Saturday, March 14, 2009

scars, pain and understanding

I had an interesting conversation with a friend, B, tonight. Without sharing too many of her personal details, she's in the middle of seeking a diagnosis for abdominal pain, originally related to ovarian cysts and now possibly an infection.

I've been friends with B since college, though we haven't necessarily been close. Last year, during a trip back east, I opened up to her some about my daily struggles. She had no idea I had continual head pain and live such a regimented life. At the time, I was still very sick - my head pain was never below a 4/10 and my Migraines turned severe (7+) several times a week. Add the melange of daily symptoms, and I was in very sad shape.

B remembered that conversation from last year, so she sought me out tonight to share her story and her struggles. It was very touching and heart-wrenching at the same time. It seems that much of her trouble is at least partially due to being brushed off by her doctors (a familiar story to many of us).

Probably the most amazing part of the conversation is how many of her words mirrored my very same feelings from last year. She's dealing with a lot of anger right now, reminding me of my own anger I'm finally letting go of. I remember how overwhelming the anger would be sometimes, borne out of an inescapable frustration with my debilitating pain. I was angry with everyone around me, especially those without chronic pain who couldn't possibly understand what I was going through. Mostly I was angry that there was no "fix" for my chronic pain, and I could only hope to manage it for the rest of my life.

It's only in the last few months that things have begun to turn around. My treatment regimen, coupled with a lot less stress, is finally working. Getting rid of three major stressors in my life (found a part-time job, finished moving to our new apartment and sold my car) has significantly improved my health. I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm much closer than I was last fall.

I couldn't really give B any answers, but I could offer her some hope and support. I pointed her toward a number of resources on the web. I shared some more of my story that I hadn't told her before. But, most importantly, I offered her compassion and understanding, something I've found in abundance here in the online chronic illness community.

My talk with B was a strong reminder that at any time, any one of us can cross from the world of the healthy into that of the sick. But it's also a reminder that we can manage to find our way back among the healthy, even if we bear the scars of the journey.

Side note: if any of you have suggestions for resources for female reproductive disorders and related pain, please leave them here in the comments so I can pass them along to B.

Be well,

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

it's time to take action - TODAY!

As I posted earlier, the AHDA lobbied Washington DC last week to raise awareness of the lack of funding for Migraine and headache disorders. The time has come for us to email our representatives.

I just finished sending my email. Including writing my personal story, it took less than 10 minutes for me to advocate on behalf of the millions of us suffering with head pain.

This is what I wrote:
At only 25 years old, I am both a chronic daily headache and chronic migraine sufferer. I have head pain every moment of every day. This constant, continual pain has made it indescribably difficult to function in the world for the past several years. Because of various migraine triggers, I am unable to shop in most stores, eat at most restaurants and work at many types of jobs. In fact, having recently lost my steady job at an architecture firm due to the economy, I've been having incredible difficulty not only finding any job, but finding one I am physically capable of performing.

I am only one of 36 million migraine sufferers, but I am one of the more severe cases. I, along with millions of other Americans, desperately need an effective treatment so we can continue to contribute to our country. I have already tried almost a dozen different migraine preventives available on the market. None of these medications were specifically developed for migraine; all are "hand-me-downs" developed for other diseases. None of these drugs have worked. Without NIH-funded research, I have no hope of ever trying a treatment developed specifically for my condition. Instead, I will rely on anti-seizure, anti-depressant, blood pressure or anti-psychotic drugs, hoping one will work for me.
Now it's your turn. Go to the AHDA's website and follow the links to email your own representative of the House. It's free, it's easy and it will help the millions of us who will benefit from increased NIH funding.

Just remember, if we don't speak up for ourselves, who will?

More information about the AHDA.
More information about Headache on the Hill from Teri Robert.
Email your representative here.

Be well,