Huh, wow, I must really not have wanted to post this. It’s now just shy of a year after the birthday this references. In some ways, turning 41 actually seems worse. Over the hill. I actually had a (horrible) appointment last week where someone from whom I was asking for pain management support suggested I join a CrossFit gym because other women who were middle-aged and had health issues went there. There were so many things wrong with that statement, but it being inferred that I’m middle aged for the first time was, uh, kind of sh*tty.
I wrote this last year, a few months into a backslide in my migraine attacks. At the time, I thought it was a temporary flare. It was not. My attacks have become, and remain, daily and pretty severe. The sentiment, however, is the same.
It has taken me a few months to fess up to this, but I turned 40 years old in March (2019). I didn’t want a party. I didn’t even want people to acknowledge it – my family, friends, anyone. I left my birthday on Facebook, but turned off the ability for people to comment. I didn’t want people to send happy birthday wishes when happy was the last thing I was feeling about the occasion.
I also did want to field sentiments like, “Hope you feel better soon,” or “Wishing a cure for your migraines.” The impossible-ness of those wishes are always hard to hear. I was in the middle of setback in my migraine healing; my attacks had been worse since the beginning of the year. Turning 40 during such a period of poor health felt like failure. It felt like a major milestone missed. This wasn’t where I thought my life would be at 40.
It doesn’t help that I feel like I’ve lost years. First, I lost years to school. I spent years… forever… in graduate school. I already felt behind some of my peers because of this. Except that was my choice. Then chronic illness cost me years that I didn’t sign up for. For this reason I feel perpetually stuck in my mid-thirties. That was how old I was when my migraine attacks began to worsen, transitioning from low episodic to chronic and then daily.
Between years of grad school and chronic illness, hitting life’s milestones has just become out of reach. I have do not own a home, have no career, and I’m not healthy enough to travel on exotic vacations. Dating with a chronic illness is difficult, especially in rural Vermont where the selection is… slim.
What I’m coming to realize, though, is that there wasn’t a predestined life laid out for me that I’m missing. It never existed. I’m being unfair to myself to mourn dreams. This is my life and I need to make of it what I can. Right now, it may not seem like much, but I’m working to make my world larger, while trying to be content with what is in it.
I hope that the future brings better health. That seems like the biggest key to regaining some of the life, milestones, dreams I’ve had to let go of over the past few years. Because, while it isn’t productive to mourn those things, I don’t see the harm in hoping they might still be achievable. It’s a subtle difference in mindset.
Now, months after writing this, I’m as sick as ever, but not feeling quite as dramatically bummed about my birthday. It is what it is. I still keep trying to balance the reality of my current health with finding better health. And next week, when I blow out my 41 candles, it’s probably pretty obvious what I’ll wish for.