Mirrors that Define

I have lived in the Northeast and Southeast United States. I was actually born in the north and lived there for several years. I probably should remember more about those early years, but I only remember a little. I moved to the south when I still young. When asked where I am from I always say the town in the south that seemed to be my where I had more formative years. When I was almost 21 years old I moved back to the north.

I moved to the Pocono’s. I found I did not like living there. I planned to move back but met my husband and stayed. I never meant to live there as long as I did but I never thought to move. One year I had a migraine that was extremely bad and my doctor admitted me to the hospital tests and to try to get rid of the migraine. Upon testing they found something in my brain, a white spot. There was a lot more testing done after the initial finding. This was not my first go round being admitted for migraines and having tests done. That was what concerned the doctors, no previous test showed this white spot. My doctor came in on a Thursday and said he was going out of town, that I would not be leaving the hospital soon and another doctor was going to take over until Monday. The next day, a Friday the new doctor came in and told me she felt there was no need for me to be in the hospital as all IV drugs had been stopped so I could go home with the pills I was on.

This was a big mistake. I was given 4 different types of pain medication while I was in severe pain and told to stagger the medications, switching the medications every 2 hours. I was in severe pain. I would fall asleep, awaken and not know how long it had been, which medication I had last taken, but I would guess and take another pill. That I did not overdose on these medications is a miracle. I know I took too many, as I started hallucinating. My husband had gone to the store and returned to find me completely out of it and had the hospital call my doctor where ever he was. He told my husband to take me to a larger hospital, forty-five minutes away that had more resources.

At this bigger hospital more tests were done. Sometimes they would do them in the middle of the night as that was the only time the testing equipment was available. They monitored my medicine. It seemed this migraine had taken my life over and I was in constant pain, no matter what was given. After being there for another week, it was decided to send to me another hospital about 2 hours away. As they were preparing to take me to an ambulance a neurologist asked if I wanted to see what was in my brain. He then showed me this white spot and told me they had come to the conclusion it was an incurable brain tumor. It was very deep in the brain and touching the brain stem. He told me I probably had 3 to 6 months left to live. I was shocked! I did not know what they had found just that they were doing tests to figure out what they saw. I thought it was something minor. So the ride in the ambulance now became even more scary. I had time to think I was dying and it would be soon. I was always told they could not cure my migraines that if I had a brain tumor that caused the headaches, they could cure that. Now I was told even a brain tumor could not be cured.

At this new hospital, which was a university hospital all the Fellows, Interns and Doctors would come in and point and poke at me, always saying out loud how I did not have long to live. The worst part of this was they had decided that I would be taken off of all pain medication so I could live what was left of my life without being in a fog from the pain medications. I thought how crazy that was. I was not in a fog from the medications. Why not let me live my remaining days pain-free? I had no choice though, the doctors had made it for me. I was there a week, given physical therapy lessons that were supposed to help with pain. I was so glad when I was released.

After I returned home, I called around to find out who the best neurologist in the area was. There was one that came highly recommended, he only saw the most difficult to diagnose or treat patients. He agreed to see me. He was over 3 hours away. He was a nice man. He ran many tests. He also told me I was not going to die in 3 to 6 months. That though I had a white spot, it looked more like multiple sclerosis. He ran tests for it but all came back inconclusive. He told me I needed to have an MRI done every 3 months to be sure it did not change. He also put me back on pain medication. He was a humane doctor, he did not see why I should suffer in pain. He is also retired now so if I ever need a good neurologist I will have to search again as finding a good neurologist is hard.

The next few weeks I thought a lot about the misdiagnosis and how I felt. I realized how much I disliked living in the north. We vacationed in the south every spring. I told my husband before our next vacation which was soon that he needed to find a job in the south as I would not be returning to the north. I loved my husband very much, but I also knew I did not want to spend one more day in the north. Knowing I could die made me realize how much I disliked living in the north and I certainly did not want to die there. My husband to his credit, told me to send resumes to places he could work in the south. Part of our vacation was spent with him interviewing. He was offered a job at every place he interviewed. He took the job that was willing to wait while we packed and readied to move to the south.

After he was offered these jobs I had another fear. Be careful what you wish for as it might come true. What if I were wrong and it was just me not where I lived? If I made my husband change jobs and we uprooted our lives only to find out it was not what I wanted. I worried a lot as my husband had accepted the job and I was busy packing. I wondered what we would do if it turned out we did not like living here. I worried my husband, who had never understood the south, would not like living here much as I did not like the north.

