3. Semantics – Chronic Pain

“Do you have any Midol?” she asks me. She sits a seat away from me in one of my classes. We barely ever talk. She has a hand resting on her stomach, cramps then.  She’s asked me for a pad before but that’s about it. She must see me slip drugs from time to time.

“Yeah,” I mutter, it’s about time I take something anyway.

In my book bag, I’ve graduated from my the tiny roll of pills and carry around a small case with several compartments. I call it my little pharmacy. I pop open the part with the Midol, and give her two. She eyes the whole thing.

“I have chronic pain,” I say before she can say anything else.

Chronic pain. It’s a little more respectable than headache, plus I don’t get the ‘I know someone who has migraines,’ speech anymore. She looks sorry for me but doesn’t say anything as she pops the Midol out of the foil packets.

I pick three Bayer migraine out of the pack, swallow them with a sip of water. I put the case back in my bag.

Chronic pain. It’s not a lie, I experience pain chronically in the form of headaches. It’s just I can’t tell people I have headaches. They scoff. There’s a stereotype tied to headaches, a stigma. The stigma tells me to get over it, that it’s just a headache when it’s not. She’s not the type of person to tell me to get over chronic pain but she looks like she’d probably scoff at a headache.




2. Semantics – Migraine

“Hello Prof. E,

 I won’t be in class today due to a migraine.

Thanks, Emily

11 am MWF”

I click send and crawl back into bed. I sent 4 other emails that looked just like this.  I wrote migraine because I’ll get the unquestioned excused absence I desperately need for this awful headache. Calling it a headache doesn’t quite express what I try to get across. The preconceived notions and the society wide held stigma doesn’t allow ‘headache’ to cover what I experience.

I crawl back into bed. Tomorrow is my day off. I don’t have class until the day after, Wednesday. I close my eyes, the pain washes over me but I sleep back into sleep.

“Did you get my email?” I ask after class, I’ve asked this question twice already today.

“Yeah,” a look of sympathy crosses her face, “feeling better?,” she must be a mother, she gave me the same look my mom does. I’m sick of it. I should have said headache and dealt with the underestimation of my problem.

“Yeah,” I lie. The pain is steady increasing, I just want my head to collapse already, “Do you want a doctor’s note or anything?” I ask. Some professors need the note.

“No, no,” she gives me that motherly look. Just stop, “It’s fine,” she is gathering up her books, heading off to her next class.

“Okay, thanks,” I leave, off to my next class to have the same conversation with a different professor.

1. Semantics – Headache

“Do you get the vision problems?” A woman asks me. My mom started a conversation with her about my headaches and migraines and abandoned me midway through the conversation.

“Um, no,” I say, “I don’t have auras or anything. I just have headaches,” I say.

She gives me a weird look, one of betrayal.

“I don’t actually have migraines,” somewhere in my brain, someone’s screaming stop. I feel like I got my foot in my mouth, “just headaches,” I feel like I’m chewing around my toes.

She looks at me  like I’m a faker, a trader, an imposter. She doesn’t even have headaches, she’s telling me about her daughter. I’ve never seen someone so betrayed. I didn’t even start this conversation, my mom did. I got dragged into this via corrections. My mom always tells it all wrong.

I don’t get the auras or nausea, I’m not sensitive to light, sound or smells. I just have mind numbing, crippling pain. Isn’t that enough for you? Apparently not as she begins to tell me how fortunate I am that it’s just headaches and I don’t experience what her daughter experiences. Why are we arguing over what’s worse? It’s all head pain to me.


Zombie Pt. 2 (Dinner)

“Dinner’s done,” my dad is standing in my door way.

I’m staring blankly at my computer screen which has long timed out and the entire machine has shut off. I don’t know how long I’ve been staring at it, I didn’t even notice the music turned off. My spotify playlist still echoes in my ears.

“Okay,” I mumble.

He’s long since disappeared from my door way.

I stand up on uneasy legs. When was the last time I walked? It feels so foreign to me.

I stumble out in the kitchen, down the long darkened hallway into the light.

Am I dying?

To my left is the dinner table. Dinner is on the table, my mom and dad sitting there looking up at me.

