Chronic Migraine, Coping

Doing the Impossible With Chronic Illness

For context: I wrote this on January 30, when I had a couple decent hours between migraine and constant dizziness. I just got to the edits this week, but still wanted to share it even though it is no longer timely.

January has come to be my month of self-reflection. In the last 13 years, it has brought major health-related highs and has also been when I’ve hit some of my lowest lows. Combined, these divergent experiences mean January represents both devastation and elation for me. It is odd to spend one month each year in intensive thought about some of the best and worst times of my life. The last couple years, my reflections have filled me with enormous gratitude, especially this January as I reflect on what an incredible year 2014 was for me. Prior to late 2012, when the first January high happened, they were heartwrenching.

In this state of reflection, I’d already been thinking about the last time I truly wondered how I would get through another day. After a reader’s comment, I looked up what I wrote about that day. From January 2012:

“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.

It’s hard to believe that was only three years ago. It feels more recent and also much farther away.

I received a mass email yesterday that said, “Think you’re past your prime? Think again! According to this infographic, more than 90 of these 177 innovative minds created their masterpieces or made their discoveries between the ages of 30 and 40 years old.” Great! I’m not past my prime yet, but I better get moving because I will be in less than two years. The email was not directed at me personally, nor did I take true offense, but it has me thinking about time and perceived social value. I essentially lost a decade of productivity and career-building in the so-called prime of my life. Given that, I’m proud my writing has had an impact on some people’s lives, but I still feel like my masterpiece is in the planning stages.

I wasn’t out taking on the world in my 20s and 30s, I was taking on the more pernicious and potentially devastating foe of disabling chronic illness. To have survived that, to have found effective treatments when I thought there were none, to have created a sense of peace and happiness when I could barely move, I have proved myself far more capable at taking and transforming whatever life has to bring than I would have in any career.

As another January of reflection draws to a close, after having felt better in the last year than I thought possible, I’m amazed at what I have accomplished. I found an effective treatment. I kept going day after day through years of severe pain, mind-numbing cognitive dysfunction, bone-leaden fatigue, nausea so strong I couldn’t keep weight on, and numerous other types of physical disability. I fought to find any semblance of joy in that life. Those accomplishments won’t put me on any infographics or have anyone calling me an “innovative mind,” but they compose a pretty stunning masterpiece.

Well, one of my masterpieces. I have more in the works and have no doubt I’ll succeed. I’ve already shown myself capable to doing the impossible.

2 thoughts on “Doing the Impossible With Chronic Illness”

  1. What a beautiful post Kerrie. It’s truly been wonderful to watch your progress. Hope it keeps getting better from hereon out!

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