I see my natural state as single. I am comfortable on my own and am fiercely independent--at times, this is a hindrance, as it's hard for me to ask for help (and hard for me to accept it). I've met guys over the years whom I've liked spending time with now and again, but no one seemed worth all the extra effort. Don't get all huffy on me, imaginary audience full of all the guys I've ever dated: I don't mean you weren't worth it. I just mean that our connection wasn't strong enough to merit my carving out a niche for you in my busy life. A life that was (and is) full of friends, family, spending time on my own, and spending time with my Migraine disease.
The year before I was diagnosed with Migraine disease, I sat on a swing in a park with my then-boyfriend. A Migraine headache had been creeping its way into my head for the last hours and had finally made its nest behind my left eye, as usual. I described the pain to him as best I could, explaining that only a dark room and a nap had ever made me feel any better. How the two doctors I'd gone to had said that if Excedrin worked once in awhile, I should try to stick with that, that it sounded like I just had a bad headache. How the prospect of having to return to work in thirty minutes to conduct a meeting for a large group of rambunctious, gabbing teenagers in a room lit only in fluorescents was one of the last places on earth I could imagine finding any respite. In retrospect, the way I described my headache to him then sounded as if I was reading off a list of classic Migraine signs, signs it's amazing my doctors hadn't read. He was sweet and sympathetic but not empathetic--athletic and robust, he often talked of never having had a headache or a sick day.
Fast forward two years. I'm in Europe visiting a "dating friend" about a year after having been diagnosed, a year after having been prescribed what was then my lifesaver: Imitrex. I carried the pills in their blister packs around with me in a fold-over plastic sandwich bag. Maybe my headache frequency back then was such that bringing two or three pills for a two week trip seemed like plenty.
It was around three in the morning and I was down to one pill. I believe we were in some German town at one of his friend's places, but I can't be sure now--many of us were camped out all over the place, including three or four of us in the carpeted bathroom. The party was still going on in the living room, bass pumping, people taking shots and laughing, and no one showing any signs of slowing down. These were the days before I started carrying around earplugs, not that they would've helped much here. My Migraine headache was in its worst stage, throbbing incessantly--tears seeped out of my eyes involuntarily, and when a search for my last pill came up dry, I began to sob in pain, wanting nothing more than to be in my own bed back home, not on some stranger's bathroom floor. My sometime-beau was very sweet and supportive and helped me find the Imitrex, and I guzzled it down with handfuls of water I drew from the bathtub, which was just inches to my left. He was kind and helpful and always had a listening ear to lend, but he didn't get it.
Now it's 2008, and I've been with the same person for nearly two years. This is, as I've hinted, rather unlike me. I believe that a lot of my reluctance to depend on others and to ask them for help stems from the huge, mixed-up bucket of emotions I have regarding my Migraine disease. I want to spread the word and make sure people are aware of its prevalence, and one key way I can do this is to tell my story. On the other hand, telling my story means talking about myself, and talking about myself makes me feel like I'm complaining about my illness. The moment I write that, I want to respond to myself by saying, "Self, Migraine disease sucks! It's okay to complain! You should allow yourself some time to vent!" But the softer voice inside me says, "Now, now. You know lots of people are worse off than you are."
Let's get back to the boy, shall we? It took me several months to ask him to do the most simple things. I'd heave two huge bags of trash out to the curb and refuse his offers to help. Why? Because I'm fine on my own! I can do it on my own, thank you very much! I wanted to be seen as competent. I wanted him to see me as kind, efficient, thorough, independent, and capable. If I were to ask for his help or (more shockingly) accept his help were he to offer it, he wouldn't see me as those things anymore, right?
WRONG. I can be all of those things and still lean on him for support. And boy, oh boy, do I. Though we have come to support one another in almost every arena, our health is something that comes up frequently. You see, my friends, he is a long-time chronic Migraineur. He, as they say, knows where I'm coming from. He talks me down from crying jags during my headaches, pointing out calmly and lovingly that crying hard tends to make my head pain worse, so how about I stop and try to drink some herbal tea or water instead? He brings me tiger balm and rubs it on my forehead and temples when I'm too dizzy to get out of bed. If in the middle of the night or in the early morning I'm awakened with a Migraine, he gets me a fresh glass of water and my Relpax. He makes sure to ask after me frequently (but not to the point of annoyance-ha!) and spends hours listening to me talk about my medicines, my massage therapy, my neurologist, the cost of prescription drugs, and even this blog.
I can't convince him to see a doctor and get any triptans for himself, as he's a staunch believer in refraining from using pills if possible. I won't go into his philosophy here, but he sits through a Migraine attack and sweats it out despite its agony--the one time he did have a Relpax sample, the headache went away but he felt queasy and strange afterward. He said he prefers going through the usual routine: the feverish feeling, the sweats, the silk eye patch, the long, dreamless nap. To each his own, I suppose. I'll be there to rub tiger balm on his temples and forehead and to be there when he wakes up to give him tea and water.
It helps so much to have someone to talk to, someone to understand. And I do realize how lucky I am to have found that person in a partner. Happy love month--enjoy your friends, your family, and your significant others if you choose to have them!