Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The Brave Face

It might be a cultural English thing, it might be a Daisy thing, it might be a Hufflepuff thing, it might be a combination of them or none of them, but The Brave Face is something I instinctively do and I often wish I had more control over it.

What I mean by The Brave Face is firstly when I'm feeling dreadful and I'm with people I will instinctively try to act as though I'm feeling much better than I actually am and secondly when I'm talking about my migraines I tend to laugh about it, make jokes and generally downplay it all.  I believe I do these things to put people at their ease.

This is one of the most frustrating things that I do and I just don't seem to have any control over it.  I'm ruled by this condition, my life feels like it's on hold, yet I'll laugh and make jokes about it when asked about it and I'll act like I'm fine when I can feel the pain building inside me or when I'm battling with a medicated but still present migraine.

I worry that people think I'm actually making a big thing out of nothing when I do this, as from their perspective surely if it was that serious then I wouldn't be laughing about it.  And equally when I have to slink off home early, then I think the people I was just with will be thinking the classic "well she didn't look sick!" and think I've just got a headache and I'm making a fuss over nothing.

In actual fact, when I'm in pain, be it a daily headache, pain building to a migraine or a medicated but still present migraine, I just want to hide away from everyone and everything which is something that my husband has to battle against nearly every day to get to spend any time at all with me (he's the one person who I usually manage not to Brave Face with but even with him my instinct to Brave Face often takes over).  Spending time with anyone is against what my body is telling me it wants so trying to act normal on top of that is actually a great deal of effort and really tires me out.  I'm trying really hard not to do this anymore but especially at work I can't help but try and act normal.

When I'm talking about my migraines, I know it's not a nice thing for people to hear about, and given there isn't a cure it's also one of those 'no hope' types of conversations, so I instinctively want to please the person I'm talking to, I instinctively want them to enjoy the conversation, even though I know they shouldn't.  I also know though, that when I'm laughing and when I'm making the jokes and when I'm trying to make light of it all, I know that if I wasn't doing that, the alternative is that I start crying as I talk about it and no-one wants that (not least because crying lowers my migraine threshold!)

I wish I had more control to be able to choose when to put my Brave Face on and when to just be able to be honest with the people I'm with or the person I'm talking to about how I'm feeling.

Photo credits: Laughing cat by *!~Freddie Freak~!* and Grumpy Cat by Bryan Bundesen


  1. I'm exactly the same because the alternative is making people feel really uncomfortable and it's not their fault I've got chronic migraine! It's like when people ask how you are - I'd like to just say "shit" and them go "that sucks" - but I guess they feel they can't do that (I don't think I could - gut instinct is to help!) so you say ok but you're not. Today I went into my freelance studio and everyone was asking where I was last week and if my migraines had been bad. I always feel so bad when I tell the truth - I feel like I've just dumped all my baggage onto them!! But I've done the hiding from it and that was equally rubbish!

    Interestingly when I was in a perm job and knew I was getting a migraine or had taken a triptan and it hadn't worked I always felt like I wasn't ill enough because unlike some people my migraines aren't really visible (I might look pale but often that's only after a lengthy one) because my brave face is so good!!

  2. The Brave Face is one I know well. My migraines are caused by Fibromyalgia, which is another chronic illness that has no cure. I spend my time at work with the Brave Face so people have no idea just how much I suffer.

    I think quite a lot of people with chronic illnesses have the Brave Face down as a fine art. Particularly those of us that have incurable and hidden chronic illnesses. I often feel like my suffering is invalid because it's not visible, and that people will feel like I'm putting it on or exaggerating it. I know people won't understand, unless they themselves have a chronic illness (or fibromyalgia..).

    I definitely make a joke of it. The 6 week migraine was the butt of a lot of jokes..

    What I'm trying to say in a horribly longwinded way is I understand and that I'm the same. The Brave Face is so much easier than how difficult it can be to explain to people and hope that they don't assume it's not real.

    Know that if there is a time you want to smack the Brave Face off into orbit; I'm only a facebook message away and I promise I understand and won't judge you the way we worry others will.

  3. I felt exactly the same until recently. To some extent I still use my brave face a lot (like you, at work) but I realised that I want to be more honest about how I feel when people ask. I figure that if they ask, the genuinely want to know how I am. If they become bored of hearing that my migraines aren't improving or I feel ill, then they will stop asking and that's OK with me. I've actually been saying to people lately "I've been putting on a brave face, it's actually been shit" and I'm seeing how they respond.

    A friend emailed me this week and I offloaded big time - I hadn't admitted to her how bad my chronic migraines were. I did apologise, but she tried her hardest to understand and offered a very supportive reply. If people care about you they will be happy you shared and willing to help you feel better in anyway they can.

    I am still trying to be positive about my situation, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, I am making a promise to myself to use my brave face less often. Invisible conditions are so hard to deal with and the stigma of migraine makes it worse for people to understand what we go through.

    I'll let you know how it goes!

    Thanks for the cat pics :-)

    Claire x

  4. Hi ladies, just thought I'd add my thoughts to the above. Apparently I've been told that I go 'a very funny colour' when I get a migraine - I then normally look in the mirror and think OMG - I am a very funny colour! I am usually very sick with mine which the GP just doesn't seem to be able to help with. My old boss used to say 'you look dreadful - go home' and I'd have to give in and go home to bed. Nothing stops me being sick, it's almost as it I have no control over it. And my late mum (bless her) could always tell - even over the phone - when I had a migraine! Surely it's about time these pharmaceutical companies found us something that actually works!
    Wishing everyone a migraine free weekend