Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Imagine Chronic Migraines and Fibromyalgia in the 1950s

This morning on the Today Show I saw this story about an 8th grader, Maya Van Wagenen, who spent a year following a 1950's guide called Betty Cornell's Teen-Age Popularity Guide. She wore the clothes (including a girdle) and followed all the advice about proper grooming and behavior as an experiment and then wrote her own book about it called Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.

The concept is incredibly interesting, so much so that I actually want to read both books and consume every little detail. This time in history has always fascinated me - that early sound of rock n roll, the dresses, the hats, the hair, the interiors, the architecture, the projection of that ideal "modern" family. I am speaking only of the images and not of the reality, of course.

When I think about the expectations put on women of that time I can't help but wonder how I would have managed if I was living back then. Living in a time when nobody had ever even heard of fibromyalgia and migraines were considered nothing more than something that happened to women who couldn't manage their stress or who were overreacting. I can't even imagine what people would have thought about a woman suffering from chronic migraines.

Women were expected to be fully pulled together at all times, hair done, make-up perfect, dressed up and wearing nice shoes (aka uncomfortable shoes). They were expected to keep a perfect house, do all the cooking and manage the children, while maintaining that perfect attire.
The Donna Reed Show -

As a kid watching the Donna Reed Show it all looked very idyllic but as an adult suffering from chronic pain I can't help but feel overwhelmed at the very notion of trying to manage my illnesses back then. Sure, there are some aspects of the time that would have worked in my favor. For example, women were expected to get married and stay at home taking care of everything - so I would never have to explain why I don't work outside of the home to anyone.

But, mostly I just see additional challenges. I can't imagine being in slacks or a dress all day every day. I wouldn't be able to go to the grocery store in sweats. I wouldn't be able to be the perfect hostess and throw a fancy dinner party. I wouldn't be able to keep a perfect house. Our house most likely wouldn't have air conditioning. I wouldn't have any rescue meds or my muscle relaxers, which help me to function at the low level I do now. I doubt I would have found a husband who was so understanding of my limitations and willing to put up with me being a very imperfect housewife. There was no internet back then, no online support systems or information exchanges. I wouldn't even know that there are others out there like me. Basically my quality of life would be terrible.

As much as it sucks to live with chronic migraines and fibromyalgia, it would have been so much worse back in the day. I sure hope future generations will think the same thing about our this time now as that would mean we have found better ways to treat and prevent the worst of these illnesses.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with you, as much as it sucks to live with daily headaches and chronic pain, at least we have each other! It would be much worse in the day! Thank goodness for the modern medicine we have now even if it only takes the edge off of the pain. For me the edge at least allows me to function at a low level.