The amazing responses I received yesterday on my post “Fibromyalgia’s Invisible Face” has had me thinking today about what else do we hide. We put on a happy face and do our best to hide the amount of pain we’re in. We hide our emotions. If you’re anything like me, hiding those negative emotions from others often means you also hide them from yourself.
I was only diagnosed with fibromyalgia last fall. I’ve suffered from nonstop chronic pain for nearly 5 years. I suffered from bouts of chronic pain related to my TMJ disorder off and on since I was 15. Pain has been a part of my life for a long time. I haven’t always accepted it though. For a long time, I ignored it under the premise that if I ignored it long enough it would go away.
To get through the days, I would throw up a wall in my mind to block out all the pain signals coming from my neck down. The wall went up when I got to work in the morning. The wall blocked more than just the pain, it blocked any signal my body would send me. If I wasn’t sitting in a weird position that was causing extra pain, I couldn’t feel it. I wouldn’t feel that I was hungry, so I frequently forgot to eat lunch. Each day, that wall would come crashing down as soon as I got in my car to drive home. A wall of pain would wash over me and sweep me away for the rest of the night. All I was capable was laying in bed with an ice pack on my head and a heating pad on my neck or back. My weekends were spent trying to rest up for the work week ahead. I wasn’t getting restful sleep. My energy just kept dropping and the pain kept increasing. It got so bad that I wasn’t able to throw that wall up anymore. I lost that ability.
I also hide my emotions from myself and those around me. Only at my worst did I really allow myself to even think about just how low I was. I told my husband I was in pain, but not how bad it was. I didn’t want him to worry. I told my family I was not at my healthiest, but withheld the details of what I was going through. I don’t know if I was trying to protect them or protect myself. I wouldn’t admit, even when asked, just how bad the pain was every day. To say “I hurt all over” and “My head is pounding” to the same people day after day just sounds like whining to me. I don’t want to whine or sound like I’m wanting. I’m tough and want to be seen that way.
I hide things from myself. I refused to acknowledge that things were harder for me now. That I couldn’t run anymore because it hurt too badly, that I could only walk. That producing a good product at work (I’m in marketing) was tougher and I had to think harder thanks to the fibro fog. That my energy was nonexistent. I would just push myself harder, make myself keep going at my old pace no matter what the cost was to my mind and body. I just kept going and the damage I did to myself kept rising, until it all fell apart.
I can’t hide from myself anymore. I find it harder to hide things from others. People may not see the face of fibromyalgia when they look at me, but they don’t see the energetic, over-achieving, determined person either. I’m just me now. And fibromyalgia is a part of me. It’s one of the faces I show the world now, whether those looking back at me choose to see it is up to them. Fibromyalgia is an accepted part of me now. I hate it, but I accept that this is my lot in life. My job now is to find out how to make the best of it.
What do you hide from others, or even from yourself? You may surprise yourself if you really stop and consider your answer.