Friday, August 5, 2011

Please Don't Rubberneck My Painwreck

A person in my vicinity complains of a headache**. Then:

1. They shoot me a guilty look and apologize. I (try to) smile and say something like, "I don't have a monopoly on headaches, you go right ahead."

2. They shoot me a look of sympathy and start praising me like a martyr-saint, super-strong, amazing-inspiration to us all. I (try to) smile and say thanks and change the subject.

3. They shoot me a look of sympathy and start complaining about my life for me, asking me for all the gory details of chronic pain and disability. "How can you live like this?", they almost always ask. I don't have a quick line for these people. I don't want to make a joke, or give them a lecture on conversational etiquette. I don't want to be the ambassador of migraines, chronic illness or disability. I don't want to get mad, and I certainly don't want to share intimate details of my life with every looky-loo wanting to rubberneck my painwreck. It's uncomfortable.

4. They shoot me a look of disdain and ask if I'm still "having issues", with that tone that implies I am a hysterical woman who just needs to pull up my bootstraps.

5. No one says anything. This can continue in one of two ways.

a. A so-helpful third person pipes up to inform everyone that there is a STRANGE MIGRAINE ILLNESS in the room and then we're back to situations 1, 2, 3, and/or 4.

b. I hold my breath and try not to make any sudden moves. Maybe they know, and maybe they don't. I exhale as the moment passes without comment. This one is my favorite. I love not having to talk about it.

**I could easily exchange the word headache with migraine, or sound/light/scent/motion sensitivity, or being young, legally disabled, and/or sick; they're all the same, for the purposes of this post. But the common headache is the most frequent prompt of these exchanges, so I went with it.


Diana Lee said...

You know what I say to "How can you live like this?" What alternative is there?

Dumb, dumb, dumb people.

Sue said...

I so totally hear you. The worst for me is the "sad head tilt" combined with the "I don't know how you do it!"

Like Diana, I'm generally tempted to name the obvious - I'm still on the right side of the grass.

Sheesh, as if pain isn't enough to deal with, right?

Jessica said...

Ugh....I hate when people complain of a headache, then look at me. I try to avoid those conversations...or any for that matter related to my health.