Masks – Putting on a show
Today’s prompt: Read If by Rudyard Kipling and reflect on how it might apply to migraine and headache disorders.
This poem is new to me. So naturally I was curious about the author and the background of the poem. Having only known Kipling for his work, The Jungle Book, it was nice to learn more about him. In my quick review, I discovered that If was regarded as an accurate depiction of the ideal English gentlemen. It is almost as if he is saying, “Keep a stiff upper lip and put on a good show, my boy!”.
I know a thing or two about putting on a good show in the face of tragedy and pain. I bet you do, too. I’ve gotten so good at it that my own husband can’t tell when I am hurting. He knows me better than anyone else and is very perceptive. Yet not 2 days ago he stops in the middle of dinner and asks, “Are you hurting right now? I just can’t tell. You seem fine.”
I suddenly realize that I’d been wearing a mask all day long when I answered honestly, “Yes, I am hurting. The pain isn’t bad and my head doesn’t hurt, but I have pain all the time. I can’t remember the last time I was pain-free.”
I carry pain around with me constantly. I don’t get to take it off like a coat or a pair of shoes, yet few people would ever know. Sure, I talk about it online quite a bit. Even that gets sugar-coated sometimes. It’s not like I spend my day telling the bank teller, the cashier, and the gas station attendant all about my aches and pains.
Some time ago I adopted a new way of thinking about pain. I began to label my days as “red”, “yellow”, or “green” based on the level of activity I was able to accomplish despite the pain. Most days are “yellow” — I can do some things but must be cautious, take breaks or use various treatments to control the pain. A few times each week I am unable to accomplish much of anything and a few more days each week pain doesn’t interfere with my goals.
No one will ever see me on a “red” day unless they are family, a very close friend, or a doctor I am begging for help. On “yellow” days, you won’t be able to tell that pain is slowing me down. And my “green” days, while relatively good for me, would probably put the average person in bed.
I don’t wear this mask for myself. I wear it for everyone else. No one wants to spend time with someone who is always hurting. So when I can’t hide my pain, I step away. Honestly, most people will never see the reason that migraine and cluster headache have left me totally disabled. I think I like it that way. If asked, I won’t lie. I just might not volunteer the information without some prompting.
The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Dreaming of a World without Migraine and Headache Disorders. The 2014 Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is a project of American Headache & Migraine Association.
It’s your turn!
Take a close look at the photos below. Each is a snapshot of a moment sometime in the last four years. I have been sicker in the past four years than I have been since 2000. It was during this time that I had to give up work and apply for disability benefits.
Can you determine the severity of my pain just by looking at these photos?
- In which photo had I just finished a second cluster attack for the day?
- In which one did I have a “migraine hangover” (postdrome)?
- In which one was I developing a migraine (prodrome & aura)?
- In which one was the migraine in full swing (acute pain phase)?