Strength

Migraines often leave me feeling weak and pathetic; I am a victim of my own body, always in pain. I have spent the night at the Emergency Room because of my Migraines, I am on Federal Disability because of my Migraines, and I have had to cancel many many plans because of my Migraines. The self-loathing I experience on a daily basis is intense and never ending.

But recently I realised that I am much stronger than I give myself credit for. 

I broke my foot a few weeks ago. It had fallen asleep and I was determined to walk on it; I fell on top of it and broke a small bone. Of course, because it was a small fracture I did not know for sure that it was broken – it was swollen and bruised, but the stereotypical protruding bone was missing. Amazingly, I was still determined to walk on it; after all, I had shopping to do. And walk on it I did, albeit with a limp. It was not until the next day that I decided to get an X-ray, which showed the fracture. 

This was not my first broken bone, and it was not my first time ignoring a broken bone. Fifteen years ago I broke my wrist rollerblading and ignored the break for a few days, only getting it checked after I fell on it again. Just like my foot, my wrist hurt, but I could move it, and so I assumed that it was just a bad sprain.

This latest break had me re-thinking my feelings of patheticness – why does a headache immobilize me, yet I can walk on a broken foot or write with a broken wrist? 

The answer is simple – I do not just get headaches, I get Migraines. Migraines that hurt so much that all other pain is miniscule, including broken bones. Many reports even have women claiming that Migraines are worse than childbirth; while I have not experienced childbirth myself, I do not doubt it. 

Migraines wreak havoc on a body, and cause an immense amount of pain; more pain than I have experienced from anything else. 

And yet, I survive. 

And if I can survive a 10 day Migraine with peaks of Level 10 pain, I can survive anything.

Alone

I have had Migraines since I was seven, and for years I felt so alone. 

When I was diagnosed with Migraines, my little sister (who I will call K) had already been diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Compared to Migraines, JRA is more “visible” – joints swell up, inflammation markers in the blood rise, and JRA can cause joint damage. She also developed other health issues, which all presented with obvious physical symptoms. Migraines, on the other hand, are truly invisible; there are no outward signs or conclusive tests. 

To make matters worse, my parents didn’t get Migraines. They ran in my family – my maternal grandfather and aunt got a few a year – but they completely skipped my mother. To make matters worse, I got them a lot. 

Sibling rivalry is normal, but what grew between K and me was entirely different. She resented me for being healthier than her, while I resented her for the attention she received because of her health. I wasn’t jealous that she was sick; I was hurt that nobody recognized that I was sick too. I always felt so alone – my parents were sympathetic and understanding with K, but never with me. K had special 504 plans while I had to fight the school nurse to go home with a Migraine. Our family vacations were catered to K’s health requirements, while my parents did not (or could not) hide their frustration when a Migraine interrupted plans. 

As I got older, I developed more health issues – I was in my early 20s when I was diagnosed with R.A. myself, as well as Fibromyalgia. Rather than bring us closer together, my new diagnosis further divided us – K felt as if I was competing. When I received Federal Disability, she accused me of giving in to my conditions, rather than fight for my health. Our fighting became worse, and now we don’t even talk.

My anger, hurt, and resentment have long since faded away. I no longer blame my parents for their misunderstandings, and their understanding of my Migraines has greatly improved. I don’t blame K for her anger – she has lived a hard life – but I am disappointed and frustrated. I keep hoping that, as she gets older, she’ll come to her own acceptance of our similar and different conditions. Together, we could be great allies.

But until then, I am still alone.