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An obvious sign of illness

tbt0919Confession: I like wearing my wrist brace.

This week my wrist has been achey, surely a sign that I’ve been on the computer too much and have still not properly learned to type in the way that you’re supposed to— you know, wrists not resting on the keyboard, taking breaks to stretch your hands, sitting up straight with good back support.

In any case, when my wrist starts to hurt I put on this handy stabilizing brace I got at the pharmacy—my HT (my Handicapped Twin) recommended it, and if I wear it for a couple of days while typing and driving, my wrist pain dissipates.

I realized something last evening when I wore my brace to my weekly tai chi classes. I like wearing the wrist brace sometimes. I like that people look at me and know that there is something wrong, however benign. I like that I am in pain, however mild, and I am putting it out there, obvious for all to see.

I never pretend the wrist pain is a severe problem for me, cause it’s not. And if people ask me if my arm is okay, I say, “Yes, I’ve just been working on the computer a lot and this helps stabilize my wrist ‘til it stops hurting.” I don’t like about the pain, or the reason for the wrist brace.

As much as I often think about how I don’t want people to make assumptions about me just because I have frequent, severe migraine attacks, I find that sometimes I don’t want a migraine attack to be kept quiet. But once in awhile I think it’d be cool to have some kind of outward sign—a fiery red X on my forehead, a big exclamation point hovering above my head—to show people that my illness is real, that I’m experiencing the pain of it in that very moment.

Invisible illnesses are everywhere, and it’s hard to explain to others that yes, in fact, you are sick, even if you seem to look normal on the outside.

Does anyone else struggle with this?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • michellespeer
    6 years ago

    I definitely struggle with this. The last couple years my migraines have completely changed my life. I quit my job because I was just missing too many days of work (thank goodness my husband makes enough that I don’t really have to work). And so I’ve had to tell more friends and family about them, they already knew that I had them but now that it’s more frequent, I get questioned all the time whether I did have one or am having one now. It’s frustrating sometimes, on the one hand it’s nice to have support, but on the other I feel like I’m almost constantly being pitied. I hate that feeling. It’s a double edged sword. I honestly can’t decide if being open about it or not saying anything is the best way to go.

  • Lynne Lee Bennett-Cassaro
    8 years ago

    I don’t think most people in chronic, invisible pain enjoy wearing splints or using other assistive devices as some badge of honor. I used to suffer, from childhood, without any consciousness of sharing it with anyone. Unless it reached scream/crying level my parents didn’t know. It has taken me decades to not be ashamed of my pain. Decades to start standing up against ignorant & negligent physicians that successfully made me feel somehow responsible or over-exaggerating symptoms so I suffered with little intervention. And, I use wrist, thumb splints or cane during especially painful times but it took a lot…very embarrassing. As I see others suffering as much or more than me with equally bad or worse treatment from doctors and family…my shame is overwhelmed by a desire to change perception & the stigmas against us. I try to no longer hide my physical pain. I talk openly about requiring Opioids to live & fight back against the government war & medical community prejudices against chronic painers. & the brave souls who do try to help us. I wear my back brace or whatever I need, despite still feeling embarrassed. I don’t give false/pat answers to questions on how I am, anymore…I am not “fine” or “okay”…usually I simply deflect it without answering but just responding by asking how they are. I try to educate people & help…even if just small things…like I am sure most people have no idea the agony they can cause others by wearing, especially if they douse it on…something seemingly as innocuous as cologne /perfume…because most of us are too shy to teach. So, without being mean or blaming them I sweetly tell folks I have to give them “virtual” hugs & cannot be near them. I still TRY to keep my difficulties to myself…only go out and socialize weekly but when I do let on it certainly isn’t to gain sympathy (doesn’t garner that, anyway)! Oh…lastly, I no longer try to be perfect…I can’t sit on computer so if I post from phone it’ll be run-on sentances & no spellcheck. Errors be damned I put it all out there.

  • Lynne Lee Bennett-Cassaro
    8 years ago

    And…both are true. I try sometimes to hide my pain and sometimes I am brave and try to expose it…to educate.

  • Elaine Axten
    8 years ago

    reposting. so relevant.

  • Donald T Davidson
    8 years ago

    doctors in er don’t now if I am having a t I a or if its a migrain.

  • Charry Black McDonald Jones
    8 years ago

    I wish I could copy this so that every body I know could read it!

  • Charry Black McDonald Jones
    8 years ago

    my current (and last pcm) won’t even give me a referral to a neurologist!

  • Gregory Mims
    8 years ago

    The problem is a person can’t get a Dr. to really listen anymore!…It’s like trying to extract teeth from a mule in order to find one that will listen & help you!!…The health care system in the South is deplorable at best!!

