I am no stranger to pain – I get tremendous migraines. All my life. My mom can remember me having headache pain as young as five years old. This is the one topic that I can’t seem to write about properly. Chronic pain is such a tricky bedfellow. Usually, I plan and memorize entire blog posts in my brain before sitting down at the computer to finally type them. I normally vomit up a blog post in one go, during naptime or at 5AM before the kids wake up. I always know what I want to say.
Not so with the migraine writing. I don’t even usually talk about migraines, much less write about them. It’s just too hard, or too depressing. Maybe I keep throwing away the blog posts about migraines because it is too difficult to capture. Or because I don’t want the pity. Or because I assume that you, my dear readers, could never understand. (*gasp!* Did I just insult you?! If you have migraines too, or other chronic pain, I apologize!)
I’m not a visual person. I’m a verbal person. (Obviously. I’m a blogger. Duh.) I can’t pronounce words until I can spell them. I have a ticker tape of my sentences running through my head at all times. I solve problems by writing about them on my blog. I even email my husband when I have hard stuff to say (and, bless his heart, he emails back). However, migraines seem to be the one thing that I can’t dissect with words. Maybe it’s because I can’t remember a time without them.
In my neurologist’s office, there are rows of framed artwork of depictions of migraines running down the length of the hall. Seeing those for the first time made me shudder. It was the first time that I felt someone had visually captured my pain. There were various paintings of dark, evil stuff. There were sharp colors and blunt objects and horror movie scenes. There was black and white. There were heavy burdens and twisted messes. There was isolation. Loneliness. Despair.
It was beautiful. Someone understood. Lots of people, actually.
Migraines are not headaches. They don’t respond to even the strongest addictive narcotics. They are not normal pain that a normal pain pill with a DEA Controlled Substance classification can fix. They cause vomiting, sometimes for days if the pain gets out of control, and sometimes I can’t see out of one eye. I don’t need to go into all the gory details, but after four days of that, I start to see how people could contemplate suicide. Or at least a drill in the head. (Don’t google that.)
People who experience chronic pain of any kind understand that life is not the same for us. We can’t do certain things, or go certain places. We can’t lead a completely full life, no matter how much we pretend that we do. Anyone with chronic pain can get downtrodden. The weight of any pain that is relentless – that you know will come back even if you control it – is exhausting. It messes with your head (no pun intended).
I could go on and on about this. Medications, trials, new medications, side effects, prevention, triggers, tricks, resources… but I don’t want to do that.
I want to talk to the moms who also experience migraines.
Anyone with migraines has my utmost empathy. But other moms with migraines (and other chronic pain) have my respect. No one but you all really know what I go through when I am trying to care for children while handling a migraine (poorly). I can see it in your eyes. I know.
You give away that baby lotion that has too strong of a smell to other non-migraine moms. You keep the lights off in the house during the day too. You have fixed meals for your children while taking a break to vomit and pray. You can’t take your migraine medication when you need to, because you have to be alert, for your children’s safety. You contemplate other medications with serious side effects and undesirable consequences, just so you can care for the children. You look into your biological children’s eyes and wonder if they could be having a headache today, because they are extra naughty or extra whiny. You pray that they have not inherited the 50% chance of this curse. You offer a silent prayer of thanks that your adopted child will never carry this burden. You can’t take your children to the park sometimes, because heat or sunshine might push the headache you have into a migraine. Poopy diapers (x twins!), which are normally a disagreeable nuisance, become almost impossible. You avoid playdates with another beloved mom friend because she may use a certain cleaner or a scented candle or an air freshener in her house. You have to gather all your courage to sheepishly ask the nursery leader at church to please consider not wearing perfume because it transfers to your babies. You can’t join the other moms at the indoor play area place because certain noise might be a trigger. You wish you could work in an office, because at least it would be quiet- but then again, it would be fluorescent, so nevermind. You calculate how many hours or minutes until your husband normally arrives and base your medication choice on that. You have called your husband and told him to come home from work early because you have done all you can do, but now you have to hole up in the dark and deal with this pain.
When he gets home and takes over, you have to let the pain in. You have to stop fighting it and face it. And it is a blinding pain. Searing. And it scares you sometimes, even though you have done this for thirty years. Your husband wonders if you have a low pain tolerance, but you want to scream that he would know just how high your pain tolerance is if you two could switch bodies for just two minutes. Your strong lumberjack of a husband would be on his knees – you know it. And you love him anyway and look into his eyes and once again offer a prayer of thanks that he doesn’t have to understand this pain. (Plus, being a spouse to someone with migraines is a pain unto itself.)
And yet, we manage to dress the children through all this. We fix them three meals and two snacks anyway. We take them places when we can. Break up fights. Clean up toys. Do some laundry. Change poops that seem to smell a hundred times worse than they really do, and it burns our brains. We pretend we’re fine and squint through the pain while we watch them play. We try to read another story even though the board book is a bit blurry. Our stomachs lurch when we hear their piercingly loud squeals of joy that would normally sound so cute. Our eyes literally water with the pressure, but we try to smile and build another Lego tower. We handle it. There.is.no.other.choice.
There is no one to help you. You are alone with your pain. But I empathize. I get it. You have my respect.
There is a special place in heaven for moms with migraines.