Migraine Monday: The Long Way Down

April is my favorite month of the year. And I spent the entire month sick, almost better, and then even sicker.

I was sticking to my usual “head down and power through” approach to life as a means of pushing through, taking various decongestants and antihistamines in an attempt to take the edge of my symptoms, until a coughing fit got so bad it scared my students.

Bear in mind: I have taught this class for two to three years. We’ve been through some challenging times together. Ponyo and I used to take weekly trips to the de-escalation room, and her classmates remember those days. Ponyo, TLK, Freckles, and Elsa have been with me since the beginning of the migraines, through the ups and downs of various treatments and substitute teachers and days when we couldn’t get a sub and they shuffled off to another teacher for the last few hours of the day. They have seen me on some very bad migraine days when I’ve needed someone to pick me up because I could not drive. TLK can tell I have an aura before I tell anyone. When Sir New Dude arrived to our class in March, and we were introducing ourselves and saying whether we were deaf or hard-of-hearing, I was about to explain that I am hearing but I have auditory processing challenges when TLK interrupted: She’s hearing, but she gets migraines and then she says “What?” a lot. But she hasn’t had a bad one since… ((looks at the calendar)) January. Her last bad one was in January.

So three weeks after my spring break throat tickle had turned into a never-ending cold, when I descended into a coughing fit that originated from the core of my being, and even my students knew that offering my water bottle was pointless, it was pretty obvious I needed to see a doctor. Sir New Dude said, You need to go to the doctor. I replied that I planned to go to the Quick Care after school. TLK, the master of the Very Serious and Authoritative Quiet Voice, looked me in the eye and said, No, you need to go to the doctor now. I explained there were no subs. We don’t need a sub. We know what to do. We will not fight over the computers or the iPad. We’ll read everything we’re supposed to. If there’s a problem we know who is in charge. You need to go to the doctor right now.

I finished my work day, and after two hours at Quick Care and another hour at the pharmacy sorting out the mis-prescribed drugs to which I was allergic, I went home with cough syrup for my bronchitis, and instructions to use my steroid inhaler for my lungs (as well as for my sinuses as prescribed).

Seriously, who gets bronchitis in April???

The next day (Wednesday), I had an IEP meeting I could not miss, so I went to work. At the Eleventh Hour, I got a sub for the Thursday’s department field trip. Wednesday, I took my cough syrup with codeine at 5:30 p.m. and slept for 18 hours. Eighteen hours. I woke up every six hours coughing, so I took another dose and crawled back in bed. I spent Thursday doped up and lounging in bed with a book. I ate, I napped. Friday, too. All I did was shower and change into different PJs. Saturday? More rest.

On Sunday I started to feel a little more human, and I put on real clothes and went to church. Pretty sure I napped after that.

Last week I only took the cough syrup at bed time, obviously. I can’t really teach in a stupor. And I averaged only one coughing fit a day. But I was exhausted by the time the kids left my room at 3:30. And I was in bed by 8 every night. I’ve been off the meds since Wednesday.

I went two weeks without writing more than a few tweets and some blackout poetry. I did some very basic teaching. Solid teaching, but nothing fancy. My food intake consisted of waffles and coffee and toast and cereal and some butternut squash soup with wild rice (a big batch I could eat all week).

I have never been sick this long or taken so long to recover. That this has come at the end of the school year–a time when I already struggle to drag my sad, sorry ass out of bed to dunk my head under the shower tap and throw on some clothes–makes it even worse.

While I was taking it easy, I decided to catch up on some autistic advocacy reading and disability community conversations, and I saw a tweet (in a different context) that made everything click for me: Treatable doesn’t make disability disappear. 

My very successful migraine treatments don’t change the underlying condition of chronic migraine. My counseling and medication don’t change the underlying structure of my depression and anxiety. My invisible disabilities are still there, and they still require energy from my body and my mind. And when I get sick…. well, it’s a long way down. Because a cold or a cold+bronchitis is really a cold+bronchitis+invisibilemigraine+invisibledepression+invisibleanxiety. At the end of a very exhausting school year.

And after the long way down, it’s a really long way back up.

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