By Brittany –
For four and a half years, chronic migraine has run my life. It’s been at the forefront of most discussions and the primary focus when someone asks “How are you?”
It’s hard to talk about sometimes, for fear of feeling like a broken record. Pain levels and symptoms fluctuate so frequently that it becomes a loaded question and can change from moment to moment.
I’ve recently had a shift in mentality around that question — “How are you?”
The last few years of my life have been a rollercoaster. I had a life changing slip and fall accident that landed me with a concussion, creating the beginning of my chronic migraine journey. Every day was a challenge learning how to live a life with unmanageable chronic pain. After two years, I needed to leave my full time job as a legal assistant — not an easy decision to make but one that was necessary to my physical and mental health.
I moved across the country with my partner to the biggest city in Canada where I knew no one. I didn’t work, hoping that would help my health, and unfortunately it didn’t. A year after the move, my partner and I broke up, which was an absolutely devastating and heartbreaking decision to make.
I had to go back to work to support myself and make so many decisions around what was best for me. Do I move back home and accept the support of my parents? Do I stay in a city where I had started to build a life with an incredible team of doctors? Do I force myself to work in an office environment, because that’s what I know and that’s what I’m good at, all the while being surrounded by endless triggers for migraine? Or do I follow my heart and passion to a “full-time” yoga teacher career?
So many days I could hardly physically get out of bed, breathing through some of the worst pain of my life. Yet here I was, on my own, with the decision to stay in this big city and follow my dreams. At the time, I couldn’t see how things would work out. I couldn’t see past tomorrow, let alone next week, next month, next year. But my intuition told me day after day this was where I was meant to be.
So this question, “How are you?” was almost always responded to with an exhausted and pain-filled “I’m okay,” when I really wasn’t. But I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. So I answered inauthentically.
Depression and anxiety were at an all-time high. I was seeing a psychologist weekly, continuing to adjust the sails of my decision to stay, finding ways to cope, honour where I was at mentally, emotionally and physically. I learned how to set boundaries, how to say “no” (ooph, this one still gets me, but it gets easier!) and really rest, even though it felt like anything but rest, often sending my pain and symptoms through the roof.
I made it through the darkest and hardest days of my life. And eventually, I started to see a little bit of light coming through. I begrudgingly started on antidepressants (so grateful now that I did) that are also used as a migraine preventative. I also started Aimovig CGRP injections for migraine prevention monthly and began to notice a reduction in severity of symptoms. I continued with bi-weekly sessions with my psychologist and an osteopath. I set a work schedule that supported my body with lots of rest time available.
So my response to this question, “How are you?” started to change. It was still primarily led by the physical, still not great but subtle improvements starting to come in, with little bits of acknowledgement around how the rest of my life was shifting towards the positive.
Over the last few months, my life has started to finally come to a place of contentment, peace, stability. I’m grounded and seeing the rewards of my decision to trust my intuition. I absolutely love my job. I feel fulfilled with my relationships, and when I rest I actually start to feel better!
Now, looking at the physical, I still have chronic migraine. I’ve had five days in 2019 without a migraine. Some days are still so hard to get out of bed, to move my body, to go to work and live a life like a “normal” person. But let me tell you, life is pretty darn good right now. I’ve accepted that chronic migraine is a part of me, but not ALL of me. I can live a successful life with this neurological disease.
I’ve discovered I have more strength, courage and resilience within me than I ever thought possible. The highs and lows are fewer and farther in between, and when they happen I can cope with them much better.
So back this question, “How are you?”
I’m happy, grounded, content and fulfilled. I live with chronic pain, and my body doesn’t feel great most of the time, but life is pretty damn good right now. I’m grateful for the heartbreak, the hard times, the deep breaths and the support from so many people that have helped me get to this point. Most importantly, I’m proud. Proud of my mental, emotional and physical strength.
When you’re in the thick of what feels like a never ending rollercoaster ride of physical and emotional pain, it’s hard to see how things can one day be any different. But deep within you, you have all of this too. It is my hope and dream for you to one day get to this place as well.
With so much love and gratitude,