Throwing Out the Road Map

When you are young, you never imagine yourself having a chronic pain condition. You make plans for your future. For me, being a (recovering) perfectionist, there was ONE plan, and this ONE plan had to be executed perfectly, or I would implode (wow makes me sound scary when I say it like that, but that is what I thought at the time). You’ll notice that I have (recovering) in parenthesis related to perfectionists. Because you see, after 6 years of struggle, strife and enduring immense physical and emotional pain from my chronic migraines AND infertility. I have learned that life is NOT perfect. And being a perfectionists, was certainly not going to help any of my situations. I have had to learn to adapt and grow to my situation and its taken me years to get to this point mentally, quite honestly. It has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as an adult. Basically, completely rewire your brain to not see “perfect”, in fact, throw it out of your vocabulary entirely, because NOTHING is perfect in life.

Now back to THESE plans. Here is what I wanted my life to look like:

  1. Complete Masters Degree and land PERFECT job where I would flourish and be promoted and be OH so bright and shiny in the world of higher education.
  2. Meet and marry my soulmate by 25; this in fact did happen according to plan!
  3. After years of a SPECTACULAR career in higher education, I would then go back and pursue my Ph.D. A dream I had always had.
  4. While working full time and pursuing my Ph.D, and writing the most interesting and influential piece of research, maybe even find my calling for something greater
  5. At age 30, go off all birth control methods, cause, DUH we are going to pregnant no problem, right away, and have 2.5 kids.
  6. Continue to move my way up the ladder of success in my career, graduate with my Ph.D and become somebody super important on a college campus, all while being a spectacular mother and cook perfect meals every night for our little family.

To a (recovering) perfectionist, plans and to do list are how you get SHIT done, how you feel accomplished, how you MEASURE your self worth. Then BOOM, out of nowhere in drops the CHRONIC MIGRAINES. Having always been a typical “migraineur” the chronicness of the migraines doesn’t really start to send off warning bells to you until you have had them for months on end, and even then you think, well maybe my medications need to be adjusted or I’ve just been pushing myself too hard, this will pass, it will get better, but slowly it crept up on me like a dark shadow casting itself over my HOPES, DREAMS and PLANS.

If you have read any of my other posts you will know that there was one singular event (that we have been able to pinpoint) that made my “regular migraines” become chronic, and that was a small fender bender accident in 2014. But having some time to reflect back prior to the fender bender, I do remember my migraines become much more frequent in my late 20’s, with several trips to the urgent care for injectable medicine.

At first, the chronicness is like a bad cold, its eventually going to go away, RIGHT?! But by the time you are 3 years in, and have tried basically everything under the sun to help..you realize, THIS IS HERE TO STAY for a bit. For a (recovering )perfectionists, with the perfectly laid out plans of her life, THIS DID NOT sit well. It through me into a tail spin. By this point, I had achieved a number of items on my list but the BIG TWO were still left: finishing my Ph.D and having a child.

Writing a dissertation for your Ph.D with chronic migraines is a NIGHTMARE. I started and stopped writing and doing my research so many times, I thought for sure my committee of professors would toss me to the curb (they did not..thankfully). And between trying to achieve this goal, I was also trying desperately to get pregnant AND rise on the career success ladder. Except NO one that I worked with knew anything about the desire to get pregnant, and they knew only a tiny bit about my migraines. I tried to hide them the best any good perfectionists can, with a smile and a glass half full perspective. But over time, I wasn’t able to hide it anymore, and I could slowly feel myself losing a grip of my HOPES, GOALS and DREAMS.

So, fast forward to present day, I have my Ph.D (defended while 5.5 months pregnant with chronic migraines), and have a beautiful baby boy who was conceived via IVF after trying for years on our own. So at the ripe age of 39, here I sit, with some of those HOPES, GOALS and DREAMS accomplished, but not the way I had ever dreamed or planned.

So what now, Ive checked off all my boxes from the list above..except one..my career. With my health being so poor and up and down, its nearly impossible for me to find a job where I can work utilizing my skills and function at the level that I want to function at. Pre Chronic Migraines Emily has VERY high expecations for herself (recovering perfectionist, remember), and did not waste all that time working weekends, lunch hours and vacations writing and researching to earn my Ph.D to now sit at home and try to manage a toddler while also managing a chronic pain situation.

What I have learned from all this, that life is HARD, and SUCKS. For some life comes easy and you are able to check off all your goal boxes no problem. For others, you have to get creative. And figure out HOW am I going to not only survive in this new box I am in, but THRIVE? How can I get back to the polished, confident, professional person I was 7 years ago, before all the chronicness and ugliness associated with chronic pain, migraines and infertility. That is the part I have yet to figure out..for now, I am leaning heavy into my faith, trying to soak up as many snuggles and special time with my miracle baby, and have HOPE and BE GRATEFUL that I am better today than I was a year ago, and a year before that. As I said in my last blog post, I am getting comfortable with this being as good as it gets…and I can learn to live in that box and thrive. But I am still holding out HOPE that the “chronicness” will eventually fade away, and I will be a typical migraineur again. Able to work and use the Ph.D I worked SO hard for, and to thrive within my career, and be the Mom I always dreamed I wanted to be. But for now…this is as good as it gets and I am just grateful to be here.