Monday, 13 February 2012

Migraine misconceptions & Migrainism: Part I

I’m not easily angered. A dinner party debate about politics will not rile me, mainly because I don’t actually know enough about politics to join in properly. If politics are being discussed I do the following (you may steal this technique): frown knowingly, tilt my head to one side, nod slowly and if asked a direct question say “Yah, yup, OK, interesting, interesting but what do you think?”  Neither will heated discussions about religion upset me because I do not want to admit that I can’t really remember much of my undergraduate Theology degree.

However, if you say any of the following I will slap you in the face:

“It must be so lovely to have all that time to yourself when you have a migraine.”

“Why don’t you just go for a jog?”

“I got rid of my migraines with willpower…”

“I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but we all think you’re a bit lazy.”

“Do you like getting migraines?”

“Just take some painkillers.”

“Grin and bear it.”

“I’m sure they’ll stop when you’re fully employed.”

“What you need is a distraction!”

“You’ll grow out of it dear.”

All these things have been said, to my face. Unfortunately no one has been slapped.  Yet. But you have been warned. And actually, the last statement is kind of true for some forms of migraine. Research shows certain migraines lessen with age. Mine, conversely, are getting worse but I’ll go into that in another fascinating blog.

My point is this: forget feminism, racism, forget dwarfism, there is a new ‘ism’ in town that effects over 15% of the world population. Migrainism.

“Migrainism is when a person suffering from migraine is treated differently because they have migraine.” 
Victoria Ann Saxton. London, England. 2011.  ©  ™

There are many misconceptions about migraines, some of which even I used to share. Gasp. My Granny used to complain of ‘headaches’ and because she was a bit of a battleaxe we all thought she was just making a fuss. Then my mother hit menopause and started suffering from migraines and we suddenly realized Granny hadn’t been making a fuss at all. And that she hadn’t been lying in her room, in the dark, for three days just because she was a stubborn old witch who had a point to prove. We still feel guilty. Sorry Granny. You see migraine is largely genetic, if you have a parent with migraine you have a 40% of getting it too. This is why I must mate with a super human bionic man with no medical ailments of any kind, and no ginger genes in his bloodline!

So, next time you meet someone who tells you they have migraine do not be guilty of migrainism.

  •  Are a middle aged spinster, living alone with 12 cats
  • Are depressed
  • Like the colour beige
  • Are boring
  • Suffer from anxiety
  • Are lazy
  • Are making it all up
  • Are agoraphobic
  • Just have a bad headache
  • Don’t like socializing
In relation to this last point, I would suggest that migraineurs are, in fact, the ideal dinner party guest. I know that I am often so over excited to be able to make a social engagement, such as a dinner party, that I basically talk non-stop. So, with me around there will be no longeurs in conversation, nor will there be any heated debated about politics or religion. Ideal.

Next time: Migrainsm Part II: How Doctors are often the biggest Migrainists, and How I made a trainee GP cry…


  1. Hi there,

    I've had migraines since 9 - it's my 30th this year. I guess it's one of those conditions that you're glad to hear you're not the only one suffering from (and going crazy seeing flashing auras - even when you close your eyes!)but I'm also now at the life stage where I'm fed up; of the condition, yes but more of people's attitudes towards it. When I was promoted at work by boss 'jestingly' said,"now for goodness sake, dont get a bloody migraine at enrolment"... this comment in itself is ludicrous but to others I must seem to just get a mild headhache and throw up a bit, it's not deemed as unacceptable as telling and epileptic not to fit! It's quite messed up because, for all intents and purposes, we're technically disabled, but only when we're having an attack. I'm an active, hyper, extrovert, social person usually and I think because of my personality, people think I'm ok and it's ok; well it's not, but I get on with it (I know people go through worse).Funnily enough, the people who dismiss migraines are probably the ones who would crumble under the pressure of this condition. They have no idea about the mental frustration and stigma attached. So I say to all non migraneures - we don't want your sympathy, we just want you to understand the condition, not make assumptions and only comment WHEN YOU'VE BOTHERED TO RESEARCH THE CONDITION!!!.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    I raise my Gin and Tonic to you! I couldn't agree more with everything you say - I was going to reply more fully but then, between, us we'd have used up all the material for my next three blogs! But I so understand what you mean, especially being a chatty, sociably person myself. I think it's very confusing for friends to understand sometimes, as between attacks we appear 'normal'. I hope you have a great medical team behind you, by the way. What triggers your migraines? Also, congratulations on the promotion!

  3. The other day I said to one of my colleagues "I'm going to the shop for some chocolate, do you want anything?" She replied "I thought chocolate was bad for migraines?" I sighed and very calmly tried to explain that yes it can be a trigger for some people, but that it isn't for me...and I know this because for 7 hellish months I cut it out just to check. Yep still loads of migraines. Good. I ruddy love chocolate and after a migraine it's pretty much all I want to eat. So I went on to explain that a neurologist once told me that chocolate is often associated with migraines because people often crave something sweet before they get one, eat chocolate, have a migraine and oh yes, it must be the cause.

    I know she was only trying to help...but when you get "helpful" comments like this ALL THE TIME it can be really annoying.

    Recently I had to remove someone from twitter as they tweeted "Some days I wish I had a migraine so I could stay cuddled up in bed." Needless to say there were many expletives...but I didn't fight...I just clicked "unfollow".

  4. I wonder if we have the same Neurologist, as mine said the exact same thing to me. Though maybe this is just what all Neurologists say.

    Re your ex Twitter friend, what a twit!

    A girl once said to me, while in a bar, "Oh I'm getting a migraine but let's keep dancing, shall we get in more drinks there are some cute guys over there".....

  5. I've had a co-worker come tell me that they heard ice cream could help fend off migraines... Really?? Don't you think I've tried everything possible to figure out what helps & what triggers my migraines (noise & rushing around are my biggest issues). I know these people mean well when they try to give suggestions, but they still just don't get it. My next route for relief will likely include Botox injections as my daily meds just don't help the frequency/intensity for very long. I've only been having migraines for a bit over a year, and have had very little relief, outside a few weeks that were pain-free. My parents never had migraines, but I'm over 30, & know of 3 cousins (both sides of my family) that get migraines.

    Thanks for posting this blog. I'll definitely be sharing it on Facebook as well was retweeting on Twitter.


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