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No One is Strong Enough to Handle Chronic Illness Alone

“People cry, not because they’re weak. It’s because they’ve been strong too long.” The National Headache Foundation posted that on Facebook last week, right when I was wondering how much more I could possibly endure. I’d had five weeks of nearly perpetual migraine and I was well beyond the end of my wits.

Sunday night I had an epic crying session. I wanted out of this body, this cage. I was tired of having to fight to do the smallest tasks, like eating or showering. I didn’t want be sick anymore. I howled and shook with frustration and fear for hours. My sweet husband held me and told me that even if I was too exhausted to fight, he was not. He told me not to underestimate my own strength. He told me that even if my life is harder than it has any right to be, it is a life worth living. With his kind words and solid grasp, Hart reignited my courage and determination.

My illness has changed Hart’s life nearly as much as it has altered mine. He married an equal, yet now finds himself supporting us financially, running our household and taking care of me. Instead of spending evenings at concerts, movies or with friends, he makes popcorn and we watch Netflix. I try to minimize the impact of my illness on him. I’m honest with him about how I feel, but when I’m in ruts like I was last week, I tend to stop talking about it. Since I isolate myself from everyone else when the migraines are bad, Hart’s my lifeline.

Sunday’s emotional implosion was not only because I’d been strong too long; it was because I did not allow anyone else to ease the burden. I don’t know how I will overcome the desire to isolate myself when I am sick, but I can’t keep trying to manage this life on my own. Though strong-willed is one of my defining characteristics, no one can carry the weight of chronic, debilitating illness alone.

10 Responses to No One is Strong Enough to Handle Chronic Illness Alone

  1. Timothy Bauer says:

    Kerrie:

    I admire what you are trying to do with this blog-from a
    fellow migraine sufferer. In an earlier blog-you had mentioned
    had tried to avoid the spiritual side for a while in the battle
    against these bad headaches. But hope got your blog correctly-
    you had been more receptive lately to a spiritual dimension in
    your battle with chronic migraines. Would encourage you
    (even if don’t believe) say a short prayer every day to God
    to be with Kerrie especially when the pain rears itself up.

    It is interesting-many persons are helped-either physically-
    emotionally-mentally when they do this. Put some of this
    terrible problem in God’s hands. All you have to lose if 5 minutes or less out of each day.

    Pax et Bonum

  2. Timothy Bauer says:

    Change final line to “All you have to lose is 5 minutes out
    of your life each day.”

  3. Scott V says:

    Hi Kerrie – I stumbled on your blog while doing some research regarding migraines and the relationship they might have with Thyroid problems. I think it is great that you are sharing your experiences with others, and I can completely relate to how emotionally draining chronic pain is – and how difficult it can be for a family. It sounds like you have a great husband.

    The challenge that I have had over the last few years (as someone who suffers from migraines) is dealing with a career. I have gone through 4 jobs over the last 8 years – and in retrospect I think that chronic pain has had a great deal to do with it. Missing work is not something that people can do and expect to get promoted. I work in a highly technical field now (auditing and accounting) and already feel the weight of migraines effecting the perception that others have of my performance. In particular I have difficulty remembering things, drawing logical conclusions, and putting words together when I am having a migraine attack. And of course people around me are like “It is a headache, just suck it up and take some Advil…”

    In any event, it is so nice to read about others’ experiences – and know that in the challenges we face, we are not alone. I wish you luck with finding ways to cope with and eliminate your headaches.

  4. Syd says:

    Kerrie,

    Thank you so much for saying these things out loud. I hate the headaches, I hate the isolation, but I also cut myself off in many ways. I feel so overwhelmed, and if I’m honest with myself – depressed – that I don’t want to talk to anyone… leaving me even more alone. It’s just helpful to know there are other people out there having similar struggles… I am grateful that you’re willing to share. Thank you so much,

  5. Timothy, thanks for the support. I always welcome prayers, good thoughts and positive energy from those who offer them.

    Scott, I’m sorry you’re having such a struggle with your career. I wish I had some gem of advice to share. Though it is targeted toward women, you might want to check out keepworkinggirlfriend.com. which is about working with chronic illness. I wish you all the best.