  • Fighting Migraines
    8 years ago

    For insightful migraine fact you can check out http://www.fightingmigraines.com.

  • gonzo
    8 years ago

    i am the total opposite. i dont want anyone to know i get migraines. Very few people in my life know this, i guess i see the pain as a weakness or character flaw.

  • Janene Zielinski
    8 years ago

    Some days I tell people I am fine when I am not because if I tell them I have a migraine I will get told 1000 wives tales remedies and those same people will expect me to actually try them and report back to them that I’m all better. Some of the “remedies” are so outrageous and would actually make things so much worse. So sometimes I am grateful it is invisible. But, I totally agree with your sentiments.

  • Jamie Valendy
    8 years ago

    It’s difficult to not have a visible sign of the constant pain/battle raging inside. It’s so draining trying to validate our pain to others. But, I like the idea of the big exclamation point hovering above the head.

  • Rosa Sundquist
    8 years ago

    I personally don’t want to explain to people/strangers why I look good on the outside and feel bad on the inside.. Having the love and understanding of my family is enough for me.
    Traveled to Florida in May with a PICC Line and all the IV Meds needed to continue treatment. My first day on the beach, dark glasses, big hat, headphones and yes PICC Line covered with a sleeve bought at a sporting goods store in order to keep bandage clean., I also bought a PICC Line cover to be able to get wet without havinng to use plastic bags, tape etc.. Decided to get in the water with my daughter trying to be “normal” withing seconds people were asking a million questions why, when , where and yes are you on chemo.. I tried to be curtious, smiled, my answer was it’s a PICC Line to administer medications for migraines tried walking away to a comment ” all that trouble for just a headache” I seriously wanted to tell them where to go instead I took off my sunglasses and gave them the don’t mess with me look.. 😉 Must say children asked I responded I have a boboo and off they went to play in the sand at the waters edge.. Adults can cruel at times.. 🙁

  • Deborah Clark
    8 years ago

    lol, a gas mask, Ok Rosa we have a date. I will get the head phones. My next appointment up there, we are going out: with mask, sunglasses, head phones, hats-which one of us will get locked up 1st, lol. I can picture us now, just too funny. I promise I am not giving up, just frustrated as hell today with the weather and my head. I need a break, as I am sure you do too! Hugs back!

  • Rosa Sundquist
    8 years ago

    Deborah Koerick Tschantre Clark We are too young to give up Debbie! If I have to wear a gas mask in order to avoid the scent triggers I will do so, not going to be a prisoner to this awful disease.. Must stay positive , I’ve already given up way to much.. Girl’s have to have fun sometime! Lol 😉

  • Deborah Clark
    8 years ago

    It is a shame Rosa that people have no clue what we go through. The pain is real, just no one can see it. Just a headache, let them try and live with it day in and day out. Sometimes I really want to give them a peice of my mind, but I have to save what little bit I have, lol. I really like living in my house because I can not handle people and their scents anymore. I feel like a prisoner in my own home, or the noises. I guess I better stop, I am ranting. I back you up is what I am trying to say. Big hugs to you!

  • Pamela Vette Lowe
    8 years ago

    A couple of weeks ago I was with friends. We were gathered around the piano singing when it hit me like a speeding train. I quietly tipped away to find my Imitrex. One of the women, she didn’t know me well but was very intuitive, asked if I had a headache. I had to hug her. It was good to know for a moment someone could see it happening.

  • Louise M. Houle
    8 years ago

    Absolutely! While I don’t necessarily want to be labelled a “migraineur” as if that is the only thing that defines me, I also don’t want the disease to be invisible. When I tell people I have a headache all the time and that the pain progresses into a migraine 4-5 times per day, they almost can’t believe it. I look good and am functioning, out & about, etc. I often end up explaining the impact that that has on my daily life – the fatigue, anxiety, irritability, pain spikes, medication side effects, memory/concentration difficulties… and the days in bed in agony when the meds don’t work. As frustrating as it can be to always feel like we have to explain (and occasionally justify), I feel it is up to us to educate people if we want migraine disease to be better understood, and if we want more research funding to be allocated to the cause. Hard work, but worth it. Thanks to everyone who speaks up!

  • Ryan Carlajo Luebbe
    8 years ago

    Best article ever.

  • April Marty
    8 years ago

    So true Carla!

  • Michelle Fattig-Smith
    8 years ago

    AMEN!!!!!! x100

  • Purnendu Prabhat
    8 years ago

    Your article says what some of us keep inside.. I too have a want for my pain being acknowledged. Migraine sufferers are not treated as ill , you cannot prove that you have a headache and frequently you say it , people think you are making excuses. All your body function is normal and you look good, but inside you have a head that is bursting, and outside no one believes..

  • Boo Walker
    8 years ago

    I stopped going to the ER several years ago. After my last visit, put on the bottom of the triage waiting list, sitting there for nearly 8 hours getting worse and worse- I was ready to go home and jump off a bridge. Luckily, I’m blessed with a Dr. who understands the ER system and my migraines. He taught my husband how to give me sumatriptan injections at home as a last resort if our other measures haven’t worked. Just knowing we have that option takes such a weight from me!
    I do LOVE the idea of a big red “M” on the forehead though – there are those days…
    and thanks to everyone for sharing your stories here, even that much has helped in ways you can’t imagine xoxo.

  • Shawna Stacy Buchanan
    8 years ago

    Oh yes I totally understand. My migraines have lasted weeks with no relief and I really wish more people understood how bad they are.

  • Cassandra Coleman Mennone
    8 years ago

    Boy do I understand!!!! When I get a sinus headache that works into a migraine it can take hours and hours to get it to abate. And the sound and light issues are the worst…I go hide under a pillow!!!

  • Charles Andrew Lininger
    8 years ago

    Like the healthy flower indicates a verdant tilth in the soil, so symptoms indicate an energetic imbalance that creat the environment for symptoms, wrist pain or migraine or whatever else is bothering you. Chinese medicine works with this balance and therefore impacts symptoms.

  • Rebecca Flatt Thorpe
    8 years ago

    Love this and wish there was something we could wear that would alert others to our pain, maybe a necklace with a BIG RED “M” on it…

  • Heather D Buechler
    8 years ago

    Amen Rebecca Flatt Thorpe or to the Doctors in the ER that consider us pain seeking when the medicine we have at home do not work and give us something that is pretty much an advil and a tums and send us on our way? They should go on a 3 week retraining for Migraines or better bedside manners

  • Maureen Baxter Douglas
    8 years ago

    I am Chronic….sometimes 4-5 a week…..and truthfully do wish there was a sign. People that know me well can tell but others are like well you look ok…..and truthfully that is about the time I am thinking shut up your voice is killing me. (I never say that) I am required to function with mine. We are looking at preventives and hopefully will find them but I really do wish I had a sign. At work and church and around town now though the sign is the sunglasses stay on and I talk quietly. 🙂

  • Kelly Richardson
    8 years ago

    All the time. Mine are hormonal, so I pretty much know when I will have one, but the severity differs from time to time. Sometimes I can pop a pill and go on abot my day, and other days, lik the past two…it’s pop a pill for pain and nausea and turn out the lights and crash until it’s over! My mom has them, and I inherited them from her, so I kind of know what to expect. I just wish people wouldn’t judge those of us that DO suffer. You get the eye rolls, and the sighs, and disappointed looks. It’s frustrating, because I would much rather be having a good day. I know there are much worse things that can happen to a person, but I wish migraines were more recognized as an illness that has to be dealt with a day at a time. My eight year old daughter has had a couple of migraines, so she has sympathy for her old mom when I am down with one. My husband had them when he was younger, and now I have them, so Syd is kind of predisposed to them. Just say a prayer and hold yhour head high…if it’s not hurting…and kno that there are others going thru the same thing. Many Blesssings! u

  • Kelly Richardson
    8 years ago

    Sorry about the typos. Head hurting! 🙁

  • Angela Reisinger
    8 years ago

    I have actually had doctors put in my charts that I clearly am not ill. Like he cant look at me and see the pain. This was a doctor. I get so frusterated that I not only have to endure the pain but try to plead my case to others and constantly defend myself. Its like I have to prove that I am sick.. this leads me to wonder why? I couldn’t have written this better myself. I can totally relate!

  • Debbie Bailey
    8 years ago

    Doctors have a medical practice, therefore they practice at medicine!! They passed a few tests and walla they get MD behind their name. I’ve worked with thousands of them and a fine few would qualify as doctors.

  • Debbie Bailey
    8 years ago

    Aunt Bren is in icu. She has fluid around her heart.

  • Ann M Dow
    8 years ago

    actually yes…just found out that my arthritus in hips is now advanced and waiting in an ortho consult…but have had a handicap placard for my car for a bit now…cant tell you how many times u;ve gotten disparaging glances from both the elderly and occasionally from those in wheelchairs…makes me fell both awful and cuilty…i want to explain that between the arthritus the fibro, chronic fatigue , migraine and occasional anxiety I’m truly lucky to be going into the store doc or wherever at all…sigh…my doc, a wsonderful lady said don’t let it get me down and if I felt the need to bring a cane…ugh…

  • Debra Nemeth
    8 years ago

    Tonya DeDomenico Bridges ….short-term disability….the only thing that is keeping us afloat..now questioning the diagnosis. Okay…keep your $$$…Take the migraines for yourself..then maybe we can talk??

