I’m house sitting in Seattle, my favorite city in the world, and where I lived for six years. It is the place that feels like my home, despite not having grown up here or lived here in four years, despite having no family here and only a smattering a friends. My love is not about the abundant natural beauty or my history here, but because this city speaks to me in a way no other place ever has. It sounds so corny, but I just feel like I belong here. That was as apparent on my first visit as it is today.
I no longer live in this city I adore because cloudy weather is a major migraine trigger for me. With severe chronic — and constant — migraine that was unresponsive to the dozens of medications I tried over more than a decade, I’ve had to take every possible chance to reduce triggers. Returning to Phoenix, my hometown that’s full of family and friends and stable weather most of the year, was the logical choice. Logical, but heartbreaking.
My first week house sitting, at a place on the edge of town with an incredible view of Lake Washington, I admired the beauty, but didn’t feel that tug of “home.” I congratulated myself for accepting that I’m unlikely to live here again and for making Phoenix home. Then I ventured into my old neighborhood and knew I’d heaped on the praise too soon. The tears flowed, not out of nostalgia for the times I had here, but grief for how much I love this place I do not live and that migraine is the reason I do not live here.
I’m also angry that migraine has made this choice, and so many others, for me. I didn’t invite migraine into my life, and yet it weighs in on every single decision I make. Technically I could choose to move back here, but the tradeoff would be a major reduction in my quality of life, which makes it little choice at all.
Living in my favorite city is just one of the many things I’ve lost to migraine. I’ve missed being present and available to my nieces and nephews as they grew up, spent years with my marriage taking second place to migraine, abandoned hopes of more education, let go of career dreams, lost friends, and given up countless hobbies, to name the most prominent losses. Some of these I’ll never get back, others can be repaired, still others will be possible in a different incarnation than I originally expected.
To spew some relevant platitudes, life throws curveballs and rarely goes according to plan; there’s good in every place; I will make the best of the situation I have. But I can’t deny the grief over losses from this poorly understood illness for which research is woefully underfunded. I also have to wonder, if migraine weren’t so stigmatized, if the general public had sympathy for our plight, would there be more effective treatment — treatment that would allow me to pursue the full, productive life I’m aching to live?