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Faking it

Faking It

I fake it all the time. We’ve all done it. Does that make me a bad person? Or am I just trying to get through my day like everyone else? People who are closest to me know when I’m faking it, but I can also convince those who aren’t familiar with my body language that everything is fine.

I’m talking about acting like I’m perfectly fine when inside my head is screaming at me. When someone asks, “are you ok?” I fake it probably 75% of the time. I don’t remember the last time I truly felt ok. Sometimes I come up with short answers so I don’t have to explain myself. “I just took some medicine so I should be better soon.” Or, “I’m just a little tired.” When in reality my pain is off the charts and I really need to be in bed.

I distinctly remember years ago, my boss took one look at me and knew I was having a Migraine attack. My skin was gray, I couldn’t speak in complete sentences and I had turned the lights off in my office. When the phone rang, my boss told me to ignore it and go home. But it was a call we had both been waiting for all day so I answered it.

Instantly, my voice changed from incoherent garble to focused and happy when I answered the phone with a smile on my face. I channeled my inner actor to get through the call and received the positive news we were hoping to get. When I hung up the phone, my boss marveled at how quickly I turned on the charm without the client ever realizing I was in so much pain.  My boss knew that I was faking it for the client and not faking the true pain I was feeling.

On the flip side, some people fake being sick to get out of obligations. Last year, it was discovered that the popular website Wikihow had an entire article devoted to “How to Fake a Headache.” Geared towards kids trying to get out of school, steps include complaining of pain in your temples, going to bed early, using a hair dryer to make your forehead hot, waking parents up twice in the middle of the night to reinforce the pain, faking a deep sleep when the alarm goes off and using blue eye shadow to create bags under the eyes. Even after a huge online effort in the Migraine community to get this post deleted, it was only modified to acknowledge that “faking illness… contributes to society’s view that the symptoms suffered by people with migraines are not serious, since there is still a great stigma attached to this chronic neurological disorder. For these reasons, think twice before you try to fake any symptom of illness, and consider your alternatives first.” Not cool, Wikihow, not cool. This type of faking it further hurts advocacy efforts for Migraineurs. If you are interested in signing a petition to have this article deleted from Wikihow go here

Those with Migraines don’t fake their pain. We fake being well. We want to have a normal day. We don’t want anyone to make a fuss over us. We don’t want to open up the floor for insensitive comments of well-meaning friends and co-workers. We don’t want to get unfairly labeled as lazy. Faking being well is a coping mechanism.

For me, this carried into the doctor’s office. Pushing through the pain and putting on a happy face is second nature to most of us. It’s an automatic reaction. I didn’t even realize I was faking being well for the doctor until my boyfriend pointed it out to me during a trip to the ER a few years ago. When the doctor came in, I went into “faking it” mode. I answered questions honestly, but didn’t let the doctor truly see how the pain was affecting me. As soon as he walked out, I went back into a fetal position and begged for the light to be turned off.

Why did I do that? Maybe I wanted the doctor to see me as a reasonable, smart patient who was not there only to score drugs. But this approach did not help me in the long run. The treatment plan began with a series of meds I knew would do nothing to break this Migraine cycle. Only after hours of unsuccessful treatments did the doctor understand how bad my pain was as he caught me crying. Because I faked being well, it took longer to get the heavier drugs I needed to find relief. Faking it was an old habit, hard to break.

Eventually I let my guard down with doctors. I knew they needed to see the pain, however ugly it was. They couldn’t be expected to know what’s going on in my brain if they couldn’t see the physical affects. I rehearsed a speech that defined my condition and listed the drugs that had helped in the past. If sitting up in the bed was too hard, the doctor could sit by the bedside and listen to me.  I could demand that the lights not be turned on. This was me in all my Migraine glory and it’s not a pretty sight, but that’s the point. Hiding it only prolonged my stay. Faking it for the doctor doesn’t prove effective for anyone.

Have you ever faked it? When do you find it to be useful and when is it detrimental to your treatment?

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


  • FakeETAN
    3 years ago


  • Lori
    5 years ago

    I also did not realize how much I was faking it until my last ER visit. Fortunately, the PA that was taking care of me also suffered from migraines. She sat down next to me and really spoke to me. She had the lights turned out immediately and completely understood what I was going through. I was able to let my guard down and actually cry because I hurt so bad. You just get so tired of being treated like a drug seeker when all you want is to be treated like a patient who is truly in serious pain.

  • Judie
    5 years ago

    I have learned to fake it when I’m out among strangers, it just isn’t worth it to explain what’s going on when I’m having flashing lights etc. all I want is to be home in a quiet place. Unless you have them people think it’s just “a bad headache”too stressful to talk,explain . I do tell my family tthough , hard not to when you go all quiet & disappear. Have learned to be less stoic as I get older,that was a family pattern that hasn’t served me well over the years.

  • kaye
    5 years ago

    Just realized while reading this that my daughter learned faking it from me. Some of her doctors didn’t believe her. The school took us to court they thought she had behavioral issues. I knew better. Finally after three specialists she was diagnosed with chronic migraine,delayed sleep phase syndrome,and general anxiety.Cost her and us a lot of stress and money over a five year period. She didn’t want to be seen as weak. Our children learn from everything we do.

