Firstly I’m going to start off by saying no! Because it most definitely is not all in your head.
I haven’t talked much about the time when I first got sick before, it feels like a lifetime ago to be honest, and it kind of was. Getting sick changed me, I was no longer the same person, I didn’t feel like the same person and I never thought I was going to get that back if I never recovered from chronic pain. Clearly I was wrong, I haven’t recovered from chronic pain, but I feel more myself than I have since I got sick.
I remember how it all started so vividly. It started in January 2010. I was in year 11 of school (UK system), I went to school on the 12th Jan 2010 and came home with a pretty bad headache. I got home, took some over the counter medications and went to bed and by morning I was feeling fine again. Same thing happened on the 13th.
And then on the 14th I was sitting in the computer lab after school with my Physical Education class finishing some coursework when I got a severe headache which hit out of no where. My friend went to the nurses office and got me some paracetamol and then I went home to try and sleep it off. But when I woke in the morning it was still there to greet me. I’d never had a headache that lasted more than a few hours, tops a day before. But to be honest in the beginning I didn’t think much of it. The weekend was then over and I still had a headache. I then went to school all week still with the same horrendous headache. After 10 days of this I started to get this numbness, tingling and pain in my hands and then my feet. But me being me I went to school anyway. I remember sitting in class and not being able to write because of the pain in my hands. I remember standing outside the art room waiting for class to begin and my tutor walked past and saw me, I must have looked pretty bad because he took me straight to the nurses office. I then eventually went to see a doctor who sent me straight to hospital for my first MRI. Went back the next day to see a neurologist for my results who admitted me to hospital as he thought I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. I then had a further MRI which ruled that out. I stayed in for a week being given numerous drugs none of which alleviated the pain in my head, though the numbness, tingling and pain went (though it was never figured out what that was but it hasn’t since come back). After a week I was discharged still in pain and with no answers as to what was wrong with me. And well you know the rest, 4 and a half years later and I’m still in pain with no answers.
But I thought I was crazy, I thought that it was all in my head. Because, well no one could see what was wrong with me, no tests came back with anything wrong with me, no medications helped my pain. So it must be all in my head right?!
See the thing with having a constant headache is that the pain is in your head, where you think. You can’t escape it because it’s in the place where all your thoughts are, everything is clouded by the pain in your head. So yes literally it is all in my head, because that’s where my pain is, but I am not imagining it, my pain is real, I know that and I believe that.
I searched for 4 years for an answer to my pain, every test gave me that little bit of hope of ‘please let there be something wrong with me, I don’t care how bad it is, I just need something to be wrong with me so I know it’s not all in my head’. But every test came back clean and every medication and procedure failed to help. And that wears you down, physically and certainly emotionally.
But I don’t need an answer anymore, I don’t need to know why, because I can cope with this, I cope every day; somehow anyway.
It’s a scary thing to accept your pain and be at peace with it, it’s not easy at all. But accepting my pain has allowed me to move forward from the deep dark place I was in with no direction in my life. Literally I spent day after day in bed feeling miserable because I was in pain. But I changed that, I didn’t change the pain because that can’t be changed but I changed how I respond to the pain in my head. I could have easily let it continue to destroy me and would have probably ended up dead with the way I was going. I chose to be able to move forward with my life, to not let the pain control and define me any longer.
If you’re reading this and you’re struggling, know that you’ve coped this far through all the bad days which you thought would never end, but somehow you got through them. If you’re still here, you’re track record of getting through the days that seem impossible to get through at the time is 100%. And that is an achievement in itself.