I'm writing this as I'm battling a strange migraine. I was feeling crappy while at work, so my boss let me know that I could go home early. You'd think that I'd be jumping for joy and rushing home to take a nap. Nooo....I had to debate internally and with a coworker about whether or not I should go home. I've worked through worse migraines than these. Granted, I was also part time, hourly, benefits-less at the time, but the guilt is there. Is it bad enough, or am I just a wimp?
After some debate, and after another rush of mild nausea, I decided to go home before it got worse, especially since it seems that Axert, my usual go-to migraine medicine, wasn't working. Walking to the bus wasn't too bad. The sun was extra bright, but nothing squinting hard couldn't handle. The extreme sound sensitivity I had this morning was gone. On the train, I felt out of it. Walking home, I felt tired. Then I ate, and tried to nap. I ended up reading. I wasn't tired. And laying down, I felt fine. Except for the thoughts, including the old scripts, running through my head.
Damn. I'm a wimp. No, I should take care of myself. People will think I'm faking it. I should have toughed it out and not said anything. The house needs cleaning. Just woman up and do the laundry. I wish I would barf like I did with my old sort of migraines. Then that's proof I'm truly sick. Not this weird vise-like thing on the back of my neck, front of my head, and the back of my shoulders. Damn. My arms are tingling. I guess this is the real deal. But I can still work through it. Now I feel okay. Now I feel crappy again. Fuck, my arms are still tingling. This is new. And scary. I'm being such a wimp.
I'm still feeling guilty for going home early even as the migraine gets worse. I know it's all old scripts, though. I used to have really bad migraines in high school. I forget when they started--I think after my cochlear implant surgery, and around the time I started working for a upscale fast food restaurant. It was a crappy, stressful situation at work...and at home. My migraines rarely hurt, and if they do, it's mild-moderate. Extreme light sensitivity, and any movement of my head would send the room spinning. It would take me hours to recover, and I would feel vaguely ill for days. Additional stress would make the room spin temporarily during the recovery phase. Namely, when dad raged at one of us. Which was quite often.
When stricken with a migraine, I'd lay on the couch in the living room, since it was closer to the bathroom for puking purposes. I'd lean off the couch so my feet could steady myself on the floor, but keep my head and upper body perfectly still on the cushions. I remember dad and mom taking care of me. Turning off the lights in the living room. Making sure I had fluids, and letting me drink from a straw so I wouldn't have to move my head.
Two weeks after my cochlear implant surgery, dad raged at me. I don't remember why. I was upset, crying. I retreated to my room in the basement to try to recover. My nose was completely stuffed up, and I couldn't get it cleared. I was under doctor's orders not to blow my nose for a couple of months, but I needed to take care of the big dripping mass of snot flowing from both of my nostrils, mixing with my tears. So I blew my nose briefly, and got it cleared out. Late that night, intense vertigo hit. The room spun. I hurried up to the bathroom, needing to both puke and poop. I figured I'd puke first, but ended up shitting my pants at the same time. I called for mom. I don't know what she thought of the scene--her 17 year old daughter who shat her pants and was puking profusely. I knew it was because I blew my nose, but I did not want to admit it because I was afraid I would get yelled at again.
I had to call out from my volunteer position at the library the next day as the room kept spinning. I felt horrible for calling out, knowing it was all my fault I was sick. I don't remember how the truth surfaced, but I think I eventually told mom that I had to blow my nose after dad yelled at me the day before. Mom told dad, and dad yelled and raged at me. It was all my fault. I was spoiled for blowing my nose. And I let the library where I volunteered, down. I was wasting their time with my puking and shitting. Mom had to care for me instead of my little siblings, because of my selfish need to blow my nose. I had to recover quickly, and just wobbled around the house while dizzy, pretending to be okay.
Mononucleosis was common one winter, when I was a Junior in Girl Scouts. It was especially common among Roman Catholics--the doctor said that a bunch of Catholics were coming in lately with mono symptoms, from the shared chalice at Mass. My dad teased me about the "kissing disease" in front of the doctor and nurses, and I blushed furiously. Because my swollen lymph nodes made it painful to climb the stairs, I sometimes stayed in my parents' bed during the day, since it was so close to the bathroom, and I slept on the big comfy couch in the living room at night. Dad bought all sorts of snacks for me. I didn't feel very hungry, so he got Little Debbies, maraschino cherries, 7-Up, Tang, and all sorts of goodies to encourage me to eat and drink up. I did. When I laid on the couch, he'd play a bunch of Bugs Bunny cartoons or other movies--anytime anyone of us were sick, Bug Bunny cartoons were part of the treatment. He was in full "dad" mode for the first two weeks, caring for a kid who had a hard time sitting down on the toilet to pee. He still joked about it being the kissing disease. And he made sure my siblings fed Bailey, my dog, and picked up her poop.
