It’s been 305 days since I’ve been without a headache or migraine. That’s over 43 weeks, or 10 months, or over 83% of the year. Before December of last year, I didn’t have a second free of headaches but lately I’ve been able to enjoy half days without any pain.
Up until last spring, I did not know what chronic pain was. I have gone through some injuries and migraines before, but nothing like this. And suddenly I found myself in the middle of a pain-induced depression without even realizing it.
When you wake up with pain every single day, it chips away at your joy and strength. But there was no way I was about to let the world know I was weakening. That simply wasn’t an option. Plus, I told myself over and over again how headaches weren’t fatal or life threatening, so I was in no position to whine.
I mustered through and put up a front to shut the world out.
I cried from the privacy of my own bathroom floor but continued to post pretty Instagram photos as often as possible. In between doctor’s appointments and tests, I replied to client emails. When I could open my eyes enough to see clearly, I researched options and possible causes. While propped up on the couch with muscle relaxers doing their best to help, I did the best I could to keep it together.
As plans were cancelled and social appearances became null, many acquaintances sent me ideas to try or stories of how “this worked for so-and-so!” While the gesture was sweet, I wanted nothing more than a hug and someone to simply hear me. However, no one could do that when I had been building up my walls the whole time.
Then one day a really, really good friend called me. She asked about my headaches only to get my default and rehearsed response back. After what felt like an eternity of silence, she asked again. “How are you doing with your headaches?” The repeated question was all it took for the flood gates to open and the walls to crumble down.
She heard me.
She heard not what I was saying, but what I wasn’t saying. She sifted through the prepared statement for the reality that I was living in. She held space for me to do and feel whatever it was that I needed to. And while my headaches didn’t disappear that afternoon, my healing journey took a sharp turn for the better.
I started being honest about the pain I was in and how it was affecting my life, both professionally and personally. I started sharing the methods that were helpful and the ones that did nothing in case a new idea sparked someone else to give it a shot. But most importantly, I asked for help as I needed it. And the best part is, I got help every time I asked.
My friends were there when I needed a companion to the doctor’s office, a ride home from a grueling medical test, someone to listen to my frustration, someone to tell me it was ok to put away the superhero cape and most importantly – someone to really hear me.
Because even though I was asking for help, I wasn’t always asking for exactly what I needed. How many times have you done the same? “Can we reschedule our plans?” when you meant to ask “Can you come over tomorrow so that I can share the really tough time I’m having with my family?” or “Do you have that recipe I loved?” instead of “Would you be able to make dinner for us to share tonight? I’m so overwhelmed that standing in the kitchen has me in tears.”
So while I work on my skills of asking for exactly what I need, my friends are working on their skills of hearing me. And when the tables turn, which they will inevitably, I’ll be doing my best to listen to what they are saying just as much as what they aren’t saying.
Alison Monday is a responsive WordPress site designer, developer + support system at tiny blue orange. she’s fixed, maintained + built online presences for dozens of amazing clients over the last 8 years.
when she’s not ruining the fun for hackers, you can find her in the CrossFit gym or at yoga classes, hanging out with her extra large dogs Brutus + Pixel or whipping up tasty plant-based meals.