I’ve been in chronic pain since I was 16. I certainly don’t have the worst story out there, but it is my story. Chronic pain and migraines have a way of changing how one views life, schedules life and lives life. Most people have a basic idea of what being an adult is going to be like when you’re a teenager. Plans and dreams of certain jobs, lifestyles, traveling, marriage (for or against), kids etc. Chronic pain often changes all of that, doesn’t always mean that dreams have to die, but they may have to change.
Here’s what Chronic Pain and Migraines have taught me:
1: Have a motto. Every person that acheives great things has a motto, whether its their own or one that they use because it inspires them. Mine:
Live Life- Though it may hurt like hell.” Once I realized that the pain was never going to go away I went through the very typical depression and grief, then I pulled myself together and said I was going to live… even if it hurt.
I’ve had to change the way I do things, add recovery time afterwards and plan more, but I have travelled the world, I owned and rode a sportbike for 4 yrs (sold it after I became a mom), I did the Warrior Dash, a 5k obstacle course with my husband two years ago. I wanted a large family. 10 years ago I didn’t know I could have children and looked into adoption, went so far as to fill out the paperwork etc before my marriage dissolved. Then I met my current husband, now we have 3 children and will consider a 4th in a couple years depending on my health. I am living MY life.
2: Don’t Diet, Watch Your Diet. One of the most important aspects of living as healthy as possible with a chronic illness is your diet. This will vary greatly depending on your illness and triggers. I no longer “diet”, but I do watch my diet very closely to avoid triggering migraines and flares. Back to #1 though, I do indulge every so often because living life is so important. You hear it all the time, eat your vegetables, drink lots of water, cut back on sugar and sodium. It really will make a huge difference just doing those 4 things.
3: Promises are Sacred. Promises have become so blase in this day in age, but they still have lots of power over people’s lives and mental health. With flares and migraines, often you never know if you’ll be able to commit to activities. When you make a promise, make sure you can keep it even on your worst day. So how do you commit to something without promising? Its all in the wording and avoiding the words “I Promise”. Often I tell my friends and my children “IF I’m having a good day…” “IF I don’t have a migraine…” “We’ll plan to do xyz, but I can’t promise it, ok?”
4: Short Term Planning. Because I can’t control all my migraine triggers, I don’t tell my children about special events that I’ve planned until the day of. This makes it a fun surprise for them and avoids the crushing disappointment of having to cancel plans because mommy can’t go outside. I am naturally one of those people that really needs everything planned. My kids, and often my husband don’t need to know that I’ve actually had our “surprise” weekend trip planned all week. Though I do check with the hubby to make sure it works with his plans and sounds good.
5: Empathy and Sympathy. I might not have the worst story, but I can understand what other people are going through. I wouldn’t wish chronic migraines or fibromalgia on anyone. I do what I can to help people who are in pain. However, I do get frustrated at times when people complain of pain that they could easily take some OTC meds for and the pain would be gone, yet they choose to complain and not do anything about it. This is something I need to work on because everyone’s pain is their own, as is their choice how to deal with it.
I may have forgotten what “normal” is and feels like. What a day without pain is. But I have created a new normal, and the greatest joy is seeing other chronic pain warriors thrive in their new normal.
What has chronic pain, migraines, or other chronic illness taught you?