  • Denise Parker Dow
    8 years ago

    some people are just ignorant if they think all illnesses can be seen..the hell with them

  • Wendy Bondeson
    8 years ago

    yep…so true!!! like today cody was driving home from school (his second day driving) and this old hillbilly was going 20mph in a 60. he kept trying to wave cody around him. I told cody no do not pass him. the road is narrow and curvey. after about 10 mins. the guy pulls over and starts hollaring at us out his window. cody wasn’t riding his tail or pushing him to speed up at all. the guy was just mad cody wouldnt pass.

  • Ann M Dow
    8 years ago

    thats true! i do try to park in the spots that arent van accesible…alot of times people will use the adjacent lined spots which arent even for parking…i’ve even used the next spot over that isnt designated handicapped and got looks from people too…lol guess you dont find a happy medium easily these days…took me a long time before i would give in and use a motorized cart in the store but i had to because when your feet go numb its kinda not good! i try really hard to give everyone grace around me…because as i’ve told my kids- you just dont know what someones struggles are at that moment or for the day…everyone has something they need a hand up over or out with…and it “pays it forward” i think when i can be gracious to others , eventually that seed grows and will bless all with the fruit-including me!<3

  • Wendy Bondeson
    8 years ago

    Don’t I know those looks. When the kids were younger I would carry them into the store so I could put them in a carriage. Had many comments. 🙁 what I hate the most is when someoNe parks in a van accessible spot and leaves the non van spot open. My kids can’t get out unless we get one of those spots.

  • Ann M Dow
    8 years ago

    vicki you just made me laugh right out loud!!!! roflol….

  • Vicki Fisk
    8 years ago

    You never need to explain yourself. If they give you the evil eye, smile back! If they are close enough, you can always comment that your arthritis is acting up…unless you want to lie, and comment that you’ll be glad when your new heart comes in as long as it isn’t a “cold heart” like theirs.

  • Mary Dow
    8 years ago

    Frig ’em…

  • Tonya DeDomenico Bridges
    8 years ago

    IGNORE-THIER-IGNORANCE—-PLEASE

  • Julie Ledoux Harmon
    8 years ago

    I too have frequent migraines (3 a week) and fibromyalgia. No one knows the agony we suffer unless they have ever experienced a migraine. I have had them so bad that it felt like I was having a stroke and went to the ER……

  • Chasity Spradley
    8 years ago

    I have frequent migraine and was recently diagnosed with fibromalagia… Also another invisible disease.. Sometimes people including family think I am putting on… They don’t realize the chronic pain I deal with on an everyday basis! Plus some days r worse than others.. So people don’t understand how I can feel considerably better 1 day… And in bed in pain the next.. I am extremely frustrated with this..it truly is harder for another person 2 understand until they feel that pain as well!

  • Debra Nemeth
    8 years ago

    DITTO!

  • Holly Harding Baddour
    8 years ago

    I met a woman while in in-patient treatment for migraine- she had a type of migraine that literally changed her face during migraine- she looked as if she had a stroke- one side of her face sagged- and one of her eyes became dark, almost as if she’d been beaten. I thought, how awful, but also interestingly, I was fascinated and slightly envious by the physical proof of her pain- when so may do unfortunately question whether migraines are real- she wore her migraine on her face, quite literally.

  • Debbie Zippay-Matthews
    8 years ago

    Yes, just getting over a 2 day migraine that has me feeling completely drained. My family is very understanding since they see first hand how it affects me. Some others, though, often think that I use it as an excuse to get out of doing things, going to events. It’s like you said, if someone has never experienced an migraine, they just don’t seem to get it. They just think that we need to just take a pill and sleep it off. In my case when I have a migraine, I cannot put my head down on a pillow because the pressure is so intense. I often have to walk around, slowly, holding my head up gingerly. Any movements will often cause nausea. Since I am very sensitive to caffeine, I try to use natural remedies, such as light temple massage, sitting in complete dark and silence, using meditation. It is very different with each migraine as to what will help. I never know what will trigger mine. Thanks for sharing and listening!

  • Karen Marlowe
    8 years ago

    No, I’d prefer people not know I am sick. I hate when I have a visible illness/injury. I hate having to explain what’s wrong. With a migraine, I can be miserable all unto myself.

  • Karen Marlowe
    8 years ago

    Ugh! Hate migraines.

  • Kelly Yates-Rice
    8 years ago

    Day 2 of a migraine here. Fun, fun, fun!

  • Karen Marlowe
    8 years ago

    Wow!

  • Marc Jacksina El Cachorro-Guapo
    8 years ago

    Strange, 5 statuses down, there was this http://www.naturalnews.com/033512_feverfew_migraines.html

  • Sherri Anderson Inabinet
    8 years ago

    THis is one of the best stories Ive read here yet. SO true!

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