Too Much Information

Being a young married woman without children and no job makes party conversation pretty difficult. Add being a feminist and living in a new city to the mix and watch it bubble over. In the two years since I quit my job and my husband and I moved, I’ve had many different approaches to small talk.

At first I said that I was getting us settled into our new house and community, then was figuring out what career I wanted to do next. This held up for about six months, at which point I could say that I was waiting to get residency so I could take classes without paying out-of-state tuition. Then I could say that we had some travel planned, so I needed to wait until after that to enroll in classes.

In every conversation, I felt like I came across as a spoiled housewife who decorates her house, drinks lattes and travels on a whim. Not only that, I wasn’t doing very much of anything. While lying in bed, I read a lot of books and despaired over how disorganized the house was. I had nothing interesting and socially appropriate to talk about, and it seemed like everything I did say was about my husband, not me. Appearing as the current incarnation of a 50s housewife didn’t thrill me.

Trying to hide or deny major parts of my life was taxing and felt dishonest, so I went to the opposite extreme. All the pain, boredom and unhappiness was simply too much to keep to myself. Whenever a conversation steered toward me and my work, I found myself telling the gory details to strangers. One of these strangers was kind enough to see that there was good underneath all the desperation and self-centeredness. She has become a good friend, but everyone else was part of a transient relationship. I imagine I scared them all off.

I’ve gotten much better at tailoring the response. I try to dodge the question when I first meet someone. If I can’t, I’ll say I do some freelance writing. If I sense a connection with or lack of judgment from someone, I’ll say that I’m a reluctant housewife. This is always questioned, so I say that I haven’t been working because of health problems, but that I’m getting started on some health education/advocacy/activism work. If someone asks a direct question about the scar and lump on my chest, I’ll give an edited version of the story.

As I write this, it’s obvious that my responses have followed my changing self perception. When we first moved, I still thought I’d be cured soon and would be able to hold any sort of job I wanted to. After it became apparent that this wasn’t the case, I stammered out some excuse or gushed the details. My life was too much for me to sort out on my own then. The excuses lasted a lot longer than the gushing did. They got me through the greater part of a year until I figured out who I was and how to mesh my illness with the rest of life.

Pain dictates so much of what we do, how we think about ourselves and how we relate to others, that it seems like it dictates our lives. Letting the pain be in control for a while may ultimately help us live with it more easily. Some day you may look back on your behavior and cringe. I certainly do, but I don’t regret it.

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10 Responses to “Too Much Information”

  1. moogle77 Says:

    This is so true! I went through my own version of what you describe. I still struggle with how much to share with new people, but luckily the majority of my life is involved with people who know me fairly well.

  2. Margaret Thomas Says:

    I finally got it today that I will never be “cured”. My doctor (one of many I have gone through looking for a perfect answer), explained to me they can help make me a functioning person but I will never be pain free and I will never be who I once was. I have a neurological disease (I don’t like even spelling it), along with other physical problems. I will never be the me I have envisioned in my head again and I can’t stand that. But I realized I will never get better until I accept this and go on instead of fighting it.
    I have also dealt with the question everyone asks when you meet, and that is what to you do or where do you work. I have children so I been able to say a variety of excuses, none of which are completely truthful. But I realize after today I need to come up with an answer I can live with and that has to be good enough.

  3. dana Says:

    I definitely struggle with things to talk about with people. I don’t like talking about what’s going on with me medically and will usually describe how I’m doing as anywhere from fine to hanging in there depending on the day and the person.

    As for the child issue, just turning 39 and having no children is interesting. My students at school are the most shocked at this I think, maybe because they think I would be a good mom (and that is the ultimate compliment from teenagers). But they don’t see the me that leaves school after half a day utterly exhausted and needing a nap in order to do anything else. They don’t understand, nor should they. So I just say, no not yet.

    Chronic pain makes your social life totally different. And the friends that stick with you through it are your true friends, and the joy and love they share with you by just being with you are priceless.

  4. Sherry Ledford Says:

    I know all too well how you feel. I suffer from debilitating migraines that just seem to keep spiraling further out of control. I do have a part time job, but I miss work a lot. Fortunately, 2 of the ladies I work with cover my shift for me, so I am not leaving my employer stranded (I am a bartender). But it seems like others at my job still judge me. And my customers always know when I am out, so they are always asking questions. I don’t mind sharing with the ones who really care, but I find that most do not. I know I am talked about behind my back, and I fell others just think I am faking or either an addict. You are lucky to have a supporting husband. I do, too, that is what gets me through the very bad days.

    ************
    It’s great that you have helpful co-workers and a supportive husband, but I know that doesn’t make it easier emotionally. If only more people knew how awful headache really is.

