I have a cold and I’m rather enjoying it. I sneeze and people say “Bless you.” My throat is sore, so I take cough drops. When people see the wastebasket full of tissues, they know I have a cold. It’s visible and understandable. Everyone has had a cold. They know what that feels like. They know what to do. Take Vitamin C. Keep Kleenex handy. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. It will pass eventually.
It is not like my headache, which no one can see. They might notice the zoned out look in my eyes or notice me rub my temples, but otherwise my chronic pain is invisible. When I try to explain what is wrong with me, they don’t understand. They’ll say, “How are your headaches?” using the plural. They don’t get that the headache never goes away, that it’s just one headache, not many. They try to empathize, but they don’t really know what it’s like, and I’m thankful because I would not wish the experience on others. They can say “That must be awful,” but almost no one can say, “Oh, yeah, I had a headache for a couple years too.” It’s weird. It’s unusual. People don’t understand it. They don’t know what to do for it. Take an aspirin. Get acupuncture. Have you considered TMJ? It might be your vision. The chiropractor can fix you, I’m sure. Do you have a neurologist? No one knows what to do. No one knows how to cure me. There is no guarantee that it will pass eventually.
So even though I breathe through my mouth at night and awake to a dry tongue, I’m enjoying my cold. I’ll take my cough drops and I’ll keep my tissues close and eventually it will go away. I know this. I understand it. I can name it. I wish the same could be said of all things.