June is Migraine Awareness Month. As a lifelong sufferer myself, I know what it’s like to deal with people’s many misconceptions about this malady. The lack of understanding and the crazy ideas about migraines can be nearly as painful as the headache.
The first, most frustrating fallacy about migraines is that “It’s all in your head.” If I had a dollar for every time someone said that to me, I’d be a millionaire right now. Just because a migraine can’t be seen does not mean it doesn’t exist. Why would anyone make up this level of agony?
Here’s a description that my cousin posted on her Facebook page today:
What is it like having a migraine? You lay down to sleep because sleep is the only real thing that is pain free. Only, you can’t sleep. Noise is making the pain worse. Every position you lay in is excruciating. With a pillow. Without a pillow. Side, back, face jammed into the mattress. Doesn’t matter. The throbbing won’t stop. Too hot. Too cold. Shut up, gecko! Don’t you know I’m dying here and your seemingly adorable chirp is like a shrill screwdriver scraping down a blackboard?! Shoulders are so tight from the stress of the pain. Jaw is so tight from grinding my teeth in pain. Every time I close my eyes I think the aura might go away but it’s still there. Twinkling away. Just one spot though. Enough to be annoying. 6am. Still awake. 8am still awake. I just want some rest. 9am finally found a comfortable way to lay however I have ruined my entire day. Migraine, you are not the life partner I imagined. I’ve broken up with you so many times. I just don’t want to see you ever again. We’re through! Sleep. So lovely and pain free. Only to awake and feel migraine waiting for me. I hate you. Don’t you know that you ruin my relationship with others? I wish you’d never come back. You make my life hell.
Clearly this is not a figment of her imagination. Nor are all the pictures of me from childhood with dark circles under my eyes from days of vomiting and lack of sleep a mere mirage. Unlike my cousin, I don’t have the sensitivity to sound, and for that I thank God. But my sensitivity to light means that even the smallest amount of illumination feels like a dagger in my eyeball. When I was too little to have the vocabulary to describe it, I used to say I had a bullet in my eye. We called them “eye aches” back then.
Another mistaken belief about migraines is the implication that since it is “all in your head” it must be some form of mental illness. Yes, people do think that. Don’t believe me? Rent the movie “Dark Water” sometime. At the very least people assume that you “do this” to get attention. That always makes me laugh, because when you have a migraine, the very last thing you want is attention. You want to be left alone in a dark, quiet room. If anything, it takes you away from the people you love, and you miss out on a lot.
I’ve also been accused of conjuring up a migraine to get out of work or to avoid eating certain foods that I “must not like.” Like what? Chocolate? Oh yeah. I hate chocolate. Not. I’d kill to be able to eat chocolate without the accompanying pain.
If you don’t get migraines you are very fortunate. A great thing to do with that good fortune would be to have a little tolerance and compassion for those of us who do suffer. Or, at the very least, you could keep your erroneous beliefs to yourself.
Start a gratitude practice today. Read my book. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu