A message to my sons…
This is a note and poem I wrote and gave my just-getting-married sons in hopes that if their children inherit migraines (I inherited from my grandmother and great aunts), they would recognize and understand what was happening. They, of course, knew about my headaches and lived with my attacks, but I wanted them to understand how I felt about it and how much it affects my life even when I’m not actually hurting. The title pretty much explains it in a nutshell, doesn’t it?
Growing up, the only person I knew that had migraines was Mrs. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies. She sat in her luxurious bed with pillows all fluffed, wearing her pink satin eye cover and cuddling her little poodle. I thought she was a lazy, spoiled, horrible person. When I got older I discovered that several of the women (and some of the men) in my family suffered with what they called “sick headaches.” They were not lazy, spoiled, horrible people at all. They were loving, intelligent, hardworking, wonderful people. And then at age 19, I joined them in their suffering. It is not uncommon – especially in certain seasons of the year – for me to have some level of migraine several days a week. Fortunately, I do not have them now as frequently or severely as I once did. (The silver lining of getting older.) For many years, my worst headache trigger was menstrual. I had a three day horrible migraine that made me nauseated and pretty much debilitated every two weeks… When I ovulated and when I had a period. But I had other triggers, too. Dramatic changes in weather (spring and fall I have more), getting too hot or too cold, getting too tired, getting too little sleep or too much sleep, strong odors, emotional distress (crying or getting very angry). It is important for me then to be very aware of my surroundings and to keep a fairly regular routine. I can’t let myself get too tired.
Here’s a poem I wrote a few years ago… I actually started it one day when I was suffering with a migraine that had already lasted a solid week. I was just about at my wit’s end. I’m obviously no great poet, but I just needed to express my pain, frustration and sadness.
My Stupid Head…
I’m writing a poem about my stupid head,
the way it hurts and feels like lead.
The frustration I feel when it gets in the way
of doing things I want to do each day.
Having an illness that no one sees.
Worrying that others won’t believe.
Feeling ridiculous when I have to say,
“I have a headache, I can’t today.”
The dread of the next headache to come.
The things I don’t do for fear of getting one.
The events I have missed over the years
because of a headache or because of the fear.
The Advil and Tylenol I wish I owned stock in.
The cost of the Big Meds when the OTCs don’t win.
The way my body feels when I take all that stuff.
The fog I’m in for days after, makes thinking tough.
Going to work in blinding pain,
or sick at my stomach, and trying to refrain
from leaving my class to run down the hall.
Praying that no one is in the next stall.
Wanting and trying to be a good at my job.
So sad for the work that my headaches rob.
Having the ability and desire to be great,
but limited, and feeling only half-rate.
Driving while “under the influence” of pain,
or worse, being dizzy and feeling insane.
Not remembering most of the drive,
And wondering how I got home alive.
Don’t stay up too late, don’t ever sleep in,
don’t get off the schedule – a migrainer’s sin!
Don’t eat the chocolate, don’t drink the wine.
I drive the car while the others feel fine.
“Take this pill, it will slow down your heart.”
“Take this pill it will help your sleep start.”
“Take this pill because it will help
all of the symptoms the other pills dealt.”
I’ve suffered with migraines for 30 years.
You’d think I’d be used to them and done with tears.
But each time it’s bad and it feels like I’m dying,
I can’t help myself, I end up crying.
My grief is for more than the physical pain,
It’s for so much time wasted – it’s hard to explain
to someone who’s never gone through life
with a chronic disease that brings so much strife.
And yet, let me say that through all this mess,
I have so much joy and I feel truly blessed,
by people who love me and have been willing to wait
and help when I’m not feeling so great.
A husband whose patience knows no bounds.
Sons who loved me even when I wasn’t around
to go to the game or help them along.
Their love has been like a beautiful song.
My troubles are chronic, but not half as bad
as the troubles I know some others have had.
These headaches won’t kill me, though they feel like they could.
I am grateful for living, and I want to live good.
So I keep on pushing and trying to be
The wife, mother and daughter God sees in me.
I’ll push through the pain and try to do my best.
And now you know… so I’ll give it a rest.
~ Louisa Elmore, Birmingham, AL
Migraineur since 1981
(I didn’t even talk about the weather…)