This post was written for the Headache Blog Carnival. Thanks to Diana Lee at SomebodyHealMe.com for providing the prompt: how to keep hope in the face of migraine headaches. The link provides a list of other participating bloggers.
It’s almost always there, the feeling of dread.
I have plans for the day, may have been looking forward to visiting a museum, shopping, a road trip to a nearby historic town. After all, it’s a holiday, and I have much to do. I’ll spend the day with loved ones, have a pleasant meal, maybe end the day watching a new comedy film.
Or maybe not.
As I drift out of sleep each morning, I’m already accessing my health. Do I feel a headache coming on? Even though I went to sleep feeling fine, did I let myself get too tired over the past several days, inadvertently eat a food with MSG, or change my daily routine in some small way, triggering an incipient migraine attack?
Or did I do none of the dozen things that I’ve identified as possible migraine triggers, and yet still feel that beginning of a throb, slight but deepening nausea, the morning sun blinding me with harsh light sensitivity instead of being the welcome portent of a pleasant, sunny day?
As a migraine sufferer, I have learned to de-emphasize to others the daily attention I give to the brain disease. There’s a stigma attached to being a migraine sufferer, and I go along by pretending that the possibility of a migraine doesn’t color many of my daily thoughts, plans and activities.
It’s just a headache, after all, right? And who wants to be known as the weakling who stays in bed in a darkened room for days, just because she has a headache? What kind of drama queen does that?
I wonder how it looks to others. Although I suffer much less than many migraineurs, I may spend four to five days in a row in bed several times a year, trying to sleep off a migraine. I know some people wonder what’s up, why I don’t just take a magic pill, or learn a meditation technique like their cousin did, and shake the headache off? I’ve tried to spread some knowledge about migraines to those who know me, but even specialists in the field admit that the migraine brain is incompletely understood.
Truly, when in the midst of an attack, people’s opinions matter little to me. But once I’m back on my feet, I am embarrassed at the thought that I had to call in sick to work, forgo plans, and ignore my family. The headache was in control, another four days of my life are gone, and can’t be replaced.
If I dwell on the attack that I just emerged from, I fear I’ll only bring on another attack. So I brush off concerns of my co-workers, friends, and family. I assure them that I’m fine. I’m ready to take on the world again, to venture out into the sun for a long walk, to tackle the project at work, to pretend that the dread is not always there in some degree, as hard as I work to repress it.
Sometimes if the days between migraines stretch into weeks, I dare to hope I’ve turned a corner. I get bolder yet, and hope that maybe this is the year researchers will come up with a solution that works for me and so many other migraineurs that are waiting. An effective preventative, a reliable, safe treatment, maybe even a cure.
We’re waiting for our tiny, budding hope to grow into full flower—a sunflower, one that doesn’t have to hide in a darkened room until the pain is gone.