By Kerrie Smyres | May 30, 2013
I am a faker.
If I tried harder, I wouldn’t have migraine.
It is my fault that I have migraine.
I’m only sick for sympathy or attention.
If I were a stronger or somehow better person, I wouldn’t have migraine.
I have chronic migraine because I don’t want to work (and I have specific migraine attacks because I don’t want to clean the house/go out to dinner with that person/see that movie).
I am not as sick as I act like I am.
I am lazy.
I am weak.
I am a failure.
These are the migraine-related beliefs I uncovered in therapy yesterday. Talk about a landmine. Knowing I’ve been carrying around these harmful falsehoods most of my life makes me incredibly sad.
I am sad that I learned as a child — from adults who couldn’t see my illness and so didn’t believe I was sick, from kids who called me a faker, from a family who thought pushing through illness would always overcome it, from everyone who told me “headaches” were trivial — to ignore my body, to not trust myself and how I felt. I learned that illness is wrong and shameful and that by “giving in” to illness — or even admitting how sick I feel — means I am a failure.
I am sad that I have carried these notions so long. That even after eight years of writing about migraine and being called a migraine advocate, I still hold on to them. That I absolutely know these beliefs are untrue and yet I am still invested in them.
I am sad that I am not only sick with a physical illness, but with shame and self-hatred about that illness.
I am sad for all the migraineurs who hold tight to similar beliefs about themselves. And for the friends and families of migraineurs who believe such things about their loved ones.
I am sad to live in a society that sees any admission of difficulty as weakness. That treats illness as personal (or even moral) failure. That blames the patient for not improving.
I am sad for the little girl who internalized all these messages and for the adult woman who is still haunted by them.