An open letter to Chronic Migraine, the world’s most annoying insect
Last updated: October 2020
Like an annoying insect circling relentlessly- you come back again and again. Wearing me down. I swat into the air, at first absent-mindedly and then, as you continue to come round, sometimes dive-bombing me, I swing more wildly, exhausting my own energy in so doing.
You even have the gall to harass me during sleep, sometimes stinging me while I try to rest. You drain me of the precious resources I need to function- like some awful, blood-sucking thing. Your bites cause me to vomit and become dehydrated, like an allergic reaction. When I awaken exhausted rather than rejuvenated, I stumble out of bed, hopeful that you’re dead, aware of your supposed gnat-like life span. For a moment, I might think all is quiet and even allow myself a breath of hope. Inhaling deeply for the first time in days, I hear the faint buzz of your presence once again and feel you circling above. Because unlike a honeybee armed only with one stinger, you don’t simply inflict pain and then die. You keep causing more and more harm.
A wave of uncontrollable anger washes over me, almost as if I'm walking through the five stages of grief backwards: acceptance, depression, bargaining, anger, and denial. I no longer care if I injure myself while trying to kill you. I'm reminded of swimming in my mother's pool in a meadow, beautiful but plagued with horseflies. We nearly drowned ourselves going under trying to escape their unrelenting harassment.
So here I am, willing to do anything to escape your wrath:
- Taking multiple medications that tax my liver and my ability to function;
- Clearing my figurative plate of so many life joys and interests in order to make room for your unending demands on my time and energy;
- Restricting what is on my literal plate, to the point that I can barely eat anything that might trigger or hasten your return;
- Accepting the reality and pain of 30 injections of Botox into my neck and scalp every three months, in hopes of lessening the severity of your pain.
I have armed myself with every tool I can think of to defend myself. But my fly swatter of treatment protocols doesn’t work. No matter how hard I try to kill you, I keep missing the mark and hitting myself instead.
It is impossible for me to avoid asking: what did I do to you? Why me? You’ve been after me for forty years now. I have tried to live with you in peace and I have tried to kill you in hundreds of ways. Nothing has worked. But, you know what? I think you have tried to kill me too. You hoped my body might give in to severe pain. You thought my mind might break or that I might give up. It hasn’t worked. Instead, your unrelenting presence in my life has called me to action. You made me sit up straight and pay closer attention to the gifts life has to offer. I don’t take a moment of wellness for granted. In fact because of you, I have learned much about wellness, nutrition, and health. And I have learned how strong I am. You have also made me appreciate more deeply how blessed I am to have such loving and supportive family and friends. And ultimately, I have learned that spending my energy fighting and swatting you away is wasteful. My time is better spent on anything other than you.
So what to do going forward? Live and let live? No. I will continue trying to kill you. I can’t help it. But it won’t be my main focus. I assume you will also continue the battle. Hopefully, one day you will find an open window and exit my world. But until then, I will continue looking for the lessons and unlikely gifts that lie within our unwelcome relationship.
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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