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Your Migraine Pain Is Still Valid Even If You're Smiling Through It

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I want to talk about how we perceive people who deal with migraine attacks and pain. We often assume for someone to truly be in pain they should be in bed. For those who deal with migraine attacks and chronic migraine, we think of those who must be unable to function, possibly laying in a dark room, maybe throwing up. This may be the case for some people, but there are plenty of those who deal with chronic painful migraine attacks but still function in their daily activities.

My pain, no matter what I’m doing, is still valid.

There are two photos of me; both of these photos portray me with an extremely painful migraine. One of them I’m smiling looking like I’m fine and the other I’m frowning, eyes are tearing and my hand is to my temple. The first photo was from work. I was smiling and laughing, masking the pounding and throbbing migraine pain. I managed to get through the whole day of work to go home and lay in bed. But even as I laid in bed I didn’t turn off the lights and lay in darkness. I often feel when I lay in total darkness with a migraine I fixate on the pain. So instead, I find other ways to occupy myself that can help me rest as well not fixate on the pain. However, it’s important to remember that people deal with pain in different ways.

I’ve dealt with migraine attacks and headaches all my life. I’ve never really had a time without some sort of headache. I’ve had MRIs taken and I’ve had my fair share of medications and concoctions prescribed to me to help prevent them and to help get them under control when I have them. Because I’ve dealt with migraine pain my whole life when I have a painful migraine I often try to power through my day. However, there is a downside to powering through pain. People tend to not believe you when you state that you have pain or have an extremely bad migraine. Because I still work through the painful migraine attacks I’ve had many people tell me that “I must not have a migraine,” or it “must not be that bad.” Though I complain of having a migraine and then laugh the next minute does not mean I’m faking having a migraine. I’m actually faking that I’m not in pain.

I’ve learned as I’ve continued to deal with pain, my pain tolerance gets higher. That doesn’t mean the pain isn’t that bad anymore. That pain is still the same. But I’ve learned how to try to adapt and continue while in pain. This isn’t always easy as sometimes living with chronic migraine attacks can affect almost every part of life. But I often ask those who deal with their migraine differently than I do to be respectful and understanding that my pain is still valid even though I’m not laying in a dark room in bed.

There are many things that chronic migraine attacks have taken away from me, and it’s sometimes the most simple things. I always have to be mindful of how I do my hair. I can’t put on headbands or put it up too tight for fear it might trigger a migraine. I have to be careful of smells and lights. Especially, fluorescent, flickering or strobe lights can trigger migraines. Sometimes it’s stress or hormones that can be a trigger for a migraine attack. There are always these small things that build up, but most of the time I’m not sure what triggers a migraine. I try hard to work through the pain which is why it can be tough when I’m having a particularly high pain day. But I try to work through the pain and either go to work or try to enjoy the day. When I dare to tell someone I have a migraine and someone responds “Well, you always have a headache. It must not be that bad. We just did all this,” it can feel like a slap in the face. My pain, no matter what I’m doing, is still valid.

We need to be more considerate and empathetic of others who function with chronic migraine attacks. Whether you are resting in bed or continuing your daily activities while dealing with a migraine, your pain is still valid.

Enjoy my article? Find more advocacy and writings on Instagram and check out my poetry book, Swords, Shields, and Hospital Gowns on Amazon.

Original photos via contributor

Originally published: June 18, 2021
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