Dinner then, not death. I’m kind of disappointed.

My stomach grumbles.

“Sit down,” My mom tells me, she gets up, “what do you want to drink?” she asks me.

“Water,” I mutter and stare down at my empty plate.

The clear bottle is set down next to me. I pick it up and it feels heavy. The cap was unscrewed for me.

I pick up my fork and it feels heavy too. Slowly I begin to eat. It hurts to chew. It hurts to blink. It hurts to breathe.

There are long bouts of silence in between heavy breaths while I eat and drink slowly. By the time my mom and dad are finished, I’ve barely ate.

I finish up and take my plate over to the sink. I drop it off for my mom. I walk back over to grab her plate and my dad’s off the table. I turn around and my mom is standing right there, taking them from me.

“Go get the dog dish out of your room and be done,” she tells me.

I mindlessly obey. I wander back to my room, get the dogs’ dish and bring it back out to be filled. I take it back to my room for the dogs. They run over to the dish, not minding me. They run around my legs, knocking me around. I swear loudly at them before moving over to my bed.

I fall onto it, curling up to the best of my ability. The pain in my head is too much. I wait until sleep consumes me.

Company in the Doctor’s Office

I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. There’s another boy here, waiting as well. He’s slumped down in the chair, his eyes glued to his phone in front of him.

Why is he here? Does he have headaches like me?

I look him over, trying to figure him out. He doesn’t look physically pained at the moment but maybe he hides it well. I’m not sure if the mismatched clothing is teenage rebellion or him getting dressed in the dark, half unconscious and in pain.

Maybe he has another neurological disorder, maybe epilepsy.

I still feel so alone. I have mixed feelings, excitement at the thought of someone else like me but overwhelming sympathy for someone else like me. The mismatched emotions make me sick.

The boy looks up over his game, his eyes to the door.

Ah, not sick. Waiting for someone.

Now I feel overwhelming lonliness, all alone with my headaches.

“Emily,” the doctor emerges from the main office. I stand and walk back, casting a backwards glance at the boy. Still playing on his phone. How nice that must be, to be the one waiting instead of being the patient.

Thank You Caffeine

After a touch and go day, I drank a can of soda (38 mg of caffeine) and took two Bayer Migraine (32.5 mg of caffeine each) and I’m feeling pretty good. Caffeine helps a lot and I hate a lot of caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea. I dislike drinking soda due to the high sugar and I’m still pretty picky about which ones I like. The combo of the caffeine from the soda and the pills in addition to the aspirin in the pills knocked my 3-4 headache out. Yay!


I pass one of my professors without even acknowledging him, I didn’t see him walking towards me.

“Good morning,” I hear him say, I walk past him. It takes a moment to register. The brain fog slows everything down to a crawl.

“Good morning,” I return, turning around to see him looking at me. He knows about the headaches, I flunked a test and explained it wasn’t me, it was the headaches. He was pretty understanding about it, his sister gets migraines. I still feel like a failure, I wanted to do well in his class, for him.

His eyes sweep me once. I take a step forward towards him. “You look gloomy,” he comments.

“What,” I say and I look down at myself. Black jeans, nearly black oversized sweatshirt, the only bit of color on my person is my faded light blue chucks. Despite being early in the morning, my hair has the tell tale signs of my hands being dragged through it and it’s damp from the rain. It’s not it’s bright chestnut brown with big curls but dampened down, almost black from the rain. The curls pulled straight from my fingers.  I wonder what my face looks like. I must have the hollow look from the headache. The ancient lighting in the building must be casting a wicked shadow on my face. I probably look terrifying, at least gloomy. “Um, I have a headache already this morning,” I gesture vaguely around my head.

“Oh sorry,” he mutters.

“I’ll be in class,” I tell him, “I’ll feel better,” I hope. I plan on taking a Vicodin later if I don’t feel any better, I’ll feel something then, that’s for sure.

“I hope you do,” he gives me a small smile.

I see why the other girls have a crush on him.

I return a broken hopeful smile.

“See you then,” he adds before ducking into his office and I’m on my way to class.