An Open Letter To My Chronic Migraines

You’ve been with me from the beginning, Migraines. Decades so thoroughly ever-present that I don’t know my identity without you. Decades where my head feels like it’s going to explode, like an ice pick has been driven through my temple and eye and left there for hours or even days. So many events missed, so many disappointments, so much pain.

You were there when I was 12, coming home from elementary school one afternoon. I collapsed on the floor in front of the couch, sobbing. The crush of the migraine was too overwhelming, too real, too much. It was so much more than any kid should have to go through, and by then it was a regularity.

You were there in an evening university creative writing class. You hid behind my sunglasses, and I thought of you every time someone asked if I had a hangover at 6pm on a Tuesday. But the dark lenses held you at bay so I could receive the critiques of my work, held in the hands of my peers. I counted down the hours until I could walk home, the cold breeze cooling my face and further lessening the intense migraine until I could make it home and crawl into bed.

You’re there every time I have to switch seats at the movie theater because someone nearby is wearing perfume. The clouds waft toward me and conjure a migraine in their pink haze. And you were there in the airplane from Berlin to NYC when the pre-teen boy from New Jersey sat down beside me. His cologne-doused form was only made tolerable thanks to the personal fan blasting recycled air straight into my face. If not for that solace, I would have spent a nine-hour flight trying not to cry out from the pain of a full-blown migraine.

You’re there, in spirit, every time I show my neurologist my migraine tracker, full-to-bursting with bad days. Every time she tries another medication or procedure. Every time I can smile and say something’s working, even if only a little bit or for a little while. And you’re there as we both continue to hold out hope that I’ll finally find something that sticks so completely that I can be one of the success stories.

I can feel you now, an echo. The migraine isn’t as bad now as it was last night, staining my dreams with a crushing weight. Inciting the familiar worry that I won’t be able to work when my alarm goes off in the morning. Now it just whispers, letting me know that it could come back in full-force any time it wants. If I’m not careful. If I don’t take breaks from my screen to let my eyes adjust to the real world. If I don’t follow the long list of dos and don’ts I’ve cultivated over a lifetime of living with chronic migraines. If, if, if.

I hope one day I’ll only talk about you in the past-tense, Chronic Migraines. We’ll have our final goodbye, and then your presence in my life will just be a memory. I won’t have to worry about loud sounds or bright lights or caffeine or lack of sleep. I’ll live like the others, who don’t know what I know. I don’t know what it’s like to live without you, but I look forward to hopefully finding out.

Yes, I really love movies this much.

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