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Why I Don’t Keep a Headache Diary

Compared to the ratings in a person’s headache or pain diary — if it’s kept faithfully — most people who rate their pain retroactively recall it as worse than it actually was. I too have a recall bias, but it’s the opposite effect. I think of the pain and other symptoms of my chronic daily headaches and migraines as much less than it really was.

When someone asked me on Monday how I’d felt in the past week, I said that it had been a pretty good week. I thought that was right, until I reflected on the week. My pain and other symptoms were severe at that moment. Saturday and Sunday were terrible — until I took a nap and drugged myself up so I could enjoy myself each night. Friday I was pretty sure my migraine was going to kill me. I didn’t post on Thursday, which only happens when I’m miserable and can’t think.

It wasn’t because I wanted to hide the severity of my migraines from this person, who is a health care provider that I’m currently seeing. I was protecting myself from the truth: I had a horrendous headache for at least a few hours every day that week.

A headache diary makes me confront reality. It’s too sad to think about.

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