I’ve written here before that I have migraines–chronic migraines. Whenever a therapist gets wind of that, they always make some version of this face:
Last week, I was doing the deep dive into some very old “stuff” with my therapist. I leaned over and started rubbing my head which caused him to blurt out, “Are you getting a migraine?”
I wanted to say this…
Instead I just politely said, “No, I’m just scratching an itch. I’m fine.” I really was fine. I don’t know if you ever feel like this, but the experience of having a clinician or even a friend causally link physical symptoms like chronic migraines or autoimmune diseases to past trauma grates on me. It has happened so many times over the years that I have developed a maladaptive coping strategy of hiding any and all symptomology in order to avoid oncoming interrogation and analysis. Does stress trigger a migraine? Sometimes. Alas, correlation is not causation. Many other things do as well like aged cheese, sleep deprivation, and MSG.
Hiding one’s physical symptoms is not a good idea. I freely admit this. Pretending to be fine when you’re not isn’t a great approach in the long run. I tell myself that I do it in order not to stress everyone around me. I believe that my symptoms cause people more stress and worry. My kids, however, are older now. They know when something is off, and they know when I’m faking it. It has been suggested to me that I stop hiding my symptoms and begin being truthful.
Well, that sucks. You mean I have to start being truthful about how I feel physically?
So, what am I not being honest about here? I have a complicated health history that makes even the most steely physician cry. This is why many people like to blame it on past trauma. My past trauma is extreme. All the more reason to play that card, but it would be premature and lazy to do that.
Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with a blood disorder. A really annoying blood disorder. This blood disorder, however, explains a lot of my other autoimmune conditions quite nicely. In fact, it could be the reason I have the other issues. In other words, all my autoimmune diagnoses might be manifestations of this singular blood disorder diagnosis, and, from a diagnostic perspective, that’s pretty cool. It could also explain my long list of allergies. Imagine that. One diagnosis explaining almost everything that is wrong with me–including the migraines. It’s almost miraculous in terms of a diagnosis. The treatment? Management. Not cool. High dose medications that control certain cells in my body. That’s okay, I guess.
What’s the downside? Some of these medications just happen to lower the seizure threshold. That’s totally fine if you don’t have a seizure disorder, but I do. I’ve been seizure-free for 16 years. What happened this week? I had a seizure thanks to all those medications. What did I try to do? Hide it. Was that a bad idea? Apparently.
My daughters were very upset with me. Someone close to me explained to me why I needed to start including people in on these types of events. Honestly, I’d rather go into my room, get it over with, and come out. That is what I’ve always done in the past. A question was asked of me, “Were you conditioned to do that?”
Well, my mother was not helpful, and my ex-husband always bailed when I was ill. I learned to handle all kinds of health issues alone–even seizures. This has become normal to me. Is it normal? For me? Yes. Is it normal? I did not want to answer.
Okay. Would I want someone to have a seizure by themselves? Of course not. There are myriad reasons why they should not. I have a friend with a seizure disorder. I have stayed with her during her preictal, ictal, and postictal times. It would be wrong–almost immoral–to abandon her.
There cannot be two sets of rules–one set applying to me and the second applying to others. We treat others as we treat ourselves. I have to give up this maladaptive coping strategy, and I feel suddenly very exposed and vulnerable. I do not want to broadcast or share my physical symptoms. Have a seizure? In front of people?
I guess not.
My boyfriend suggested that I treat it as a trust fall. Trust fall?! Oh god…
He’s right. I find certain things relatively easy, but this isn’t. Telling people that I’m actually really sick and need legitimate help puts me in a very vulnerable position, and I hate feeling vulnerable in that way. But, this is how we heal. It’s how we allow people to get close to us. I want to run off and be sick alone. Like wild animals do. They do it to preserve themselves. That’s probably why I do it, but I don’t think I need to do that anymore.
I will say this. Life provides us with many opportunities to heal–even when we are sick.
Just stay present. You’ll see.