    K

  5. willa Says:

    Wow. I am not crazy. I am not alone. I am not the only person who has tried everything and found no relief for chronic daily migraine. An epiphany? Perhaps. Or maybe just a step back from the self doubt that can so easily destroy the ability to face yet another day of pain! It is HARD to function in the world when it is full of people who doubt or trivialize the reality of the pain we deal with. I guess if talking to new people is this unnerving for many of us, it must be yet another symptom! Fortunately I have aged enough to know that it is not my job to educate those who simply want to toot their own horn about their lives and accomplishments. For a migraineur, sometimes getting up in the morning is a far greater accomplishment than a non-migraineur going off to work!! I was wondering if you have tried the in hospital DHE treatment? It is a 2 day, 48 hour IV drug treatment that I participated in several years ago as the last ditch effort to end the cycle of pain. After 5 days, yes, more than twice the normal time limit, I was devastated, and still in the grasp of migraine pain. I guess I am coping better now that I am no longer looking for the cure, but for the ability to function daily. I just wondered if anyone else had gone that route?
    ~willa

  6. Julie Says:

    There comes a time when you have to give up fighting it and learn to accept and live with it. I’m coming to that point. Apart from anything else, all the medications make you even more tired than the migraines – I have 2 preschool aged kids and I’m missing out on them growing up because I’m just too tired. So I’m ready to start dealing with the prospect of the rest of my life with pain.
    I’m told that chronic pain counsellors can help you learn to do that, even to embrace the pain. I always think that this person who doesn’t have energy, who is so boring to people she doesn’t know isn’t me. But this is the new me. I have to recreate me. And people I meet have to learn to like the new me. Easier said than done, but that’s the path I’m starting to go down.

    ********
    I know that’s a hard decision to make, but I’m very happy for you. Accepting my headaches has been the best way for me to “treat” them. It’s slow going but oh so worth it.

    Best of luck on your journey. Take care.

    Kerrie

  7. Debbie Says:

    I’m looking for some new meds to help my migraines. My ob-gyn asked if I’ve ever tried cinnamon. One of her pregnant migraine sufferers is taking cinn. capsules. I’ve read here that cinnamon is a trigger for many of you. It seems at first I had triggers but now I must not because I’ve gone from having about 6-12 migraines a month to about 4 or 5 a week.I used to be on elavil and inderal, tried the magneisum, and Q10 route but doc put me on 100 mg of Topamaz and took me off of everything else and thats when the migraines increased from 6-12 a month to 20. Anyone out there know anything else I could try to prevent them. I take Zomig when I get a migraine which works quite well.

    **********
    I’m sorry that you’ve had such a dramatic increase in your headaches. You must be miserable.

    I haven’t heard of cinnamon as a migraine treatment. Except for a couple varieties, I can eat cinnamon fine. It’s mostly fake cinnamon that bothers me — and that’s the smell. I doubt ingesting it would be a trigger for me at least. I’ll look into it.

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like your doctor has used the first tier of migraine treatments. They are many more available and one or a combination of a few will likely ease your symptoms. Here’s a quick look at available treatments: http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/migraine-treatments

    Take care of yourself. There are many options still available for you.

    Kerrie

  8. Susan Hunter-Whalen Says:

    My Brain Stem is bursting a I type. That’s how I found you. All I had to eat yesterday was corn flakes then apple crisp than at supper chicken and cheese burritos. I spent the evening in pain with gas then puking and diarrhea. The second was reddish so I am wondering if it has to do with the apple crisp and the cinnamon because of the color. My Migraines have been under control most of the time since taking, Hydroxypam and Maxalt, have you tried these meds yet? This came out of the blue. I woke up still in distress running for the bathroom and the ice packs. I just made apple crisp last week and no problems, i make a new batch this week and wham distress. I don’t think it was the corn flakes or the burritos but them i eat these fairly often and don’t have problems so I have no clue where this came from. But when I do get these Migraines I feel them more and more in the actual brain stem and in the spine I feel my nervous system going wacky and no amount of ice packs(3 at once some times) seem to help. I had one of these so bad once than when I went to the emergency room for help they did a spinal tap and found blood in the brain fluid and hospitalized me for a couple weeks. So now I very aware of every single pain in my head for fear it will be blood on the brain again. Glad I found your blog hope you find some relief soon. Peace Love and Happiness. Susan

  9. Gabrielle Says:

    Through my tear streaked face I am comforted and deeply depressed at the same time to find so few have found the relief that I am hoping for. My husband says he doesn’t know who I am any more, the drugs to keep the headaches at bay work but leave me tired and boring. I still manage on the good days to be vibrante and active but that is only a few days out of the month. I cringe at the thought of what my co-workers, supervisors or subordiantes say about me! And my future no longer feels like mine becuase I never have enough energy if it isn’t drug induced it is migraine induced, daily living feels like such a crap shoot.

  10. Maria Says:

    I took neurontin but the drug made me very emotional. My mom takes Lyrica for diabetic neuropathy and I was wondering if i should try this drug, topomax, or a beta blocker.
    Any suggestions? I know Lyrica and neurontin are in the same family and I am fearing they may have the same side effects. My mom does not have any side effects from the Lyrica


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