When I was first diagnosed with chronic daily headaches and migraines, I didn’t understand what it meant. It’s so much more than endless pain. Sometimes, it’s being woken up at four AM by the excruciating drilling pain of a cluster headache, and firmly deciding to be “okay”: mentally, emotionally.
I didn’t know that chronic pain would mean experiencing sometimes-overwhelming disappointment when a treatment didn’t work.
I didn’t know that it meant learning to let myself rest when I needed to.
I didn’t know it meant having to deal with disapproving relatives. Disapproving doctors. Hundreds of tests. Hundreds of different opinions, and very few options. Missing Christmas dinner. Missing the family reunion and birthday parties. Losing close friends, because they cannot understand why I keep canceling plans.
I didn’t know that chronic pain would mean feeling guilty for having pain. Feeling like a heavy burden on my family because of my inability to work, or to even do the dishes. Feeling completely exhausted. Feeling completely overwhelmed with sadness. Feeling so angry at myself for not being able to do more.
I didn’t know about all the different types of headaches I’d experience — horrible, cyclical cluster-headaches, icepick headaches, sinus headaches, the monthly menstrual headaches which can leave me incapacitated for days, nausea-inducing migraines — all on top of my normal, already-painful daily headaches. I didn’t know that sometimes, all of these would happen at once.
I didn’t know that I’d feel so alone.
I didn’t know that thirteen years would pass by, and I’d still have no answers.
I didn’t know that, at twenty-two years old, I’d feel so broken by pain.