After I had my second pregnancy I started getting headaches. My doctor attributed them to postpartum and breastfeeding hormones. We would revisit if we needed to after I weaned. A few weeks before Kat turned one I got a sinus infection and migraine. After ten days I went to the doctors office and they gave me an injection to break the cycle, along with antibiotics for my migraine.
The days that followed were the beginning of my chronic migraines. I would go three months at a time with NO break from my migraine. Each medication I tried would bring small improvements, but no “cure” and hardly a break.
Even good days, where there was less pain, or maybe a few hours without a migraine, were still so difficult. I was all over the place emotionally: edgy; angry; sad; scared. The migraines also left me confused at times. If I ate ice cream, my husband would have to put it away or I would put it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer – every time.
Being a Mom in Chronic Pain
During all this, I was a stay at home mom doing a few hours of consulting work from home. If you’ve ever had to take care of a child while you have a cold, it’s completely miserable. Taking care of a one and three year old was beyond measure, worse than that when you have to do it on your fourth month straight headache.
Before migraines, I felt motherhood could be overwhelming and frustrating. When you’re in pain it’s hard to not let emotions overtake you. I had to work even harder to not lose it on my babies all day long. I was constantly trying to keep myself in check and stay relaxed. I felt like the worst mother ever. Shouldn’t I be able to enjoy our fun activities together? I shouldn’t be on the verge of losing my shit minute to minute, right?
Anyone who’s a mom knows the weight of mom guilt. I had guilt about wanting to rest instead of spend time with my babies. Guilt over asking them to play quietly or stop doing something they were enjoying to do quiet activity. Guilt about weeks of increased TV time.
When you have a chronic illness it can feel hopeless at times. I felt hopeless. Many times. Reece and Kat needed me though, and motherhood doesn’t give out sick days. Every day the kids wake up early, my husband would let me sleep in a half hour more – lack of sleep is one of my biggest triggers – then I would drag myself out of bed and put on a big smile.
On weekends I would spend more time lying down to try to alleviate the headaches. I’m a SAHM, so for the most part, I just had to continue on – business as usual – as I would if I had a headache or not. A lot of things that used to bother me, still did, but I had to let go of a lot of things. Being upset about the dinner fight, rushing my kids to do things like clean up or get out the door, and sibling squabbles were all things I had to let go of. Some moments there are successes, other times, not so much and it ends in big blow outs over non-matters. Days when I stayed as relaxed as possible might not make my pain go away, but it didn’t make it worse.
The Guilt We Carry
Circling back to guilt. I even had guilt my migraines weren’t worse. I have a friend who can’t leave the house without glaucoma sunglasses and a wide brim hat on, if she goes out at all. My migraines aren’t as bad as others… My neurologist said something to me, that really resonated. It’s sort of an obvious truth, which held a lot of meaning to me. She said: There’s no reason to feel guilt that my migraine isn’t worse than it is, my migraine is my own. She let me know, it’s OK to be mad, sad, overwhelmed, by what I was going through. It’s a shitty situation. It could be worse, but it could be better.
After over a year I started seeing more improvements where I was having few hours without a migraine some days, or only a very slight headache. There was still a long road ahead. Currently, a year and a half later and doing Botox treatments, I’m starting to have more days without migraines than with. When I do have bad days, I remind myself to take it easy on myself. And it’s not the end of the world if I need to let the kids be TV-zombies.
I’m cautiously hopeful.