I’ve been really struggling with the emotional aspect of chronic illness and was hoping someone on here might have some tips on how to cope. I’ve tried talking to a few different counselors, but mostly they’ve just kept me talking the whole time, occasionally asking questions, and not really offering much in the way of helpful advice.
It’s kind of a long and complicated story, but I’ll try to summarize the best I can. I started getting migraines a little over a year and a half ago, completely out of the blue. They were very severe and lasted for several days at a time. I started taking sumitriptan, which would make them only last 2 days, but then I’d get another one the next day, and I had a lot of side effects from the medication. Because I had a big project I needed to complete and meetings to attend (I’m a PhD student), I took the pills multiple times per week just to function, plus some other things they had prescribed in conjunction with it, and ended up with a bad case of medicine overuse headache. Those were the physical symptoms. Emotionally, I was frightened and stressed because I didn’t know what was happening to my body, I had deadlines to make, the whole thing was putting a strain on the relationship I was in, the sumatriptan was giving me anxiety attacks… basically I was not super fun to be around.
At the time my migraines started, I had been in a relationship with someone for almost four years, and we’d been living together for two. He would act kind and caring sometimes, but other times just get really angry and blow up at me, especially if I was being too needy or getting in the way of his work, telling me the kindness had just been an act because talking about the problems would be too stressful and time-consuming. It wasn’t just because of the migraines – I had other chronic pain issues where I needed help with certain household tasks, and most of the problems with the relationship had already surfaced by the time my migraines started. In any case, our lease was going to be up (about 3 months after my first migraine) and he would smile and talk about how excited he was to be finding a new apartment together, and then one morning (2 weeks before the lease was up) he just left a note on the kitchen table, took the car we shared, and disappeared.
So, I was too sick to get out of bed (or really to take care of myself at that point), had no car, and somehow had to find a new place to live in two weeks. I had moved to the city we were living in to be with him and didn’t really know many other people there. The only real option was to move back in with my parents – 2,600 miles away – at age 30.
While I’ve been really grateful that my parents were willing to help me move, let me stay with them, and support me financially, it hasn’t been easy living with them from an emotional standpoint. Physically, I’m thankful that my condition has slowly improved – it was still pretty bad for a number of months after the move, but after giving up prescription meds including ibuprofen and trying some naturopathic treatments and a really strict elimination diet the migraines are less frequent and severe, although I do still get them, and am still dealing with chronic fatigue and other issues. But mentally – well, I was a complete wreck after being abandoned and then forced to move and basically give up the life I had been living. I’ve had to make a lot of lifestyle and diet changes to reduce the migraine frequency, and it’s really affected my sense of self-worth not to be able to live normally anymore. My parents were kind at first, but after a while I could feel them getting frustrated with me more and more frequently.
Right now there are some days where I can barely hold myself together because I feel so alone and hurt. My parents are always getting frustrated with me for something or other, and when I try to explain how I’m feeling the response is often “there’s always an excuse,” or “well, I don’t feel that great either but I still do this and this and this.” I can understand the reasons for their frustration – I know it’s not easy for them, but it feels like no mater how hard I try it’s never good enough. I don’t feel respected, or like they really listen or take what I have to say seriously. I’m getting a lot of negative comments about things I could/should be doing better, but not any positive comments to balance that out. I often feel like I’m being attacked or ganged up on, with no one there to understand how I feel or support me. Between that and what happened with my ex-boyfriend, I struggle a lot with self esteem, feeling totally worthless, and it’s been hard to find motivation to keep working on my degree and trying to be more active. When I feel attacked I tend to retreat into my shell and isolate myself, even though I’m a social person by nature, just because I feel so shaken and hurt and emotionally overwhelmed.
I’m not really sure where to turn to for support, or how to feel motivated, inspired, and good about myself when I’m not receiving that feedback from others. I don’t know how to get my self esteem back – it’s hard to feel like I’m worth something when it doesn’t seem like anyone else thinks so, and when I’ve lost the ability to do alot of the things that I used to. I feel like I’m no fun to be around anymore – I used to be adventurous and free-spirited, and now I can’t go out to eat at restaurants or go outside in bright sunlight, or places with flashing lights and/or lots of noise, I have to be incredibly careful about what I eat and when… That makes it hard when it comes to friendships let alone finding a new relationship someday. (People tell me to “just concentrate on getting better” but what if that never happens? Don’t chronically ill people deserve to kind of have that love too? But it’s hard for me to believe I have a chance when I come with so much baggage – who would be willing to even try a relationship with me?)
More than anything, I’d just like to feel that there’s someone out there who thinks I bring some kind of joy or happiness to their life. I know, intellectually, that my parents love me, but I don’t FEEL loved when they’re always getting frustrated with me. I want to feel like someone out there thinks I’m worth something, or at least learn how to feel like I’m worth something even if no one else does.
Sorry for the long and rambling post – I guess I’m not very good at being concise. I just thought I would post on here in case anyone else has had similar struggles and/or has any advice to offer. Thanks for reading!