05 August 2014

Pain Has No Ambivalence

Thankful that I'd made it through graduation weekend (Goucher College; Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction) with manageable migraine pain, I started out feeling philosophical yesterday about the migraine that kept me in a dark room with a blindfold on all day. But by late eveing, I'd had it with pain.

Last week I posted about some ambivalence I was feeling toward the possibility that a new treatment might reduce the migraines enough to let me lead a more normal life. Who would hire me, a 59-year-old woman who hasn't worked since December 2009? Who was I if not a woman living with  constant pain? I realized that part of me had accepted and embraced the identity of a disabled person and had, in some ways, actually come to appreciate the different choices it afforded me -- I can rest whenever I like, I have an excuse for missing things that, honestly, I wouldn't have wanted to do even if well, etc.

Last night, however, I'd come through three days of successfully managing migraine pain (which leaves one deeply fatigued) and then 24 hours of full-blown migraine and I'd had it. I just wanted the pain to stop. I wished the treatment I had posted about (occipital nerve block) had worked. Aside from relief and gratitude for being in familiar surroundings and conducting habitual routines, I just wanted to be free of migraines.The ambivalence I'd felt about getting well, last week when I was relatively comfortable, was nowhere to be found when I was in real pain.

This morning I must admit to myself that the treatment didn't work. My migraines are not reduced in number or severity. I do notice two benefits: the constant throbbing is quieter and less painful, and the back of my head doesn't ache as much.

Photo by William Marsh

It's like looking at a reflection in imperfect glass and seeing a distortion of what should be straight-forward reality. I have swung between two seeming opposites within the space of a week, first fearing the treatment would work and then wishing it had. But now is not the time to worry about or even reflect on that. I'm too tired today and yesterday's migraine is threatening to return. It's time to simply accept that this back and forth is part of life with chronic pain.

More accurately, it's part of life.

Thank you for reading my blog. I'd love to hear your comments and feedback, below. Or you can email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.

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