Call me Ella. My first documented migraine was at age 8. I average 20 full migraine days a month and have headache or vertigo the rest of the time. Three consecutive pain and nausea-free days makes my month. I’ve tried literally everything, and am now on nothing but medical cannabis, intravenous Imatrex, and a very strict gluten-free and vegan diet.
I ended up graduating from high school at age 13 having mastered 9 instruments and 8 years of vocal training. I went to college immediately on a music and academic scholarship and graduated at age 17 with a dual degree in Music Theory and English Composition. I took a year off before I went back to college to try to study up to go to medical school (to study neurology, of course!).
I lasted three years studying biochemistry, but last year I went 108 days in a row with migraine, lost 20 lbs, and withdrew from school on my doctor’s orders (my commute was 45 minutes East one way, so I was driving into the sun both on the way there and on the way back). I immediately started taking music and tutoring students, and in the intervening year have hired student tutors and am bringing in 5K a month.
My family has some issues with valuing accomplishments too much. I know this. I’ve seen 4 different therapists about it. My mother tells me to “suck it up,” that it’s “mind over matter” and that if I “believe the pain will go away, it will; pain is entirely mental anyway.” If all else fails, pray more. My parents were pretty disapproving of my choice to withdraw from school, and though they’ve calmed down due to the success of my business, I still get a lot of flack whenever I take a full or partial day off for ANY health reason, particularly migraine. They’ve also just started calling it an excuse for me to be a pothead, as though they don’t believe I’m really in pain and that I can produce puke on command. My mother has found my on the bathroom floor with my face glued to the toilet seat at 3 in the morning and her reaction was “oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” and an immediate exit.
I’m getting married in March, and though we come from a crazy conservative background, we rented our own house six months early to get me more autonomy. His family is 4 hours away doesn’t know we are living together, and his dad (who is performing the ceremony) would FREAK—we’re both having nightmares about his parents finding out and trying to stop the wedding. But we are still living in the same town as my parents, and my mom calls me several times a day. I don’t answer often because I work 60+ hours a week, but when I do she always asks me how I’m doing. If I’m honest, I get a lecture. If I lie, she calls me on lying and gives me another lecture about needing to make sure I look and act normal or I won’t be successful and will end up on the street. During migraine I get big dark circles under my eyes–she lectures me about not wearing enough makeup, and my teenage sisters add to it, pointing out that I wouldn’t “still be fat” if I really was as sick as I claim (I’m 110 lbs and a part-time yoga instructor).
My family is very important to me, and I love them with their faults, but their treatment of my condition is adding to my stress, and my fiance insists that it’s borderline abusive. Do any of you deal with family that just don’t get it? How do you cope? Every therapist I see suggests I just remove myself, but I’ve already moved out and am not going to cut them out four months before my wedding.