  • NuttyNetta
    5 years ago

    I didn’t even realize how much I was faking it even to myself until I finally (after 30 years) went to a Neurologist. I was asked how many headache FREE days I have. It stunned me to think that way. I had only been counting Peak migraine days (2/month) and therefor did not think I had it as bad as others. Come to find out I have max 8 pain free days/months. The Neurologist told me that most migraine sufferers underestimate their own pain. We are used to it, and our pain valleys are other people’s peaks.

  • Denise
    5 years ago

    This is the first time I have ever commented on this website. This particuliar conversation “faking it” was one that really made me think, oh boy 95% of my days are this. I wake up at least 5 or 6 times a week feeling like crap because my head hurts. I take my meds and go to work and deal with the day the best I can. I have one friend at work who knows me well enough to know when I am having a really bad day, and thank god for her. It is truely unfortunate that the medical world has not come up with a viable solution for chronic suffers, at least not for me. I just make the best of my life as I can and hope that in the near future that thier will be a treatment of some real consequence that does not include some horrible side effects as most of the things I have tried.

  • jess0410
    5 years ago

    I fake it everyday. I feel I don’t have a choice but to fight my way through the damn near unbearable pain. Not because I really want to but because I have kids who depend on me. Homework, school meetings, and a child who is not old enough for school. A husband who defends our country everyday and deserves to come home to a simi clean house and a wife who has at least brushed her teeth and hair. I will be honest be careful how much you fake this condition. I have felt more suicidal then ever forcing myself to turn on the vacuum or meeting teacher’s then I ever dreamed possible. The energy you already don’t have it only made worse but pushing yourself to far. On the other hand I would feel even worse not getting things done. This is horrible horrible cycle and I’m truly stuck in it.

  • Stace31601
    5 years ago

    I am glad to see what you wrote. I feel so guilty not to have more things “cleaned” or “done”. Or at this point my 8 year old knows how to take care of me and when he needs to call 911. If I do stay home with the covers over my head and I don’t go into work. Then I feel bad because someone else is having to do my work and then also I have got absolutely nothing done at home. So I end up feeling worse then if I would of just pushed through it. I do not feel suicidal but I do get frustrated at why they can’t help. After all as I have had many say it is JUST a headache.

  • ChrisCake
    5 years ago

    I think most of us have suffered with migraines since we were kids, so this ‘faking it’ has been mastered over years and years of practice. I didn’t realize how much I was faking it until only a few years ago I started to open up about it to my friends and family. They were shocked I was ever in this much pain everyday, so apparently I’m a very good actor. I realized that being more open and honest about it strengthens the relationships you have that are important. Including my marriage. My husband got mad at me a couple months ago going to the doctor’s with a severe migraine after a skiing accident…when the nurse asked me how I was doing I said “I’m alright” and he reacts, “No she’s not, don’t listen to her”. I was later diagnosed with a moderate concussion. I guess we migraneurs have a high tolerance of pain, which has taught us to be great actors.

  • JRey8971
    5 years ago

    “Faking It” is a way of life for me right now. People might see me and think I look fine, act fine, but I’m not. The pain in my head is constant. Each day is different, but it’s always there. It’s hard to explain to people when you look “normal” but really aren’t feeling “normal.” But, I know that the more I fake it and try to force myself to do things tend to aggravate my condition and I end up “paying” for it. Hoping to find something that helps me so I can get back to my life!

  • Sandy
    5 years ago

    Faking I’m not in pain has cost me more pain and more money. I had to quit my job and working on recovery. Learning to be honest about how much pain I am in and be realist with myself about what my limits are.

  • MPgirl33
    5 years ago

    I have to fake it. I have no choice unless its so severe I have no choice but to say leave me alone.

  • Sara
    5 years ago

    I definitely do this at the doctor’s office and it doesn’t do me any good. My husband has pointed it out, and at first I was defensive, but he is right. I am so good at smiling through that my doctor has even remarked that she couldn’t believe I was smiling right before she gave me a nerve block. My husband pointed out that my headache specialist is one of the most important people in my world, because she can truly help me on this journey, but if I lie to her, if I tell her everything is ok and smile, then she won’t know how to do her job.

  • missasch
    5 years ago

    I didn’t realize I did this to doctors too until my last trip to urgent care to get a tordol injection to break up a 10 day migraine. While waiting for him to come in I was hunched on the table trying to escape the harsh lights and breathe through the pain but as soon as he came in I straightened up and smiled and talked with him. He said he didn’t think I really had a migraine, it was probably just a tension headache since I wasn’t even squinting at the lights! Luckily I was able to get the shot that I needed, but the frustration at trying to prove I knew my own pain level didn’t help my pain at all.

  • Tammy Rome
    5 years ago

    Very well-said! We certainly can fake being well if we think t that “showing our true colors” is too risky. People have trouble understanding how we can do this and misunderstand it as exaggerating our pain.

  • bluebird
    5 years ago

    Faking it or Be Real Now? As I cringe with the ring of each phone call from someone I have invited to call me, I wonder how it is that I can’t fake it now? Must be in pain, eh?
    I have had a lifetime of covering up feelings and “passing” as just fine when I am not. I do it so well, I can fool myself proudly and pay for it humbly, later. My truth at this moment is that I am curled up and just want to be left alone.
    I will return the calls . I will return the calls when I feel I can be real.

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