My headache began a few days ago as a pair of too-wide yawns. The first flexed the right side of my jaw a little too far, and with the second there was a slightly audible crackle of bones being uncooperative. “Stop trying to unhinge your Jaw,” Elise said, “you don’t have to eat those rabbits all in one piece.”
Yes, my girlfriend is amusing.
The ache persisted for a few days, and by last night it was on the move – the pain slithered in to my mouth, up to my temple, and down the side of my neck. The ache became the headache, which in turn became one of the top three worst headaches of my life. (Another is here).
The headache is so persistent and distinct that I feel as though it is some separate entity – a symbiote – inflicting its will on me. It is like Spidey’s black suit, attached to me at the jaw, trying to envelop my entire head so that it can control my brain.
For sanity’s sake, I have named it. Meet my headache, Richard. You can call it Rick for short.
This is an important distinction for me: I am not my pain, and visa versa. I refuse to walk into work defined by a headache, or anything else, for that matter. On the outside I am committed to being my same vivid self, no matter the interior conditions.
(I would compare this to stepping onto the stage, but that analogy has the negative connotation attached to it from the time I tried to sublimate my 103 fever for a dress rehearsal but wound up with Bronchitis and Pneumonia. Because, you see, a fever is not just a symptom, it’s a condition, and you are your conditions.)
I’ve been surrounded by lots of headache sufferers in my life – a certain ex convinced it could be a brain tumor, and two former bosses whose headaches increased sensitivity to light and destroyed appetites.
My thinking on the matter is that pain is just a perception – just another sense. And, in the same way you can tune out a droning noise or adapt to a familiar smell, you can work your perception around pain. Certainly, some pain is of a source and magnitude much too high to ignore; after all, you can’t exactly tune out a jackhammer.
Richard will not be reaching jackhammer significance in my life. Because, unless some part of my is cracked or broken or abcessed, Rick is just an illusion of my perception. I can tune out Richard just like screening a call. He could just be an itch, or a tickle, or a gnat.
Richard has no magnitude because, there is no Richard. He’s just a yawn that got too wide. As easily as he interrupted my sleep and made me late for work he is banished back into the ether from whence he came.