Chronic Migraine, Coping, Mental Health

Proving to Myself I’m Not a Faker

Everyone else will tell me that I couldn’t possibly be exaggerating my symptoms or being lazy. Too bad I tell myself the opposite. Pretty much constantly the last few days.

Last Tuesday, I ran errands, napped and saw my massage therapist. I was home by 3 p.m. and crashed — for the rest of the week. Beyond getting mail from the front porch, I literally didn’t leave my house until Saturday night.

Yet I’m convinced that I’m faking it. That my headaches and migraines haven’t been too bad; they’re an an excuse to read instead of attending to everything else in my life. So I have pushed myself to clean the contents of our basement (which flooded last Monday) out of the dining room and empty the dishwasher and check e-mail. And, and, and.

For once, I’m remembering that I’m not guiding this illness. I have been so sick the last two months that I can’t even keep appointments with doctors and massage therapists. As much as I berate myself for not actively seeking treatment, I know that I am honestly unable to right now.

I’m holding tight to the good hours I’ve had in the last week. Thursday and Saturday started well; Friday was good overall. Each day I was up and active until the pain, fogginess and nausea overwhelmed me. I was thrilled to be doing chores.

This isn’t the life of a faker. I’m not a faker. If only I were — I could be free of this misery and piece my life back together. I know all this deep down, but my mind stalls at self-criticism. Today I hear the faint murmurings of truth hiding under layers of doubt and judgment.


Staged Recovery

As I type, I’m on the couch in my third stage of migraine recovery. I’ve moved beyond lying in bed (stage one) and lying on the couch (stage two) to sitting up on the couch. I’m actually bordering on stage four, where I get up and do small things around the house then sit down to regenerate. I’ve made oatmeal and taken some papers upstairs.

I never realized that there was a steady progression to my recovery. Hart’s mom is in town, so I’m more aware of what I’m doing when. Not that she’s an evil mother-in-law, I actually adore her. It’s just that I pay more attention to my movements, wondering if I’ll be able to walk down and rent a movie or get coffee — anything that’s more entertaining than sitting around.

It’s strange to recognize the rituals that accompany chronic illness. I wonder what else I do regularly without realizing it. There’s the nap, then caffeine, then meds process for treatment. The advancement from acknowledging that a headache is coming to trying to ignore the headache to reading on the sofa to moving to bed to nap. And that I put on a happy face every time I’m in public, whether it’s for a barista, friends or a doctor.

We’re creatures of habit, I suppose. But I have to wonder if mixing up the steps sometimes, or even skipping them, would change my pain. Now the question is if I have the guts to make a change.



Admittedly I’m a slob by nature, but I also prefer to spend my low headache pain time doing something I enjoy, which isn’t cleaning. I love having a pretty house and like it to be clean, but one of my talents is stepping over junk on the floor as if it didn’t exist. I also rarely notice something that’s out of place.

I mentioned to a good friend how (in)frequently I clean my shower. She literally wrinkled her nose. The scrubbing wears me out and I have to rest for a couple hours after I do it. Of course, the scrubbing might not be so exhausting if I kept on top of it.

My purpose isn’t to tell you about by housekeeping skills, but to consider how even my closest friends don’t know how awful I feel most of the time.

When someone asks how I feel, I either say it’s been a nasty week or, more often, that I’m doing OK. I even do it here. Part of this is because I easily forget how much pain I was in a couple days ago. Unless I can remember being out of commission, I think that I felt OK. Even if I didn’t. Part of it is that I don’t want to be a complainer.

Maybe my surefooted navigation of the messy floor contributes to my ability to pretend that the pain isn’t so bad. Honestly, I delude myself just as often as I misrepresent my pain to my friends. That’s not such a bad thing. But it would be nice to let my friends know what’s going on.