If you’re the friend who recently got an earful after asking me this question…sorry about that. Ever since developing chronic migraine disorder, certain questions rub me the wrong way. And what’s worse, my preferences change over time, so certain questions that seemed good two years ago just don’t anymore.
For example: “Are you in a lot of pain right now?” This one’s hard to answer lately.
Similarly, “Are you feeling better?”
After 2.5 years of battling a chronic pain condition, I’ve (mostly) made peace with this simple fact: I’m not getting better.
Sure, I’m managing my condition much more effectively now than I have in the past. And at this exact moment, I’m in less pain than I was yesterday at this time. But neither of these amounts to “feeling better,” not really. Because we often equate the word “better” with the word “recovered.” Or I do, at least. And it’s my echo chamber that you’re choosing to read right now, so you’ll need to humor me.
When a friend gets a cold, and I ask if they’re feeling better, what I really want to know is if their cold’s gone. Have they recovered? Has their body removed the threat to their health and energy? Are they back to normal now?
The morning after a migraine, the answer to the question “Are you feeling better?” is, technically, yes. I am feeling better than when I was in the middle of a migraine. But have I recovered? Has my body removed the threat to my health and energy? Am I back to normal now? No, definitely not. I am–every day–sensitive to light, wary of loud noises, pretty tired, prone to bouts of anxiety and depression, and flirting with another migraine.
What does it mean to feel “better” if my absolute best is still miles away from how I felt before developing a chronic pain condition? On my good days, emotionally, I accept every relative improvement as a gift. But on my bad days, I miss what I used to be able to do, and how I used to feel, and that’s all I think about when I hear the word “better.”
But did my friend do anything wrong by asking me if I was feeling better? No, I don’t think so. Not many people have chronic migraine, but there are many, many people who have experienced seismic, irreversible changes in their lives.
On second thought, hasn’t everyone? Haven’t you?
“In the before times…”
“Back when things were normal…”
“Before these unprecedented times…”
Do any of these sound familiar?
When life throws curveballs like this, the daily challenge is to stop yearning for the old normal, and to get out of the mindset which says that “better” isn’t worth celebrating just because it’s not “best.” Because with every loss that’s made my “best life” forever unachievable, I’ve gained a new perspective, a new way of looking at the world. And for me, as a Christian, each change in my perspective also changes how I see God, and how I relate to Him. I come to know Him more, bit by bit, and I grow to trust Him more, too.
And that’s much better, depending on how you look at it.