I worried for nothing. At first my husband had a hard time dealing with the slower pace of life. He was used to getting things done fast. It did not take long before he grew to love the slow pace of life of the south. To slow down and enjoy each moment, not going fast and planning the next movement. He told me often how he wished we had moved to the south sooner. That we wasted a lot of our lives up north rushing, running to stand still, rather than slowing down and enjoying everything life had to offer. He enjoyed every moment in the south. We were also lucky as there are several large university hospitals all within an hour drive. These hospitals are not like the one I had been in up north which had cold, uncaring doctors. These hospitals care about their patients. My husband would become a patient as time went on and we were very lucky to have the hospital and all the doctors, nurses and everyone who worked there.

I have explained where I have lived and how I felt about each. We all have our own likes and dislikes. I am sure that as much as I dislike the north there are just as many that dislike the south. But this is about how I define myself. I am a southerner. I am defined by where I live. I also let where I live define me. I am also defined by how I feel about where I live. There are many things that define me, but none are as strong as my feelings about living in the south. Some of my family that live in the north think it is stupid to let where I live define me. I do not think they understand. It is not really north vs. south. It is the way of life in the south. The acceptance of others in the south. I can hear some from the north saying they are not accepted in the south. To some extent that is true. When someone first moves to the south, we have to get to know the person. Once we do, if they are nice we like and accept them, no matter where they came from. We also accept them for who they are.

If anyone has been reading this, they know I use a lot of words to say a little. I talk a lot in person too. Up north, I am told I talk to much. Here in the south, talking a lot is what others like about me. Up north I would be told to my face I talk a lot in a negative way. In the south we do not tell people what we do not like about them. In both the north and south we are brought up if we have nothing good to say about something/someone, do not say anything at all. I wonder to myself how people in the north can be taught this yet turn around and point out what they do not like about another or that the person is different. While living in the north I saw this with others all the time. I thought it was cruel and would say so. That of course would lead to my being told I talk too much. Rude, crude and socially unacceptable is what we in the south say when someone decides to tell us what they think, if it is negative.

In this blog, I have generalized. I normally do not do that. There are many nice people who live in the north just as there are some that are not nice that live in the south. I do not like to generalize as there are always exceptions. I am simply pointing out that for whatever reason, when I glance in the mirror, I want a southerner to be what I see. As I move forward exploring what I want my life to be, when I am done, I want to remain a southerner that lives in the south. There are a lot of things I need to change as I move forward, but being a southerner is not one. This is not meant to offend anyone that lives in the north, south, east, west or even a different country, it is only my opinion about myself.

Needing to Take a Second Glance in the Mirror and Other Needs

One day goes into another. No progress made. Just emptiness left. I am on this journey or drive to find how to live my life again. I feel as if no progress has been made. It feels as if no progress will ever be made. That I will forever be stuck in the haze or phase. I know that is not true, but it feels that way at times.

I went to the store a few days ago. Before going, I could not decide if I was up to walking out the front door and facing the world or not. So I kept putting it off. When I finally decided that enough was enough and I needed to force myself out of the house, I glanced in the mirror. I had not curled my hair or done anything to it. I have long hair, but it is fine and unless I curl it, put it up or french braid it, my hair looks greasy as if it were not washed. After glancing and seeing my hair looked as if it needed to be washed, I decided that if I took any more time to fix my hair my nerve to walk out the door would, well walk out the door without me. So I went out with my hair appearing dirty. It was combed. I had makeup on. I know I did not look my best but I was not trying to impress anyone.

I went to the check out at the store. The cashier was elderly. She was friendly and talked with me. There is no one on-line so we chat. I do not mention my husband or anything else. Rather we talked of sales at other stores, how cold it has been for the south, just small talk. Suddenly she said to me “If you curl your hair you would look so much prettier. You are very pretty but you are hiding your looks behind dirty hair”. Normally I would have told this person off or told them of my husband dying, invoking sadness from the cashier. But my life is anything but normal. I knew she was not trying to be cruel. She was telling me what she saw. She felt that through our small chat we somehow connected and she wanted to be nice. It did not make me feel good that a stranger told me how I would look better if I curled my hair. I know this. It really did not even hurt my feelings, rather it was somewhat of a shock to hear it.

Which got me thinking. Do I look worse than I think I do? Are my quick glances in the mirror enough to make sure I am at least presentable to the world? Or do I need to make the glance last a little longer, look for flaws? Am I allowing myself to not look my best out of habit because it took so much time to care for my husband I had stopped caring for myself? Are there other areas in my life I am not examining close enough? And just how bad did I look that a stranger decided to tell me to curl my hair?

There are a lot of questions I need to ask myself. There are a lot of answers I will be searching for. But I do not think the question of how my hair looks should be one of them. I need to start paying more attention to how I look. While I will still glance, the glance will linger, not looking into my eyes, rather at the reflection as a whole to see if there is anything that needs to be done. Then I need to fix the outside of myself. Make sure I am not wondering how I look on the surface or at first or second glances.

