For six long years now, I’ve suffered from migraines. The kind that creep up on you and wipe you out for three days. The kind that render you unable to open your eyes without searing pain and vomit from light exposure. The kind that leave you dehydrated and looking so bad that even characters from The Walking Dead look like supermodels by comparison.
And throughout these years, I’ve tried just about everything. Medication, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, painkillers, Chinese herbs, exercise, elimination diets, period tracking, physio, chiro, osteo, myotherapy, vitamin supplements, new pillows, specialists… I’ve handed over money to each and every cause in a bid to find out why it is that every six to eight weeks my body is crippled by pain.
Listen: Syl Freedman talks about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. Post continues…
But despite it all, I still get faced with the same questions from those blissfully unaware of what a migraine looks and feels like on a regular basis. And as it’s National Pain Week, I’m begging you. Please stop now. Please.
‘What brings them on?’
For some people, their migraine trigger is a very clear and identifiable thing. For others, your uneducated guess is only slightly worse than theirs. But trust me when I say that people who suffer migraines spend a huge amount of their time trying to learn what brings them on and how to avoid them like an ex. So while it's okay to ask someone this question, if they say they don't know, don't offer up suggestions. Instead, if you really must know, why not ask, 'what works for you when it comes to managing your migraines?'
'Have you tried...' insert literally anything and everything here.
Yes, we have. We've tried changing our diets. We've tried tracking our periods. We've tried monitoring our sleep and buying different bedding. Acupuncture is also something we've handed over cash for, and yes, sometimes prevention medication does work for some people but no, not for everyone. No, it's not a hangover.
Have you tried Googling before you speak, or nah?
'Is it stress related?'
Nope. It's not; that's a stress headache. Honestly, just keep walking, pal.
'Is it like a headache?'
No, it's not. In the way that the flu is incredibly different to a cold and if you've had both you definitely know the difference. I can see that you're one of those people who doesn't believe me but please, trust the world's entire medical community when they (and I) tell you THAT IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE SAME THING. Truly, it's called Google, I implore you to look it up.
'Should you be drinking coffee?'
That's like asking someone if they should be wearing stripes or listening to Calvin Harris. To each their own. For me personally, and a lot of other migraine sufferers, some strong black coffee (combined with specific painkillers) can go a long way in helping alleviate migraine pain. Hell, there's even science to back it up.
'It's not, like, cancer or anything, is it?'
Well, my qualified GP thinks not, but by all means, feel free to challenge them and foot the bill of my total body MRI just so that we can all be sure. $1200 should cover it.
Oh, and maybe you could come along to all of the specialist appointments and offer up words of comfort that will undo the unnecessary fear you've set off inside of me by suggesting that I MIGHT HAVE F*CKING CANCER.
And hey, you could be right. It might be cancer. But it might also just be a migraine.
'Have you ever used them as an excuse for sick leave?'
No, that's what food poisoning is for, duh.
'Why are you wearing sunglasses?'
Great question, but what really needs to be addressed right now is the question of why you are talking to me at all. Seriously, if you see someone wearing sunglasses inside, they're probably halfway to dead already. So just be as quiet as humanly possible and be kind. Instead, try asking, 'Is there anything I/we can do to make you more comfortable?'
What are your top tips for managing a migraine? Let us know in the comments section below.