I am having a panic attack. I have them fairly often now. There is a rhythm to them. They come in order and in relation to the other symptoms I feel now. Every week I can almost put my finger on what I will feel on what day except, that when I am going through it I feel like I am in the middle of a deep, thick, cloud and no one mood seems to pass fast enough. I feel like I have enough emotions for more than one person. There are many sides to me and when dealing with my migraines it brings out all of my personalities.
The feelings I am alluding to are all related to my chronic migraine illness. Anyone who has a chronic illness also has chronic anxiety, chronic stress, chronic anger, chronic depression, chronic loneliness, and chronic poverty, at some point. It is like riding a rollercoaster, once you go over one hurdle you feel a high of the thrill thinking the worst is over until you see the heights you still have to climb ahead of you. It is a vicious cycle and no matter your achievements there will always be days you can’t manage. It feels like the rug will be pulled out from under you and hoping to do better the next day, while realizing deep down you know you can’t, isn’t enough. Sometimes I need more than wishing to do better. I need to get off the ride permanently.
Living with chronic migraines presents special sets of circumstances than other chronic pain illnesses. On the days you are not crippled from the worse pain of your life, you are more likely than not laid up with feelings of dizziness, a sense of a fog and disconnection from your body. It is like all time and space is happening and you have to pay such close attention or you will miss it. You also are trying so hard not to give it away how bad you feel especially if you are in the middle of a visit or conversation. You are doing everything within your power to listen, show you are listening, and not like you are asking God to please just let them finish talking so they will leave and you can go lay down and die because that is what you feel like will happen next. Of course that is not what happens next. You have a whole day of events and life to attend to, so you drag your sorry, sad excuse of a self on with whatever you have to do. I don’t say “planned” to do because whatever you planned to do and can get out of you cancel. Any one close to me knows that. How I still have any friends left amazes me. I have cancelled on one of my best friends so many times now that I honestly think the last time I saw her was almost a year ago but we still try to meet every week. I am still hopeful that we will someday soon.
On a no pain day I have what I call a “corpse day”. I feel like I am dead weight and I have to drag myself around to get on with it. That usually means back to work after missing countless days. Other days it means finally showering after a week and going to pick up prescriptions and get something quick to eat so I can remember how to function in society. But while I am out I am in culture shock from all the lights and movement and when I go home I am back in full blown migraine state. Back to square one it is.
At this point the anxiety is gone we are now in a state of sadness, pain, and pure surrender. I give up the pain is here and now I know I am useless and there is no point in fighting it.
After a few days of this mind-blowing (practically literal) pain, that is when the depression first starts. It is a combination of pain and frustration. Frustration of watching others come and go on with their lives while you debate if you have the strength to climb the stairs to go to the bathroom and wishing you could go out but then again you have no money and bills to pay. Oh and by the way what I am I going to do if I never have the strength to go back to work? How will I get my incredibly expensive medication and Botox without health insurance? I know I am supposed to be “relaxing” so my “headache” will go away. I wonder why I can’t. But here I sit on the couch existing in my own lonely world looking perfectly healthy, undoubtedly unattractive, yet unwell, wondering why it is that I am here.
All of the things I love to do get pushed back and even though I know there will be some better days ahead they are few and far between. I have a good support system and they check in often and I need it most days. Then there are the days I dread the check in. If I am being honest with myself and with you it is because I feel like a failure.
Success is waking up to drug my body, drag it into the shower where I always almost feel like fainting in, get on the bus that gives me motion sickness, sit at work for eight hours under florescent lighting while staring at my computer monitor, then commute home, sit to gather my strength to get changed and eat dinner, unwind briefly, do the nightly three step drug regime, and then pray I get to sleep at all. If things are really going my way I get about six hours of uninterrupted sleep each night and wake up in the morning “able” to do it again. Then if I am really feeling my oats I do something Saturday during the day if possible so I can lay down for twenty hours afterward to recover enough to work on Monday.
I call this happiness despite that none of this schedule I have just laid out takes into account all of the things I would do for food, clothing, errands, reading, blogging, or for unexpected or additional activities. God forbid I have to go to Walgreens twice. I want to cry. Back to depression we go.
By Sunday night the full blown anxiety starts worrying about Monday and if I will get to work. That doesn’t stop on Monday because each day is new and a surprise. I know that it may appear that I am faking it or lying because of the many days I am out of commission even if I am not sobbing but I don’t get the calendar in advance. There are also just so many tears you can cry because after all they cause more pain. I have had to learn how to self soothe like they try to teach newborns. The before and after effects of the trauma of migraine attacks are almost if not worse that the actually event. Same is true for Botox treatment. Sometimes you can’t win.
On the days I am not truly having an inner meltdown I try to remind myself that there are people in far worse pain and situations. I use to be a girl that lived “no day but today” (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/08/for-jonathan-larson-and-all-of-seasons.html) now I only get glimpses of her. I have to become stronger. I read so many migraine blogs and books and they are all incredibly helpful and life saving, rather soul saving. It is so important to have others who understand and who are living your truth and try to get each other through it. They remind me of how much stronger I have become since this journey. Even though there are days when I am still reduced to mush, I can’t allow myself to stay in that place for too long. I know the dangers and my soul deep down is always struggling to get out and free its spirit.
You have to find a way and a reason to dig your soul out of the cave it has crawled into inside of you and work a way out so that you can eventually move up and on with your life. You know that you will have good days again even if you are not interested in having one today. The irony is that you alternate from states of true loneliness and solitude and then states where you wish you could run and hide from the world. Having to explain how you are feeling to those who can’t understand is debilitating especially when this is reoccurring activity and no one on the outside (outside your migraine community) can appreciate why one episode is different or of what emotional state you are up to. Sadder still is when you have to force yourself to care about the little details of other people’s lives that you love but don’t have the strength to care about. That’s how I know I have hit a particular low point. I have to first rebuild my strength to care about my life, outside of my head.
For me writing and reading are the things that soothe me the most and bring me the most joy. They are also among the top things to go when an attack hits. I have the proof staring at me all the time, it is a bag filled with a month’s worth of New York Times newspapers. I get daily delivery but refuse to throw them out until I can at least glance through them. I have postponed my service now but those old ones are looking at me, taunting me, I want to light them on fire. However when I am doing better, slowly it’s always a gradual process as your body learns to function when it can, I can go through them one day at a time. I feel like I am in A.A. because I say that all of the time.
As for my writing the proof is on my blog and this is the absolute most painful part. I yearn to write it is in my blood. But I can barely function a lot of the time and when I can I am not able to drain myself with this one task. But it is all I think about. I know what I am working on, should be working on, what is coming next. It breaks my heart. So when I am in the depression stage I dwell on my writing. After not getting to work, the other thing that makes me feel like a failure is not posting regular blogs. Ultimately the person I am always failing is myself. Ironic, huh?
I didn’t even know that until just now. Writing works everything out for me and clears my head. That’s when I knew this blog HAD to come in rare form. I was trying desperately to get my soul back on track and in order to entice it out. I knew I had to be brutally honest and in order to do that I had to announce it and share it. Otherwise I would be a coward and continue to live lying to myself. This way I can let it out and away.
It is like the five stages of grief. Acceptance is always the last step to admitting you have a problem.
For me it is an important step in realizing I am still the person I was but I have a serious illness and it is okay if that has changed me some.
The next step has to be that it has changed me for the better.
For My Previous Migraine Blogs: