I have been living with migraines since I was a teenager. Now in my early 40s, I guess I’m an expert of sorts. Throughout my life, I’ve shared about my migraines on a “need to know” basis.
If I needed time off work, my boss would sometimes know about a raging migraine. If I was going to be late for an event, my friends would get the news. My husband gets more details because it often means he needs to grab dinner, walk the dog, or just give me a little extra TLC.
If I’m honest, I wish there was more understanding about migraine. Unless you have them or know someone who does, it can be hard to really understand what they are like. Actually, even if you know someone with migraines, you still may be more in the dark than you know. Well, I’m here to shed some light. Here are 11 things folks with migraines may want you to know.
1. They can last for hours, days, or weeks. If you think a migraine is a simple headache that may only last a few minutes or hours, think again. A migraine can last for much longer, impacting life in a significant way. Some people with chronic migraines may have them for 15 or more days at a time. If it sounds like torture, it can be sometimes. Imagine getting in a car and the driver doesn’t tell you where you’re going or how long it will take to get there. Welcome to the ride that is a migraine.
2. It’s not just a headache … it comes with a lot of other symptoms. Imagine a really, really bad headache with nausea, sometimes vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, and other symptoms – you’re starting to bake up the ingredients for a migraine episode. It can impact your body from head to toe, and treating one can be tricky.
3. A dark, quiet room is worth more than you know. A migraine episode can make it difficult to talk, and it comes with a sensitivity to light and sounds. Sometimes the best relief is to lie down in a dark, cool room. As migraine warriors, we aren’t trying to ignore the world or be antisocial. Our migraine just needs our undivided attention at that moment. In fact, if not caught early, they can be really hard to shake.
4. It makes me a little grouchy and irritable. Because my migraine episodes come with a host of other symptoms, I can be in quite a bit of discomfort for a few hours. This can just make me a little more irritable. If I’m snappy, I apologize. Everything hurts. Nothing seems to really help at that moment. It’s often helpful to give me a little space.
5. Water doesn’t always help. My migraine triggers have largely been certain foods, hormones, or stress. At times, water has made my headache feel worse. I might pass on the water (except for a few sips) and use a bit of lavender oil instead. Dabbing some lavender on my temples (not close to my eyes) or wrists has provided some relief. Sometimes, even a salty snack or something else weird like that may help more than what you might think of as traditional remedies.
6. You can feel like a failure. I can’t count the days I’ve had everything planned and then bam! Here comes a migraine. During those days, you can feel like an epic failure. Everything and everyone get pushed back. My migraine episodes are often unpredictable, so they can derail a beautifully organized day. If you’re a perfectionist, overachiever, or just like checking things off your list, it can really make you feel lousy. A migraine is the biggest party pooper. It can shut down your entire day.
7. I’m not being dramatic. Recently I saw my neurologist, and he mentioned some minor (not dangerous) scarring on my brain after an MRI. He noted that it was likely due to migraines. A migraine episode is not a headache caused by tense neck muscles. It’s not due to sinus congestion or a head cold. A migraine involves the brain – the most important organ we have. Please don’t consider me a baby or a weakling if I talk about my migraine episodes. They are a big deal in the health world.
8. I may have had them for many years. If you meet someone with migraine episodes, they likely have had them for years. Your input on how to address or treat them may or may not be helpful. Rest assured they probably didn’t just start having them that week. Please assume they are “professional” migraine patients when you share helpful tips.
9. They might not look the same as yours. Our fingerprints are all different, and so are our migraines. If you have migraine episodes and meet someone else with them, good for you for finding a great sounding board. That said, don’t assume you both have the same triggers, treatment plan, or experience.
10. When they’re over, you’re ready for the world. Having a migraine can give you some serious FOMO. It may just be me, but when I’m finally on the other side of a migraine, I feel like I want to get back to everything I missed! I’ll often work extra hard. I’ll call up friends and family I neglected for those few hours or days. It feels like I have my life back.
11. I am not my migraine. I am a wife, a fur mom, an aunt, a writer, a lover of waffles, and a friend. I have migraine episodes almost every month, but I’m much more than my condition and symptoms. I’m a whole person – just like you.
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Photo Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision via Getty Images
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