Everyone has different levels of pain and discomfort tolerance. I've had all sorts of pains throughout my life that I could ignore, but this time it was different.
"It's not just a headache."
A migraine is not a 'bad' headache. It's wearing sunglasses at work, trying not to look at your screen, occipital bruising and bleeding from falling, wearing ridiculous ice hats, and having a whole shelf in your freezer just for ice packs. I could go on forever.
The stigma around the disease is another headache of living with an invisible illness. Migraines, for me at least, have so many more symptoms on top of pain, like blurry vision, dark spots, muscle pain, nerve pain/numbness, brain fog, confusion, extreme fatigue, etc.
As soon as one starts up, all the energy leaves my body and nausea begins. All these symptoms worsen until I eventually have to lie down in a dark room, as still as possible, because even breathing makes the pain worse and movement makes me want to puke more. All my senses are on 11, and any stimulation makes it worse. It can last for days and screw up your perception of sight, sound, smell, and taste. It can also mimic stroke symptoms and cause you to stagger around like you're drunk. And when it finally clears, you feel like your body is about to give out.
Migraine episodes vary in intensity.
I've had migraine episodes for decades. Without fail, my vision will get blurry about 15-20 minutes before the pain hits (and I know when the pain starts if it's a migraine or a regular headache). The severity of the blurriness usually indicates the amount of pain.
Having said all that, you can function through many less severe episodes. It sucks, but it's doable. My friend used to get 4-6 migraine episodes a month, but only 3-4 a year are so intense she can't do anything but curl up into a ball.
We don't all have the same migraine experiences.
My chronic migraine (recognizable to doctors and treatable with triptans plus beta-blockers) comes in various severities. Sometimes (very often, now that I'm on the right meds), it's mild enough for me to be relatively functional. Other times, I have a more severe migraine and have to hide in my room with the lights out for 24 hours. Even still, my less severe episodes are still intense.
A little empathy goes a long way.
I think anyone trying to empathize with your pain is trying their best to understand you. Be mindful that people sometimes show sympathy by telling you about something similar they went through; trying to relate your experience to theirs helps them understand. And last but certainly not least, always remember the people in your life who take the time to check in on you.
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Photo Credit: Jamie Grill / Tetra Images via Getty Images
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