A New Normal After School
"You're just stressed."
"Once you graduate, you'll feel better."
These are words I heard many times. Teachers, family, and friends, all insisted that my daily migraine attacks were a direct result of me working too hard in grad school to get my fine arts degree.
Migraine attacks colored my school experience
11pm. School is about to close. I lie down in my studio, massage my aching neck, and wish I could just sleep there instead of taking the hour-long train ride home.
Friday morning. I get to class. A migraine attack hits. I flee the bright classroom and lie in my studio. My teacher comes in later and remarks at how dark it is. I can't even muster a simple answer.
Graduation day. My art piece is hanging in the gallery. It's a wall-mounted clay relief. A sculpted staircase leads your eyes up to a pair of outstretched hands. Flowers fall around them like confetti. The piece is supposed to be about joy, but the lines and forms were shaped in a time of pain, and now that's all I can see when I look at it.
Was it stress?
Was I just "all stressed out"? No, but...
The thing is, to this day I can't say that the stress of school or working long hours contributed strongly or only a little. Migraine is notoriously complicated in triggers and contributing factors. But what I can say is that once I graduated, my health issues did not dissolve in a puddle of stress-free, tensionless bliss. Instead, I found less on my plate to accomplish but the same amount of pain and disability as before.
My world shrank
My life became myopic. Without schoolwork and classes, my life was filled with doctor's appointments and uneven progress.
I spent a lot of time looking at my phone. I connected on social media, and started talking to people on pages, support groups, and messenger. When I felt like I had something to say, I created my own social media pages so I could say it louder. But in real life I was quiet. The people in my life noticed.
"She was bright and happy before. Now she seems withdrawn."
"I'm sure her pain is bad, but I just don't understand it."
A problem I couldn't solve
My brain was constantly working out this big math problem. I felt like my migraine disease was a big tangled ball of yarn to unravel. If I could just pull on the right piece, it would all come loose. I don't know if other diseases are like this; I'm sure it varies. With migraine, a lot of the work is placed on the person experiencing the disease, since there are triggers or lifestyle factors that can contribute. Though this can be empowering, it can also be an incredible burden. My "new normal" was to walk this path with a heavy load.
The only way I could figure out how to live this new life would be to lighten to load, but you'll have to read about that next time.
Did you miss the first half of Lisa's migraine story? Don't worry! Click here to read part 1, "Did I Cause My Chronic Migraines?"
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?