How does pain affect your independence? Do you push yourself too hard? Do you hide the fact that you're in pain? Is it hard to ask for help?
I was invited to address these questions, along with several other people who blog about pain, by HowToCopeWithPain. To see all the other posts, go to the How To Cope With Pain blog.
“M” is for Migraine
I think one of the hardest things for me to do is asking for help, especially when I have a migraine. Here is an example of how a simple task like driving to work and parking my car became a crisis when I combined being a migraine chick with being too overly independent.
The other day, I woke up with a blazing migraine, feeling a lot like the flaming skull in the movie “Ghost Rider”, and I really wanted to stay home sick, but I had already called in sick three times this month. I considered calling a friend to drive me to work, but I didn’t want to impose on her and I thought I could manage on my own.
Pushing on, I took my migraine drugs, dressed as comfortable as I could in khakis and a cotton blouse, and I drove myself the twenty miles to work, where my building is located in a sprawling office park with several service drives and a nearby expressway. Never having been good with directions, I only know one way in and out of the parking lot.
That morning, I found several orange cones blocking the entrance to the parking lot. Huh? I glanced around, realizing there was a work crew blacktopping that section of the parking lot. There had no memos or warnings about this!
Feeling my head pain cranking up, I took a few deep breaths. All I wanted to do was park my car and stagger into work like a zombie. I didn’t need this today.
Trying to stay calm, I located another nearby entrance where I saw some cars parked in another section, but I found the spots were all taken and there was nowhere to turn around because the exit was blocked by more orange cones. Therefore, I had back down the row of cars to get out of the mess. My nerves were fraying by the second.
At this point, I saw a co-worker, who I know by face but not by name. She was walking into the building, apparently having found a coveted parking spot. For a second, I considered asking her for help, but I didn’t embarrass myself by saying I had a migraine and I couldn’t even find an alternate place to park my car at the building where I had been working for the last three years.
Back on the street, I drove around to the other side of the building. I had heard there was another parking lot, but I had never been on the other side and I couldn't find the driveway.
By now, my head was going nuts. I was nearly crying by now, which was making my migraine a lot worse. The sunlight was killing me even with my sunglasses, and my stomach was twisting with nausea.
With my burning pain brain feeling like it was bouncing around the inside of my skull, I tried to consider my options. I could keep driving around like a lunatic until I had a break down or I could just go home, or I could call my team leader inside the building and have her help me get to the right spot.
Digging into my purse, I found my cell phone and dialed my team leader. Thankfully, she answered. The conversation started with my saying “Please don’t think I’m an idiot, but I’ve got a migraine and I find a place to park my car,” and it finished with her getting me to a parking spot.
As I was getting out of my car, it occurred to me this wouldn't have happened if I weren’t so hell bent on being independent even with a migraine. If I had just asked my friend for a ride to work, I could have avoided this. If I had just asked that co-worker to help me find another parking spot, I could have avoided this. And look when I did ask for help the sky didn't come crashing down.
Walking toward the building, I suddenly looked back at my car; worried that I would forget where I parked by the end of the day. Towering over my car was aisle sign. Oh, that was going to be easy to remember, I thought, staring at the huge letter. “M” is for "Migraine."