Today marks day 21 of me waking up with a blinding headache. My head hurts from the base of my skull to my eyebrows. I’m not complaining and I’m not seeking sympathy. I’m simply stating fact. I know why I have a headache. It’s a side effect of the anti-depressants I’m on. I understand that taking another medication may counteract the headaches, but at what cost? New side effects? Damage to my liver?
The doctor and I chose to lower the dose of the anti-depressant (see Catching Up) to see if it would help decrease the intensity of the headaches. So far it has not. What has happened is the anxiety has crept back. Not as severe as before, but it is inhibiting my sleep and I am experiencing social anxiety again. Meaning I don’t want to go out in public. Ever.
There are several well-meaning individuals who like to point out to me “Well, you know, Holly, there are lots of people worse off than you.” As if that information is new to me. As if it’s supposed to make me feel better. As though once I’ve been given this nugget of wisdom I will immediately jump up, the headaches will disappear. I will no longer experience anxiety and I will be all better.
Newsflash – it doesn’t make me feel better. As a matter of fact, it makes me feel worse. Let me tell you why.
When advised there are others in worse shape than me I am left with great feelings of guilt. You, Giver-of-Unsolicited-Advice, you don’t think I know there are others who are suffering more than I am?
I know a woman, we went to high school together, who’s mother died of cancer last year, and now she herself is battling the Big C. My blogging buddy, Kate, her brother is hospital. Her family has been told numerous times over the last week that he might not make it (thank God he has). My friend, R., has had to ask her teenage son to move out of her house because his anger has reached a point where her safety is at jeopardy. Another blogging friend, Kasey, her 9-year-old daughter is suffering with Childhood Anxiety. Kasey is on her own trying to deal with the day-to-day of being a single-working mother and learning to help her daughter learn to cope with anxiety. My pastor and dear friend just suffered 3 minor strokes (he’s recovering well, thank God), but they can’t figure out why. My mom has spent every day of the the last 40+ years of her life in excruciating pain.The woman has had 8 joint replacements. She’s on the highest pain killer they can give her. She gets Tylenol 3 by the bucketful.
By saying “there are people worse off than you”, it implies that I am not only ignorant of other people’s suffering, but also selfish and arrogant enough to believe that I am the only in the world who is suffering. That is so not the case.
This statement also infers that I don’t care about the suffering of others. Well that’s not true at all. I ache for these people. I feel terrible because I can’t make all their pain go away. I feel guilty because I can’t make the world a better place, not just for the people I love, but for everyone. (Hello, my name is Holly and I have an over-developed sense of responsibility for other people.)
Let’s recap. Here I am, head pounding, anxiety rising (again simply fact, not seeking sympathy) and now a ton of guilt. I’ve been insulted (it was inferred that I am uncaring), reminded of all the suffering in the world and how I can do very little to change it.
Wow, I feel so much better, GUA, thanks for coming out. Next time please share your wisdom with someone else.