It seems that every day I hear about a new cause or thing we’re honoring nationwide by assigning it a day or, in rare cases, a whole month. For example, did you know that June 2nd is “National Donut Day”?? Sounds like an opportunistic marketing campaign thought up by Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme.
But I discovered that June is also migraine awareness month, so, for once, I’ll bite. Migraines are so misunderstood, or worse, ignored, that we do need a whole month dedicated to getting more people educated about the misconceptions of this illness.
So I’ll start off the month by expressing some of the top things I wish people understood about my migraines. Maybe you’ll be able to relate:
1. No, it’s not “just a headache”
I have a distinct memory of a previous boss telling me that he gets headaches and that he just takes two Tylenol and gets to work. Wow, that’s really a lovely story that has absolutely no relevance to the neurological event that a migraineur goes through. My migraine pain is an all-encompassing monster that feels like a small army is trying to break out of my skull. At the same time, I have horrible nausea and the light makes me want to rip out my eyes. Please understand that your Tylenol-cured headache is not ANYTHING like my migraines.
2. Please, no unsolicited advice
I bump into well-intention people all the time who, after listening to my story, would genuinely want to help. At some point in our conversation, I will hear: “Have you tried [acupuncture, Botox, XYZ medication, etc.]? I don’t mean to sound unappreciative, but when my migraines were at their worst, most of the time I wasn’t receptive to hearing random advice. When someone is sick all the time, their illness can be all-consuming, so these suggestions can feel like it’s coming from a place of judgment even if you’re just trying to help. I would just ask that you take an extra minute to think through if the migraineur is open and ready to receive that advice or whether you should leave your wisdom for another time.
3. No, I will never be “cured” of my migraines
Since I’ve been feeling so much better lately, friends and family seem shocked when I have an episode. I usually hear something like “Oh, but I thought you cured your migraines!” You would never say to a cancer patient whose cancer came back “Oh but I thought you cured your cancer!” Same goes for those with a chronic illness like migraines. The most we can hope for is that we get them under control and can keep chronic episodes to a minimum when they flare up.
4. Yes, you can help!
Migraines can be very isolating because we often don't feel understood by those close to us and they don't know how to help. People often assume they can't help because they don't understand the illness, but the truth is, there is plenty you can do! I elaborate more in a previous post, “How to help someone when they have a Migraine” but there are many ways friends and family can help someone suffering from migraines from ensuring our basic needs are taken care of to making sure we have access to our migraine relief. It might not take the pain away, but if I had a healthy meal waiting for me in the fridge and my daughter and dog were taken care of, it would relieve enormous stress and I would feel something very important: I would feel loved. And that's worth more than any migraine medication!
What do you wish those closest to you understood about your migraines? Let’s use this month to make them aware!