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It’s all relative

I love catching up with friends. We’re spread all over the country and so busy managing our daily lives that it’s hard to stay connected. Those moments we steal are so precious! Not long ago, a long-time friend and I tried to cram months of life into a brief Facebook chat. Because we are both spoonies, health updates are always on the agenda. When she asked about my health, I was thrilled to give her the good news that Botox has been working.

Oddly enough, her response was disappointed sympathy, “I am sorry that your headaches aren’t more under control. I was thinking they were.”

We’d been neighbors for several years when I was first diagnosed with cluster headache. I thought she knew how bad it used to be. She has been one of my strongest supporters, so her memory lapse is forgiven without a second thought. I patiently explain the difference before and after Botox (a 75% reduction in frequency).

Incredulously, she still responds, “Yuck. Still too many headaches, but I guess it is relative to what you have had!”

I guess if you’ve never experienced losing one day a week to migraine, it would seem awful. The thought of even one cluster headache probably gives her nightmares. Yet to me, this new reality feels like a miracle. I didn’t even tell her how many restrictions and safeguards I have in place just to limit attacks to once a week. Botox helps. It doesn’t make me invulnerable to triggers.

I don’t get out of the house often. Just making a weekly trip to the grocery store and the occasional doctor’s appointment is more than I can handle. Social media has been my lifeline to the world for several years now. I even like it when friends stop by for a visit. Formal entertaining is infrequent because of the physical toll. However, those friends who don’t mind a sink full of dishes, carpet that needs vacuuming, or the sight of me in pajamas are welcomed anytime. Otherwise, I actually enjoy the dark, cool quiet of an empty house. The isolation of migraine must be easier to cope with for introverts like me.

Many of you are probably cringing at my description of migraine-induced isolation. No doubt, your experiences are quite different. I isolate as a protective measure, but it wasn’t always this way. It’s one thing to choose to stay at home for a health benefit, and quite another to be bedridden with intractable, mind-blowing agony. Plus, many of you are still caring for children, work full-time, attend school, or simply require more face-to-face social contact. Migraine or not, you don’t have the privilege to choose a lifestyle like mine.

Our experience with migraine and the choices we make in response to it will never look exactly like someone else’s situation. There will always be those who are dismayed by results we think are successful. Conversely, we may be shocked by a frequency or intensity that someone else celebrates.

It’s all relative.

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


  • wendy
    3 years ago

    Yeah, being chronic means I’m sick more than not, and try not to complain, but 1-2X a year I get a migraine that lasts 4-6 weeks. (It’s probably one ending while another is starting, but feels basically the same.). I am at a newer work place and was complaining about one of those, a few weeks in. After a while, people started asking me daily,and after this “constant migraine” ended, and I would get sympathy, I was like “yeah, but …is so much better!”. Well, people would act like I was nuts. I finally started changing the subject to something more positive, as I get tired of thinking about this more than I have to. (I still wonder if I will end up on disability one day, as this is far from easy and I’ve had to downgrade my position and salary to something without OT and needs less brain power, along with big dietary changes, less social life, etc to do what I do, but focusing on the difficulty just leaves me in the grief state I used to be in when I realized my life wouldn’t be all I had wanted it to be.)

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