After the first two weeks, I was showing signs of improvement. I could climb the stairs again, so I started sleeping in my own room. I still stayed home from church--he liked the excuse to stay home, too. He started getting tense again, forbidding any of us from receiving from the cup. We had to start walking on eggshells again. But those two weeks were glorious, even though I was sicker than a dog. My mom took good care of me too, even though she was pregnant, and even though it turns out that she had mono, too. She had somehow worked through the worst of it, because the doctor said that, judging from the test, she was on the tail end of the disease.
One night, I was washing the dishes after a tuna casserole dinner. The day had been stressful. I could feel the eggshells strain under my feet. I then sudden pain struck the left side of my chest. It hurt like a bitch. I had sit down on the couch, where everyone else was watching a TV show. Hogan's Heros, I think. I felt stupid for letting such pain stop me from doing the dishes, but dang, it hurt. My parents discussed what to do. Eventually, it was decided that Mom would take me to the hospital--and on the ride there, the pain started lifting. Still hurt, but felt better. It was dark out, and the ride was relaxing. Mom asked me if I was faking it. No, I wasn't.
At the hospital, the ER people asked questions--what did you have for dinner? Did you eat anything spicy? Are you pregnant? They couldn't figure out why the pain was there--so they decided to do some sort of test where they had to inject me with a fluid that made me have a heat flash and feel like I had to pee. I then went into this giant scanner, and that test turned out normal. I had stickers with wires connecting to a monitor, all over me. Those tests were normal, too. They sent me home, and dad wondered if I was faking it. A few weeks later, the bill came, and dad said I was really expensive. I felt horrible for being such a burden on the family finances. No doubt he thought it was a 'joke' but it hurt. Terribly. I knew I was expensive, with my hearing aids and my glasses. I knew it was expensive maintaining a growing family. Especially when my little brother, Tommy, turned out to be deaf, too.
One year in college, I had a bad cold, and developed a cough. Even after the cold went away, the cough lingered. It got worse, and I had prolonged coughing fits that made me tear up and tire out. Freshly mown grass would set me off. Thirst would set me off. Smoke would set me off. Exercise would set me off. And, though I didn't recognize this at the time, stress set me off. It went on for a good year, and for a while there, the doctor thought I had asthma. One time at work, I was pushing around a load of books, and I was coughing like crazy, as if I was hacking up a lung. My boss told me to go home and take care of myself. I didn't want to go home because dad was in a "bad mood," but where else could I go? So I went home, and in the stairwell, I was doubled up on the stairs, coughing even worse than I had when at work. Dad told me to quit faking it. Mom told him that no, I wasn't faking it. She thought I should go to the hospital. Dad thought we should wait. Somehow, mom won, and she drove me to the ER. When I got in the exam room, the cough pretty much went away. The nurses asked if I had a lot of stress at home, but they gave me albuterol, delivered by a mask, anyway, just in case it might help. Being in the calm room, being tended to by wonderful nurses, and breathing in the albuterol was extraordinarily relaxing--and it helped me for a couple of days, before the cough returned. Dad still thought I was faking it.
It took a while for the cough to be properly diagnosed, and an entire year for it to be cured. It took an allergist to figure out that it was a stress reaction that exacerbated the cold, and manifested itself as a cough, and that stress was the true trigger, and not allergens. I needed a steroid to heal my lungs which apparently had some scarring from the coughs. And after I moved out, almost a year later, the coughing mostly subsided.
It was hard to know when an ailment would be deemed "faking it," or when it was something to take care of. And sometimes even when we had a sniffle, we were sent to the doctor's office because dad wanted to make sure it wasn't a sinus infection. The doctor had to reassure my mom, that it was probably allergies, and to watch for weird-colored snot to see if it was an infection before taking the kids in, next time.
I'm still trying to figure out when to treat something, when to rest, and when to just wait it out. I rarely get sick anymore now that I've moved out, and especially after my dad disowned me. And when I do get migraines or some other problem, I keep cross-examining myself to see if I'm "faking it," because I'm afraid people will think that I am. Oddly enough, I'm very believing when other people don't feel well--and yet I don't believe myself.
And damn, does stress ever make a person sick. Do yourself a favor. Take care of yourself, and schedule relaxation time.