written by alison

If giving up were an option, I would have done it by now.

For the last 4 months, I wake up holding my breath. Before I even open my eyes, there is a split second where I stop breathing and use everything in my power to hope that today is different. But every morning for the last 20 weeks starts the exact same, the pain is still there. For over 136 days, I have had a headache that won’t go away. Some days have been better and some have been worse, but I have forgotten what waking up without pain is like.

I struggle to complain about it. The majority of the time I can function. I might not be as fast as I would like at working and running might be off limits, but at least I can typically work, exercise + laugh. So I feel like I don’t have the right to complain. It’s not terminal, it’s rarely prohibitive and there are certainly many more things that would be harder to deal with.

But I still have wanted to give up.

Once I open my eyes, I spend the first 5 minutes of every day figuring out what I’ll be capable of. And that’s usually too many minutes for Pixel to bear being in her kennel any longer without crying. I try to ignore her while debating working from the bed, the couch, the office or putting up an out of office message and deciding which doctor/healthcare provider to call for an appointment. But she needs to be walked and so does Brutus. They deserve that at the very least. So I put on my shoes, the darkest sunglasses I own and take them out hoping that the fresh air will help.

And for the next mile, I think about giving up.

One day in particular, I listed out all of the deposits + payments that clients have given me for currently unfinished projects. When I added that list up, the grand total was significantly higher than my bank account value. Because thousands and thousands of dollars have been put into finding a culprit, solution, or fuck, even some relief from this chronic pain.

My bank account is half of what it was at the start of the year. In the first quarter, I made more than half of last year’s income. I’m booked until the end of the year. But if I wanted to refund every client in order to shut down tiny blue orange, I couldn’t. The money just simply isn’t there.

I thought about it, but it’s not an option.

This is my new normal. My routine revolves around chronic headaches and migraines. It’s full of appointments, ice packs, prescriptions, naps, crying and essentially accepting the pain that I feel. I try not to bring it up too much since I’ve already been accused of never being happy. I’m terrible at asking for help, and since the doctors don’t even know what to do, how am I going to know? So I don’t.

The only people that really ask me about my headaches are clients and the folks I’m paying to get rid of them. Anyone with a clearly invested interest in my ability to function. My family, friends and loved ones occasionally bring it up, but like me, they’ve made it a part of normal life. We don’t talk about the need to brush our teeth, so why would we talk about this? Even the dogs don’t check in on me anymore. Brutus used to lay at my feet every day for the first 5 weeks. But that has since stopped.

We’ve all given up on the way things used to be to make way for what we’ve accepted as the new normal.

This is something I can’t run away from. Closing down my business, selling the house, running away and changing my identity will not change the throbbing pain underneath my skull. I have so badly wished that they would, trust me. But this pain will always fit in whatever size bag I try to pack. It will always have room next to me on a plane. And it will never take a holiday, vacation day or sabbatical.

I do my best to put energy into feeling better, but some days there isn’t any energy to give. Some days life reminds me that it’s not slowing down or stopping no matter how much pain I feel. Some days I lose hope that this will ever get better.

And still I know, giving up is not an option for me.