This year, I resolved to keep a daily gratitude journal and, like many of my resolutions, it quickly fell by the wayside. I am not naturally predisposed to optimism and 11 years of chronic migraines have not done a lot to change that. January was an extraordinarily difficult month for me and so far February hasn’t been much better. I was laying in bed, writhing in pain despite the use of various preventative/abortive/rescue medications and I realized that I was crying and I hadn’t even realized it until my cheek found the wet spot on my pillow. I glanced at my gratitude journal, which was glaring at me from the nightstand, and sighed. I didn’t feel well enough to lift my head or turn on the light, let alone dig through the wreckage that is my room to find a pen, so I decided to reconsider January and turned my mind towards finding something good to come out of that hellacious month. A week-long migraine both preceded and included New Year’s Eve. I missed the annual Christmas Tree Burning party, arguably my favorite event of the year. My face unexpectedly and inexplicably went numb for the better part of a day. My neurologist informed me “There is nothing else we can do for you.” This was going to be harder than I thought but my mind was racing (as is always the case) and I was determined to find something positive to fixate on for a change.
The first thing that came to mind was the eight-year anniversary of my boyfriend’s and my first date. One thing that I am acutely aware of is how lucky I am to have someone who chooses me each day, in spite of my chronic illness and all that comes along with it. Ian is unlike any person I have ever met in so many ways, not least of which in the way he treats me like a “normal” person without ignoring or disrespecting my experiences with an invisible illness. I find that many people (not all) often (not always) treat me in one of three ways:
1.) They see me solely as a “sick” person and base all of their communications with me around that.
2.) They see me as a “healthy” person and refuse to accept or learn about my illness.
3.) They ignore me entirely. Perhaps my illness makes them too upset (“I just can’t stand to see you suffer…”) or they don’t believe I actually have an illness but they have decided that they no longer have time for me…or my advocacy work.
This is what makes Ian and the other people in my life who stick by me through both the good and the bad so truly special.
January also brought good news on the advocacy front: The American Headache and Migraine Association announced the date of their annual patient conference in Washington D.C. and posted a scholarship application for patients who wish to attend but cannot do so without financial assistance. I have since applied and eagerly await the scholarship committee’s decision. I was also informed by The Migraine Research Foundation that my blog (the one you’re currently reading) will be listed under the “Resources” section of their new website when it launches this spring. My neurologist allowed my father to take video footage of my Botox injections in their entirety which I posted online to show fellow migraineurs considering Botox exactly what the procedure entails. My secondary intention was to show the lengths migraineurs are willing to go through in order to gain even partial control over their migraines. The video has currently been viewed almost 800 times. I spoke to fellow advocate and Migraine Rock Star Teri Robert on the phone for the very first time. Honestly, I was a bit star-struck, but the conversation was enjoyable, educational, and empowering. Never underestimate the power of talking to someone who knows firsthand what you’re going through. Lastly, I took to Twitter to live-tweet the realities of living with chronic migraine over a 48-hour period. Using the hashtags #ChronicLife and #Migraines, I met many new fellow advocates who battle various invisible and chronic illnesses.
As previously mentioned, I received my fifth round of Botox injections in January and what followed were the four most blissful days I have had in a very long time. For those four days, I was pain and discomfort-free, optimistic, grateful, and enthusiastic. This particular topic warrants a separate blog post but, for now, I’ll just say it was definitely one of the highlights of the month.
Recalling all of this, I realized that there was more to January than I had been focusing on. I figured I had better write it down before the negative memories eclipsed the positive ones. I have decided to try doing this after each month, which seems less overwhelming than a daily commitment. I hope I have inspired some of you to do the same.