like to think I can handle pain. I’ve dealt with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia since I was 15, 19 years now. Going to grad school was risky health-wise for me. The 1st 2 years were actually amazing. I had spent a year and a half before that doing absolutely nothing, just resting at my parents’ cabin as prep. Intensive rest therapy they call it. University of Montana was my dream school, and I soaked up the access to world class lectures and conferences, fell in love, was able to reach the best physical state I’ve been in since being an early teen, and used what I could spare of that new found energy to explore every inch of the Western Montana front country.
And then came my thesis study. Again, it was a known risk. I could have taken an easier option, but I chose a dream project, delving into the conversation with ranchers, hunters, and trappers over wolves and public hunting and trapping of them. I paid for my temerity. I limped across the finish line with severe esophagitis, carpal tunnel, a re-occuring pinched nerve in my neck, and a gigantic CFS/FMS flare up. BF had a year left on his PhD still so once I graduated I had some time to recover. I gave myself 6 months before starting work. I thought I was ok to do some contract data analysis. Yeah, it didn’t go well.
That’s when the migraines suddenly emerged. The pain is blinding, agonizing, nauseating and at first could only be shaken after hours in the dark and multiple doses of tylenol, a little caffeine, and aspirin. My triggers are light, certain sounds, and odors. I’d had migraines as a kid, so I had a feeling i knew the symptoms. I have them to a low grade everyday, though with medication they don’t turn into full blown migraines more than 4 times a week, typically.
What I can’t handle is that after all of this I came out of grad school dumb. OK, neurocognitively impaired, but I get all the looks like I’m stupid. I have problems forming new short term memories, putting new info in context, and with executive functions. Thank god it’s improved, because at first I could barely speak. I’d try to say a sentence like, “Let’s walk the dog,” and it would come out as, “Lalk dog.” Writing down programing directions for work I could copy word for word what my boss said and a couple hours later have no memory or understaning of it. She kept having to go over things again. It took me longer to get through the work than it should have. My contract wasn’t renewed. I had to quit mediating for justice court because a) my trouble speaking and b) the difficulty of now following conversations.
Except for those 2 first years in grad school I have not had a capable body since developing CFS/FMS, but I always had a good head. It got cloudy with brain fog, but not like this. Things didn’t disapear, false memories didn’t seem so real, I didn’t have to worry about what embarrassing word substitutions would come out of my mouth, if I’d be able to hold a conversation with academic friends without getting the disconcerted looks on their faces. There are times where objects disapear from plain siight. For example, I could look at a table with only a cup on it and instead of seeing the cup I see empty tabletop. Reading was a passion, but now if it doesn’t straight up give me a migraine I struggle to comprehend or remember it. Sometimes my BF has to help me understand basic recipes. I struggle with the frustration of knowing I wasn’t always like this. I had a good reputation as being sharp, observant, put together and well-spoken. Now what do I do? We’ve moved. I’m starting over from scratch. How do I work in conflict resolutions (human-wildlife or human-human) when I can’t speak? More school or office work is out if I can’t be on the computer or reading much. The CFS/FMS is still a limiting factor on physical labor. BF and I can’t get married. He makes too much money for me to continue receiving social security if we did and not enough to support us alone. I just want to know that there are other people out there going through something like this. I get plenty of sympathy from people with migraines that only know the pain. I can’t be alone in this neurocognitive stuff can I?