The migraines are lasting days now.
It’s been 20 years.
Now when I get them, I find myself sometimes looking at suicide sites and curious about how much I would take, wondering if there is a painless way.
I’m trying to find a way to live without pain. I look for ways out, but I’m not in any danger of actually hurting myself. Not right now.
There are a lot of people who are though, people who do choose to stop all the terrible drugs and loneliness and pain and say “Catch you on the flip side, when I can actually be here.” This is the reality of years of chronic pain.
I am transparent about all these things with my doctor, and now transparent with you.
Think I shouldn’t talk about this? Did that make you uncomfortable? Squirming with the label of “oversharing” and “victim?” Please keep reading. I guarantee you that more than one person you know, other than me, hurts like this and wonders if they should just stop that hurting. Most people can handle a couple years of intense pain. It gets really confusing and actually changes you when you head into year 10 or so.
I couldn’t begin to list the jobs I’ve had to quit, the times I’ve had to drop out of college, and thousands of plans I’ve cancelled, the relationships that end—and the financial obliteration of chronic illness. I simply cannot support myself by myself, and I desperately want to.
I want to.
I say that twice because, after 20 years of thwarted attempts of creating a life that generates enough money to pay simple bills (let alone anything consistent and normal), I start to wonder myself. You see, with all this “manifesting” BS going on, I seriously wonder if I’m just manifesting this.
Here’s my answer to that:
If there’s a spiritual component to this ruthless, relentless onslaught, it’s simply that I have chronic migraines.
It’s that f*cking spiritual: I have chronic migraines.
My bigger question is always “what now?” More meds, try another job? Try school again? The diet again? More docs? Meditation, yoga, acupuncture…ask anyone—anyone—and they will tell you how to get rid of your chronic illness. They will tell you how their sister, uncle, neighbor, best friend in India cured their illness with [insert miracle cure here].
I really don’t even entertain new relationships anymore—of any kind.
Texting and Facebook are all I can sustain on a daily basis. Some friends get this, but it’s rare. One exasperated friend called me “so long suffering.” She couldn’t save me, and she really tried. It’s a strange dynamic where some people are attracted to the tragedy of people who are sick and then get really pissed and cruel when they don’t get better.
But I get it. I mean, being friends or lovers with someone who is chronically ill is never going to be a full relationship, not one of those relationships where both people get to focus on their needs. And most of us who are sick know that. We aren’t assholes. We feel terrible guilt and loss for being a disappointment, so we just start to withdraw. I mean, how many times can you say “Sorry, I have a migraine?” When what you really want to say is, “Oh my god, it hurts so bad in a way I didn’t think hurt could hurt that I want to die but I can’t move very fast cause moving makes it hurt worse. So dying is a little too rigorous right now. Please, please keep calling, keep trying. At some point I might be able to make it!” Obviously, people will say, “Do you need anything?”
What I need is the pain to stop. Can you do that?
Instead, we say, “Oh no, thanks so much! Talk later. So sorry!”
Cause I have a lot of life I was planning on. What can a loving friend do about that? So they stop asking because they don’t want to hurt you, and you stop talking about it because it’s all you talk about, and the relationship dies. Honestly, after years of this, it’s often just easier for some people to not even begin new relationships. They know how it will end.
I could go on.
But I want to say it’s normal and reasonable to question being on the planet when a person’s life consists mostly of pain or the recovery from intense pain. That just makes sense.
When we can’t share in the world around us, we look for other worlds. What’s so shocking about that?
This is just as true for mental and emotional pain as it is for physical pain. Chronic pain—pain that is acute and does not abate for significant lengths of time, pain that inevitably returns at excruciating levels, pain that isolates and removes a person’s ability to be self-sufficient—that kind of pain is often invisible and downplayed. If I just kept breaking my back or arm or femur 20 out of 30 days a month then I could actually point to that—we could “see” it. We could all look squarely at it and say, “This is pain.”
As it is, in spite of these barbaric invaders that have christened my skin suit as their evil amusement park wonderland for their savage overlord (AKA migraine), I’m a pretty smart, insightful, crazy-ass, artistic, warrior, empathic world-walker.
I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says, “Never, never, never give up.”
I don’t. I keep at school, keep hoping I’ll get discovered sitting here in my apartment for the artistic genius I am and land a career using my keen, articulate insight and piercing stylistic eye. (Yeah, it’s going great so far. To date, I’m having dramatic conversations with the cats, and they say I have potential.)
If you can relate then never, never, never give up.
I know it sounds super patronizing and like a “spiritual Jello mold with carrots,” but I do have some extraordinary moments, some good days—and so do you.
On those good days, I tiptoe through pain hangovers and get surprised by the generous joy of a baby spider, the unbelievable placement of the moon in the sky, my cat placing its paw on me to reassure me, the hot hope of coffee, and the neverending cycle of angels showing up trying their best to act human, all in the strangest attempt to shower me with relief, showing me how to love what’s really real and how to hold on until I get to go home and write my report “What I did on my summer vacation.”
So I get it.
It’s okay to talk about.
If we can normalize and glamorize gruesome violence and crushing greed, we can at least stop squirming when people tell the truth about what hurts.
Go ahead, talk about it.