Pulling an Emily

“I’m pulling an ‘Emily’” I hear her say. When she picked up and gave an absent “hello” I figured something was wrong. I ignored her and told her my story. It’s after my story (which her response was much more lively) that she says she’s “pulling” a me.

“What do you mean?”

What is “pulling an Emily”? What about me is so infamous that an act has been named after me? I’m at a complete lost? I ask “talking on the phone while driving?” which is what I was doing at the moment.

“No,” she replies. I make a confused sound. “I’m lying in the dark with a headache. It’s like radiating out of my eye.”

In my mind, I automatically think migraine or cluster headache? She isn’t sobbing so it’s a migraine probably.  She’d be sobbing if it was a cluster headache.

So that’s it. Emily = headaches. I am irrevocably defined by headaches now. The dead stare wasn’t enough. Now when other’s have headaches, they’re “doing an Emily”. That’s who I am, migraine girl, migraine Em.

She goes on to tell me about her morning and the pain. I relate too well.

I don’t know if I’m bitter or not.



Lately I’ve been very anxious about my migraines and my future. The constant cycle of “I’m doing all right now but what about tomorrow?” running through my head. The ache when I’m in the classroom terrifies me. When I’m a student and when I’m a student teacher. The student teacher ache scares me more because I can’t immediately take care of myself, those kids need my full attention. I’m worried what it would look like if I tried to sneak away to take some tylenol. I’m worried that the lights will be too bright, or the kids too loud. I’m scared that I’m going to stumble over my words, seem like an idiot.

I’m worried my friends will get sick of it, of them, of me. It’s happened before, where they stopped believing me and turned me into a liar in their eyes. I’m worried I’m going to be alone again with the headaches and migraines.

I’m worried I’m not going to be able to process how headaches fit into my life, into my identity. I’m managing them but they’re pushing, hard.  They’re pushing and pulling and I’m going to give sooner or later. And I worry about that moment.


When I say “I’m sorry” to her, it’s entirely half hearted. She always uses “migraines” but she never follows up, never goes on to describe the too bright lights, or the too loud noises or the nausea or anything else. She uses “bad headache” and “migraine” interchangeably. Well I’m not entirely sure if “bad headache” is part of her vocabulary, if she knows the difference between a headache and a migraine or if a migraine means just a bad headache. Either way, I’m bitter and angry that she is using the terminology incorrectly. I can only assume. Maybe she spent all night throwing up, in the dark, in the silence, groaning in agony whenever anyone walks in the hallway or when someone slams a door shut, when the light filters in from under the door way.

She tells me she called off work.

Fine, whatever.

Then she tells me she went to the hockey game that night.

What little benefit of the doubt I had was gone.

I wish I could have had a ‘migraine’ where I could go to a hockey game after, one that lasted a couple hours instead of a whole day. A whole day of pain followed by exhaustion the next day.

I’m annoyed.

But I don’t say anything.

A Year in Review


Well, I say a year when it’s really more or less 7 months. I started this blog in May near the end of the Spring ’14 semester. This blog started out as an academic paper, a research paper believe it or not. A series of vignettes describing my experiences with stigma associated with migraines, disability, the impact on my life, and my experiences in doctor’s offices while I try to solve these migraines. I wrote about that before, it’s a page on this blog, describing what it is. The earliest vignettes are the first posts on this blog.

It’s been a journey, still is a journey. Life is a journey, mine happens to have a couple bumps here and there. Everyone does. Bumps, road blocks and being completely knocked off my feet, same thing. Everything is a learning experience and I’ve learned a lot writing this blog. I’ve talked to numerous fabulous people in the same situation as me. Before May, I knew two people who experienced migraines and headaches the same way I did, and only talked to one of them. After May, that number grew exponentially, and I found this whole community of people on the same journey as me, all scratching their heads much in the same way as I trying to figure this out. Instead of screaming, crying in agony into the void, alone, I was answered. That is just incredible. I was able to answer back to those crying themselves. I never expected to find a community like this on WordPress, Tumblr and Twitter. Every day I am still dumbstruck in awe. Just thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I originally just posted a couple pieces just to see if anyone wanted to read them. It started out as an experiment. To see if anyone would read them.

