One of the events that remains hardest for me to accept is Robbie’s second birthday party. We had been looking forward to it for so long… ordering decorations, prepping the perfect shades of frosting, shopping like mad… I was so excited. I carried the “Cars” theme as far as I could manage. I loved throwing his parties. Celebrating the gift that is my firstborn. My sister-in-law had set the bar so very high for her own children’s parties and cakes and I wanted my kids to love them as much as hers did. I wanted so desperately to be the mom like her that rocked the parties.
So many people we loved were going to be able to make it; It was also Robbie’s last birthday as a single child since I was pregnant with Lex at the time. I wanted it to be really special. (But of course, I want all of his parties special.)
Except when I woke up the morning of the party I was SICK. I was somewhere around my first trimester, deep within the throws of morning sickness that quite literally never abated, and had one of the worse migraines of my life. I was devastated. I had done everything I could to be a “normal” mom on that special day for my son… and instead of bearing witness to the games, being the one to decorate, or just watching him playing with his cousins I was locked in a tiny bathroom retching every last drop of bile and the foam of pre-digested migraine medication I had attempted to swallow out of my system. At that point there was no chance of gaining control. I have more memories of what the inside of my father’s toilet looked like than the smile on his face while he smushed cake into his face. I remember more vividly the knocks on the bathroom door asking if i needed more ice chips, then I do singing "Happy Birthday" during cake time.
If you’ve never had a migraine, I don’t quite know how to explain it to you. I can’t see straight, I can’t catch my breath, I vomit uncontrollably, I can’t keep food or fluids down. Every noise is a thousand times more vicious sounding than long fingernails scraping down an old-fashioned chalkboard. My reaction to light nearly causes me to believe in vampires. I don’t know whether to compare the physical sensation in my skull to exploding shrapnel or a rusty two-ended saw or just the definition of hell. It can be so intense that it sends your eyes rolling completely back into your head and cause you to lose consciousness from pain. Heck, the above is a perfect description of a Fibromyalgia flare in addition to migraine... which, I might as well mention now, is often the result of a migraine.
There is little, if anything, worse. (Okay, having morning sickness compounded onto your migraine is a bit worse. Plus withdrawals from the daily medications that you have been unable to take as directed due to the vomiting.)
Likewise, if you’ve never had Fibromyalgia, I don’t quite know how to explain that it can intensify any pain or discomforts a thousand fold. What my experience of migraines was as a teenager is no comparison to the total body assault that occurs now as a Fibromite. (Does this happen to everyone with Fibro? No, but do people always present identical symptoms to every condition? Do people react the same to treatments?) Whereas most people start a 10-point pain scale on 0 ("Where is your pain… 0 is no pain, 10 is the worst ever?”), I start at a 5.
Pause for a second and please really think about that one. Imagine living everyday where your base pain level is what the person beside you feels when they are experiencing 50% of the worst pain of their lives.
Back to the story…. I missed out on the birthday fun. I missed out on the people. I missed my sister-in-law’s short trip before she returned to Iowa. I’ve had friends not return to another party or speak to me because of my “behavior” at this one… which only increases the burden of falling ill. I can’t say I really blame them… I didn’t pay enough attention to them and they think I’m an addict, why would they want to come back? Excuses don’t matter, in the long run.
I was, and am, blessed to have family and friends that did understand my situation and step up to help so I could manage my migraine and the severe morning sickness until we could get out of there and to the ER. (The only “safe” and effective treatments I could get while pregnant was in the ER so they could monitor me and tummy-trapped Alex.) Some didn’t even know I had a migraine; they assumed Fibro was rearing its head and in their compassion jumped up to help. I’m grateful for those people that took photographs for me, dealt with leftovers, and that realized that I was truly ill and unwillingly missing moments that would never be returned to me… but they tried to keep me as present as they could. They didn’t judge me for being sick… they made it safe place to be sick.
After leaving the party we had to stop at a Carl’s Junior on the way home… I couldn’t make those extra 4 blocks home. I barely made it in the door and literally barrelled over the “Wet Floor” sign” before sighting my goal. We dropped the kids off at my in-laws and headed straight to the Emergency Room without passing “Go” or collecting the $200 (We paid instead, hurrah CoPays!). It took multiple doses of multiple medications to gain control over the migraine and the vomiting… The doctor said my reasons for “sticking it out weren’t good enough” and I should have come much earlier.
Long after the party I heard the rumors that started and are still flying long after the party. The easy one to hear was that I was bulimic. But then they got worse. The real reason, as it has come back to me, is that I was on so many medications for my Fibro I had become a danger. (I was on fewer than ever, at this current point, but more on that tomorrow.)
I was an addict*, pure and simple… And I could no longer be trusted. My absences during the event were so I could take more medication and get more stoned. I was out of it not because I was in pain, trying not to heave on people, but because I was lit and getting more so. My eyes were rolling back into my head not because of pain or neurological functions, but because I was taking dangerous amounts of drugs. I couldn’t stay awake not because i had been up all night and was fighting intense pain, but because those medications were making me pass out. The icing of the rumor was that I would take those medications and drive in such an inebriated condition….. with children in the car. (Where the rumors started, or with who, I really can’t say. But there can be no denying they are out there, because they have come back to me from multiple sources.)
If only people just knew, or would believe, that my stumbling was because of the blurry migraine vision and intense vertigo… that I hadn’t held any pills down in over 24 hours or that anything I did attempt for relief had only made my symptoms worse and I was "as sober as a judge.”
Or that I refuse to get behind the wheel if I feel even slightly “wonky.” I probably have stricter guidelines on myself than CHP and/or any doctors would.
Or that I took less than 10% of the narcotics I was prescribed, and had been taking them since 2000 without any of the accused side effects.
But that changes little to nothing. It doesn’t matter what medication I was taking. The point is that without spreading awareness about what Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain disorders do and the effects of the many possible treatments all of us are going to keep coming up against these devastating situations. So talk. Share until you are blue in the face. If we can change ONE mind, that just might prevent the suffering of another patient.
*Although some may consider me an addict, my addiction specialist believes in a clear distinction between "addiction" and "dependancy." I officially fall into the latter category.
Edit: My Mom's Response
Edit: My Mom's Response