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I'm Not 'Sad' or 'Angry,' I'm Just Focused on Masking My Pain

I have such a stern face. Every day. And some people are curious why. Why do you look so sad? So angry? So concentrated? The truth is, I am concentrating. I am concentrating so hard, all the time. You could call it RBF, but I’m not resting.

You see, I have a condition that causes me pain. Many people do. My condition, specifically, causes me to have a chronic headache. Me and my headache, actually, just celebrated our fourth anniversary this past February. She and I try so hard to make peace. Or, rather, I’m continuously trying to make peace with her. And the fatigue, that’s just something else. My body feels so heavy compared to the flesh, blood, bones and muscle it’s made of. My feet should not feel so tired, my hands so heavy.

Very few people in my life know about the ways I’m struggling. My family, of course, my best friend, my roommate, my boss and a few coworkers. Part of this is just my quiet, listening persona. Part of this is shame (which I would tell anyone struggling but myself that you do not deserve shame).

This shame leads me to do a lot of things to cover up symptoms. I don’t talk so much about the fact I have a handicap permit so I can make it to my classes. I don’t talk about how much I sleep. I don’t talk about how I spend my spring break going to different specialist appointments instead of going to the beach. I don’t talk about how I would rather spend that whole week in bed because I’m so worn from the simple day-to-day of going to classes, going to get groceries, doing homework and making myself food. I don’t talk about how heavy, how tired, how fatigued, how pained I feel every day. Because somehow I’ve convinced myself that this thing that sets me apart is something to be ashamed of. Logically I know it’s not, but emotionally I’m not there yet.

I am very aware of how my body presents these symptoms. Some of these I can’t really hide all that well. I have gained weight over the past two or three years. I walk slowly now. It wears me out just sitting up straight, just standing. I look visibly shorter because of how heavy I feel just being upright. But some things I can hide. I know if I’m not careful, the pain and fatigue show in my face. This is why I look so stern. Because I am concentrating. For some reason, I have convinced myself that it makes my life a little easier not having to explain things to everyone I interact with, and for everyone else, it allows them to avoid feeling uncomfortable in such a conversation.

So the stern face. Yes, I’m OK. As OK as I get. But I’m getting through it.

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Thinkstock photo via thomasandreas.