Chronic illness takes a massive toll on romantic relationships, particularly because one’s partner is also usually their caregiver. Unfortunately, there’s not much helpful information on the topic; even academic research is sparse. You can help by completing a short survey (it took me 10 minutes) on the impact of migraine on one’s life and relationships, conducted by headache specialist Dawn Marcus and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. The survey closes this Thursday, February 28.
Here are a few resources on illness and relationships:
Yesterday I described the aunt I wanted to be before migraine interfered with my life plans. Although migraine has commanded all my attention for the past decade, there’s no guarantee I would have been that ideal aunt even without chronic illness. Maybe my career or the 1,300 miles between my nieces, nephew and me would have gotten in the way, or maybe our relationships would have developed differently than I’d hoped.
It is easy to point at particular circumstances and say that if these problems hadn’t occurred, we’d be living the life we’d projected. But, chronic illness or not, it never works out that way. Few humans have designed their lives and then lived exactly according to that plan. Things come up. Whether in drastic and life-altering events or simply by making choices to go a different direction than expected. That’s kinda what life is all about — making it up as you go along.
I’d like to believe that my life would be exactly as I imagine it if only migraine hadn’t gotten in the way, but that’s not how it works. If not for migraine, some other factor would be exerting influence. My life would be different for sure, but it still wouldn’t be all cake and balloons.
As odd as this may seem, I find that tremendously comforting.
My oldest niece has been accepted to the college of her choice. I’m so, so proud of her and excited for the adventures awaiting her. And I’m crying because I missed her middle and high school years. Debilitating chronic migraine robbed me of the chance to watch, and help, my niece grow up.
Much of what migraine has taken from me I can still have — the career, time with friends, travel — but kids don’t stop changing. There’s so much I wanted to do and be for my niece and her sister and brother. Yes, they know I love them and that I’d visit and call more if I could (at least as well as kids can understand the havoc chronic illness wreaks on an adult’s life), but I wanted to be present as they grew up. I wanted to watch them mature from kids to preteens to teenagers to young adults. I wanted to be an adult they could call for help navigating the perils of adolescence.
The opportunity hasn’t completely passed me by. I truly believe I’m on a path to more migraine improvement. My oldest niece is 17, the younger one is 15, my nephew is 13. Many chances remain for me to be in their lives, especially if I do continue to feel better. Still, I’ve missed so many years, so many pivotal experiences, so much growth and change.
I’ve said that I don’t think I could survive these years of horrendous migraines without my innate optimism. I can always find the silver lining. Not today. Knowing I may have good times ahead cannot make up for all that I’ve missed with these kids I love so much.
My heart is breaking.
Seeing an oddly shaped stack of my clean, folded underwear brought tears to my eyes. It was a visual reminder of how kind my husband is. After working on TheraSpecs tasks all day on a Sunday, he’d done the dishes and folded the laundry that was decorating our family room. (Chores are normally my task since he’s crazy busy starting two businesses, but things pile up when I’m in a bad migraine spell.) And the guy FOLDED MY UNDERWEAR.
Not to bore you with the details of my undies, but you need a little background to understand why this is so great. For the first 13 years we lived together, I crumpled my underwear and threw it into a drawer. Then Hart’s mom did laundry for us once and folded them, thus introducing me to the wonders of folded underwear (they take up so little space in the drawer! and are so easy to find!). I never told Hart that I’d adopted a new practice and, until this week, when he’s folded laundry, he’s tossed it in a rumpled pile like always.
When I went to grab some underwear off the table, I saw two stacks. One I had folded and another folded, but slightly disheveled stack, which was Hart’s handiwork. It was so sweet I thought my heart would melt. He did his best to fold them, but each pair wound up in a strange, lumpy sort of shape. Because really, folding women’s underwear is not an intuitive thing, especially if you’ve never even worn them. But he tried and I never even asked him to.
People often ask how I manage to cope with such debilitating migraines. Having an incredible husband who does the little things is a huge help. I’d hate to be this mired in migraine without him.