Migraines aren’t fun. They can be mildly annoying to life-stopping. We know that for the most part, people want to help and are only offering their opinions because they feel helpless. Most of these comments could be cleared up with a little bit of education. No matter the reason behind them: you will see why someone would want to facepalm at these comments.
1) “But you don’t look sick”
Migraine Warriors spend a significant amount of time and energy just trying to fit in and look as normal as possible. In one sense this may seem like a compliment but usually, it comes across as a condescending lack of empathy and judgment of the chronically ill. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it real. You can’t see the wind but you sure can see its effects.
2) “Just take aspirin”
Ummmm…. If it were only that easy. No one wants the pain, dizziness, vertigo, blinding lights, severe stabbing pain, nausea vomiting, hypersensitivity to light, and all the other miserableness that comes along with it. Some people take preventive medications, have medications to take at the onset, and do all they can to prevent them. Yet they get hit out of nowhere and it lasts for days.
It isn’t anything like a regular headache. Some people experience symptoms resembling a stroke after losing function in one side of their body. Migraine attacks can last for days and standard painkillers are often ineffective. See evidence-based proven treatments for migraines.
3) “I get headaches and I don’t need time off work”
Unless you have been to the point where the neighbor’s tv seems like it is next to your head, you have no idea what a migraine does. It isn’t simply I have a headache.
A migraine attack can render someone hugging the toilet bowl between bouts of nausea and vomiting, curled over in bed, requiring ice packs on the head to numb some of the pain. Even then the only thing to do is put in earplugs and hope it will all be over soon.
4) “It’s just a headache”
Migraines are not just a headache. It is true that it causes pain in the head, but it is so much more than that. Many women have said their migraines are more painful than childbirth. It needs to be made known that migraines are a neurobiological disease that affects the nervous system and sensitizes the brainstem. This means that it affects the entire body.
5) “At least you’re not dying”
Did you know that some migraines can make you think you are having a stroke? It is a leading cause of suicide. People have even overdosed trying to find some relief from the pain. So before you say this to a migraine warrior, the migraine could cause death.
6) “You’re just stressed out”
It is true that stress is a trigger for migraines. However, stress is a normal part of life. Most of the time stress has little to do with why you have a migraine. Migraines are a genetic and neurologic disease that results in a sensitized brainstem that overreacts to otherwise normal stimuli.
7) “I wish I could hang out at home all the time like you”
Have you ever had to stay in your room for days on end? You can’t converse with others. You can’t enjoy a meal with your spouse. All you can do is pray for some relief and sleep it off. Most migraine warriors are actually wishing they could go out and enjoy the world like you.
Being chronically ill is lonely, debilitating and dangerously depressing. You, on the other hand, can reach your full potential to be a productive, active member of society.
8) “Have you tried going sugar-free?”
Whilst changing your diet can eliminate trigger foods and help prevent attacks, there is no cure for migraine, dietary or otherwise. Even those migraine warriors on the strictest diet still have migraines from time to time.
9) “Get a hobby – it will take your mind off the pain”
If you just broke your leg, would doing crossword puzzles or take your mind off the pain? I didn’t think so.
Migraine is a primary disease meaning it’s not caused by any underlying disorder. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin are thought to be involved in the migraine genesis. As you might appreciate, it is not unreasonable for those with a chronic disease to become depressed with a lack of progress and the inability of the doctor to help. It’s therefore common for clinical depression to occur in migraine patients.
10) “Have you prayed about it?”
This can be insensitive and hurtful regardless of individuals’ religious beliefs. There is no single treatment, behavior or action that acts as a cure-all for migraine.
One migraine warrior responded with “why do you think I am getting these migraines out of punishment??”
If your loved one has a migraine, the best thing you can do is allow them to do what they can to find relief. You should research on your own. Talk to them. Find out the facts. That way you can be more patient and understanding of the illness. Migraines change your life. They take away the joy. So, by being patient, loving, and understanding you give them some of that joy back.