Memorable Migraine 3: Florida, 2004

It was the spring of 2004, and I’d driven from my parents’ house in Central Florida south to the Literacy*AmeriCorps headquarters in a lovely beachside town called Delray Beach.

I was going to meet up with my close friend and former boss at L*AC, A.; we’d catch up and perhaps grab dinner together. In 2003 I’d completed a year-long stint serving as an AmeriCorps tutor/instructor at a charter high school in Palm Beach County, and the principal of the school had asked me to come back for a month for a short-term gig. In need of money and sorely missing the students at the school, I said yes.

The year before this drive, I had gone into an eyewear chain and signed up for one of those deals that allowed me to get new frames each year. Unfortunately, the chain had no locations near my home, so I would have to drop by there first before continuing south to meet with A. at her office.

I tried on many pairs of glasses, my migraine pain getting ever stronger by the moment. I eventually settled on a couple of pairs, muddled my way through a frustrating argument over the particulars of the “free frames” agreement (I’m stubborn—I won), and got back in the car to head to A.’s office.

The moment I walked in, she gave me a huge hug and then immediately pulled back, her hands on my arms. “You look terrible. Do you have a migraine?”

And here I thought I’d covered it well. I’d walked in with a big smile, genuinely happy to see her. I’d used my hands to steady myself in the doorway, and I’d kept my eyes low so that I wouldn’t have to wince at the overhead lighting.

We sat in her office. I tried to be a good sport, playing catch-up and asking if she wanted to go out to dinner.

Ever the good friend and parent/teacher figure, A. told me that I needed to get some food stat and go to bed. I was supposed to crash at a former coworker’s house, a place I’d never been. I imagined I’d be sleeping on a couch in the living room and knew I wouldn’t get very good sleep, but I didn’t want to pay for a hotel.

In the midst of this conversation, I excused myself to run to the public bathroom and get sick a few times.

Maybe A. was right. Maybe I needed to cast off what I perceived as others’ expectations. Maybe I needed to put myself, and only myself, FIRST. Nothing else could be taken care of if I didn’t get better.

“You need to get something to eat, go to a hotel and go to bed,” A. said. (I paraphrase.) She helped me call a local hotel and book a room. I then called my host and told her I’d be meeting her at school the next day—big surprise: she was concerned about my health but didn’t mind at all that I wasn’t staying with her that first night. I went to the hotel (after snacking, I’m sure), drew the curtains, ignored the beach (sad!), and went to bed. I woke up feeling alive again.

I’m better at recognizing my own limitations and health needs than I used to be, but I still need someone like A. once in awhile to say, “Stop everything. The world will not fall apart if you rest and get better.” Usually Jim plays this role, but my mom is pretty good at it too. She lives a good nine hours away but will sometimes email me and say, “I have a feeling you’re sick—I hope you’re not.” Unfortunately, she’s usually right.

So ends my description of yet another memorable migraine. Do you have any episodes that you think you’ll never forget?

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