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Why I Wish Everyone Could Experience At Least One Migraine

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I wouldn’t wish this type of pain on my worst enemy…Or would I? I know there is a moral and ethical understanding that one would not want to wish harm onto someone else with bad intent. But what if there was a worthwhile intention – one that could benefit millions of people?

Since being diagnosed with chronic migraines 13 years ago, I have found great connections to others who are also struggling in a variety of online social media support groups and individual interactions. I remember there specifically being a post from someone who was just venting about another terrible doctor’s appointment, and commented something along the line of, “I bet that doctor has never had a migraine in their life!” And then a discussion began amongst the group members of what it would be like for someone influential in our lives to experience a migraine – just one. It could be a doctor treating you, a friend or family members struggling to support you, or the larger government in charge of where money is allocated for funding and research. Would this experience raise awareness, increase empathy, and heighten the urgency to find successful treatment for invisible illnesses?

When people tell me, “I get headaches too,” that comment and those that are similar really get me raging, even though I understand that others say it with nothing but good intent. One pet peeve I have is when my physicians call them headaches…That is not what they are at all. I will admit, a lot of the misconceptions are my, and others who experience migraines, misdoings. I recently read an article saying that people who experience migraines describe their illness in the least effective way, leading to a prolonged misunderstanding of how severe it can be. What we should be saying is that migraines are a neurological disorder that impacts the entire body, and bouts of severe head pain are just one of the many symptoms. I can only speak for myself, but I can’t tell you how much energy I expend trying to find new and clever ways of explaining what this disease is like to others, just in the hopes that one person will hear what I am saying. But what if there was another, more direct way?

Just one migraine in the right hands could change the lives of so many. I know, some of you are thinking that isn’t logical thinking. But, I have had migraine disease for over 13 years and am still here to tell the tale about it. This is not a terminal illness, so you would not be putting anyone’s health in imminent risk. But you could get an understanding of how just one migraine attack could make you feel like you were dying.

During just one migraine attack, you can also get a sense of how this kind of severe pain and confusion can drastically change how you act in your relationships and how others see you in those moments. People don’t always understand what your behavioral changes mean and the feel uncomfortable. And you begin getting messages like these,”Head up. Stay strong. Fake a smile. Move on.”

If you were able to experience just one migraine attack, and how they completely affect you physically and emotionally, you would be able to understand how saying things like that above are not always possible. They are certainly worth striving for, but to say that it would be easy to achieve is an understatement. Try to remember the worst trauma that you have ever personally experienced and imagine someone saying to you “just get over it.” You know better than anyone that no one can put a timeline on your physical or emotional grief but you.

Just one migraine attack can make a person like you – someone who is high-achieving, good at multitasking, physically active and extremely social – stop in their tracks. All of the sudden you are not able to get your chores and cleaning done because you are exhausted all the time. You can no longer exercise because it makes your migraines worse. You haven’t seen your friends or partner in a few days, leaving you feeling really depressed and lonely. You had to call out of work for the day because you can’t physically lift your head off the pillow, and you are worried about all that you are going to fall behind on.

Imagine the stress that comes with just one attack, how drastically your life in that moment s altered due to pain, confusion, speech loss, vertigo, emotional and behavioral changes. And then know that it is over, just one migraine, fully recovered and functioning back to their version of “normal.” Would you instantly be grateful that the experience was over? More importantly, would you feel you had a better understanding of what someone like me has to experience when I say “I am sick?”

Would you be less apt to judge me for just “being an emotional woman who gives herself headaches when she is stressed?” Would you instead realize that the strength and endurance I possess to get through every attack within a more complicated neurological disorder is a real testament to who I am as an individual?

If you are the doctor that specializes in migraine treatment and have never experienced an attack in your own personal life – would this pain scenario make you more serious and urgent in your care of patients? If you are a friend or family member who has ever doubted the severity of this disease, would you see me in a less negative light after having experienced just one? Would you stop thinking that I am being lazy when you realize how much energy you have to exert just to get you through a minute of pain that intense? What if someone in the government in charge of medical research and money allocation were to volunteer to have just one migraine attack to determine how much money and time get dedicated to finding a treatment, and possibly a cure? Might we see it rise from the bottom of the list toward the top as a priority because this government official can now understand why so many can not work when they are struggling, thus causing so much money to Family and Medical Leave Act and short-term disability? Could it be that finally someone might see putting a bandaid on the situation is not enough – that taking that money and using it to prioritize treatment that is more cost effective and finding a possible cure is essential?

What changes might happen if you were to experience a migraine once? Then, try to understand what the implications would be on your life if just one attack turned into daily attacks for years on end? Can you now understand how the possibility of having someone “experience” your pain would not be inherently hurtful, but helpful in some way?

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Getty image by wildpixel

Originally published: February 16, 2018
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