Do you suffer from migraine?
Do you feel like no one understands you?
From my past experiences of dealing with migraine, I know exactly where you are coming from. I’d like to share a few common myths with you, so that we all can be understood better.
When I first started getting migraine attacks, I felt lonely and frustrated. No matter whether I was at work, with family or with friends, I felt that nobody truly got me. Many of these people seemed to have their own ideas about what migraine was ‘supposed’ to mean. Sadly these people—whose intentions were good—were flat out wrong!
My Opinion on 4 Migraine Myths
Migraine Myth #1: A migraine attack is a bad headache
Because it happens in the head and because everyone has had headaches, that is the first place people go. But this headache is actually a symptom of a real neurological disease. Your garden-variety headaches are just that—headaches. Migraine is different. Migraine can be a whole body experience. I tell people it’s like stubbing your toe, but the pain just keeps going and going.
I’ve had one boss dismissively say to me, “Oh, another bad headache?”
“No, it’s so much more than that.”
“OK, well, you’ll need to make this time up…”
If only I had been able to make her see the truth right then and there! But I wasn’t. If only I had spoken to human resources about this. But I was silent.
Fortunately, I was reassigned to a boss who had migraine himself and knew exactly where I was coming from. This manager understood that “bad headache” was not even close to the truth. In retrospect, I wish I had spoken my truth sooner to as many people within my company that I needed to.
There are a lot of ways you can prove that migraine is not a bad headache. Sites like this one will give you facts, figures and definitions. And, of course, your doctor can give you more information and a real diagnosis. Don’t be afraid to use it to help prove your point.
Migraine Myth #2: Migraine is a psychological disorder
Migraine is NOT a psychological disorder. It’s a neurological disease. There is a huge difference. Migraine is far more complicated than most realize. For starters, migraines aren’t “all in your head.” They are something that consumes your entire body.
Why are they so painful?
A lot can happen during a migraine attack. For example, the blood vessels in your brain can temporarily expand causing severe pain, often in very specific places. It’s not like a ‘regular headache’ where you feel it pretty much all over your head. With migraine, it’s often on one side of my head. But migraine doesn't stop there. An attack can include symptoms of vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound and smells.
Living through a migraine attack is one of the most physically challenging things I have ever endured. Yes, it starts in my head, but I can tell you there is nothing “psychological” about migraine. It’s like getting physically mugged again and again with no warning.
Migraine Myth #3: Migraine can’t interfere with your work or social life
In the past, I have had migraine episodes that left me having to miss time from work. Sometimes I missed just regular workdays, but sometimes I missed important work deadlines that I couldn’t afford to miss.
And friends? Don’t get me started. I’ve had to avoid going out with friends—everything from dinners to dancing to weekend getaways to entire vacations! It’s really tough having to tell my friends and family what’s going on with me. They are surprised every time, like this is a one time thing instead of an ongoing situation. I worry that they’ll stop inviting me. I worry that they think it’s somehow my fault.
That said, over the years I have been able to confide in some coworkers and my closest friends, so that there is more understanding. I am also thankful for those people in my professional life and my personal life that have been more understanding of the migraine condition I have. Sometimes, when I can’t make it to work or a social function, it’s nice to know that there are people in my life who understand that it is not my fault. It’s migraine.
Migraine Myth #4: If you have migraine, you’re on your own.
It’s true that most general family doctors are not migraine specialists. I was lucky that my general doctor admitted this and suggested I see a specialist. However, I can tell you that my first try with a specialist wasn’t ideal. We just didn’t see eye-to-eye, which is crucial. I ended up seeking out more than one opinion.
My hard-earned lesson is this. Take your time to find a doctor that is not only well qualified to treat migraine, but who listens to you and gives you time to talk about what is important.
Just remember though, you get what you give. Since every person’s migraine is different, being able to talk about your own specific life with migraine is really important. So be sure to do as much homework as you can in advance of any doctor meeting. Then, when your doctor is ready to listen, you have something to say.
Well, there you have it—the 4 common migraine myths. I hope this has helped other people with migraine.
Janine H. is a real migraine patient. She has been compensated for her time.