Miss Migraine: Understanding limitations

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on my blog of the same name on June 2, 2015. I wanted to share this again now because I’ve been in a bad migraine cycle on top of having a full-to-bursting schedule. This go-round, though, I’m making sure to fit dog walks in no matter what, because they really DO make me feel better.

“You jump into things without thinking about how much work they’ll be.”

That’s what my partner said to me one morning. “Give me an example,” I said.

“I do most of the dog walking.”

Okay, stop. What? I’ve had dogs my entire life. I have been walking them for almost as long.

My partner’s statement made me feel like he thinks I’m not willing to do the work required to take care of our dogs. Like bringing these animals into our lives was some whim, because I saw a cute puppy in the pet store window and thought it would make me more attractive or something.

(Just to be clear, our dogs are not from pet stores. Pet store dogs often come from puppy mills, where the mothers are bred over and over again until they die. The people who run puppy mills don’t pay attention to things like the suitability of the dog for breeding, they just want to make money. My corgi is from a responsible breeder and our German shepherd is a sort-of rescue.)

My corgi Lexi sniffing the air.

Lexi is sniffing the air at the dog park (Dec. 5, 2012).

I adore my dogs. Every day I look forward to coming home to their excited greeting and unwinding from the day by taking them for a good long walk. With one rather large caveat.

Enter chronic migraine land.

Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), I have a horrible migraine, and walking becomes incredibly painful. Each step is like a hammer blow to my head. So yes, my partner does a lot of solo dog walking.

To be fair, ninety-nine percent of the time he understands my limitations and gladly takes on extra work so I can rest. But when he gets tired or has a headache himself, he sometimes lashes out at me–because my migraines are just as frustrating to him as they are to me.

When he says things like that, even if he doesn’t really mean it, it plays directly into my guilt and self-doubt over the fact that I can’t do any kind of physical anything without getting a migraine (thankfully, this has changed in recent years, thanks to a change in medications and a lot of hard work on my part).

I often feel like I don’t deserve to have dogs. Or own a home. Or be a writer. I feel like I’m not good enough, because there’s a brick wall (migraines) between me and the thing that prevents me from engaging fully.

Intellectually, I know it’s silly to think about things in terms of deserving them or not. I can only do what I can do. My partner knows that. And a majority of the time, he respects that.

But it’s hard and frustrating for both of us when we feel that I’m not able to pull my own weight.

How do you react when family members accuse you of not doing enough?

Miss Migraine: A gratitude post

Banner that says "The Adventures of Miss Migraine"

The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on my blog of the same name on September 5, 2012.

First, I am grateful for words, for language. I am grateful for the skill and intuition to shape them into meaning, into beauty, into stars, into beginnings, endings, middles. I am grateful for narrative, for storytelling and all the forms it takes, for the comfort it brings me, for the comfort I hope to bring to others through it. I am grateful for language in all its unspoken forms: the way the body speaks through movement, through touch; the way birds sing to each other as the sun spills above the horizon; the ways bees dance to guide each other to pollen.

purple morning glories

Morning Glories. Photo taken 09/12 by Kelly Lynn Thomas.

Second, I am grateful that my favorite flower, the purple morning glory, returned to the empty lot across the street from my house this year. Their vines twist upward around the links in the broken fence, flowers spreading themselves wide for the dawn, curling up to rest in the afternoon heat. There’s is the truest purple, the most beautiful color, I have ever seen. And I am grateful to look at them day after day, to touch their silken petals and whisper praise, to feel them singing to the sun — not with voice, but with color. That song touches me on its way to the sky, and I feel renewed.

Whole wheat waffles with whipped cream, blueberries and strawberries

Homemade whole wheat waffles, made by my husband.

Third, I am grateful for my home, which is not a place, per se, but a state of being. Home is my husband, my dogs, my family living 300 miles away. Home is waking up to my husband making my favorite whole wheat waffles before I leave for a long trip. Home is returning to our house, the place we physically inhabit, to one wagging tail and one wagging nubbin, and one all-encompassing hug. Home is feeling safe, free from pressures and responsibilities; home is the ability to restore my spirit among the people who love me. Homemade waffles help, too.

This post was inspired by the book Freeing Yourself From Anxiety by Tamar Chansky, which I reviewed here previously. What are you grateful for?

Missing Lexi

Me, Jaina, D.J., and Lexi at Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

I had a dream about Lexi the other night. My dad’s dog Neo was there, too, and they were both puppies again. We played tug like we always used to, and when I squished her she got mad at me (also like she always used to).

Neo was about a year old when we got Lexi, and the two of them used to play together in our backyard. Neo was a huge German shepherd, and he could fit most of baby Lexi’s body in his mouth. He would flip her over and she’d paw at his muzzle, grring at him. They both liked to dig holes, so in the summer Neo would dig a hole and Lexi would “help” by laying down in it. We had to say goodbye to Neo almost two years ago, so I like to think they are running and digging and barking with each other wherever dog souls go when they leave this earth.

Neo with his favorite ball. I couldn’t find a picture of the two of them together.

Lexi liked to dig right up until the end. Most corgis aren’t diggers, but Lexi sure was. She would paw at the dirt with reckless abandon, getting it everywhere, including all over her fur and nose. I’m not sure she ever had a goal in mind—sometimes if it was hot she’d unearth the top layer of dirt to get to the cooler layers beneath, but mostly she just dug.

The first month of not having her was difficult, but I’ve been missing her a lot these past few weeks. I’m not sure why it’s been hitting me so hard lately, but every little thing reminds me of her. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I still expect her to be on the bed between us. She would raise her head up and look up at me to make sure everything was okay before falling back asleep.

Jaina doesn’t bark when we get home. She’s always at the door with her ears back and her tail wagging furiously, but she doesn’t vocalize other than maybe a happy whine. Lexi always started barking as soon as she heard the car door shut—and she kept barking until she was good and ready to stop. My parents’ shepherds bark like maniacs when anyone gets home (including me if I’m visiting), so it’s kind of weird that Jaina doesn’t.

D.J. and I have been spending a lot of time with Jaina since June. Taking her for lots of walks, making sure she gets plenty of play time, spoiling her with trips to the frozen yogurt place, taking her out to dinner with us, things like that. I know there are moments when she misses Lexi, too. I brought Lexi’s bed down from the third floor, and I watched Jaina sniff it. I saw the recognition of Lexi’s scent in her eyes and body language, and then she laid down next to the bed for a few minutes.

I spend a few minutes with Lexi’s ashes every day, and trace the impression her little corgi paw made in the clay. I still can’t help buy cry when I think about her big round eyes imploring me for another treat. But even when I miss her so fiercely it feels like there’s a supermassive black hole in my chest, I’m happy, too. Happy that we got to share each other’s lives, happy for her companionship and loyalty, happy for all the adventures we had, the mountains we climbed together.

The intense loss I feel is an indication of how strong our bond was, how much we went through together. One of my college professors once said that grief never goes away—you just stop feeling it so strongly every second of every day. You still feel it, and it’s always there, but the time between moments of grief becomes longer the further away you get from it. But, it’s still there. That always rang true to me.

So I let myself have my time with Lexi every day, and I let myself cry, and I let myself miss her. It’s the best thing I can do for myself.