Migraine can be debilitating. And there’s no cure. Yet, many people who’ve never experienced it are happy to offer unsolicited and misinformed remedies. Some also have harmful misperceptions about people with migraine.
Here are some of the most frustrating expressions I’ve heard about migraine and the people who experience them in the 30-plus years I’ve lived with the condition.
“It’s just a headache”
This is probably the granddaddy of all expressions that people with migraine hear most often. Migraine is not "just a headache."
Researchers think migraine is linked to genetic mutations that cause fundamental neurological abnormalities. There are several different types of migraine. Technically, you don’t actually have to have a headache to have a migraine.
Migraine attacks are more than your run-of-the-mill pain. They can last from 4 to 72 hours. The head pain can be severe and may include pulsation and throbbing. Other symptoms of various types of migraine include:
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to light, sound, and odors
- worsening pain when you move
- visual disturbances appearing as flashing lights, which are known as an “aura”
- numbness or tingling
“You’re a picky eater”
Have your eating habits ever been the topic of conversation? Has anyone ever made you feel that you’re difficult due to what you eat or your lack of appetite?
Migraine completely affects how we eat. Certain foods are known to trigger migraine attacks. I have a long list of food triggers.
I try my best to avoid foods containing:
Severe nausea and vomiting during an attack also decimates my appetite. Most food during an attack either seems unappetizing or aggravates nausea.
Either way, none of this makes me a picky eater. In fact, it actually makes me more aware of my condition so I can avoid attacks.
It’s hard to know when a migraine attack will hit. They still happen no matter how carefully I try to manage my known triggers and avoid activities that might bring on an attack.
This sometimes means that I have to cancel plans on the same day. And it doesn’t mean that I’m noncommittal or flaky.
I very much want to be able to show up for every event, to complete my work on deadline, and to be a social butterfly. The sad thing is, I’m not always able to do so because of the uncertainty of migraine.
“She’s so lazy”
I often heard comments like this when I was still working and had called in sick with a migraine attack. Many coworkers felt that it was an excuse to avoid work. It was so insulting to me and very unfair.
There I was, at home with a severe migraine and two small children, trying to make it through the day and struggling to complete simple tasks. Remarks that diminished my actual pain and assassinated my character were the last thing I needed to hear.
Having migraine does not make you a lazy person. We’re in fact the opposite. We strive to do more than our bodies can handle most of the time.
Many of us push through the pain and discomfort so that we don’t seem lazy. When we do call in sick, we’re legitimately too ill to do anything but rest and recover.