This weekend I attended the AHMA Patient Conference in Washington, DC. As I write this post, I am on a return flight home to Kansas City. While packing for this trip, I realized I was about to spend the weekend with people I met online. These migraine friends knew a lot about me. What if they were not who the said they were? I wondered for a moment if I wasn’t being insanely reckless.
The minute I saw that first familiar face, I knew the trip was not a mistake. The names, faces, and stories were already familiar. It was like coming home after a long journey. We wrapped each other in hearty “bear” hugs, laughed, cried, and picked up where we left off like old friends. We talked for hours without a break. The only thing that could stop us was Migraine itself.
No one else understands Migraine quite like another migraineur. We have already shared intimate details of our lives, cried together when treatments failed, and enjoyed virtual celebrations for each success. Coming together in the real world did not change any of that. Sitting down to share a meal and conversation was easy. When some friends were forced to cancel their dinner plans because Migraine flared up, we sent our good wishes via text and breathed prayers that the attacks would stop soon. We swapped stories, teased the young waiter, and laughed harder than I remember laughing in a very long time. Fake friends do not do that. Our friendship may have started in the virtual world, but there is nothing virtual about our bond. Meeting face-to-face has made our friendships stronger.
Only another Migraineur can understand a bag full of prescriptions, a freezer full of ice packs, or a dozen different pillows, rice bags, and the many precautions we take every day. Now imagine joining only migraineurs for dinner at a restaurant. Everyone inspects the menu for trigger-free selections. Some can have a glass of wine and others cannot. Some can eat that chocolate desert while others choose the fruit. No one tells you to “live a little,”, “just relax,” or offers ridiculous snake oil cures.
The faces were familiar. So were the signs of our shared diseased. Dark sunglasses, that “pain mask” expression, hands that massaged the temples and neck – the signs were not ignored. The room was filled with an empathy larger than the people themselves were. We radiated it.
There is nothing more hopeful than knowing you are not alone. No matter how bad it gets, Migraine friends do not leave because you cancel plans. Instead, they cancel their plans just to sit with you until the attack finally disappears.
Now that is hope.
The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge
is organized by the American Headache and Migraine Association.
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