A long time ago, when I was about fifteen, I had my first migraine. I remember it clearly because I was walking with some friends of mine and the sunlight from the setting sun hit my eyes wrong and Bam! instant headache. I thought my brain would melt. I’d never been in so much pain. I started getting migraines almost daily after that. After a few months, mom took me do the doctor, and they told her that I was experiencing “tension” headaches. For some mysterious reason I’ll never understand, the fact that these headaches were relegated to “tension” headaches somehow negated the pain I was feeling from them in my mother’s mind. They were debilitating to the point I could hardly move, but since they were caused (according to the doctor) by “tension” they were considered self-inflicting and therefore my mother didn’t want to hear about them.
Such was the way of life in my mother’s household. And this, dear reader, is why I can totally go to work and do normal, everyday things while suffering from a migraine headache. Yes, even read stuff on the computer. It’s not easy, and it hurts like hell, but it’s a choice of being in pain while crying in my bed, or be in pain and try and get stuff done. It doesn’t mean the pain is any less than someone else suffering from a migraine headache. It’s because my mother didn’t want to hear about how much I hurt, she wanted my chores done regardless. Tension headaches were somehow less than migraine headaches and that was that. Besides, when I later became single mom working shit jobs, I had to go to work with migraines because the rent wasn’t gonna pay itself. And when one works shit jobs, there’s not such thing as “sick days”. You work, or you don’t get paid. Take enough days off, and you don’t have a job. So yeah, I worked with migraines. I guess I should thank my mom for making me strong like that. But I digress.
Tension, like inflammation is the bane of my existence. Nowadays we call “tension” — at least as my doctor described it back then — “anxiety”. I distinctly remember my mother saying to the doctor, “What does a fifteen year old have to be stressed about?” As if I didn’t have a care in the world. I won’t go into all of the things that made me stressed as a teenager, but I will say that there was much for me to be tense about, and my pain was very much a real thing then, and it’s a real thing now. Migraines are no joke, Mom! However, my mother’s reaction colored the way I deal with anxiety. I tend to reject with extreme prejudice anything and everything that might point to anxiety as the cause of anything going on in my life. I know that I am probably anxious about many things, but damn if I will admit it. Even in the face of insurmountable evidence. Because anxiety as the cause somehow negates the very real pain — physical or mental — that I might be experiencing. And I totally blame my mother for this, and my reaction to her reaction.
Not a logical and sane thing to do, I know. But I honestly just came to this realization yesterday when I was doing some introspection about a few things. I mean, I’ll freely admit to being bipolar to anyone and everyone, but anxious? Me? Never! Not me. Tense? Perish the thought. What do I possibly have to be anxious about? I’m the chilliest person who ever chilled. Just ask me, I’ll tell you how chill I am. ^_^ And no one can tell me different. The thing is, back in the day “tension” or “stress” was a catch all for “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, so we’re gonna call it stress.” And I sometimes think that anxiety is kind of today’s version of “stress”. I hate hearing that. I absolutely despise with every fiber of my being hearing, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, but we think it might be…” And while I understand that doctors are human, and humans don’t know everything, I wish they’d just say, “We don’t know. We honestly don’t know. We understand that you’re in pain, but we can’t help you.” Because by calling it tension, or stress, or anxiety, well for many people that invalidates the pain. makes it less or even “in their mind.” Unreal somehow.
Our minds, dear reader — yours, mine, that person’s over there — all of them! They are all very powerful entities. Our minds can convince us that we are more than we are, or less than we are. Our minds can trick people into thinking that a limb still hurts even after it’s been removed. We, none of us, know anything of the mind. Some people can make very educated guesses about why the mind does the things it does, but what’s true for one mind is certainly not true for another. If my body is sending signals to my brain that I’m in pain, even if there is no physical cause for that pain (fibromyalgia does this), well who is to say that pain isn’t just as real than if I’d hit my thumb with a hammer? No one, that’s who, because pain hurts, I don’t care what causes it. Even if some of my ailments are caused by tension or anxiety, that doesn’t make them any less painful, does it? I can’t say, “Oh I guess I’m tense, I should just… calm down and it will all go away.” because it doesn’t work that way! It didn’t when I was 15, and it doesn’t now.
Anxiety is very much like depression. One doesn’t need a reason to be anxious or tense. The mind just says, “Hey, guess what? You’re stressed out now! Why? No reason. You just are.” People will ask, “What’s got you so worked up?” and I can come up with reason after reason, which logical people will refute, but an anxious mind doesn’t bow down to logic. I, dear reader, get tense if I have to make a phone call. I stress out to the point where I sometimes become overwhelmed by the process of picking up the phone and dialing the number. I can’t even explain why, but I just cannot deal with making phone calls. Right now, I have quite a few symptoms that point to anxiety (including migraines) and I’m still in denial. Nope, not me. What do I have to be stressed about? But, of course, that’s the rookie mistake we all make, right? We look for the reason behind it all, when sometimes… sometimes, things just are.