Monthly Archives: May 2017

How to Embrace the Good Days with Chronic Migraine

Good days with Chronic Migraine, though not pain-free, are vital for nurturing strength

There is no greater high than a sick body feeling well.

My partner joins me on a run, despite being way faster than me.

I am incredibly happy to say that I know this intimately. After several weeks of bad days and slightly less bad days, I am feeling well, vital, energetic – almost the way a person without chronic illness might feel. The unignorable head pain has shrunk to an irritating hum. The persistent nausea has died down, enough at least to let hunger flood back.

I have seized each day that I have woken up feeling well. Despite hearing many cautions to “not overdo it,” which is actually good advice, I throw caution to the wind. Every day that I’m physically able to, I tie on my running shoes and pick a different mountain trail to call mine.

When my feet are pounding the dust or swerving around rocks or picking my way through dense sagebrush, I am no longer a sick person. When the sun is on my face, I don’t think about Migraine. I don’t think about prevention, triggers, whether or not I’m doing enough (for the record, I am.) I don’t worry about affording my meds or side effects or proposed budget cuts to federal disease research – my only hope for a cure.

Good Days with Chronic Migraine Nurture a Sense of Vitality

When I am running, I simply am. Breath, sweat, dust. I am a part of this world as much as the root of the Jeffrey l leap over or the hermit thrush I share the shade with. When you spend days, weeks, or months inside, sick with Migraine, the outside world seems like a dream. Like a dream, life outside your four walls is maddening in its closeness and unattainability.

good days with chronic migraine
Parker Lake, the destination of one of my trail runs.

It’s hard not to feel trapped. It’s hard not to feel like a prisoner in your own body with an invisible and cruel jailer.

The good days, though, these precious glimpses of health, this is what I life for. This is what every person with a chronic illness lives for – the good days past and the hope for more to come. This is why we restrict our diets, suck down supplements and pills, and spend thousands of dollars a year just on the possibility of progress.

Making it through the bad days with spirit intact is never easy. For me, it has gotten easier – just a little. The miracle that makes it all okay is feeling all the pain, emotional trauma, and unreleased energy of the bad days melt away. As quickly as the sickness ascends it is forgotten – at least mostly. Chronic pain keeps its tendrils wrapped around me every day. The good days with Chronic Migraine are never free of pain – there are no days without Migraine when you’re chronic.

These Are the Days I Live For

Little Goop listens to chickadees singing through the open window. He makes both good days and bad days better.

But those hours, as fleeting as they are, when I can forget Migraine and feel the strength and vitality of my body – these are the days I live for.

Today is the fourth consecutive day that I have not had a migraine attack by noon. I haven’t had a wellness streak this long in months – I can’t even tell you how many. I have been working my ass off to get here and I’m going to keep working my ass off to stay here. I know that no matter what I do, though, the next attack will hit. I will hunker down, I will grieve, I will endure. I will wait as patiently as I can for my next hours of freedom.

These fleeting good days with Chronic Migraine are an important reminder of my strength – a strength that can be hard to find on bad days. I know it’s in there, though, and I will do my best not to forget.

I will do my best to cultivate my strength like a rare and finicky orchid – so much work , but the end result is so beautiful that it hardly seems real.

Main image: Ryan Alonzo Photography

All other images: Angie Glaser

Running on Empty with Chronic Pain in the Passenger Seat

My car tire sprung a slow leak. I filled it with air at the local gas station, ignored the tire pressure warning light, and continued on my daily juggling act.

Self-care helps tremendously.

Between a part-time job, Maid-of-Honor planning duties, daily headaches, near-daily migraines, the chores of taking care of a snow-covered home and a blind kitty, and small contributions to patient advocacy, my life has become a juggling act. I begin each day with less energy than required to get everything done, and yet I manage. I postpone, cancel, and schedule in sick time, but I manage.

Chronic Migraine has introduced a slow leak into my life.  I have no time for a slow leak in my tire.

Like most of life’s problems, ignoring my leaking tire only made it worse. By the time I realized my tire wasn’t holding air, I had driven hundreds of miles and effectively wrecked my tire.

I finally crawled out of bed and my Migraine haze and took my car to the shop, but by this time my gas tank was emptier than my tire. My car had been slowly breaking down, lighting up warnings on the dash and dinging at me to get my attention. The longer I ignored it the worse it got.

If that isn’t a perfect metaphor for chronic illness, I don’t know what is.

Literally and figuratively, I’ve been running on empty with chronic pain.

It’s Okay to Ask For Help

Every time I have been struggling in my life, I have been able to turn to my parents. I am incredibly lucky. Whether the problem is my increasing disability or a leaky tire, my parents often recognize the issue and interfere before I even ask for help. (Really, what more could you ask from parents? I am so grateful and so filled with love for them.)

running on empty with chronic pain
My parents and partner aren’t the only ones who help me out – kitty cuddles are priceless.

Eventually, my dad filled up my tire and made me an appointment at the tire shop. My mom took car of business at the shop so I wouldn’t have to withstand the smell of the rubber tires. (For those less acquainted with chronic illness or Chronic Migraine, strong smells can be difficult to handle at best or trigger migraines at worst.) She even filled up my gas tank for me and picked my car up at the end of the day.

Over dinner she told me, “Did you know you were running on empty? I filled up your tank for you.”

Oh, Mom, if only could you help with the other empty tanks in my life!

Lessons Learned by Running on Empty with Chronic Pain

The way I see it, this story has at least three different morals.

Moral #1: I am not the most responsible adult. This point is pretty obvious, and you very well may be shaking your Baby-boomer head at me. I’m not proud of my terrible ability to take care of my car, but I’m trying. And I’ve learned to stop ignoring the lights on my dashboard.

Moral #2: It’s okay to drop the ball. When you’re juggling a full life on top of chronic illness, sometimes you have to chose which ball you let hit the floor. In this case, I dropped the ball on my car. Next week, it will likely be something, but I will try my hardest to keep juggling.

Moral #3: Our support systems are so valuable when we need help. Asking for help is so hard, and not everyone has parents who understand their illnesses. Everyone with a chronic illness needs help from time to time, whether it’s in-person help with daily logistics or emotional support from friends online. Never be afraid or ashamed to admit you dropped the ball and need help. We are stronger together.

Tell me – Are you running on empty with chronic pain? Do you ask for help when you need it?

Image credit: Unsplash