(TW: depression, pain, hopelessness)

I know there's been a time when I haven't been in pain- but for the life of me, I can't remember what it felt like. It's something you take for granted, until suddenly it's gone, and once it's gone you can't seem to remember what it was like.

For me, it happened suddenly one day in my senior year of high school when I woke up with a headache. No one expects a headache that they just got one morning to last the rest of their life. You ignore it and expect it to go away, maybe take an ibuprofen. You push on and go to school, because there are tests to take and there's work to be done, and it's just a headache that you expect will go away in an hour or two, or at least within a day, right?

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Except it doesn't go away, not even for a moment. It's been nearly six years. Three neurologists. A spinal tap to rule out other possible conditions before a diagnosis of new daily persistent headache. Terrible pain after the spinal tap, where I went to class anyway because I can't stand to wimp out of class. I had to leave class to throw up blood in the bathroom from the pain, so I called for an ambulance and had to get a blood patch. That level of pain is how I calibrate my pain scale. That's a 9 to me, pain so intense it makes you puke blood. A 10 is pain bad enough that you would kill yourself to end, if only you could move. I've felt that way once from my normal headache, before I had meds to bring down the pain.

I've tried so many things. Biofeedback, mindfulness. Numerous drugs. Topamax made me so dumb that I got a D in a chemical engineering class and could barely remember my name or phone number half the time. It's amazing how waking up one day with a headache can end up affecting so many aspects of your life.

Sometimes I want to just give up and accept that I'll always be in pain. One neurologist told me it's probably going to be the rest of my life and said he didn't think he could do any more for it. I have a medicine that keeps the pain at about a 4 on my scale most of the time. Shouldn't that be good enough for me? Sometimes I start thinking everyone is pain all of the time, and I'm just a wimp who can't handle it as well as everyone else does, so I should either just deal with it or kill myself to end it. Other times, I want to keep fighting it and try new things. But I'm afraid that all I'll get out of it is more medical bills and nothing to show for it.

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I used to be so ambitious, used to think I could achieve so much. It was easy in high school to outpace everyone else, to become valedictorian by far and most likely to succeed. I feel like if I was really so capable of being successful, I should be able to push past the pain and keep going, like I always have. My only absence in middle school was when I was invited to a special event related to my career goals. I didn't miss a day of high school, even after the headache started. But it just gets harder as I go.

My first year of grad school was the first time I sought out help for depression, though it may have been lurking for longer than that. I know that my pain feeds into it. I feel weak and useless every time I let it slow me down. I want to be stronger. The suicidal ideation has gone away with Zoloft, but I still catch myself thinking stuff like "You're worthless. You don't deserve to eat" on particularly bad days. If the pain is worse than usual, if things aren't going right in lab, etc. I just want the pain to stop. But I don't even know what that's like anymore, so more realistically, I just want to be stronger. I want to be able to be like I was in my senior year of undergrad, able to manage tutoring 20 hrs/week, 18 credit hrs of classes, and 30 hrs/week in lab even with the pain. I should be able to. I should be able to work more through it. I can't seem to make it past 65hrs/week of working, between research and my TA duties. I know I should put in more time, but I'm just too weak. And all I can do is keep pushing forward and try to stop myself from wondering what could have been if I wasn't in pain all of the time. But the reality is that I'll be in pain for every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of the rest of my life. What's the point of hoping otherwise? Just have to keep pushing forward.

(Don't mainpage, please)