Worst Things To Say To A Migrainiac… EVER.

Woman and Woman Speech Bubbles

10. Did you take your meds?

Whenever I tell someone that I have a migraine 9 times out of 10 their first reaction is to ask if I took anything. To be honest, I have even caught myself asking someone the same thing when they told me they have a headache. The problem, though, is that headaches and migraines are different. Maybe its just an automatic reaction and people don’t know what else to say or how to respond. But as someone who suffers from chronic migraines I can attest that the second I feel a migraine coming on the first thing I do is reach for the drugs. So asking me if I took my meds is kind of like asking if the sky is blue. It’s insulting and annoying AF.

9. Drink Water. You’re Just Dehydrated.

I admit that water does have great health benefits and I’m a believer that its always important to stay hydrated whether you are a migraineur or not. Dehydration is definitely a trigger for some people, but once a migraine strikes chugging massive amounts of water isn’t going to make it magically disappear.  Trust me, if it could I’d most definitely be using that method instead of pumping my body with medication. If water could cure migraines I️ think doctors would have stopped searching for a cure decades ago.

8. You Need To Exercise More.

   All migraineurs are not created equally. Everyone has different triggers and symptoms, however, there are definitely things most migraine sufferers can agree on. For me, if exercise had a Facebook account our relationship would be listed as ‘Complicated’. I love to stay active for not only my body but for my mental health and I truly believe that when I am consistently working I feel better overall. However, my workouts are severely limited because anything that remotely resembles high-intensity tends to trigger a nuclear war in my head and sends me into a days-long head-pounding bender. I mainly stick to workouts like pilates, yoga, barre classes and long walks in the park but some days even that is too much for me. When I am going through a tough period, most days I’m happy to get out of bed let alone keep up my low-intensity workout schedule. Once I get thrown off my routine, it can take me weeks or even months for me to get back into it. It’s a complete catch-22 that I am constantly trying to balance. So next time you think exercise and meditation can fix any situation, think twice before you nama-say the wrong thing. 

7. Don’t stress over it. You’re just making it worse.

Of course stress is a good breeding ground for migraines but telling me not to stress over something just makes me more stressed out and angry and therefore negates the whole purpose of your sentiment. It’s like when you tell someone to calm down. It just gets them more angry. So don’t do it. Because now you’re the one making it worse.

6. C’mon. You can push through it.

Most migraineurs end up learning how to push through their pain and sugarcoat their chronic struggles to make others more comfortable. They learn to live with pain everyday because they have no other choice. They are forced to deal with discomfort on a scale that no one should have to learn how to function with. So when a migraineur gets to the point where they speak up and can’t take it anymore, what they need is someone to be understanding and to tell them it’s okay.

5. Have you tried this…?

The answer is probably always most definitely yes. As someone who has been suffering from this disease for over 16 years now, I can confidently say I have tried almost everything out there or looked into every option and if there is some new treatment or medication waiting on FDA approval I probably know about it and am waiting with baited breath for it to get approved so that I can try it.

4. It’s just a headache. It can’t hurt that bad.

No actually. It’s not just a headache. And it’s thinking like this that gives people like me a reason to not want to talk to anyone about my condition. This is why I think it’s not worth explaining to people what I deal with, because of the stigma that comes with the word migraine.

3. Are you feeling better yet?

A migraine can last anywhere from 3 hours up to 4 days or even longer. I want to be able to attend plans with my friends and spend time with my family as much as they want me there but the added pressure to feel better makes me feel worse than I already do that I am missing out.

2. You don’t look sick.

Migraine is an invisible disease. It’s one of the reasons it has such a bad stigma associated with it. So while I do enjoy a good compliment every now and then, just because I may look well on the outside doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like a team of masons are laying bricks on top of my head one by one until my eyes will inevitably pop out of their sockets.

1. It’s all in your head.

I really, really wish this were true. Unlike those who use “I have a migraine” as just an excuse when they call out sick from work, keeping the stigma alive, when I do it its the real deal. I’m not playing hooky. I’d actually rather be at work. Instead I’m laying in my bed in silence… with the blinds drawn, lights out, cold compress on my head, hoping for a miracle and wishing it really was all in my head.


