I’ve suffered with tension headaches for 14 years. Most people who know me know this. And they’ve heard it too often. I understand that – if they hear me complain of a headache many times when they see me, they will tire of it.
If I were to be injured in a spectatularly visible way, I would reap much sympathy. At least for a while.
It appears to be basic human nature to be much more responsive to the novelty stage of someone’s plight. Repetition over weeks, months and years desensitives us.
But the very nature of a long term illness is the one that deserves, and often requires, the greater attention. The sympathy we are likely to get appears to be inversely proportional to the duration, and hence weight, of the condition.
So I have to mostly suffer in silence – “Yea, you’ve always got a headache” – as if the longer you have it the more delighted you are with life. It is true that you develop coping mechanisms, and can detach yourself from the discomfort of your condition. But it is sad that you have to fend so much for yourself.
Except that I would, and do, do the same to others. We very swiftly determine when we are likely to be burdoned with a great load – this dismissal of the importance of another’s chronic condition is a defence mechanism we use to try to avoid our own chronic potemtial – the chronic involvement of our time in sympathy or support. We just do not have time or energy to support the needs of all we meet. We have to balance our own needs with those of others.