    Syd, thanks for your comment. You are definitely not alone. Take care of yourself.

    -Kerrie

  6. susanL says:

    Kerrie:

    I’ve been following your struggles for a couple months now and am happy you are blogging more frequently, but saddened that you are still having such tremendous problems.

    I suffer from chronic headache, with maybe 2 days a week requiring treatment from Zomig (I’m limited to 6 pills a month from the insurance company and so i hoard them and use them sparingly).

    I know you get unsolicited advice all the time, and I hate to add to it but I’m going to do it anyway! If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend searching out a chiropractor who specializes in upper cervical adjustments and is certified by NUCCA (National upper cervical something association). This is different from a regular back cracking chiropractor, which I feel is rather violent. My Doc took xrays, and puts gentle pressure on my neck to put the “Atlas” back into place. She also does some weird new-agey energy crap, but its relaxing so I’m cool with it. :)

    She was recommended to me by two separate people; one whose high school aged daughter had a migraine for months – she went to hospital, stayed home from school etc. Three visits to my Chiro took the headache away. Now she plays rugby at UNC (Rugby!!) and found a specialist down there to correct her when the headaches come back. My experience has also been positive and I have many more headache free days than I did before regular visits (however, I still have hormonal and food triggered migraine).

    There are a bunch of youtube videos and websites. Please check it out if you haven’t already done so.

    I hope you find some relief soon.

  7. Nikki says:

    You are right. Sometimes I cannot hold the tears back, it feels like the pain will last forever, but the tears are cathartic I think. My spouse is great in all the many things he does for me and I know I have greatly affected his life because of my illness. Without him I don’t think I could make it through.

  8. Annie says:

    I want to cry, but just can’t. I’ve had constant migraine pain for almost two months, along with vertigo bouts. I think by week 5 I began to struggle and feel very depressed, and disabled. I’d had enough. The constant pain and cognitive problems are so difficult to deal with, I just want to lie down on the ground and cry with pain sometimes, I sometimes wonder if my life is worth anything now, I’m a burden, I can’t operate or live the life I had or want.

    Fortunately as I got to this low ebb the pain cycle seemed to break: I’m on day two of low background pain, I’m scared to get excited about it, but it’s such a respite for me. The exhaustion hasn’t gone with the pain though. But with my track record of chronic complicated,basilar migraines I’ll make the most of it before the next round.

    I isolate myself too, but that is because others around me don’t understand and say hurtful things such as I’m ‘skiving’ from work, or ‘migraines are all in the mind’, which just upsets and angers me more.You really don’t need comments like that when you are this ill. I spend long amounts of time on my own, but I don’t feel sociable a lot of the time in any case as I’m in so much pain. Like you Kerrie, it’s only my husband who really sees just how ill, how disabled I am. It’s hard to ease the burden unless you have people around who are supportive. My husband shores me up, but I find myself sinking into a pit of migraine darkness. It’s a lonely place.

  9. Dannie Addison says:

    Instead of spending evenings at concerts, movies or with friends, he makes popcorn and we watch Netflix. I try to minimize the impact of my illness on him.

  10. Jessie says:

    Used to get extreme migraines~ couldn’t figure out why, 36 hours after I ate certain processed foods. Didn’t get the link of cause until I was reading about food and chemical sensitivities can effect you up to 5 days after you ingest them. Started cleaning up my diet one meal at a time starting with breakfasts. Then lunches, then dinners and snacks.
    1.)Good starting points are Brenda Watson’s program shown on the PBS stations and in health food stores. Gives info about gut chemistry.
    2.) http://www.whfoods.org by George Mateljan has 4 weeks of menues and recipes to get healthier with quick cooking recipes and why you’re eating them…
    3.)The “150 Healthiest Foods” series (I especially like the 15 minute one!!! Good starter) There are MANY others, I personally have gotten results from those I listed~I have NO MORE migraines!!!

    ********
    Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned, Jessie. Though there are migraine-specific diets, it seems to me that many people relieve their migraines simply by adopting a healthy diet that focuses on “real” instead of processed foods. I’m so glad it has helped you!

    Take care,
    Kerrie

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