The Look

“I had a headache all weekend,” I begin, “and yesterday and I’m working on something today,” I tell her.

We are walking through the halls, stretching our legs during a short break in class. I was getting antsy sitting in class for so long, just sitting. My head is starting to ache, I want to get something to eat before I swallow some pills to ease the pain before it starts.

I look at her. She texted me telling she wasn’t feeling good some time during the weekend. I gave her sympathy, not telling her that I had one too at the time.

She gives me “the look”. My stomach sinks. I hate that look. It always feels like betrayal. It says, “you always have a headache. I know you have a headache. I’m tired of hearing it, shut up all ready.”

My mouth slams shut and I don’t say anything else. This is when the pain becomes isolating. That looks makes me realize how strange this condition is, how I’m not suppose to be this way. That look forces me to suffer in silence.

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Weekend Update 8 – Ups and Downs

 

Last Saturday, I had a small party with some friends for my birthday. We mostly sat around the fire and hung out all night. It was nice to be able just to sit down and hang out without having to worry about homework or anything else. Whenever we meet any other time, there are numerous textbooks or a screen between us as we scramble to finish work before class, only making idle conversation between the quiet hum of the library, the clatter of keyboard keys and the scratching of pens on paper. I didn’t have an awful headache, a side effect of the cymbalta. A high point for the week.

This week has been a series of ups and downs. I don’t know how the day will be when I wake up, in a slump where I feel tired and numb, I do not know if I’m on my way down or back up. I won’t know until later when I’m on one end of the spectrum. I am entire bursting with energy or a void, sucking energy from everywhere around me like a black hole. I can either not keep still, every part of me in motion or I am so still that there is only the occasional gentle rise of my chest as I breathe and a subtle slow blink. The only time I feel normal is when I’m in between and my head is aching a little bit. I’m not bursting full of energy but acting more like a machine, moving with purpose. The highs and the lows are pain free, the middle has low to moderate pain. I have not had a big episode in a long while but the threat is still looming on the horizon. I wait for it.

On Being “Sick”

 

It’s flu season again. Everyone has a sniffle or a cough. A chill has set in everyone’s chest. I got a flu shot despite probably not needing one. Historically, when I didn’t get a shot, I was still okay. I don’t get seasonally sick. I don’t develop a cold or the flu when it starts to get cold.

I see a lot of my friend develop these symptoms but I remain healthy for the most part. I always joke that I’m sick all the time, I have a headache all the time. Instead of feeling like absolute crap for a couple of weeks, I feel like crap for most of the year.

Except when I laugh at this joke, it’s that sick sardonic laugh that makes me realize how fucked up my situation is. I don’t even justify it as being sick. What does being sick mean? The connotative meaning of sick has a change of status from healthy to sick heavily embedded. That’s how you tell when someone is sick. They were healthy and now they’re not.

That’s where I’ve struggled with being “sick”. I think that’s where we trip up with chronic illness, the chronic part. There isn’t a change of status, it’s just a constant in our case. Before was so long ago that the people in our lives, the ones who judge healthy or sick, don’t remember or may not even know what healthy is suppose to look like. Other people can’t possibly know how we feel but they are the ones who judge, they drive the stigma. We are expected to be healthy when we’re not. Sick is our healthy to them.

I’m frustrated with the fact that I notice empty seats in class, and asking where they are when they’re home with a cold or the flu. I would love to be knocked off my feet with a cold or a flu and be allowed to stay home. If my migraines were contagious, would I be allowed to stay home? Maybe then everyone would be as scared as I am when I feel it coming on and expected to go to class or drive home.

Weekend Update 6 & 7

These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Since my last weekend update, my birthday occurred and I found myself on a sort of anniversary. I mark the progression of my years with headaches with my birthday. I usually have a migraine/headache on big days like that. It’ been 7 years. 7 years of pain. 7 years of questions left largely unanswered.

It’s been slow. My head ever the same.

I wonder if it will be like this next year.

Sick

We meander up to her office after running into each other in the hallway.

“I have an upper respiratory infection,” my friend to my left says. I took her to the doctor’s yesterday before class.

“I’m finally feeling better after feeling like crap forever,” my professor replies.

My friend goes on a long winded story about her own illnesses and her roommates illnesses this flu season. I zone out.

“How are your headaches?” my professor asks.

“I was about to say, I don’t get sick but I have a headache every day,” I laugh, “but yeah, pretty much the same as ever, I’ve been worse,” I shrug.

My professor, the one with migraines, laughs with me, sardonic, and sick. “Yeah, that is sick,” she replies.

Being chronically ill like me becomes the normal, it’s like anyone else’s healthy. It’s when someone is episodically sick, there is a change in status and that’s when you feel sick. Pain is the same constant as someone else’s wellness.

Car Radio

“Yeah, the radio is all messed up,” I comment as my sister puts the key in the ignition. I’m in the back seat, my head resting against the seat, lolled back. Her friend sits in the front seat.

The car starts and we hear how the radio is messed up. All the settings are wrong. All the sound comes through the front speakers on the doors but all the bass comes from the speaker above my head. It makes me nauseous, my head throbs out of tune with my heart beat. Instead throbbing to the radio.

“Turn it off,” I say, annoyed.

He turns it down.

“how’s that?” he asks.

My head still throbs. What part of ‘off’ did he not understand?

“Off,” I spit venomously. off, off, off.

My sister turns the dial all the way to the left, to silence.

“Thank you,” I say distantly and close my eyes. Silence, blissful silence.

Conversations (25)

“When are we going to be done here?” I ask my mom.

“Soon,” she answers,  “okay?” she asks.

She means ‘are you okay?”

I smile at her. “yeah,” I say sleepily, my head is starting to hurt more and more.

She turns and looks at me. “You sure?” her eyes scan my face, “you look like you’re starting to not feel good.”

“Fine,” I lie.