We’ve all had that special occasion that we’ve spent months planning for and looking forward to. When you have your outfit planned, the location secured, time booked off work, babysitters organised and money safely tucked away. When all angles are covered and nothing can possibly go wrong. Right? Well, those of us who live with migraine know that it doesn’t always work out like that.
I was reminded of this harsh reality recently…
The build up
On a specific morning last year, I got up extra early to make sure I didn’t miss out on purchasing the must-have tickets of the season: Ed Sheeran was coming to Dublin and I was going to be there. Both my phone and tablet were logged onto the ticket buying website, and I was furiously refreshing both devices, praying for one to finally give me the magic screen that says: ‘buy tickets’.
And there it was!
Quick as a flash I bought two tickets for the Wednesday night show. I was going to watch my Eddie with my sister who lives in the U.K. and whom I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. This was going to be a great night. When you have three small kids at home and live with chronic migraine, these nights don’t come often enough. I was going to make the most of it.
We booked a hotel room in Dublin city for the night to make it extra special as we planned to go out after the gig for some much needed sister-time. The concert was on a Wednesday night and unfortunately I wasn’t able to secure the day off work as I had a presentation. Instead, I managed to book a half day so that I could meet my sister for a late lunch before we set off for the gig.
The big day
On the big day I woke up feeling well rested and refreshed. I went to work and did my presentation which went well, and at 1 p.m. I hurried out of work to meet my sister. We had a lovely lunch, then quickly changed and got ready to go.
On the way out to the Phoenix Park I started to feel a little tired, but I put it down to having had a busy day and kept going.
The atmosphere in the park was electric. 65,000 people had gathered to have fun and enjoy the experience. I sipped at the glass of wine my sister had got for me, but wasn’t in the mood for alcohol. We were chatting, taking selfies and generally having fun.
Yet, I could feel something wasn’t quite right. When Ed Sheeran finally took to the stage at 9 p.m. we were so excited. We pushed our way forward to secure a good location and got ready for a great night. But I could feel myself getting worse. By this time my head was throbbing and I started to feel ill. Nausea and vomiting are a regular side effect of my migraine attacks so I immediately knew what it was.
From afar I could hear my sister asking if I was OK as I had become very pale, but all I could think was that I needed a bathroom, and quickly! Of course bathrooms are hard to come by in the middle of fields, but I would have settled for anything though. And settle I did as I ran towards the port-a-loos! As I got nearer all I was thinking was: ‘Please God, let there be toilet paper in there.’
Unfortunately I didn’t quite make it to the port-a-loo on time and ended up being sick on the way. Around me, people were staring and judging me. They obviously assumed that I was drunk and unable to manage my alcohol. Despite the reality being very different I felt deeply ashamed. When you live with a chronic illness you have to deal with negative judgements all the time. For the thousandth time I thought how lovely it would be if we lived in a society that tried to empathise with instead of judge people without knowing all the facts of what others are going through.
I’m sad to say I spent the majority of my night at Ed Sheeran in the port-a-loo. As most are familiar with the concept I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s the last place you want to be on your special night out. Or any night for that matter. As the symptoms of my migraine took over, I felt worse and worse. My head was pounding, I felt miserable and worse of all I had lost my sister in the crowd.
We found each other eventually and made our way back into the city, me equipped with my sick bag in hand. I felt so guilty. Not only that my perfect night was ruined, but also that I had ruined my sister’s night who had travelled so far to be here and gone to so much expense in the process.
Back at the hotel my sister washed and looked after me, all plans for our great night out in the city truly put to bed. The next day I felt a little better, but the migraine was still present.
I was just not up for a day of shopping and exploring the city of Dublin. After checking out early my sister had to drive me home as I am unable to drive since my eyesight can get affected with a severe migraine attack. Once home I escaped to my darkened room to recover while my sister and my husband chatted below and she updated him on the night’s sad events.
I know that she didn’t blame me and I know she understands my condition, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty and ashamed. Migraine can be so debilitating sometimes.
A learning experience
Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back, there are a few things I would have done differently. Firstly, I would have tried harder to have taken the day of the concert off. Being busy and stressed with having to give a presentation lowered my threshold and contributed to me getting a migraine attack. Second, I would have eaten earlier. I had worked all day and it was well after 2p.m. before I had lunch. Eating regularly helps me manage my migraine.
But honestly I also know that sometimes you can do all the right things and prepare as well as you can and then migraine will still arrive to ruin your night. That’s what living with migraine is like.
There is no point in beating ourselves up when things don’t go according to plan. More importantly, it should not stop us from planning the next event or trying to live our lives to the full. For too long I, like many other people living with chronic illness, locked myself away for fear of what might happen.
I know the people who love me most don’t judge or blame me when things don’t go exactly the way we planned. And I know even if some nights don’t work out because of migraine, the ones that do are just so worth it.
UK/MED/19/0201 August 2019