The Mighty Logo

33 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Migraine

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

As those with migraine know, the disease is far more complex than “just a headache.” It can cause a number of painful and debilitating symptoms that may pose some challenges in accomplishing everyday chores or activities. In order to manage the various symptoms of migraine, some people have developed certain coping mechanisms or tricks to help them navigate their daily lives. However, if others aren’t entirely aware of your condition, they may be confused as to why you’re doing things like wearing sunglasses indoors or constantly rubbing your head and neck.

So, in partnership with The Daily Migraine, we asked their community as well as our Mighty community to share things other people don’t realize they’re doing because of migraine. Maybe some of these will sound familiar to you, too.

Here’s what the communities shared with us:

1. “Wearing sunglasses indoors. It’s not to act like a rock star, far from it.”

2. “Communicate through texts because talking and holding a conversation hurts. With texting I don’t have to respond immediately. I can also just type ‘migraine’ and they get it.”

3. “Refuse to get out of bed (for which I get called lazy, when I’m really just in too much pain and too nauseous to move).”

4. “I look like I’m fluffing my hair, scratching my head or adjusting my ponytail, but I’m really just trying to relieve pressure on my head. Sometimes I hold my nose because I smell things so intensely. I do so many things that probably make people think I’m odd, but they’re just coping mechanisms.”

5. “I get really cranky, and people might think I’m being mean. It just hurts to listen or talk. It’s not something you did, it’s just my head.”

6. “I pause for an unusually long time because the word I’m trying to say has escaped me.”

7. “Pretty much everything I do is calculated risk. I choose to do something, and I have to weigh the odds that I may end up with a migraine afterwards.”

8. “Blankets over all the windows. My dad came over the other day and said ‘Jeez, you live like a vampire,’ and I could only shrug. Not by choice, Dad. I miss open windows and sunshine.”

9. “Not eating. Not many people outside of the chronic illness/migraine world understand how much migraines affect your whole entire body. It can make you vomit or, if you’re like me, it can make you feel just nauseous enough that you won’t throw up but you can’t hardly eat or drink a single thing for a day or two without making it so much worse.”

10. “I slouch. Sitting straight up hurts my neck, because my head feels heavy. People always say, ‘Sit up straight, posture’s important.’ I can’t all the time, and sometimes people judge.”

11. “Looking unkempt because I don’t want to touch my hair or face. Appearing lazy because the fatigue is intense.”

12. “I go for walks a lot while at work. I work under fluorescent lights and in front of a computer screen, so my only real option is to get out of the building and stop looking at the screen under the fluorescent lights. Plus, I can’t usually go home sick because quite frankly I have a migraine 24/7.”

13. “Pillow over my face no matter how dark it is in my room. Sometimes I’ll just hide under my blankets. Oftentimes I will feel so sick from just turning over in bed or walking to the washroom. I can’t even handle candlelights when I’m at my worst.”

14. “Move very slowly, kind of frozen and unresponsive. Blank unfocused stare.”

15. “I’m sure [people] don’t realize I drink 90 oz. of water as fast as possible to stay on top of the pain. [They] probably just think I’m extra thirsty… So many weird rituals when you are a migrainista like me.”

16. “I angle myself so the other person is blocking the light source during a conversation, especially if we’re outside in the sun.”

17. “Hold hands with my husband so I don’t fall. Most people just think we are being a sweet couple.”

18. “I turn my head from side to side a lot to try to stretch out my neck and shoulders, or crack my neck for the illusion of relieving migraine pressure.”

19. “Making sure I eat at least three decent meals a day. People think I’m strange that I schedule things around my eating schedule but if I don’t eat a migraine will hit me hard.”

20. “I live in a very dark house. I get migraines almost daily so it is always dark. I have blackout curtains and a dimmer so I can keep the light as low as whatever is comfortable. Whenever we have company over, they always comment on how dark our house is.”

21. “Disappear from social media, not responding to phone calls and text messages. The light off of my phone, iPad and laptop would hurt my eyes and worsen my migraine. So I usually just turn them off.”

22. “I rub my hand or a pen up and down my upper arm in order to give myself something else to focus on when my aura starts to come on.”

23. “I speak very softly. It hurts to talk at a normal volume. I have stopped singing in the choir. To me, it sounds like I am yelling and my own voice may trigger a migraine.”

24. “I grind my teeth a lot during a migraine. Also, I walk around with a ‘false’ face on trying to pretend everything is alright.”

25. “I often have the habit to look down as I walk or do anything… not really because I’m ‘shy’ but because I can’t handle much light.”

26. “Using pressure points on my neck and sometimes head to temporarily alleviate (or distract from) my migraine. It can appear as frustration, laziness or boredom, I’ve been told.”

27. “I get really quiet and antisocial if I’m in a social setting and start blinking a lot when I notice the beginning of the headache coming on.”

28. “Always turning down the radio/music in the car – sound is a trigger – and thus being the ‘party pooper’ to the jam sessions. And concerts are a complete absolute no-go, unfortunately.”

29. “[I] mess up my words, become unable to speak and speak in a manner where people who don’t know me would assume I’m drunk.”

30. “Slowly rocking myself back and forth, especially when the nausea hits. I don’t know why but sometimes it’s soothing.”

31. “I knead at my neck and use smelly balms. I also go to the bathroom to run cold water on my face. I have to pretend I don’t want chocolate or an adult beverage when things are flaring up, when I really want one. I have to nap when it acts up, leave work early for doctor appointments. The worst surprisingly is yawning though. People think I am disinterested or don’t care, but it is often an early sign for me to take some meds with caffeine and prepare to either go home or jury rig myself to get through the rest of the day.”

32. “Wearing a hat inside. The lights in many buildings can cause worse migraines than the sun. People seem to just assume I’m rude for wearing a ball cap inside, especially at restaurants. Trust me, I wish the lighting didn’t increase migraines too.”

33. “Rub my forehead. I also may be eating a mint or honey candy for the nausea, or just food to try and prevent me from getting a migraine. I have to listen to my body in a way others may not because being tired/hungry/stressed can lead to a migraine.”

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

33 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because of Migraine
Originally published: July 20, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home