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

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When you live with a health condition like migraine, there are certain things you do that become such a normal part of your day-to-day routine that you rarely stop to think about it. Well, that is, until someone else points it out to you. It is in those types of moments that we realize that seemingly “normal” parts of our life with a chronic health condition aren’t so “normal” to people who don’t live with that same condition.

While these “everyday things” can vary from individual to individual, these are just nine examples of things people may not realize you’re doing because you live with migraine.

1. Stretching or Cracking Neck

Many people who live with migraine (myself included) experience a lot of neck and shoulder tension. Sometimes, even just a temporary relief in this tension can help relieve pain and provide additional blood flow to your head, which is a welcome feeling if you’re dealing with migraine pain at the same time.

Unfortunately, this may mean you need to stretch or even pop your neck throughout the day, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. Personally, I roll my head and stretch/pop my neck several times a day, and although it sounds terrifying to people around me, it feels amazing in that moment.

2. Rubbing Head or Face

Many people with migraine deal with frequent, recurring pressure and pain in various places like their forehead and around their eyes. This often makes it hard to perform everyday tasks, but can be relieved by rubbing or pressing on those areas. While this sometimes means people look at us like we’ve lost our minds, it’s really just our way of pushing through the pain (pun intended).

3. Rejecting Calls

Sensitivity to sound can be a major issue for people with migraine, especially when we’re in the throes of a migraine attack. In fact, many of us with migraine go to extreme efforts to avoid loud sounds and bright lights when our symptoms flare up. This often means saying no to phone calls, even with our loved ones.

So, if you call me, and I reject the call but text you instead, chances are I’m dealing with migraine pain, but I still want you to know I care.

4. Leaving Messes Around

Keeping up with household chores can be difficult for anyone. Unfortunately, it’s even harder to do things like take out the trash and wash the dishes when you can barely function due to pain and other migraine symptoms. You aren’t “lazy” or “a slob,” you’re just doing the best you can on any given day when you live with migraine.

5. Scheduling Regular Visits With Certain Professionals

When I first started scheduling monthly appointments with a massage therapist two years ago, many friends and family members asked if I was enjoying “pampering” myself. However, they didn’t realize that these appointments weren’t just expensive forms of self-care — they were actually a form of preventative medicine for migraine.

Massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic appointments can all help with migraine symptoms, and many of us rely on these professionals to provide relief and natural preventative measures so we can (hopefully) decrease the frequency and severity of migraine symptoms. However, people who don’t live with migraine don’t realize this and may even use judgmental words as a result. It’s frustrating to say the least, especially when we’re just trying to do everything we can to manage our health.

6. Forgetting Things

Anytime I drop the ball on something, people make comments about how it’s so “out of character” and how I’m “usually more on top of things.” While I do like to stay on top of deadlines and keep my promises to my loved ones, it’s hard sometimes, especially when I’m crawling out of a multi-day attack or dealing with a rebound headache.

Chances are, if you also live with migraine, you understand how hard it is to keep up with everything when you are battling pain, nausea, and other symptoms that come with the condition. No amount of phone reminders or fancy day planners will help you remember everything when you’re battling a chronic condition, period.

7. Not Showering

Although a nice, hot shower or warm bath can help with migraine symptoms, sometimes the effort that goes into it is too exhausting or difficult to manage. The people who know you best may understand, but the vast majority of people likely don’t realize how hard it can be to tackle something like showering when you live with a chronic illness.

8. Wearing “Strange” Clothing Items

People who live with migraine often rely on certain items to help them manage symptoms so they can live a (relatively) normal life. Sometimes these items include over-the-counter medications and supplements, while other times they may consist of ice packs, head wraps, or sunglasses — it really just depends.

Although it’s hard to get funny looks for wearing a beanie on your head during the summer or sliding on some sunglasses while inside the grocery store, you’re allowed to wear whatever you need to wear to help you manage your symptoms.

9. Ordering Takeout

I once had a friend comment about how frequently I seemed to order takeout, and it struck me as odd. However, I soon realized that my frequent UberEats deliveries looked like splurging to my friend, when in reality it was just a way to get my needs met without making my symptoms worse.

I don’t care how full of food your fridge is — if you’re dealing with migraine symptoms, the last thing you want to do is stand in a kitchen and whip up dinner. It’s a breeding ground for triggers like strong smells, loud sounds, and bright lights that can start an attack or intensify it if it’s already happening.

Sometimes it’s hard to live with migraine when people don’t seem to understand. However, I hope this list helps you see that we all deal with inquisitive stares and judgmental comments when doing things that, really, are just part of our life with migraine. So keep on popping your neck and stop worrying when you forget someone’s birthday — you’re doing the best you can, and I see you.

Getty image by Anupong Thongchan / EyeEm

Originally published: April 13, 2022
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