I’ve grown as an individual in private and publically on this blog. In the last 7 months, I’ve stopped pushing myself to the edge constantly, to my limits and learned to take care of myself. I am the most important thing in my life, not my academics or obligations. I come first, my health comes first. It was a hard transition, always putting school first. It was something tangible, something solid, a paper or quiz, the hard I would get back written in pen on top of the paper. My health, not matter how much I felt it still seemed like an abstract concept, due to the fact that I cannot physically see neurons misfiring, chemicals in my brain going haywire. I’m taking the right medicine now, not misusing medicine that won’t help me in the long run. While the cymbalta isn’t the best medicine to be on, it is helping.

With 2015, just hours away  (for me), I’m hoping that 2015 will not become year 8 of my migraine and headache terror but the first year of recovery from them, my first year with low pain since early middle school.

Happy New Year!

Conversations 28

We’re talking about grades. She doesn’t tell me hers but I tell her mine.

“You’re so freaking smart,” she texts. I smile at the screen. “Give me your brain,” she jokes.

What a novel thought. Images from the various Frankenstein movies I’ve seen over my life flash in my mind. The storm, the lightening, the seam where the head was sewn up. I laugh.

“You can have the chunk with migraines,” I text back. Intelligence comes at a price. Anxiety, depression, migraines, headaches.

Facebook boops, “Uhhhh,” she texts, “no,” she replies.

She got the choice and said no. I never got a choice.

Weekend Update – A Reflection on the End of the Semester


I finished where I expected – 4 A’s and an A-. I’m reminded again that I do better than a lot of students despite the migraines and headaches. There are students who are perfectly healthy, no ailments whatsoever who do not do as well as me. I fight migraines, headaches, asthma, PCOS, depression, and anxiety on a daily basis and still manage to do this well. It’s not perfect but it’s better than what I could do without trying and letting things fall to the wayside time and time again.

I feel I can not relish in this accomplishment however. That’s thanks to the depression and anxiety and the constant hum of “what if’s” running through my head. I hate it but I can’t quiet it. What if I didn’t have headaches? What if I didn’t have the migraines? The depression? The anxiety? What if in high school I wasn’t so horribly lost from depression and constant pain that I actually gave a damn? I could have went to Penn State rather than the dinky little state college I attend now surrounded by cows and corn. I love KU with all my heart, I love everything about college, the people, the professors, the material, the atmosphere of the university and the incredible opportunities I have received by going there but I still wonder. I could have moved further from home, I could have gone anywhere. I wouldn’t have been tied home by migraines, and doctor’s offices. What if I would have gotten that A instead of an A-. I could have a 4.0 but I have a 3.9. I feel jaded by it. The sharp edges of that three cut me. If I wouldn’t have missed that day of class, I would have gotten an A. If I wouldn’t have slept all afternoon one day, I could have studied more and gotten an A. I can’t go back and change the past  but I remain bitter. What if? What if? What if?

My winter depression settled in not too long after my birthday. I am perpetually cold, my hands and feet always chilled. I have to bundle up in layer to remain warm. A combination of this chill and complete exhaustion send me back to bed to find rest and warmth. I am only warm when I am under a number of blankets. I cannot spend winter break under blankets staring at my phone screen however. I made so many promises to myself how it is going to be different but day 2 and I find myself settling into my old ways. I want to read all the books I picked up, I want to watch all the movies I have queued but I’m too tired and cold to remain upright.

Mental illness is stigmatized in my home. My mother doesn’t believe in it. If I were to seek some sort of therapy, I would have to go about it independently. It is offered on campus but only during the fall and spring semesters. I’m thinking about going back. It’s been a year since I stopped going. I worry myself into idleness, frozen to act. I put it off and put it off until the end of the semester and it’s put off until the next semester.

I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday for the gyno. The cysts on my ovaries are becoming a nuisance again, and I haven’t been menstruating. I’m just glad that it’s not for migraines again.

Conversation 27


“How was driving?” my mom asks.

She asked me this question earlier. I answer the same way again.

“It was okay, a couple dicey spots. Black ice on some of the back roads,” I reply.

“No, with your head,” she adds.

“Oh,” I say, my voice quiet, eye brows drawn together. “I had a headache when I got there but I took some Tylenol and was okay for the most part,” I reply. Lately, I haven’t liked talking about headaches, just ignoring the problem seemed to be the route I’m taking.