get me removed. So when I had to tell her what was going on because I needed to go to medical appointments to try to figure out how to deal with my new normal, she saw an opportunity to lean on me harder.

And she did. I would be sitting at my desk with the lights off and sunglasses so I could write a needed report, and she would walk in and flip the lights on. She even ordered me to remove the blinds in my office. If you have experienced light sensitivity, you understand what ridiculously cruel acts these are.

This went on for almost a year. By the end, I was sleeping about two hours a night, six days a week. I was able to sleep Friday night because it was separated from work hours enough that my stress took a small reprieve that one night.

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

I finally was at a breaking point and asked for help from my Chief (the highest-ranking enlisted member in my unit). Unfortunately, he had dealt with my supervisor before when she had been accused of assault by another member of my unit a year before my situation. It had left a very bad, and scary, taste in his mouth and he refused to intervene.

Instead, he removed me from my unit, the people I supervised, my job, and my friends. Military units can be very close, and EOD units are known for being some of the closest. Instead of help, I was ripped away from everything I knew.

I wish I could say this was where things started to get better, but it’s not. At this point, I got flagged because of my migraines and needed to be evaluated for “fitness of duty”.

They wanted to see if I could still do my job or if I should be thrown out of the USAF. I had been in the service for about 18 years at this point and was getting close to a retirement package.

So now I’m still having migraines and nerve pain, have been removed from my job and friends, was ordered to not contact anyone from my unit, my future livelihood was at risk, and my leadership was only willing to try to remove me from sight. This lasted for almost three years.

For three years I was unsure of my future, removed from any friends, and just waiting for an email or call to arrive any day that said I was being thrown out. But because I did not know what or when they would process me I was unable to plan for the future.

Three times over those years I thought it was starting and I made plans for school, work, where to move…and then my paperwork would get stopped on someone’s desk and I would go back into limbo.

At this point, the depression from daily chronic pain, uncertainty of life, feeling betrayed, and loneliness had taken over my life. I was mad or sad, period. I had no other emotions for about the last two years of waiting.

If I got too mad, I would find ways to make myself sad to keep from going to a point I would regret. If I got too sad, I would find ways to make myself mad to keep from going to a point I would regret. That was my everything. Try to stay a tiny bit mad or sad, because a little was “safe”.

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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

Thankfully I knew what was happening, that I was depressed, and why. However, I was still powerless to remove any of the causes. So the frustration of awareness made a lot of it worse, but it allowed me to constantly look for ways out.

If I couldn’t find a way to make myself happy, which was every day, I would hold a door for someone. Compliment someone at the grocery store. Write a congratulations to a stranger on social media over their happy moment.

Anything I could do to put a little bit of good energy into the world. It allowed me to see even as broke as I was there was still some good left. It kept me from losing myself completely.

Eventually, I was processed and thrown out of the USAF. They ended up keeping me 10 months after my possible retirement so they could finish throwing me out instead of me just leaving normally. The irony is not wasted on me.

Now I was free to make a decision. All this time of festering and trying to survive was over. However, after three years of this situation, my health had severely deteriorated.

I had put on weight even though I barely had an appetite. My sleep was unsteady and I had the same dream one to three times every night without fail.

I had muscle weakness from not being able to work out because of the nerve pain. And a few other conditions that I’m not comfortable sharing still. But I could start planning and trying. And I did.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

I spent a year in therapy which included EMDR to reprocess my trauma. I went through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which is a series of magnetically generated electric pulses that physically “reset” nerve pathways. I went through many trials and treatments to lessen my migraine condition. And they all helped.

But they all required determination to change back to a closer version of myself. Also, many were hard or painful. But I waited for three years to be able to help myself and I wasn’t going to let discomfort stop me.

It’s now three years later since my release from service. I still have migraines and nerve pain, however they are infrequent and typically mild now. I can fit in my old pants again.

I also met the love of my life right as I was exiting service and she stayed next to me while I was working on myself. We’ve been married for almost two years now. I finished my undergraduate degree which I had been slowly working on during those three years.

After, I was accepted into a doctoral program for clinical psychology. I also started my current business, Pegasus Realm, to provide leadership and wellness services through system research and coaching and will add therapy once I complete my Psy.D.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

Most of my family and friends still do not know this story. It’s not pleasant, it’s long, and it’s just weird at times. It’s not too fun to relive, and I do not want to bring anyone down. It’s my path and it can be just that.

However, I wanted to share my story here to remind anyone who is in a place they aren’t enjoying that it is not forever. Don’t let it be forever! You have to fight. You have to want better. And you have to be willing to try.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

A sandcastle can be built a grain of sand at a time. If you place one grain of sand today, you made progress! You’ll get to two grains, then a handful, then find a bucket. Every grain matters, even though it sounds tiny, it matters.

Understand that when you’re depressed your body adjusts to it as the new normal. It takes time, to change the biology in your body to accept being happy again as a new normal again.

Do not see a setback as a failure. It’s part of the process. Reconditioning your mind and body is about patience and steady progress. Even if it’s a grain at a time.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Nothing to share.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

If you’d like to learn more about me, what my company of psychology and coaching experts do, or simply follow my journey forward you can visit our website or connect with me on LinkedIn. If you need some help with positive energy, or encouragement to build your sandcastle, I’d be happy to support you!

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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