Being in a relationship or marriage with another person is hard—there are silly fights over socks left on the floor or whose turn it is to take the trash out—then something BIG happens in a relationship that changes the dynamics. I have been happily married for almost 15 years to my graduate school sweetheart. I fell in love with my husband the day I met him, but didn’t tell him for MANY months; when we finally professed our love to each other it was supposed to be happily ever after. But 6 years ago, a new woman entered into my relationship with my husband. This woman was NOT invited to my happily ever after. This other woman is my chronic illness.
Chronic migraine entered my life like a thief in the night–slowly emerging from one spinal surgery after another–till finally settling in and setting up camp in my body. When I first started having my spinal surgeries; for the herniated discs that were causing me horrific pain; this other woman in our relationship was nameless–she simply flittered in and out of our lives. Three times she came around until we finally thought we had been victorious at fighting her off.
After my son was born, the B&*^% was back. By this time, my husband and I had affectionately nicknamed this other woman in our marriage as Patricia, or Patty for short. When Patty entered our marriage, I never in a million years imagined that she would stick around as long as she has. She is a mean B*&*$ that hangs around WAY too often in our home; destroying everything in her path. She’s irritable, frustrating and NO FUN! She never wants to leave the dark cave, let alone cook dinner and spend time with family—I hate Patty— she is EVERYTHING that I AM NOT.
Like I said before, being in a marriage with someone is hard work–it’s not like the fairy tales that we were brought up to know. Its constantly fine tuning an instrument; that can get out of alignment with one grain of sand. We had been married almost 11 years before Patty entered into our lives–our marriage had hard times (like most do), but having multiple neck surgeries and infertility makes for some big challenges in even the strongest of foundations.
Last December, when I went to Michigan to “hopefully” battle Patty for the final time in the inpatient program for my chronic migraine–I was SO hopeful that she would finally leave my life. She had slowly begun to destroy everything in her path: my life, career, relationships, hopes and dreams. When I left the inpatient program I was so overwhelmed with joy–I had pain levels that were manageable and more tools for my tool box than I ever had before. I prayed Patty would be put to bed–and maybe now only come out every once in a while.
What I’ve learned over the past year is that healing is not linear—one step forward—six steps back. As soon as I feel like I’m gaining traction again, then here she comes with guns blazing that mean old B Patty. I’m going to be 100% honest–Patty has caused some fractures in the once solid foundation of my marriage. These fractures are not unrepairable–in fact we are working DILIGENTLY to patch these fractures. My sweet, loving and kind husband is doing the BEST he possibly can and is just as sick of Patty as I am! The thing we have learned in this last year as a couple is that we CAN NOT let her drive herself between us. We must join teams and FIGHT this monster together—because lets be honest–we have no idea how long she is going to be around. So we might as well learn how to manage life with her.
I hope and pray that one day Patty will be in the rearview of our life, and I will have my migraine attacks managed to a place that I can HAVE a career again, I can fall in LOVE with cooking again and can be the FUN and ADVENTUROUS mom I always dreamed I would be. But for now, I spend each day walking the chronic tightrope, holding fast to the days when I have little to no pain and leaning into the waves when Patty sails in again. This is my reality. This is life with chronic illness.