Life is more than managing migraine – we all deserve a little sparkle

For those with health issues, an extended lockdown proves particularly challenging

Bridget O’Dea. Photograph: Dave Meehan

I’m finding it hard to write at the moment. Life, as my Dad would say, is lacking a bit of sparkle. It’s all a bit of the same. (Oh! how my tune has changed!)

I usually rely on being hit by a wave of inspiration at some point during the month to decide the theme of my column. It comes in the form of a chance encounter, a novel observation, a thought-provoking piece of art, an interesting conversation.

But you see at the moment, I’m not really doing anything.

This month, I’m pulling from the dregs of my brain for an idea. Two fully formed pieces have already been scrapped. Everything I say is just a bit . . meh.

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A t the beginning of the pandemic, many of us enjoyed the slower pace of living, myself included. We could step aside from the rat race of life. Lockdown, for some, offered an opportunity to pause and reflect, to engage in the simple activities once planned for retirement. But lockdown continues. And those activities don’t seem so much fun anymore.

The activities tended to the solitary. Socialising was limited. We relied on novel sock/sandal combos and baking mishaps to make us laugh. If lucky, we had a housemate, a partner, or family member, living with us to talk all things dishwasher tablets.

Of course, we're allowed do a little more now, provided we feel safe and comfortable to do so. Pubs and restaurants are reopening, exhibitions showing, groups allowed to meet. As I wrote in my last column, the lifting of restrictions hasn't felt an escape for me. I'm contending with two health threats when I go out; Covid-19 and migraine. But there are times that it is worth the risk. We aren't born just to exist.

When I worked in elder care, I was often disheartened at the lack of focus on stimulation in care plans. Emphasis was on ensuring clients’ physical wellbeing; hygiene and nutrition and bowel movements. There were, of course, many kind carers, who took a keen interest in engaging their clients in activities that they enjoyed. But we all need to be sparked by life. It keeps us alive. And now, more than ever, I am reminded of this.

People often assume that we, those with disabilities and chronic illness, should be satisfied with less living than our peers. That our need for stimulation is inferior. , when in fact, it is just made more difficult. Often for me, the decision to engage with life is paired with the threat of migraine.

It is not dissimilar to the current situation, if we go to the pub, or theatre, we risk catching Covid. Is it worth it? Though, it must be said, the threat of migraine does not put the health of others (or indeed our lives) in danger and there it differs.

Once, during a medical appointment, I was asked how I was feeling. I told the professional that I had left university and was now working a part-time job that I did not enjoy, however because it was so monotonous and under-stimulating, my migraines had eased.

“That’s wonderful,” she enthused. “I’m so happy to hear that!”

I was slightly less than enamoured My wellbeing does not rely alone on the state of my migraines.

On the first day back to my co-working space in July, I shot the breeze (or perhaps I should say, chewed the cud) for a joyful and ridiculous 20 minutes with a fellow co-working member on the topic of teeth. Total nonsensical chat about the enamel that hangs from your gums. And I felt ALIVE. These are the conversations or chance encounters that make life glitter. Talk that pertains to nothing useful but to entertain all parties. Even being in a new environment gave a refresh to my thinking.

When I returned home from my few hours in the co-working space, I was tired. My head was hurting. But I had a spring in my step, and a smile on those two fleshy things that shield my teeth. So many activities make my head worse. For me, the most stimulating activities tend to exacerbate my migraine, but pain is easier to manage when I am fulfilled and happy.

Life is more than managing migraine.

We all deserve for it to sparkle.