Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with permission.
I woke up one morning with a headache three years ago. It hasn’t gone away.
I have been diagnosed with a condition called New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH). This means that every day, all the time, I have a headache to some degree. I’ve seen countless doctors and had tests done and tried countless medications and other solutions, and while I have found a couple of things that significantly help, the headache never completely goes away. There are certain things that make my head hurt even worse than normal, including bright or flickering lights, loud noises, certain foods, physical exertion, and stress. As such, sitting in a classroom with fluorescent lighting is difficult. I cannot go to concerts. When my friends run, I must choose between being left behind or running to catch up and cause my headache to get even worse. Looking at a computer screen for too long is painful. There are so many things I would love to do, but I simply can’t.
My friends and family who know me well know about my condition, but very few truly understand it. I know they are trying and that means the world to me, but it’s hard when I have to either correct/remind them about it, or decide to suffer through something that is difficult for me. Some days, I simply can’t cope with the constant pain. In the moments I can cope, I feel like I ought to be working and productive, so instead of living my life, I work until the pain comes back, and spend my free time collapsed and not moving. But I cannot live that way, so I feel like a failure. I’m doing the best I can, but it will never be good enough. Sometimes I wish I had something more serious so people would try to tell me how to fix it. No one tells a cancer patient to “just suck it up,” or “take some Advil, you’re fine.” I know they mean well, but it is tiresome. It is not easy living this way, but the combination of others not knowing and trying to help is even more draining. Some people at church pray every week for me, and I have to tell them every Sunday that no, I’m still not better. Others think I am possessed by some sort of demon or am sinning against the Lord so he is withholding healing. It hurts that my pain doesn’t matter and that people I thought I knew believe I am being punished.
This is real. This is my life. I would get better if I could, I promise…