Health warning: moaning post – though there is a Gandalf quote to make it all ok if you manage to get through to the end (or just skip straight to that if you like, no-one will know!)
One of the things I find really hard about being ill is that so many of your choices are limited or taken away all together.
You no longer get to decide what, where, when and how you do things – it’s all decided for you by whatever illness has invaded your previously free self.
It’s a very strange feeling and not a pleasant one at all.
I guess for some people their illness comes on suddenly but for me it crept up slowly and became normality before I even knew what was happening.
My choices were limited bit by bit over several years, like a slow but steady erosion of freedom.
Having to leave a meal early here, turning down a party invite there, slowly withdrawing from social circles, squeezing life down to the bare bones just to keep going with work, then seeing work productivity and quality drop off the cliff face as well until all that was left was a mere shell of a person – broken, battered and totally spent.
What I didn’t know at the time was that migraines are progressive – each one changes your brain a little bit and makes you more susceptible to the next one, so it’s easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle where each one triggers off the next. Your brain gets stuck in ‘migraine mode’ and that’s really not a good place to be in, believe me.
I really miss the freedom of being able to do what I want, when I want.
Very little about my day-to-day life now is what I would choose if I was free to do what I wanted. If I could do what I wanted I’d be out working, I’d be going for walks and drives and seeing the beautiful views I miss so much, I’d be seeing friends more often, I’d be helping out more with the housework, I’d be baking and cooking big dinners and doing all the things I used to love to do.
As it is, the migraines have been filling in my diary for me. Their idea of a fun time involves ridiculous amounts of sleep; eating packet after packet of cream crackers (dry – I’ll challenge anyone to a competition, anyone? No?); trying to decide how to orientate myself in this topsy-turvy, vertigo-mad world; sitting and staring (what my husband calls ‘screensaver mode’); mustering all the effort and energy I can just to do some kind of ridiculously simple task then collapsing for hours or days afterwards; having plenty of hot dates with the toilet bowl, etc, etc. Oh yeah, I can so feel your jealousy right now.
When it takes everything you’ve got just to manage your symptoms enough to get through the day, there’s very little space for choice (though I can see you’re wondering how a girl could possibly want more than that, right?)
Add to that the restrictions on driving, the financial implications of not working and all sorts of other things, it’s easy to feel that you’ve lost your freedom altogether.
Interestingly, it’s only since I’ve seen some improvements that it’s become more of an issue – now I’m able to do a little bit more, all the things I’m not able to do and the amount of effort, energy and recovery it takes to do the things I am able to do seems to highlight how much choice and freedom these migraines have taken away.
But there is one choice we’ll always have – we always have a choice in how we respond to the things that happen to us, even if we have no control over the things themselves.
I know I respond better some days than others.
Today has not been a good day.
Today I’ve cried and eaten cake and cried some more.
But in writing this post I’ve at least remembered the things I do have a choice in:
*I have a choice about how I face each day
*I have a choice about how I interact with friends and family and anyone else I come into contact with
*I have a choice about what I say and how I say it
*I have a choice about the kind of person I become – whether I let my experiences make me bitter or whether I decide to learn from them and grow because of them
*I can choose each day to keep on plodding on until we see better days
And if all else fails, you can always rely on a good old quote from Gandalf:
Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.