People want to help others; it’s amazing and compassionate. And when you tell someone you have Chronic Migraine, they hear migraine… and everyone knows everything about migraine. Most likely because most people have had a migraine in their lifetime or their loved one has. They don’t hear or understand Chronic Migraine. Which is so very different from episodic migraine. For true Chronic Migraine there is NO cure, there is no one method of treatment, and each patient’s experience is so very individual. People do not see or comprehend this ridiculous dark alter life I lead, this half life: the 20 prescription bottles & 10 supplement bottles in my night table, the medication pouch I carry in my purse always, the 15 various ice packs in my freezer, the app on my phone which daily tracks my pain and symptom level. They don’t know about my weekly doctor appointments and current 5 specialist. They don’t know I’ve been willingly injecting my head with hundreds of toxin non-cosmetic injections over the last seven years or that I’ve spent thousands of dollars on alternative medicines over a decade and trialed well over a dozen migraine prevention and abortive medications. They don’t see that I can no longer work my career, grocery shop, work out at the gym, clean my house. They don’t see that I’m a shadow of the person I used to be, a shadow of the mother I used to be. They don’t see the physical toll Chronic Migraine has extracted from my body, the oceans of tears I’ve wept for missed events, missed family moments, excruciating pain and loss. The burden I feel I’ve become to those unlucky enough to love me, and the hours of therapy learning how to cope with a chronic pain condition.
But to be fair, this is true for every single one of us humans. NO ONE has the ability to see the hardships others face… unless we’ve walked in their shoes. Everyone has something.
Last night I made it to a friend’s ladies night get together. This was amazing! I had already been out to lunch with girlfriends for dim sum earlier. I’d been pushing through and medicating a #5 migraine. But I was out of bed and rockin life! Just look at me go! (Perhaps the last 2 days in bed have given me the energy and stamina to conquer Saturday plans?).
The air is like pea soup here… the humidity has that Texas summer slime. Blech. Temps have been at triple digits. Air conditioning is life. I try to stay inside. As I explain to people from the north, this is our winter – staying inside is smart. These conditions are murder for my migraine. This weather is like a huge hill and my brain is peddling the bicycle as robustly as it can, but it cannot get itself over the hill to migraine-relief land. It is a never ending hill. I have 2 choices: •stay in bed or •medicate and be able to move. The medication is just taking that migraine down to #3 but that’s enough to be able to socialize. I’m walking around with a migraine in my right brain and a stinging in my left brain, my eyes feel like hollowed out and heavy sockets, every muscle in my body is sore, every cell is complaining. But I’m showered and dressed. I’m wearing earrings in my ears and rings on my fingers. My hair is brushed and I have makeup on.
I’ve had friends and family tell me they really appreciate the education and experience of chronic migraine that I share on social media; they’ve learned about the stages of migraine, the treatments of chronic migraine, the triggers and the invisible nature. Since I myself didn’t really understand what I was living and experiencing even 7 years ago, I consider it a wonderful testament.
So… I’m at the party last night, sharing a prickly pear margarita with my friend Meg and she introduces me to a new neighbor Kimberly.
My internal dialogue: Remember her name. Kimberly. (I am SO bad at names!) Cute, dainty, beautiful, brunette. I can tell she is thoughtful by her lovely eyes. Petite but not short. I can tell she works out. Very nice, very kind.
We talk about children, how long we’ve lived here, where our houses are, etc. We talk about neighborhood bunco. We topic that Meg and I have both had pelvic prolapse and repair. And then I mention my head. Chronic Migraine. And what happens next is my own fault. No one made me talk about it. I could just skip it. Chronic Migraine isn’t all my life… it’s just a big part. And I’m an open book. So I have trouble shutting up and not sharing. “What’s wrong with your head?” Kimberly asks. I look to Meg and decide to just rip the bandaid, ” Oh I just have chronic migraine.” Throw it out there, throw it away; no big deal. We can just move on. Kimberly asks: “You get migraines?” I look at her and answer yes. She is visibly emboldened: “Come to my house,” she offers, “I have this special CBD oil that is…” But I admittedly don’t really hear the rest. And I am touched she wants me to come to her house. But the alarm sirens are sounding in my brain and my soul is pulling in on itself inside my skin, trying everything to protect itself from assault. I must remember to breathe in and out, center, calm myself. My reaction is swift and jarring. “Yeah,” I cut off Kimberly (ruder than I’d like to be), “I’ve tried so many CBDs. I really wish they helped me.” Kimberly tries to tell me about her CBD with CBG and how it’s different. She tells me the name of the doctor in Houston who endorses this oil. And I think of the bottle I have in my medicine cabinet. The one that has CBD, CBG, and no THC… the bottle that cost me $120 plus shipping. The oil in it has a pleasant citrus taste. I was on it 3-4 months and it did shit. And the other CBD I trialed with THC, and the other CBD I trialed that was specifically for migraines. Oh, and the other CBD – I almost forgot that one…
But I’m coming off as rude to sweet Kimberly and she only wants to help! She’s heard the word migraine and she associates it with: things CBD oil helps. And I’m shifting on my barstool uncomfortably and trying to switch the topic because I’ve opened myself up to the Freak Show that I really am and it’s my own damn fault. Kimberly moves on to gluten: “Have you been tested for gluten sensitivity?” And she’s talking about the metabolic testing. I explain I have been on elimination diets, etc. Meg chimes in about how Botox is the only treatment that’s really helped me. I can read from Meg’s eyes that she knows exactly what’s happening here… and she’s trying to save me. She is one of the most authentic people I have ever met. And apparently she can read me like a book. Am I that obvious?
I need to close this with Kimberly. I appreciate her kindness, her compassion, and her advice. I really do. But she’s misunderstanding. And this is quite possibly the 1000 time someone of the general public has tried to heal me with suggestions.
“I have Chronic Migraine. I’m not triggered by diets and foods. It’s not a physical anomaly. It’s a genetic neurological disorder. I haven’t just been struggling a short time. I’ve had migraine all my life and Chronic Migraine ELEVEN years.”
Eventually she gets it and stops pushing. And then I feel sad. I don’t mean to come off as rude and closed. And I certainly don’t think I am closed to new ideas. I just feel like we are comparing apples and oranges. I can’t possibly expect Kimberly to have a frame of reference for what Chronic Migraine truly is. I’m also left feeling guilty and hoping I haven’t offended a new friend.
Someday maybe I’ll learn a more artful way to deal with Migraine Helpers. Or maybe I’ll just learn to keep my mouth SHUT – not everyone needs to learn about my chronic migraine!
Internal dialogue: Keep it shut, Donna. Just keep it shut. Advocating is a double edged sword. Drink your prickly pear margarita and enjoy some girl time with friends.
#ChronicIllness #invisibleillness #speakyourmigraine #sowingtheseeds