Saturday, 18 May 2013

'Migraine on Board' - Give Up Your Seat!

True story, Parents' Christmas Party: circa 1998.

Family friend: Oh Victoria, you're positively blooming! How many months are you gone now? Five?

Victoria: Actually, it's my older sister, Jo, who is with child. Canapé?
(stuffs face with devilled eggs)

True story, Secondary School: circa 1992 (i.e I'd be 12)

Victoria: Um, Isabella, I can't carry all this heavy games equipment because of my special tummy condition.

Isabella: What condition?

Victoria: (sticks out tummy as much as possible) I don't want anyone to know, so you can't tell Miss Hamilton, but basically, I'm literarilly pregnant, so you're going to have to carry everything...for 6 months. Sorry.

Apart from proving that I was a chubby and evil lying teenager, (sorry Isobella, I still feel guilty!) the above does demonstrate that I'm pretty good at being mistaken for a pregnant lady. Oh yes.

And last week, I wanted so badly for someone to think I was pregnant and give me their seat on the tube. But, alas, they did not. I think it was karma payback for Isabella.

I was having a very bad case of migraine hangover (postdrome phase), so I felt as if I was walking around in waste high water, with sacks of sand tied to my feet, and generally battered and bruised. Standing on a crowded rush hour tube, I kept thinking my jelly legs would give way. And because we migraineurs 'look' fine no one is going to offer up their seat unless we make a fuss and ask for one - and obviously that's not British, or sensible. i.e I was just too embarrassed.

I know I'm not the only one who finds travelling on the tube, in the foggy mists of a migraine hangover, incredibly hard. A friend of mine recently tweeted she had to stop on her journey to work, and hide out in a Starbucks to rest - she was so drained. And it's not just when you're in the hangover phase.

Having a migraine on public transport is no picnic. Another friend recently got into real difficulties on the tube. Again, there were no seats in the busy rush hour - and just as one seat came up - a pushy commuter snuck in under her - sending my friend over the edge. Already feeling dis-orientated, tears started to flow (a symptom of her migraine), and to block out the fluro lights (her biggest trigger) she had to cover her eyes. At this point she got a seat, and a kind person did help her out at her stop. As my friend sat covering her face, (I've done the same many a time) worried passengers finally began to pay attention and asked if everything was ok; she explained she was having a migraine. A man in ear-shot said "Oh, a headache." She responded that she couldn't feel her face, this was no headache.....

Anyway. Back to me. So there was I was, jostling along on the tube, debating whether or not I'm going to have to get off at the next stop just so I can find somewhere to sit down, when the red sea of commuters part....and makes way for a pregnant lady bearing a badge with the sacred words "Baby on Board". She is offered about 6 seats. I evilly eye her as she smugly settles into her seat. You can barely tell she's pregnant (which, by the way, is why these badges are amazing, I've had MANY awkward incidents offering my seats to ladies who were not with child.)

Above is an example of one of the badges, which I'm sure many of you will have seen. They're everywhere (probably because Katherine Middleton - right - was recently seen sporting one!) They've revolutionised train travel. No more half hearted debating do you stand up, don't you, do you just avert your gaze and leave it to some other poor sucker to decide. 

I think these badges are great and here's my proposition. I want one too. I actually, physically, want one. You can claim them from your local train station, so I was considering just getting one and wearing it on bad migraine hangover days! But then.... maybe poor pregnant ladies would feel hard done by, and also this doesn't do much for furthering understanding of migraineurs and what we go through. So, let's have a migraine badge! 

This month's Migraineur Of The Month (Migraine Chick) has already made some rather funky Migraine badges. But she calls them buttons, or pins. Because she's American. She can't help it.

Image from copyright DL
Just think what our migraine badges could do!!! You could wear them in the office when you need annoying co-workers to shut up and dim the lights? Or when you need friends to muzzle their children and yappy dogs? The possibilities are endless.

