Catching Up After An Unintentional Time Out

A monsoon storm, the first significant one of the season, crashes a few bolts down just before the gates opened for the Annual Bloom Night at Tohono Chul Park, July 13, 2019, Tucson, AZ. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

After my last post about shame I didn’t mean to be away so long. That post caused a lot of reactions, some people seemed to understand my feelings of shame, others got very worried about me. First I want to apologize for not answering every comment, I have been going through an awful time with my migraines and simply haven’t been able to look at the computer much, and I will admit it has put me in a depressed funk, I’m so sorry if I worried anyone. The shame I feel is not overwhelming, I know I made it seem that way in the post, but I promise it’s not all consuming. It is not uncommon for people who have chronic pain or illness to have feelings of shame mixed in with feelings of guilt, I wanted people to know if they do, they aren’t alone. And I wanted people to know, I’d been feeling it and didn’t even realize that’s what it was. Now that I realize it, it’s easier to notice it, and to fight it. I understand that I have no reason to feel ashamed, I also understand that I have no reason to feel guilty, but those feelings still come. They are less now, but they still come.

Something happened this past week that I’d like to share. I’ve needed to cancel plans with our realtor a couple of times because of my migraines, and when we saw him he said, “Hi sickie! Feeling better?” At first I felt shame, then I was angry, very angry, and I stayed angry for days. I told Stuart if he wasn’t our landlord and a good friend of Stuart’s father he would no longer be our realtor. Then I decided he needed to be educated that this is not an acceptable thing to say to a person with chronic illness, or anyone for that matter. I was going to say something to him, but my advocate of a husband beat me to it. Stuart said that he was very apologetic and said that he doesn’t know why he said such a thing, it’s not something he would normally say. He doesn’t know that I know Stuart talked to him, and he hasn’t said anything to me. I’m simply proud that I didn’t just sit back and accept being shamed. This happens to us way too often and we mostly just shrug it off, I think we need to speak up more often and educate people as to how we should be treated. This is one way I will fight my feelings of shame.

Now, a really quick update. Since July 26th, my last visit to my migraine doctor, I’ve had 2 migraine free days, 2 days with moderate migraine pain (5-7), and every other day I had severe migraine pain (8-10), along with many other symptoms, such as nausea, light sensitivity, vertigo… None of my medications were working at all. My doctor prescribed Migranal, but it took until September 4th before I finally got it (stupid insurance hoops you have to jump through) and I can only use it 8 days a month. It’s been difficult. Our 15th wedding anniversary was September 3rd, we wanted to do something special, but instead I basically missed it. Good thing it’s the marriage that counts, and it’s a celebration every day. (HA…how hokey was that?!? It really is special though.)

I saw my migraine doctor yesterday. After my last appointment I had a CTA scan, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries, it came back normal. I had just started Effexor to try to help my migraines, and I stayed on Emgality for prevention until we saw if Effexor worked. Well, Effexor didn’t work, so we are changing the Emgality to Amovig. You have probably seen the commercials for both of these drugs. They are similar, but a little different in how they work, so hopefully Amovig will be a better fit for me. It can take up to 3 months, to tell if it’s going to work at all. So I’ll know in December. She thinks this last 6 weeks could have been so much worse because of monsoon season. She said it has been worse than last year. I know I was affected last year, but I know I wasn’t this bad.

I feel shame (Shame and Chronic Illness)

I’ve been trying to write a post for weeks now, but I just haven’t been able to get the words to come out. I had a CTA scan of my head and neck on July 26th, that’s a CT scan that shows your arteries. I had planned to post about it, to show you the awful bruise the contrast caused, and tell you how I freaked out when the contrast hit me, but I was actually ashamed that I felt that way. They had a hard time finding my veins, as usual, and I, once again, felt ashamed that I’m difficult. I had a bit of a reaction to the contrast and had a very debilitating migraine and nausea for days. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t do anything. Lorraine was nice enough to do a Mindfulness Monday. I’m ashamed I haven’t written since then.

I feel that I have needed to write and tell you how I’m still struggling with the migraines, how the medication isn’t working, and how I can’t accomplish anything really. But I’m ashamed that I’m not better. I’m ashamed that I keep trying different medications and they don’t work on me. I feel like I’m failing. In our culture we are expected to take a drug when we get sick and get better, if we don’t get better then we aren’t trying hard enough. We should change our diet, exercise more…. You see the stories all the time, how someone beat this or that disease by doing these things. We are expected to fight our illnesses and get better, when we don’t we often feel shame. Or at least, I know I do.

With my migraines everyone has a solution. So many people have or know someone with migraine, it isn’t rare, but chances are it’s episodic migraine not chronic migraine. I’m asked so often, “Do you take medication?” and it’s followed by, “I take (or so and so takes)______ and it works!” I want to scream, “Of course I take medication! I take preventatives, and abortives, and supplements, and I use alternative treatments! Nothing is working but I’m afraid to stop any of them for fear it will get worse!” But instead I feel ashamed that I’m defective. Not only do I have migraines, I have migraines that won’t respond to treatment.

Weekend before last we went out for breakfast with Stuart’s father at our usual place. I ordered a gluten free pancake, when it came I suspected it was wrong, but they have never gotten my order wrong before, so I took a bite. I knew immediately it was wrong. I was poisoned. I called the waitress over and asked and sure enough, it wasn’t gluten free. She apologized and I smiled and just ordered a new one. I looked at Stuart with huge eyes and he just said, there was nothing that could be done now. His father said, “it was only one bite” Stuart explained that it only takes a crumb. I should have told the waitress that I didn’t want anything else and told Stuart and his dad we needed to go home, but instead I was too ashamed. I ate that new pancake knowing that I would be sick within an hour or two. I sat there listening to them talk, while my head pounded, my stomach started to ache and get tight and my bowels started to rumble. I ended up having to rush to the bathroom there and it was obvious my stomach was distended by the time we left. I felt even more shame that I could not hide it.

I’ve never been one who is ashamed of my cochlear implants, I know a lot of people like to hide them, but I like for people to understand that I have hearing loss, because I do get ashamed when I have trouble understanding people. I sit and “listen” to conversations, but I often don’t “hear” them, and I’m too ashamed to keep asking for people to repeat what they say. After you are told over and over that it’s not important, you start to believe it, so I don’t worry about it. Then I get more ashamed when I miss things that I needed to hear.

Yesterday I had a very bad day. I woke in so much pain, but more than that when I’d stand I would see stars and I’d start to black out. I asked Stuart if he could work from home, but before he could answer I told him no, I’d be okay, because I was way too ashamed that I needed him. I was not safe, but I was too ashamed to admit that. Last night was the first time I told him how I felt. Now he is afraid he has done something to make me feel ashamed, and I feel shame that I’ve made him feel this way. I’ve explained to him that it’s complicated.

I’m just coming to terms with these feelings. I’ve tried to put a label on this before and called it guilt, but that wasn’t right, it’s shame. Guilt is feeling that you’ve done something bad. Shame is feeling that you are something bad. So, yes I feel guilty about asking him to work from home because I don’t want to take him away from work (doing something bad), but I also feel shame about it because I am ill and have to ask in the first place (am something bad).

Do you have these feelings? This will be a major discussion coming up with my therapist. Shame is not a healthy emotion, this is something we need to battle sooner rather than later.