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The Confusion of Migraine

Today I called the pharmacy and couldn’t understand the questions the pharmacy assistant was asking me. I asked to speak to the pharmacist and she said, “Can you tell me who’s calling, please?” All I said was, “a patient.” Usually, I would say my name, but I simply didn’t understand the question. I continued to repeat the answer every time she asked the question, until she said, “Can I have your name?” I was mortified to find out such a simple question could be so difficult for me to answer.

This is the type of confusion I experience daily because I am no longer able to think as quickly as I once did. This may seem like a benign miscommunication, but it leaves me feeling lonely. I hung up the phone and thought about all the times I have missed out on being a part of things simply because I didn’t understand the context or purpose of a sentence or conversation. This frustrating quality has been bestowed upon me because I have, among other diagnoses, chronic migraine.

I’ve spent the last two years, since my illness progressed, fearful of phone calls, meeting new people or bumping into old friends because I really struggle with picking up on social cues and understanding and following conversation. I’m afraid of what I might say next and how I might say it. I’ve offended people, forgotten names and interrupted. I’ve also naturally drifted away from friends because I find it hard to keep up. Following the obvious embarrassment that tends to ensue after a communication blunder, I feel lonely. I feel lonely because I find communicating with other people, expressing myself, or offering support to a friend is how I’ve felt involved in the world in the past. But when I am unable to do that I feel like I’m not living up to my full potential, and I have so much more to give to others, but I haven’t figured out what yet.

I may have a lot of fear of my conversational confusion, but it has made me lean on other qualities I never really noticed I had. When I stumble over words or forget something and then continue with a conversation I am showing courage, bravery and vulnerability. Before, when I was feeling better than I am now, I would’ve been so uncomfortable and embarrassed I might’ve ended an encounter, however brief, out of sheer embarrassment. I now try to laugh at the situation and brush it off. Because, at the end of the day, that’s all I really can do.

My isolation due to illness has made it difficult to embrace the social person in me, but I think it might open the door to helping me find other ways to connect with people. I remain open to new possibilities. Perhaps starting a support group in my area to connect with people who struggle with similar dilemmas will quell my need to interact while providing a safe space for others with illness. I’m trying to make my loneliness a haven for personal growth and development as opposed to a feeling that overwhelms and isolates me further.

Getty image by FeralMartian

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