Connection. It's one of the most primal human desires. We feel better when we know we're not alone. There is strength in numbers. I think that's why it can be so natural to feel a flood of relief and connection when we learn of someone else with a medical resume similar to our own. "Oh my god, you too?!" It means we're not alone. It means that as shitty as we feel, or as debilitating as what we're suffering through might be, there is this life line of connection with someone else having a similar experience. And when that someone turns out to be someone on your family tree? Misery loves that company even more. Why? Again, I think it all comes down to connection.
Beyond just a shared connection of medical maladies, when you actually share DNA with these people too, the connection resonates a little more strongly. In my case, this type of recent connection came from just learning yesterday (through Facebook, go figure) that one of my first cousins has suffered from debilitating chronic migraines, and now an onset of widespread pain suspected to be fibromyalgia. Ever since the start of my migraines around age 12 I'd thought I was the only one in the family to suffer from them. No one in my immediate family had more than the odd headache here or there, and definitely no migraines. None of the cousins that I knew of shared the proclivity for focal aura, searing head pain, and vomiting either. I thought I was just the chosen one being sacrificed at the altar of the migraine gods.
After posting on Facebook recently about my upcoming Botox treatment for my chronic migraines, one of my cousins out West wrote me that she too had chronic migraines. Hers even reached a point of being so frequent and severe that she was unable to work for quite some time. I somehow managed at the same time to feel empathy towards her obvious suffering, and yet feel so relieved to learn there was someone else in the family with this condition. I wasn't alone!
My cousin then shared that while her migraines had improved, she had widespread pain suspected to be fibromyalgia (sounded like still waiting for an "official diagnosis" on that). Again, I felt a wave of what I can only explain to be relief and connection. "Oh my god, you too?!" Here in front of me (virtually speaking) was one more blood relative to share this condition. Misery must love company, because it felt... honestly somewhat vindicating to know another person in the family (likely) has fibromyalgia. I share 50% of my DNA with my mom, and we both have fibro, and now my cousin and I share 25% of our DNA and both have it. It makes me feel like less of a medical oddity, and a little more oddly comforted. I share a number of great traits with those in my family tree: A+ smarts, dashing good looks, curly hair that makes combs utterly unnecessarily, and a petite sized frame that means leg room is never an issue on airplanes. However, that means we also share a number of less desirable things, like asthma, allergies, and a tendency towards heart disease, stroke, and cancer. But I never knew migraines were on that shared list, and until now thought fibromyalgia was just a special mother-daughter bond. Somehow, the thought that they both run deeper than that gives me a sense of comfort. A sense of connection.
And that's the entire reason for this blog. To create connection. To let others out there suffering know that you're not alone. I may not share my DNA with you, but that doesn't mean we can't create a form of connection. I may not even share the exact same diagnosis with you, and that doesn't mean we can't create a form of connection either. Whether we share blood, a common diagnosis, or simply the common challenge of living with a chronic and invisible illness, I am in this with you. You are not alone.