Chronic migraine (and all chronic illness) is very isolating. It's hard for me to make plans to go places because I'm so likely to need to change them. I have had to cancel an audiology appointment twice in the last two weeks because of a three week long migraine. They finally put me on the cancellation list. Maybe I'll have a good day when they have an opening. Here's hoping! Right?
And the illness itself isolates me. When I'm in pain, I just want to be home and in the quiet. Sometimes, I stay in bed for hours during the day. Other times, I just need quiet rest reading a book or knitting. Going out to eat or going to a movie (before Covid) was not good for my headaches.
I've been an extrovert for most of my life. I was pretty shy in elementary school until I got to know people, but came out of my shell in middle school. By high school, I was definitely an extrovert. I wasn't popular, but I had a wide circle of friends from both school and church. I worked in the catalog department at Sears and helped people in person and on the phone. I loved getting to know people and hearing their stories.
My career choice was medicine, Family Medicine to be specific. I interacted with patients, colleagues, and staff all day, every day. Being with people was energizing, for the most part. Yes, I came home at the end of the day tired, but "wanting to talk about things" kind of tired, not "leave me alone" kind of tired.
Life turned upside down when I had to quit working. I was suddenly taken from the super interactive world of medicine to the more restricted sphere of home. It was still busy and the headaches made it hard to do everything I needed to do. I saw other adults at church and when I took the kids to dance, piano, and other activities. I had very little adult time, though. I know most stay-at-home parents can relate.
The kids have grown and flown and Patrick and I are empty nesters. This would be a great time for me to get out and do things. Anything. But, chronic migraine has just taken over my life. Right now, I've got a headache on the right side of my head that won't let up. It's been three weeks and I'm wearing down. I had a procedure done today but it didn't work. I'm not able to do much physical at all. I'm also frustrated by the difficulty the pain causes in writing and reading. I feel useless at the moment.
The isolation of being home and not being able to go places and do things is one of the worst parts of chronic illness. Modern technology at least makes some of the lack of productivity better. I can now order the groceries so all I have to do is put them away. But, when I go to the grocery store, I have all kinds of little interactions that are kind of a nice part of my day. Even though we are all wearing masks, eye contact is life-giving.
This week, though, has been so good for reducing my isolation. I still have the right-sided headache/migraine, but I talked to people. I talked to my brother the other day just because I wanted to talk about what he had been watching on Netflix (Patrick and I are binging several series). Yesterday, I talked to his wife because I bought some things on her Poshmark site (check it out!!) but one of them actually used to be my aunt's and Kimberly wanted to give it to me instead of sell it to me. And we ended up on the phone for a couple of hours. Later in the day, I talked to Lydia for an hour. Tomorrow, I'm going to call my friend, Millie, since I can't go to visit her because of coronavirus.
I've become more of an introvert because of chronic migraine. Hanging out with people takes energy away from me instead of giving me energy like it used to, but I still need interactions with people. Social media helps, especially because it can be asynchronous. Phone calls are better because I can hear people's voices and get more clues as to what they mean when they talk. And, of course, in person visits are best. Because of Covid-19, I only get to visit regularly with family, but I didn't get out much before.
This week made me cherish my people, whether online, on the phone, or in person. If you know someone with chronic illness, reach out to them. Illness is isolating. People may not notice us falling from view. But, we're still here. Waving through the window.
Your thoughts? Comments are open!