We are pleased to share this guest post with you by Tonilyn.
“I’d like to stay in tonight.”
I wish a romantic night of clinking champagne glasses in bed followed my last statement, but alcohol is a trigger, and the clinking is going to be too loud. Bed is a definite possibility. My husband’s disappointment is obvious. He doesn’t try to hide it anymore. Date night is ruined, and it’s my fault. Well, it’s the fault of my chronic migraines.
I used to be fun
When my husband and I were married over thirteen years ago I was fun. I could stay up late. I could travel. I didn’t panic if I forgot my sunglasses. Then my migraines began. At first our lives didn’t change all that much as my migraines only occurred here and there. I even received a nine-month respite when I was pregnant with our son. However, since he was born my debilitating malady has grown to cover the times I have my period, ovulate, fly on a plane, don’t get enough sleep, or blink the wrong way. They’ve become chronic.
Even a supportive spouse can withdraw
My husband is well aware of all the doctors, medicines, and procedures I’ve tried. For some he’s held my hand, and for others he’s advocated for me when I was in too much pain to talk. Still, the inconsistency of my condition causes tension because my level of self-care goes beyond the normal weekly mani/pedi. I will do anything short of snake charming to stop a migraine chain from taking hold (Although, if that’s been known to work please email me the information.). Sometimes that means canceling a date.
The good news is when I bag on loud nights out most times that familiar hot twinge will crawl back into the depths of Mordor and go seek the one ring to rule them all somewhere else. The bad news is I’ve successfully reminded my husband once again I’m not that fun girl he married. I’m damaged. I can feel him withdraw, and it hurts.
The fear of pain
On the nights I cancel, we sit in bed watching the TV on a low hum. We hold hands. We are connected, but I can feel our emotional connection shift into something delicate and tenuous—much like my head. I want nothing more than to jump out of bed and do something fun together. I check in with my pain level and instinctively know that any extra movement or emotional charge will turn my tiny twinge into a red hot sizzle and the flames of Mordor will engulf me. The fear of the pain is too much. I can’t be fun.
As a migrainuer I’m constantly faced with this Sophie’s Choice of a situation, and I can see in no uncertain terms my love feels abandoned. A look, a sentence, a touch, or more to the point the absence of those things lets me know that he’s feeling rejected. Endlessly playing second fiddle would make anyone feel that way—even if he knows the true reason. I choose my head over him, and he misses me. I get it. I miss me too. He misses seeing my eyes behind my sunglasses, and I’m tired of feeling like I’m forever avoiding being videoed by TMZ. Really, I hate feeling like a constant let down. I hate feeling powerless.
My migraines have taught me hard and fast that it’s easy to shift into feeling powerless. Migraines don’t give you much of a choice—in anything. Their timing is as bad as a creepy ex-boyfriend trying to propose to you at your wedding. There’s nowhere to hide in that situation (not that I would know), so I’ve found it good form just to hunker down and go with it.
Taking charge by showing gratitude
As much as I’d like, I have no control over my husband’s disappointment. I have tried. My list starts off with the traditionally tried avenues of massage, meditation, yoga, radio wave therapy, Tibetan Singing Bowls, and praying to Tom Cruise, but none of it worked for my head nor my husband’s disappointment. My migraines remind me that I may have little control over a lot, but I know there are some areas where I can take charge:
“Thank you,” I whisper after canceling Date Night as I lay my head on my date’s shoulder.
And that’s one small thing I do have control over, my gratitude for him. Those two simple little words bring back our connection, and we watch TV together comfortably. Hand in hand, I realize my husband may feel abandoned, but on our night in, he has not abandoned me. My husband may feel disappointed but he has not disappointed me. For someone who can’t count on her own head, it feels good to be able to count on something.
Biography: Tonilyn Hornung
Tonilyn is the author of the humorous self-help book How to Raise a Husband:A Whole Bunch of Ways to Build a Strong and Happy Marriage available where books are sold. Tonilyn’s essays have been published in The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Delish, Scary Mommy, and The Parent Co., and other magazines her husband has never heard of. While continuing to talk about herself in the third person, she was interviewed for Good Morning America after her humorous piece for Cosmopolitan gained national attention. After her essay for The Washington Post went viral she was a Hot Topic on The View proving what she has told her husband for years–she is indeed a “hot topic.” She lives in LA with her one sassy cat, two smart dogs, one husband, one pre-schooler, chronic migraines, and never enough closet space.