October 25, 2018
Being an editor for most of my career has made me hyper-aware of deadlines and their importance. I work hard to not just meet my deadlines, but to try file my work days before. I know what it’s like to receive late copy or constantly follow up with writers who have gone MIA with their assignments. It’s frustrating for all editors, so now that I am a regular freelancer for various publications and organizations, I give my managers the respect I know I would want as an editor.
That didn’t happen this month, because of my disease. (Naturally.)
Instead of getting knocked down a couple days from a headache attack, I have had various attacks over the past three weeks. Some attacks were excruciating, while others were a constant, uncomfortable dull pain. Up until this moment, as I write this, I have had some sort of pain every day.
Having ongoing pain takes a lot out of you. It’s mentally and physically exhausting, so for an ambitious person like me, the pain can often keep me from reaching certain goals – even if those goals are as simple as hitting my deadlines.
I have spent the last two weekends on my couch. Not because I’m lazy (OK, sometimes I am), but because I needed it. Recently, there have been a few drastic changes at my full-time job that have put me in a tailspin and given me some of the most intense stress and mental health symptoms I’ve had in two years. The stress carried into a work trip to New York City that I had been excited about for months. I was chosen to be on a digital marketing panel at The WELL Summit, which has hundreds of attendees at its events. I was honored and excited to be considered a digital marketing pro, except the Thursday before the event, I got those symptoms I know too well.
When I’ve gotten my few downtime moments, I’ve sunk into the couch and binged on horror shows. I feel guilty for not accomplishing much, but I always need realize that I’m fighting every day. It’s OK for me to rest.
I could NOT get a headache attack, I kept telling myself. But I did, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was a two-hour bus ride away from my ice packs, my couch, my sweats and my dogs. And, because I get headaches so frequently, I was all out of my migraine-prevention meds. It was a worst-case scenario for me. But because I had a very big job to do – and, because my ambition will always be stronger than my pain – I stuck it out.
I'd spoke with a migraine before, at Social Media Day PHL, so I knew I could do it again. Luckily, I had my THC pen on me and puffed enough to take the edge off and function with a mostly clear head. (Thanks, migraine fog!) Luckily, I was at a wellness conference and there were brands that could help. I ate around 10 CBD gummies, drank so much water I had to pee every 20 minutes, ate nutrient-rich food and even got my head frozen by QuickCryo, which was doing a demo all weekend. It all helped keep me from vomiting on attendees, but wow, it’s exhausting to be charming while in constant pain.
After the conference, I collapsed on my couch and stayed there as long as I could.
Professional stress, professional travel and my side projects all came to one big burnout head. I just couldn’t do much more. My mind and body were exhausted, my muscles were tense and as a result, I’ve had rollercoaster headaches for the past three weeks. I like to refer to them as “rollercoaster headaches” because I never know how minimal or excruciating the pain will be. Some days I’ll have an annoying, uncomfortable, dull pain that I can at least manage. Other days, I’ll be passed out in a dark room due to pounding pain and nausea. Each day is a new surprise – and not a good one. It has been three weeks now, and the headaches haven’t shown any signs of going away.
These ongoing headaches have made me unmotivated to do the things I enjoy. I don’t remember the last time I worked out, reading makes my head worse and my creative juices have all dried up. When I’ve gotten my few downtime moments, I’ve sunk into the couch and binged on horror shows. I feel guilty for not accomplishing much, but I always need realize that I’m fighting every day. It’s OK for me to rest. I’m not going to be any less because I need to recharge.
So, when I emailed PhillyVoice about last week’s deadline, they were generous with my situation and deadline. When I told my job I needed to rest during the remaining two hours of the workday and needed to take a day off because of a vicious attack, they were supportive. Throughout the past few weeks, my husband has been there for me, with all my migraine supplies ready to dish out at a moment’s notice. Let me just say, burnout is better when you have people in your corner.
I may have missed my deadline, I may be running on empty, but I have people around me that constantly remind me that my health is just as important as my ambition.
The Monthly Migraine is a series dedicated to migraine awareness and support. If you suffer from chronic migraines, you are not alone and we hope to amplify your voice through these pieces. Lindsay Patton-Carson can be reached on Twitter @LindsayPatton.