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A collection of stories ON mental health experiences

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“Managing to save my ten sick days a year is an annual challenge.”

Chronic Pain: Migraines and Final Messages

I suffer from chronic migraines. I’m writing this at my office after taking three codeine and a rizamelt.
Managing to save my ten sick days a year is an annual challenge.

It can be difficult to explain - most people can’t even begin to understand the pain of it unless you’ve experienced a migraine yourself.

The migraine can have any number of causes. Bright lights, noise frequencies, particular scents, a
change in the weather. I’ll drop dishes. Lose my keys. Leave my headlights on all night. Make tea. Forget to drink it. Drugs make no difference once the migraine sets in. Rather than a few hours, it devours days.Waves of nausea. Temporary blindness. The simplest tasks become unmanageable.

My ability to communicate becomes incoherent. Often the pain is so excruciating that I can’t help but cry.But of course that makes the migraine worse. I’m not crying from the pain but out of frustration - 72 hoursis a long time to be confined alone in a dark room. The best I can do is to submerge myself in hot waterand cover my face in wheat bags. Draw all the curtains and turn out the lights. Send out a final message,

“I have to cancel again. I’m sorry. I’m in agony.”

Even something as simple as walking downstairs to get a glass of water evades me. Stumbling to the kitchen to take more drugs, muttering something like ‘let's do this, New Zealand’. Often I give up on the landing and curl up on the floor.

A few weeks ago a group of us drove to Sandy Bay for the weekend. I hadn’t planned on attending as I was experiencing a migraine aura. I was devoutly precautious. By Sunday I thought I’d cheated it. But then it hit me on the car ride home. It starts right in the base of the neck and crawls up behind your ears.Nestles in behind your eyes. It’s like some kind of lecherous, sci-fi brain parasite that evades all human beleaguerments; i.e The Body Snatchers. I don’t quite know how to describe the agony of a migraine. It’s very isolating.

A few years ago I read this essay by Joan Didion called ‘In Bed’. It’s about migraines. And it made me feel connected again because she articulated the experience so perfectly. At the end of the essay Didion describes the aftermath of the migraine.

“And once it comes, now that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first every small apprehension is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine , there in that imposed yoga, the concentration on the pain. For when the pain recedes, ten or twelve hours later, everything goes with it, all the hidden resentments, all the vain anxieties. The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.”

“What had started as a simple commitment to weight loss had become an interminable battle with my anxious thoughts, perfectionism, and insecurity.”

“It taught me a form of empathy I am so proud to have now, and it teaches me more every day.