These are the things understood by sufferers of migraines everywhere:
1. Migraines are NOT just bad headaches.
A migraine is actually a collection of symptoms that make up a syndrome. And it’s more than “just” a headache. It’s a bunch of pain and sickness and sensitivities that all come together to ruin your life.
2. The symptoms of migraines are different for everyone.
Symptoms include: Pain, throbbing, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, visual disturbances, sensitivities to light, sound, taste and smell, and trouble sleeping/waking. There are more, but these are the main symptoms. How many do you experience?
I get dizzy and sick. My son can’t deal with light. My daughter needs quiet time. These symptoms can be strong enough to interrupt school, work or sleep.
3. Symptoms can change.
So here is some awesome news: Your symptoms can morph over time. They may also progress over time. The good news is, studies show that you won’t always experience the same crappy feelings every time you have a migraine.
But seriously…how can they get worse? Go to hell, migraines.
4. Migraines are wicked enough to send you packing.
Packing for the ER, that is. Did you know that every 10 seconds a person checks in to an emergency department in the United States with a migraine or headache pain? That’s freaking ridiculous. If it hurts enough to send your ass to the ER, it’s probably not “just a headache.” You’ve either been knocked in the head with a baseball bat, or you have a migraine.
I don’t know which is worse.
5. Migraines have made the list!
Migraines carry so much power, they’ve made the list of the top 20 of the world’s most disabling medical illnesses. That’s serious. People miss work every day because of migraines. It’s not a good idea to ask them to tough it out. What if you were a passenger on the plane of which the pilot was suffering a debilitating migraine? Or the waitress delivering your food, who promptly pukes on you as she lays the plate down on the table?
You think I’m joking. I’m not — it’s that bad.
6. And then there are the menstrual migraines.
As if PMS and periods don’t suck enough, many women suffer from menstrual migraines as well. These come on strong and last longer. They’re also more difficult to treat as they don’t respond as well to typical migraine medicines. Those days before our period, when our migraines hit, DO NOT talk about PMS. We’re likely to strangle you.
Of course, we can’t get out of bed or turn the lights on or stop vomiting, but we’ll vow to get you once we’re done with all this female stuff — so you better watch it.
7. The drugs don’t help.
We’re not talking illegal drugs. They might help, for all I know.
There are over one hundred prescription and over-the-counter medications available for migraines. They work to prevent or treat symptoms. They work for half of us. Some sufferers need to take daily medication to prevent or lower the frequency of the migraines.
8. There are well-known triggers.
When we tell people we have migraines, there’s always that one person in the crowd who likes to spout off the triggers. For the record, I’m never giving up chocolate (apparently, a trigger.) Red wine can cause migraines. Switch to white. (I just made that part up. I have no idea if white wine is better for your headaches, but at least you don’t have to give it all up.) Skipping meals can cause migraines — so by all means, don’t diet. Feel free to eat and tell people, “My doctor prescribed it.” What? It’s true. On that note, I should mention intense physical exertion sometimes causes migraines. You’ll have to modify your exercise plan.
High altitude, motion (as in amusement park rides or boats), lack of sleep (party days are over), bright or flickering lights (no more raves for you) are all triggers.
Even emotional stress can be a catalyst for a migraine. So get some therapy.
9. Migraines are equal-opportunity attackers.
You wouldn’t know it, but these people suffer(ed) from migraines: Thomas Jefferson, Elvis, Anne Frank, Whoopi Goldberg, Vincent Van Gogh, Elizabeth Taylor, Terrell Davis and even Julius Caesar.
There’s nothing anyone can say or do to make migraines better. At least not at the time. They suck. What we need are prescriptions, dark rooms, barf buckets and lots of quiet time. Oh, and someone doting on us because we’re suffering unimaginable pain. Maybe some chocolate (without a lecture that it will only make the migraine worse.)
As long as you don’t say, “It’s just a headache,” no one will get hurt.