Of all the discouraging wounds that post-stroke migraines bestowed upon me, by far the worst was turning chocolate into my enemy.
(Regular Zuskateers know that about a decade ago I had a migrainous stroke, and the stroke itself made my migraines worse, to the point that I was forced to quit working. I have never yet been able to return to the workforce.)
Right at the first, nearly blind, I had no migraines at all. Alas they were not rooted out. As my vision returned, the migraines crept back into my life. Have you seen English ivy working its uninvited way up a tree? Even an oak must eventually succumb to the slow smother. So it was for me as the migraines in time had me felled, bedridden in pain.
Before the stroke I had never really had what one may call "triggers" - specific foods or events that were reliably connected to production of a migraine. After the stroke the world around me rapidly mutated into one big trigger, as once innocent foods and things and weather turned on me. Raw onions; then cooked onions; then anything with the slightest amount of onion powder in it - even ketchup, even the dollop you might put on a hamburger. Peanut butter; then yogurt; then bananas. Red wine goes without saying, and while we're at it, say nothing about any form of alcohol. One day, it was just a single small whiff of someone's cigar smoke from afar that did me in.
Visual triggers were now a problem, too. Many things interacted with my scotoma, a remnant of my stroke-blindness. Switching tv channels too rapidly. Bright sunlight on winter afternoons. Very busy lighted displays in an electronics store. The cover of Oliver Sack's book "Migraine", depicting a painting by a migraneur of his mosaic aura. Any depiction of a visual aura. Looking at the rotating rows of corn on a cob as I rolled it in butter.
I had once pooh-poohed the notion that changes in the weather could cause a migraine, but no more. Every approaching thunderstorm made my head ache, or ache worse if already sore.
There was so little left that I could eat - everything had onion powder in it. There was so little I could safely look at and be certain of unmenacing ocularity. There was nowhere I could hide, for we lived in Kansas, and Kansas was always having thunderstorms drop by to visit.
But I still had chocolate. Chocolate was my friend. It would never hurt me.
Until it did. With a vengeance.
Mr. Z theorized that it was cheap chocolate that hated me and that high-end chocolate would do me no harm. Naturally the experiment must be done! We bought the best we could find. I took one eager bite of one most desirably delicious truffle and BAM! You go to your room right now, young lady, and stay on your bed! No playing with any of your toys till you think about what you've done and say you're sorry!
During this period I slid into despair about my life, about its ever-narrowing, tighter, restrictive circle. I wept openly to Mr. Z that all was now pointless. He gripped me firmly by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, and said:
"Someday, this will change. Someday you will eat raw onion again. I know it."
Well, he might as well have said "Someday, wild geese will voluntarily stop shitting all over the sidewalks next to every little man-made pond." It was that ridiculous. He didn't even say "you will eat chocolate"; he went straight to raw onion, the first and worst of my enemies. But he said it with such gentle strength and force of conviction that I believed him.
I asked him if he really thought so, and he said yes, and did he promise, and he said yes, and there was a hug and a kiss, and I believed. This, Zuskateers, is the only time in my life I have ever felt actual faith. I had absolutely no evidence, nothing to go on, no reason to suggest that I would ever again eat raw onion atop a hamburger on a bun with a dollop of ketchup and smile afterwards. But I let loose my despair, and shouldered up just the backpack of pain and depression. Perhaps, just perhaps, I would eat onion someday.
This man, Zuskateers, had seen every bit of my journey. He stood by me night and day and never uttered a single complaint about his burden. No whining about how we didn't go out to restaurants anymore, or the foods we didn't eat anymore (because an ill person and a working person don't have strength and time to cook separate meals), or the places we didn't go together, or the necessity of issuing warnings for tv channel surfing, or the need to wait on me with food and drink and medicine when I was wrapped solid in migraine vines. No fuss about the endless doctor appointments. He offered me the tender care a mother would give a beloved child. And he lent me his strength to carry on at the moment I was most in need.
Over time, his continued care and regular botox treatments vanquished the enemies, one by one. The last shall be first, and the first last - Chocolate, o my beloved Chocolate! You are once again mine!
And so on, and so on, until sometime five or six years ago, my dear Zuskateers, I. ate. raw. onion. I did! I did! I did!