Fixing what is wrong on the inside will be a lot harder. I do not know what is wrong that I can fix. I know there are things wrong, such as my panic attacks or migraines that I really can do nothing about. But getting over the fear of walking out the door is one I need to fix and it will be hard. I am working on it. The small things that need fixing, many I am not even aware of, is where it seems to go from a journey to an endless journey. From hope to despair with each day nothing is done. I must try harder fixing not just is what is on the outside, more importantly I need to fix what is wrong on the inside. Only when I start fixing what is wrong will I feel a real sense of accomplishment, not just a hollow okay feeling. If anyone were to ask me if anything is wrong, I know I would answer without hesitation that nothing is wrong. I would not be lying, as whomever would ask would not be asking the questions I am trying to answer. Needing to get back my life is not just something I am writing, it is something that is essential to my happiness. It may be in baby steps, but I have to start somewhere. Tomorrow, I will curl my hair. It is not an earth moving realization, it is not even a superficial realization, but for me it will be a step.

Migraines, Memories and Mirrors

Since I was four years old I have had migraines. Granted, they were not diagnosed as migraines at that young age. The diagnosis would come later and after careful consideration by the doctors it was decided that they had been a part of my life since I was four years old. Now doctors know that young children can get migraines, when I first started having them it was thought only adults had them. Many doctors even thought I was pretending to have headaches. They were not taken seriously. When I finally found a doctor, which would later become doctors, that would give the proper diagnosis it was a relief to have a name for what I suffered from. It did not make life easier nor did it stop people, including friends and family, from thinking that I was just exaggerating my pain, but it was somewhat of comfort to have a diagnosis even if I was the only one who understood it.

I get several different types of migraines. I also get cluster headaches. Any headache I get, even if it is only stress most likely will lead to a migraine. If my sinuses are acting up as they do with allergies, it leads to a migraine. I could continue to list all the different thing that can lead to migraines, but I will just let it stand that many things can lead to a migraine but not be the cause of it. I have been to enough neurologists to know that there is no “cure” for migraines. There are treatments. The one most preferred by many neurologists is that no pain medication, including aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. ever be taken again for the rest of life. The reason they believe this is because of the rebound headache. I get those too. I am of the opinion that billions of dollars have been spent on researching medication for migraines. The research was not done for the medications to it sit on the shelf of a drug store.

Not long after my diagnosis I was put on a mild migraine medication. It works well, but is not a cure-all. I have been given other medications to see if they would work better. The newer ones almost killed me. Each time a new medication failed I was put back on the older med. I finally had it out with the doctor and told him to just keep me on it, stop changing my medications. He told me I might become addicted to it. I told him I really did not care if I became addicted as long as it worked. From my point of view, there is no difference between someone with diabetes or some other life altering illness that requires medication for life and my need for medication for life. The doctor I have now gives me the medication, in fact she is afraid to try any new ones, but I get a very small amount and it must last 30 days, if I run out then I must suffer. If the migraine is worse I must go to the emergency room as she will not give me any narcotics for my migraines. I am okay with this, though truth be told I wish she would give me a larger amount of the medication each month. But knowing I have some is better than the ups and downs of changing medications and suffering all the while.

Which leads me to memories. With every memory, I have a migraine related to it. Here are a few examples:

As a little girl a big birthday party was planned, family were coming from far away, I spent most of the day in my bed unable to move I was in such pain. For me there was no party.

My husband and I went to a race we were both looking forward to, we were invited to events afterwards. Before we went to any events, as we were leaving the track, I asked my husband to give me a moment, I lied down on dirty bleacher seats, hoping my migraine would go away. It did not and we went to the emergency room instead.

We were on vacation, enjoying the sun and warmth. I could not look at the sun though as it made my migraine worse, the warmth might have been fine but the sun was not. I went back to the hotel room, curled up under the blankets and suffered with pain.

My husband needed to go to the doctor. It was an important appointment. After vomiting several times, I managed to get him in the car, drive thirty miles, get him into the doctor. Ask all the questions needed, then return home and to bed. This happened more times than I can count.

This list could go on forever. Every memory has a migraine attached to it. While some memories show minor migraines, some show severe migraines where I probably should not have gone out. As I am reflecting on my life I see that even in my happy memories there was always another presence felt, my migraine. I know the mirror reflected the migraine. No amount of makeup can cover up the most severe migraine. It may make it look a little better but it cannot take away the pain in and around the eyes. I find it sad that my life has been ruled by migraines. As I go forward I know I will still have these migraines. I know I will not be able to cover them with makeup. I know the mirror will show the migraine. I also know in the future when I look back at the present I will still see migraines attached to each memory.