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Migraine Moments: Laughing Through the Pain

Reading time | 4 min

Migraine has brought out a range of emotions in me: rage, frustration, impatience, hopelessness, and a lot of self-doubt. I face the challenge of battling these everchanging feelings throughout my daily life.

One coping mechanism that often gets me through the tough times is laughter. While it occasionally may feel like laughter is a way to mask my more negative emotions, it’s sometimes the perfect way to respond to my migraine.

Here are a few examples when my migraine experiences have caused me to laugh out loud.

When someone asks if I’ve had an MRI

If I mention to someone that I live with chronic migraine, 9 times out of 10, they’ll ask: “You’ve had an MRI, right?”

I understand that people are asking this question out of concern and that it comes from a good place. Regardless, I find it comical.

Those of us who live with migraine know that having an MRI is generally the first step in a very long journey to understand migraine pain. So, it’s hard for me to comprehend why, after I’ve shared the fact that I’ve been battling chronic migraine pain for more than a decade, people still feel the need to ask this question.

Sometimes it annoys me, or stirs a hint of anger. Just as often, it makes me laugh.

When people don’t believe me

People constantly give me recommendations for therapies, treatments, and other things I should try. I appreciate that they care and want to help me uncover new and creative options to manage my pain. That said, sometimes people really won’t take no for an answer.

When someone recommends that I try ‘something new,’ I often respond that it is indeed not ‘new’ and that I have already tried that treatment plan. Rather than listening, I find they’ll ignore my response and recommend that I try it again. This happens CONSTANTLY.

In situations like this, I often let go of my frustrations and laugh when others show me that they “know” the answer.

For example, a friend of mine recently told me to stop drinking coffee for an extended period, stating: “That will completely stop your migraines.” I thanked him for the advice and told him that I had already tried not drinking coffee for well over a 6-month period, and saw no benefit.

He shook his head and told me again that I needed to stop drinking coffee — as if I’d never tried or was wrong in my approach. This back and forth continued a few times over.

When these conversations happen, I sometimes feel like I’m going nuts. However, once I take a step back and realize how shocking it is that someone can suggest that they know my body better than I do, and that treatments I’ve tried are somehow wrong — I just have to laugh at the situation. The laughter somehow helps.

When someone offers me over-the-counter medication

I’m regularly asked if I would like to take an over-the-counter (OTC) medication — the kind anyone can easily buy at any drugstore. This question makes me laugh out loud every single time it comes up.

Usually the person asking is confused by my response, but I can’t hold it back. To me, it’s a hilarious question.

On some level I want to answer, “Yes please! I do wish that I could take two of those little sugar-coated brown pills to make my head pain disappear!” Unfortunately, my pain is much too complex. I live in fear of rebound headaches, which are a type of headache I experience sometimes after I’ve taken medication.

The American Migraine Foundation notes that rebound headaches are associated with taking certain types of medication, and they might lead some migraine therapies to become less effective. That means no OTC painkillers for me.

When I relate to someone else’s desperation

I’ve built a strong network of friends on my social media accounts who live with migraine. Regularly, I ask them about their treatments and coping mechanisms. In an effort to see the humor in our situation, I recently asked my friends to share the most ridiculous thing they’ve tried for their pain.

One friend responded that she once rubbed a banana peel on her forehead. Upon reading this information, I burst out in hysterical laughter. Her use of emojis showed that she agreed with the ridiculousness of the “treatment,” something that I appreciated.

There’s something powerful in connecting with others who have migraine, especially when we are able to look at the funny side of a dark, desperate reality.

When a friend says, “I have a headache” and immediately retracts the statement

I can confidently say that I have the most wonderful friends: they try to understand my pain and be there for me during harder times. So, when a friend says that she has a headache, I often see her eyes widen, afraid that she has said the wrong thing. This is followed by an immediate, “Oops!” or “Never mind, I don’t have one.”

I find this hilarious. In my opinion, I’m the best person for them to tell about their headache because I “get it.” That said, it’s unnecessarily sweet when my friends try to diminish their pain to make me feel comfortable.

The takeaway: Laughter helps

In some situations, my laughter may be masking some deeper sadness and pain. However, I think it’s OK to have moments of levity around my migraine. If laughing at the situation gets me through the tough times, so be it!

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

Article resources

MIG-US-NP-00109 DECEMBER 2018