In 2006, I lay in an Emergency Room department with excruciating head pain, tummy-turning nausea, and a complete list of panic symptoms. After IV meds took the pain, illness, and fear away, I was fuzzy-headed and in a fog. I heard the doctor say it was a migraine, and I meandered out the door with my checkout papers in hand.
I knew, of course, he was wrong and wholly dismissed every word he had said.
As 2006 melded into 2010, I began to find myself in the same situation more frequently. At first, it was once every few months, then every month, and by 2015 I found myself in a 90-day, unbreakable migraine. I lay in bed most of the time and took every pill that my migraine doctor threw my way. I understood completely, that I had a neurological condition called Chronic Migraine with Aura.
Triptans, opiods, fungus shots, and a long list of off-label experimental meds covered my nightstand on any given day. I was a mess with medications. So I went cold turkey off all of them.
And I've spent years trying to figure out how to heal and live as normal as a life as possible.
If my headache is mild, and I have the ability to rest, I won't take any meds. I'll rest on the couch with ample amounts of water and stay stress-free.
If I need to work or interact with friends or family, I take my triptan and an opioid. My pain usually improves after I have taken my meds, but I am left with what I imagine to be a common headache, a flat mood and brain fog. I'll be really sensitive to sound and movement, too. I can't ride in a car and often wear earplugs to help with those two things.
The reason I don't lay down everytime I have pain: because if I did that, I would miss out on a good portion of my life.
So, I usually take meds and try to live my life as best as I can.
However, there are some consequences to that. Here is a list of behaviors people may notice when I am struggling to manage this neurological condition:
- long pauses while I try to find a word
- mistakes in spelling
- using the wrong name
- smiling less often
- late appearances on my social media account or disappearing altogether
- late shipping
- customs running behind schedule
- forgetting to check my email or DM's (dropped conversations)
Since I work full-time as a silversmith and am self-employed as a business owner, I am regularly concerned with how my chronic health condition affects my professionalism. Of course, I try to minimize any weird impacts it may have, but I know I'm not perfect with that.
The most important aspect of living well with this condition has been radical acceptance. I have entirely accepted that:
- I live in pain a good portion of the time
- My pain negatively impacts my family and friends
- I need to take medication to live to my fullest potential
- It's okay to rest
- I am responsible for keeping my pain in check
I also use gratitude to counterbalance the heaviness of my situation. I am grateful for:
- the support of my husband & kids
- that I am self-employed
- that I get to work from home
- for medication that helps relieve my pain/nausea
My great-grandmother had migraine. The family called them her "sick-headaches". Apparently, a person couldn't even touch the bed, which I understand entirely. Sometimes when Doug rattles the couch, I feel like an earthquake has happened LOL. When my great-grandma finally became fully menopausal, her headaches went away.
So, I have hope.
But until that day comes, I'll continue to use all my tools to manage the emotional and physical toll of chronic migraine with as much grace and balance as I possibly can.