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'Giving In' to My Pain Is Not the Same as 'Giving Up'

It’s a strange feeling, realizing that sometimes, what I long for most is not a day without pain.

Pain, I can handle. I’ve lived with chronic migraine disorder long enough to know that with absolute certainty. I can handle pain, and it will go away eventually.
When I woke up this morning with yet another migraine, part of a week-long flare that’s still going strong, what I wished for most was not an end to the pain.
I wished for an end to fighting it.

Waking up this morning, I was staring down the barrel of a long work day, followed by another, and another, and another. Eighteen days straight this time around. That’s 18 days in a row of screwing on a smile I can barely feel, repeating “I’m fine” until the words stop feeling like words anymore, and agonizing over which pills I can or should take at any given point in time. Eighteen days of self-consciously hoping no one says anything about the peppermint oil I’ve slathered on the most painful spots along my temples and forehead, and standing in my closet for half an hour while I try to balance the unattainable goal of comfort with the need to make myself look like a functioning human being. Eighteen days of hoping and praying every move is the right one, that every pill, every food, every trick I employ will actually shorten the attack or end the flare.

Waking up this morning, I realized I was more concerned with everyone else’s comfort than with my own. I don’t want you to feel like I’m not happy to see you, because I am. I don’t want you to worry or feel like you have to do my job for me, because I know how hard it can be just to do your own. I don’t want you to catch me taking pills and feel like you’ve somehow failed to take care of me. I don’t want my smelly oils to bother you or worse, cause you pain. I don’t want to distract you. I want to be “normal” for you.

During an attack, I worry about you just as much as you worry about me. My pain is devastating and ugly, and it makes people uncomfortable. I’m so sorry about that.

But sometimes I just want to have my pain all to myself.

I want to throw civility out the window and howl with the pain tearing through my head. I want to smash my face into the pillows until the little embroidered birds on my pillowcase are imprinted on my cheeks. I want to stagger to the bathroom mid-afternoon, still in my comfiest, rattiest pajamas, with an absolute bird’s nest in my hair, and I want to crawl back into bed and simply wallow in the pain with no meds, no oils, no one trying to fix it.

No one to worry about.

So, as much as I know I should get up today and do my level best to fight this thing for you, as much as I know I could, I won’t. I’m going to give in today and let this attack run its course because giving in does not mean giving up.

Sometimes I just want to survive the attack, all on my own, to prove to myself I still can do it.

Sometimes I don’t want to fight because it’s better for my morale if I know I can’t lose this one.

And sometimes I have to retreat from the battle because I simply don’t have it in me to fight this one. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on the war.

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Photo by Kalegin Michail, via Unsplash