I was minding my business, working hard, being social, setting lofty goals, and then whoops! A migraine! This is that nasty headache my family is on about! I’d rather not do that again, and I carried on with my busy life.
In a cocky, brazen move to try and pass another cyclist while totally forgetting the danger of streetcar tracks, my face and the College Street pavement became intimate. I immediately put myself down for a nap in an attempt to quell the shakes and nausea. Later on, some friends attempted to medicate me with sweet, delicious honey vodka, and lovingly convinced me that streetcar track falls are an important rite of passage for all Torontonian cyclists. Hooray! I was a real cyclist in the big city with scars to prove it! Only, I also had a concussion.
Car sickness (weird), lasting jaw pain, chewing problems, and ultra stiff muscles became the norm.
I began to have weekly migraines. They came on in the afternoon, usually while teaching under florescent lights in dusty, cologne-filled rooms, and almost always on Friday. These migraines are really the pits. How does my mum put up with them, I thought as I cancelled my fun Friday night plans and set up some pricey bi-weekly massages and acupuncture sessions.
I started having migraines twice a week or more, and started calling in sick more often.
“Have you tried not eating cheeeeese?”
“Have you tried not drinking alcohol?”
“You’re probably just stressed out!” chimed so many people in my life who wanted to help. So I tried all the stuff they said. I continued with the massage and acupuncture, saw an osteopath, added yoga and meditation to the mix, and cut out all kinds of delicious foods while popping pain meds and triptans like M&Ms.
Then I had pain most days. The pain changed, lingered, lifted, hit me over the back of the head, and filled my whole body with unfamiliar, nasty feelings. Then I felt very lost and sad and confused and afraid. Then I took a short sick leave and felt a bit better, so I went back to work. Then I felt even worse, took another sick leave, and here I am.
I’ve had some long stretches of good days lately. The new combo of regular massage + mineral and vitamin supplements + yin yoga + meditation + a stupidly restricted diet + avoiding loud/smelly/bright spaces + no pain meds ever + preventative daily medication seems to be yielding results. But I still have ugly unanswered questions, like,
Is this careful, sheltered routine even the slightest bit sustainable?
How and when can I return to my job that is such a huge part of my identity and feeling of self-worth?
When will I get to eat pounds of dark chocolate followed by sweet while dancing my heart out on a Saturday Night?
In the past, I’ve thought about how navigating changing abilities or disabilities must be difficult for folks, but I didn’t really get to thinking how big of a deal it is until my abilities were in question. Even with all the amazing supports I have in place already, it’s a big, scary emotional roller coaster, and that is why I feel compelled to make parts of my experience public in hopes that I can support, and be supported by, others who are also learning how to manage their lives with chronic pain.