We’ve known each other for a long time now. Nearly 45 years, actually. We met when I was only five years old. I can barely remember meeting you. My mom tells me the story of our first encounter; you knocked me out and made me cry.
Making a return in second grade
You must’ve just been in town for a visit that first time because you didn’t return until I was in second grade. You started showing up after school on the days that my teacher would incessantly tap the ruler on my desk to gain the students' attention in the class. You would ride home on the bus with me – taunting me, such that I wanted so badly to get home to crawl in bed and forget about how mean you were.
Coming back again in middle school
I told my mom about you, and she came to school to try to find you. She found my teacher and her ruler instead. I changed schools, and I guess you lost track of me because you didn’t find me again until I was in middle school. And then you started showing up once a month. Every time I got my period, there you were, but this time, it was not only me that was growing up. You were also getting more mature, stronger, and more capable of crippling me. My eyes would water at the mere sight of you. You punched so hard I got sick to my stomach. You seemed to want to cause me harm for more than just a few hours. You began to taunt me for days in a row.
Torturing me in college
This continued until I went to college, and I started to feel like I was being abused by you. You would come out of nowhere and pummel me severely. I would be unable to stand. I remember crawling through the hallway of my dorm to find a phone to call for help and not being capable of speaking because you had hit me so hard. I had to seek medical attention.
Taking everything from me
No matter where I went or what I did, you always found me. I sought specialists to help me learn how to manage your presence in my life. I was given strategies to prevent and medication for pain after my encounters with you. I moved, started new jobs, got married, and eventually started a family. No matter where I went or what I did, you always found me. And when I had children, it was as if you wanted to punish me for it. This was unacceptable to me. I fought back and kept going with my life. You knocked me down, and I kept going. You hit harder and more relentlessly than ever before. Eventually, I became weak from the battle. I was dehydrated from the constant vomiting. I started living half my life in bed. You started winning and robbed me of time with my family. You sidelined me from a career I loved and worked for years building. It felt that you took everything from me and gave me pain and suffering in return.
So, there I sat in my bed. Without a career, in excruciating unmanageable pain, barely able to interact with anyone. My only consistent company, day after day, was you. I was beyond furious at the chaos you had wrought on my life. Why did you target me? An innocent 5-year-old girl? Feelings of sadness and anger engulfed me. And when those feelings lifted, I was weighed down with guilt and grief over all that I had missed. I wanted to kill you and wished you a violent death many times over.
But no matter how hard I tried, and I did try for years, I couldn’t kill you. No medication, no kind of therapy (I could list hundreds after four decades of trying every solution known to man), and no amount of money could make you stop your ceaseless attacks.
When I faced the reality that, for whatever reason, you had taken up permanent residence with me; and that I would have to interact with you on a daily basis - I started asking again and in a different way: Why me? Not defensively, but out of a true desire to understand. Why have you continually been a part of my life? What can I learn from you?
What have I learned?
It doesn’t appear that you are done being a part of my life, so I believe my understanding and learning of your role in my life will continue to evolve, but here are some thoughts about which I do have clarity:
- By forcing me onto the sidelines, you have made me an observer. Someone more capable of evaluating and perceiving than I ever was before. I see and appreciate the little and beautiful things in life that I know I otherwise would’ve missed if I were moving more quickly.
- By sidelining me from an aggressive career track, you landed me in the arms of my family - specifically my sons. This allowed me to be a more engaged and active mother than I ever could’ve been otherwise.
- You’ve helped me to slow down; to see my sensitivity as a strength rather than a weakness; to slough off relationships that don’t serve me such that I’m surrounded only by the most incredibly compassionate, loving, and inspiring people; and to see the value of health and wellness and to never take that for granted.
I haven't given up
Don’t get me wrong; I’m still trying to murder you with every new therapy and strategy introduced. But I’m continuing to look for the opportunity to learn from you. And I’ve accepted your presence in my life. Doing so seems to have quieted you just a bit and certainly freed my energy up for much more healthy pursuits.
Have you thought of writing your migraine a letter? What would it say?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?