And most importantly, well, for my immediate transport purposes, it might get me a seat on the tube. I think my 5 year old niece has a badge making kit so I'm going to start immediately. What should our badges say? 'Migraine On Board - Be Kind.'

Let's brainstorm (excuse the pun) people! Give me your best suggestions.....


  1. I totally sympathise with the public transport hangover. I recently went on a business trip, i'd just settled into my plane seat when migraine hit. I was in the middle seat and couldn't get to my meds. I finally asked the man next to me to get my bag and dosed up. 2 and a half agonising hours later I arrived at CDG and had to go through security to get my connection. I was staggering and slurring and generally looking like a drugs mule who's sack had exploded in her stomach. I got pulled over. Terrible, terrible, awful experience.

    1. Oh Wendy, I'm so sorry to hear about your awful experience - you poor thing!! I've had a few travel horrors myself but don't think I've ever been pulled over - how nasty. Hope you're all recovered! Hugs x

  2. I'm on board with this idea.

  3. Victoria, I just bought one of these Migraine buttons (or badges :) ) for the giveaway I'm holding on my blog for the upcoming US Migraine & Headache Awareness Month (MHAM) next month (June).

    Migraine Chick's are super adorable!

    1. Oh these are brilliant - and I just also realised Emily has them as the backdrop to her twitter page! The question is - would I actually be brave enough to wear it in public - but it would get a lot of conversation going! x

  4. I love the badges! It would be great to wear to work.

    I also had to stop on the way home from work the other day and just sit in starbucks for half an hour with my sunglasses on. People must have thought what a douche. But I didn't care. Today I spent 15 minutes choosing a yoghurt in sainsburys because I feel so hungover. Rubbish.

    I really don't know how you manage the tube. I think I would definitely cry. I quit the commute last year (best thing I ever did) and now I cycle and walk in on wibbly days.

    Claire x

    1. Hey!! Oh not you too - maybe everyone thought you were some super cool celeb visiting cam to give a lecture??? Hangovers are the worst...but conversely I'm pretty impressed with you managing to cycle too!! xx

  5. How about "I have a MIGRAINE and I'm not afraid to use it!"
    Um. or is that just how I feel sometimes?

  6. I made a train journey from Edinburgh to Glasgow recently when I had one of the worst migraines...I've *never* heard trains brake that screechily or babies wail that noisily before .

    Anyway, I was thinking about making a badge that has the word MIGRAINE in red letters on it just to wear on normal days because it would be funky, but then when you have a migraine you press a little switch at the back little red LEDs light up the letters. You'd have your eyes closed anyway so wouldn't notice, but everyone else travelling near you would be like, "holy shit, better tell our obnoxious 5 year old to shut up this one time" or "maybe I'll turn my 'hilarious' youtube videos I'm broadcasting to the whole carriage down a notch" and so on.

    I wonder how much it would cost to produce such a badge....?

    (I'm normally am very warmly disposed to my fellow humans - honest!)

    1. Emma, I like the way you think! If they can make those annoying badges that sing happy birthday this can't be much of a stretch...either way it would get people to leave us alone...or give us a seat when needed. Let's look into it!

      p.s check out the link Diana Lee posted a few comments above - for a non flashing red migraine patch...just in case..

  7. Yeah I saw that after I posted - great that someone's selling them! Etsy's ace :-)

    I was telling my family about your post.... Apparently my Grandpa (who used to treat epilepsy patients) used to encourage people to write little notes to safety pin to their coats for when they were recovering after seizures but needed to go out in public saying, "I am recovering from a seizure, I AM NOT DRUNK". He was waay ahead of us on the badge idea!

    I have oft felt like I needed such a note when staggering around Edinburgh in the middle of the day in the midst of a migraine. I'm not sure whether it's good or bad that thanks to Scotland's problem with alcohol my erratic behaviour has probably been regarded as pretty average :/


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