Has migraine made me weaker? Part 2

In “Has migraine made me weaker? Part 1” I concluded that migraine has not made me literally or physically weaker overall, but rather has changed the ways I use, care for, and challenge my body. But also gnawing at me is the question of whether migraine has made me weaker in terms of my character: am I emotionally weaker? Do I have less worth? Less validity? Are my skills waning within the brain fog? Am I less reliable as a friend, partner, or family member? AM I THE WEAKEST LINK???

There is no doubt that I cry more often than I did before migraine entered my life without an invitation. The onset of an attack sometimes brings disappointment and pain that makes my face crumple within minutes. Though I’ve gotten much better at enduring the pain without heaping piles of dark emotional thoughts on top of it, sometimes I feel pretty certain that the neurochemical process of the attack is purely responsible for the buckets of salty water leaking out of my face. And crying = weakness right?

Well, that’s what our culture likes to tell us, especially humans of the little boy variety, but there’s plenty of literature out there suggesting that there is strength in vulnerability; that being in touch with our emotions, and expressing them, is a healthy, cleansing process that can help us come out on the other side… stronger. This has certainly been my experience. Any time I’ve tried to bottle up that sadness and drive it down into some locked vestibule, the more likely I am to feel angry or irritable. But after a good cry, the anger and irritability is gone, replaced with feelings of honesty, exhaustion, and peace. So really, by training myself over time to be more in tune with my emotions, having a good cry as needed, I have become stronger.

I do sometimes feel less worthy, and less valid because of the presence of migraine in my life, but I think this has so much more to do with societal expectations around what makes a quality citizen than it has to do with my personal character. Sure I can’t do my full time teaching job anymore, so sure, I’m not contributing to society on a daily basis in a conventional full-time-job sort of way, but I am slowly learning to let go of these definitions of success and worth. The phrase “your paid work is not your value” is pinned to my bulletin board, and I try to remind myself of this often.

But if my value is not in my paid work, than where does it lie? Certainly not in taking care of others, because my body is too unreliable to do that on the regular. Certainly not in being an excellent conversationalist, because the ups and downs of life with migraine make that difficult sometimes. So then what makes me valuable to others and to myself? To answer this question I like to ask these questions as well…

What makes my friend’s helpless, dependent, gurgling, pooping baby valuable?

What makes my elderly grandfather who sits around, plays cards, and plunks out the occasional tune on the piano valuable?

What makes my friend, more disabled than me by migraine, who is often unavailable for weeks, valuable?

The answer is hard to put into words, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with love. I love these people. They mean the world to me. I do not, could not, would not ever value them less or think them weak because their abilities are constrained by their age or health. They are beautiful human beings who bring me hope and joy just by their very existence and presence in my life, however occasional it might be, and together we are part of bigger communities that sustain each other using our combined skills and abilities. We are interdependent beings, and it can be easy to forget that when individualism is the status quo.

I am not the weakest link. I am me. I have value. And just as my body has shown resilience to migraine (good job surviving an onslaught of crippling pain, body: you’re pretty amazing) so has my character, because I am more resilient than ever.

To everyone doing their best despite frequent disabling pain and learning to navigate lost or changing abilities, bravo. Living with migraine is harder than it looks, and in my eyes, you are stronger than ever, inside and out.

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