What does it mean to be a hero?
On this day in 2003, Private Jessica Lynch received a hero’s welcome home after being rescued from captivity as a POW during the US-led invasion of Iraq. The media, in cooperation with the US Army, reported a sensational and exaggerated story characterizing her as a GI Jane who fought back against her attackers. Lynch refuted this story when she spoke before Congress in 2007, crediting her fellow soldiers for bravery and heroism instead.
Last year I had the privilege of hearing her speak at the 2015 AHMA conference. She shared the story of her capture and subsequent rescue. She also shared of her long and difficult recovery, including the grief and PTSD that she continued to face. Because it was a headache and migraine conference, she emphasized the headache pain she experienced and the lack of response to her pleas for help. Eventually she did get treatment for migraine as a part of her overall care. We had the privilege of meeting her doctor, too.
I know what it is to put on a brave face for the sake of others. I also know that playing the hero has an short shelf-life. Breaking down, falling apart, collapsing…whatever you want to call it…happens to all of us more often than anyone will ever know. We force ourselves to make an appearance, only to be told…”You look so good!” Reality is so very different. No one sees the heroic effort involved in making ourselves “look good.” No one will ever see the terrible price we pay so that they can feel comfortable in the false knowledge that we are “okay.” It is exhausting — no, that’s not strong enough — soul-draining is more accurate. The cost is higher that most can understand. It is a unique perspective afforded to those whose health challenges will never be resolved.
Jessica, you are not my hero because you were a soldier, a POW, or wounded in battle. You are my hero because you keep fighting a war that none of us will ever see and few will understand.
This article is part of the July 2016 Ultimate Blog Challenge