Like a car screeching to a stop, or a light switched off. Like a helium balloon floating away. Who am I? Where did I go?
How is it possible? Just three days ago I was sitting with my best friend in a noisy, crowded restaurant for our Friday breakfast. Our gathering is always a highlight of my week. I met her there after taking my son to school. Following our visit, I took a four-mile walk. When I got home, I did several loads of laundry, cleaned our home, did some writing and prepped dinner before picking my son up from school.
But since that day, I’ve lost my place completely. In just three days, I can barely relate to the person I just described. Since then, I haven’t showered once but have vomited more times than I can count. The pain of this migraine has been severe and relentless. My body is stiff and sore from being bedridden and from repeated dry heaves between vomiting. I haven’t spoken to anyone outside of my immediate family. I feel scooped out from the inside and raw. My hair is matted to my scalp.
The knock out
It’s stunning how quickly a migraine can rob us of momentum, joy, and sense of self. It feels like the breath is being punched out of the body. Indeed, much like a professional boxer at the top of his game when he enters the ring, we migraineurs are accustomed to being nearly knocked out. We aren’t new to the situation, so we can take a hit and keep fighting. We may literally or figuratively fall, but we know that although the pain is terrifying, it will not kill us. We know from experience that the moment, however painful, will eventually end. It is something to be managed – to get through.
Getting back up
Thankfully, we all possess a seemingly endless source of resilience. Even when we feel we’ve hit rock bottom and are running on empty, and regardless of the number of attacks we endure, we persevere. Eventually, our well of reserves refills and we are replenished. Time and time again, we gather ourselves up and resume our lives.
Sometimes, however, it can take a while to get our bearings. The wallop of a migraine is dizzying, after all. Its postdrome after-effects can be utterly comprehensive. Although we can lose our place almost instantaneously, the process of regaining our footing often takes some time.
How do we make sense of this seemingly endless and maddening cycle of standing up and re-entering the ring, just to get hit and fall down again? There are no easy answers here. But as someone on the journey with you, I encourage us all to focus on those moments we can feel our energy stirring once again within us. Those little moments reveal and affirm our inner strength.
Never going to keep me down
Making note of the fact that strength is returning can do worlds to lift us up emotionally, psychologically and physically. So, try to be conscious of that moment you begin to sense you are in need and capable of showering. Be awake to the moment when you feel moved to open the curtain to look outside for the first time in days. Take stock of the wondrous transition when the migraine storm passes and you know it’s safe to move. Those moments are signs of your inner strength and resilience.
So, even when you are in the midst of a three-day migraine without a shower, feeling smelly, and like a shell of your former self, don’t forget where you might be in another few days. You might just find yourself, once again, in a noisy restaurant, having breakfast with your best friend.