Letting People In

Although more than a week has passed since I was been overwhelmed by the isolation of chronic migraine, the memory of that intense emotional disconnection echoes. The lingering thoughts are less about what I felt recently and more a nagging remembrance of my very worst days. When the migraine pain regularly reached levels 8 and 9, and chronic migraine wrapped me in its armor, a sharp barrier between me and the rest of the world.

Not only did I feel like my friends and family could not possibly understand what I was experiencing, I would not, could not tell them what it was like. I was so ashamed of how sick I was. I felt like a failure for letting migraine dictate my life. Like if only I had tried harder or been more motivated, I wouldn’t be so disabled.

Letting other people see me in the throes of a severe migraine is how I began to pry shame’s death grip off my emotions. I’d like to say I chose to let people see me at my worst, but the truth is I had nowhere to hide. My husband and I were staying with friends at Thanksgiving. They hosted a party so our local friends could visit with us. Everyone knew I wasn’t doing well and they wanted to see me. My husband knew I was at the end of my rope and was no longer willing to push people away for me.

I had days of level 9 and 10 pain (and I do not use that number lightly), gut-churning nausea, dizziness, and the whole host of phobias (photo-, phono-, osmo-), I was too weak to stand on my own and had abdominal cramping so severe that my body spasmed up off the bed in a V. But my friends refused to leave me alone. People came in one by one to express their concern and love. They held my hand and talked softly for a few minutes, then let me rest.

No one thought any worse of me, nor did they pity me. No one cast me aside as weak or a failure, but were amazed by my strength and courage. All anyone wanted was for me to feel better, to get beyond the hell that I was so obviously in.

That was nearly five years ago and has proved pivotal in releasing my shame, guilt, and self-judgement. Yet I continue to struggle to let people in. I still pretend I feel better than I do. It is partly about not letting others see my vulnerability, partly to convince myself that I’m not as sick as I am. I guess it gives me a little sense of control.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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