Self-Doubt and Fairness to Others
I tend to live a double life when it comes to experiencing migraines. While I wake up often with throbbing, nauseating pain, making it difficult to make commitments and even get out of bed most of the time, I also over-commit to …well…everything. I am politically invested and active in my local community,I play in a band, I serve on the board of directors for two separate non-profit organizations, I make jewelry, I try to stay active and exercise, I attempt to maintain vibrant family and friend relationships, and I am constantly looking for opportunities to engage with the world around me.
I think the part of my personality that wants to be apart of it all, is directly influenced by my chronic pain. See, because I know I am going to be bed-ridden and navigating pain most of the time, I tend to invest a lot of myself when I am well, and rested, into things I am passionate about. I volunteer for positions, I take on responsibility, and I try to be there for others around me. Truth be told, I take on far too much, and sometimes my mouth writes check my migraine-ing body can’t cash. Unfortunately, this has left me in a lot of awful situations.
Guilty as charged
Canceling out on plans can be a common occurrence for many who suffer from migraine. Since migraine is unpredictable, following through on a good faith promise or commitment made months in advance can very well be impossible. That shift you signed up for to hold down the booth at a local meet and greet? Might not happen. The board meeting you know is planned three months in advance? Might be impossible to be present for. Migraine and its unpredictable occurrences can leave many of us feeling flaky and guilty.
I often seesaw between feeling like I deserve to be an active part of my own world as much as anyone else, and feeling guilty because I feel as though I have let people down, once again. Finding the right balance of commitment can be really difficult, and the considerations go far beyond just myself. I often ask myself if I am being fair to others by taking on roles and responsibilities that may put others in uncomfortable or strenuous situations if I am too ill to make good on my own commitments. At the same time, does that kind of thinking stop me from going for what I really want? It’s tricky business.
Guilt is a really strong motivator, unfortunately. Often times I find myself pushing through when I am really sick because I just don’t want to let another person, team, or project down. I tell myself, if I signed up for it, I need to do what I can to show up and do what is asked of me. It feels awesome to be present and to contribute and participate in things when I am well, but it can be nightmarish when I am sick. Even worse, sometimes pushing through does more harm than good, because it might jeopardize not only my own safety and health but may jeopardize others’ ability to be fully engaged with activities or events in the cases I may need assistance.
Questioning my worth
There are of course times, though, when pushing through is just not an option. Blinding, throbbing pain. Intense nausea. Vertigo that prevents standing. There really isn’t a way to push through debilitating pain when it keeps you still and in bed. It is during these times that I really begin to feel depressed and troubled because I worry about letting others down and I can’t do anything about it for the time being. I also worry about whether I am good enough, or well equipped to do certain things. It certainly seems as though when my chronic pain is at its worst, I am not well equipped to perform the responsibilities asked of me, or meet the commitments I take on.
It is really important for me to realistically evaluate my abilities and make decisions that are truly fair to myself, to others around me, and ones that are attentive to my migraines. I have to balance the part of my personality that is outgoing and active, with the very real physical and mental limitations my body has due to chronic pain. I often tell myself that I am much more than my migraines, and I am. I also have a responsibility to those I care about to make sure that I am doing my best not to put undue strain and stressors on them, and that may mean turning down responsibility. I am constantly telling myself that it is not a defeat to say no.
It can be really tricky to be fair and considerate to all those involved when trying to make commitments while living with migraine, but I am finding ways to do so. For instance, these days I try to be upfront with people I am working with in different organizations about the fact that I experience chronic pain, especially when I am asked to take on leadership positions. I find that a lot of the people around me currently are exceptionally accommodating and understanding, and this makes it a bit easier to explain when I am too sick to show up or complete a task. That said, I still try to do as much as I can, when I can, because it is important to me to be invested and to be fair. Sometimes migraine makes that really difficult, but I try each day. I know it is exceptionally important to have plans and balance in place for when migraine hits unexpectedly, and I try to be true to all parts of who I am.
Do you lead a double life with migraine? Do you feel as though some parts of your personality don’t mesh with migraine? Let’s discuss in the comments!