For as long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from migraines; intense, persistent headaches that reduce you to a feeling of utter wretchedness. There must be millions of you out there who know exactly what I mean.
When you’re holding down a job, you can’t just go and lie down in a darkened room for a few hours until the painkillers kick in. You have to keep going, smile, exude positivity.
Often people around you don’t know or understand what you’re going through. Holding forth in front of a class of Year 11s on Pip’s unquenchable passion for Estella in Great Expectations is tough when all you really want to do is hide in the book cupboard with a wet paper-towel over your forehead.
I will always remember the day when I was on break duty in the school playing-fields – while suffering from a particularly awful migraine. My colleague offered me a biscuit and I thanked her and said I had a headache and was feeling rather sick. I promptly explained why. Right away she asked me what class I was teaching after break, and I replied that I had a double lesson with Year 9 on Chapter Four of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.
‘Go and get your head down in the corner of an empty classroom until the painkillers kick in,’ she said. ‘I’m free after break so I’ll cover for you; you can’t possibly teach.’
This teacher understood and acknowledged what was invisible in me because I had to tell her. As soon as I did, her empathy and humanity were overwhelming. I will be forever grateful for that act of kindness.