10 Ways You Can Tell You’re A Chronic Migrainiac

Unhappy woman's form double exposed with paint splatter effect

10. You Give Zero Fucks

Before I ever experienced my first migraine I had a lot of different priorities. I worried about the same things many other 12-year-old girls cared about. Will the cool girls invite me into their clique? Does my crush think I’m cute? Can I talk my mom into buying me the newest Juicy Couture sweatsuit? What are the Spice Girls doing right now? Will my chest always be flat? While my love for the Spice Girls has not wavered — I am currently coveting the Victoria Beckham collection and am seriously concerned for the well-being of Mel B. — I can guarantee you post-migraine condition my priorities have shifted in a major way. I no longer care what people think of me. I try to take advantage of the few good days I get by living my best life the only way I know how and the only person that can define what that is, is me.

9. You Wear Sunglasses Indoors & You Are Not Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour is a badass. She  rocks sunglasses whether she is inside or outside and she rocks them like the boss lady she is. Some people may find it offensive when they see regular people wearing sunglasses indoors. They assume anyone who’s wearing them must think they are just too cool. Some people might be right. But light sensitivity is one of the most common side effects of migraine. When I’m having a migraine attack, the smallest sliver of light can feel like I’m camped out on the sun. A dark room may even feel too bright. The brightness levels on my phone and iPad screens are always set on the lowest possible setting and that’s not even enough to lessen the feeling that a tiny person is taking an ice pick and chipping away at my eyeball when I look at it. So next time you see someone wearing their sunglasses indoors, they may not just be making a fashion statement.

8. The Font On Your Phone Is The Same Size As Your Great-Grandmother’s

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about the font on my phone. I have 20/20 vision and yet the type-face on my screen makes it look like I am legally blind. I set up my phone this way on purpose. To avoid eye strain, and for the nosy people on the subway who would have trouble reading my texts over my shoulder otherwise… you’re welcome.

7. You Are A Walking WebMD

It was a while after I started getting migraines before I was officially diagnosed with chronic migraine disorder. When I first started experiencing excruciating head pain I wasn’t sure what was going on and I visited a number of different doctors and had lots of tests and scans done. It was scary. There was a lot of trial and error as I was prescribed different medications, and doctors used lots of terms I didn’t understand. I quickly learned the importance of research. Now before I take any medication I look it up and research the side effects, I read reviews and I make sure I know what I’m putting in my body. Before I see a doctor I look them up, I read reviews and I make sure I know who I’m entrusting with my care. When a doctor mentions a possible diagnosis I look it up, I familiarize myself with it and I learn what it means. I get second, sometimes third opinions. I receive newsletters from foundations and organizations that keep me up to date on the latest news and discoveries in migraine research so that I’m informed and can ask about certain treatments and findings with my doctors. No one is going to care more about your health and wellness other than you so it’s important to be proactive and stay informed when it comes to your health care.

6. Your Primary Physician Is Your Neurologist

I literally put down my neurologist as my primary care doctor when I fill out forms. What, like that’s weird?

5. You Have A Small Inner Circle

When your schedule is filled with more doctor appointments than social outings, you learn quickly who your friends are. When I was in high school I missed a lot of days because of my migraines and my once always-smiling, hyper self was replaced by a moodier, quieter, resting bitch face. I couldn’t wait to escape those halls and I almost didn’t because of the amount of days I had to miss. I had to bail on a lot of plans, but that’s okay because it taught me who my real friends were. I still have to cancel plans occasionally but because of the group I have surrounded myself with the only sense of guilt I ever feel is mainly my own. I know I’m not easy to be around or deal with when I am having an attack (or even on the days leading up to one or afterwards), but that is something I am constantly striving to improve upon. I’ve been through a lot more in my short lifetime than anyone should have to deal with and because of that sometimes I’m more reserved and slow to open up to new people, because those who don’t understand can be judgmental and honestly I don’t have time for that.

4. You Fake It Til You Make It

When your months are filled with more pain days than good days, you learn to cope and power through. I think I’m pretty good at faking it. Sometimes too good. After you realize how much you hurt the people around you when you can’t say the right thing, or when its time to adult and you can’t miss a day of work, you learn to compartmentalize and put on the act that you are well. The fact that this disease is an invisible one can sometimes lead to the stigma that you actually are faking the illness and not the fact that you are well. But make no mistake, its the wellness that’s being faked. The second that I’m able to I’m collapsing onto my bed, and shutting out the world until the next time I need to come out of my shell.

3. You Are A Professional Napper

If there was an Olympic sport in napping I would probably take home the gold. I have always struggled with some form of insomnia and I also have restless leg syndrome so it always takes me a really long time to fall asleep. Once when I was spending the weekend with friends, I got the nickname ‘Flounder’ because of the way I was flopping around in the bed unable to get comfortable. Lately, 5-10 mg of melatonin has been helping me before bed. Most of the time though, I am still exhausted when I wake up and I never feel fully rested. All of my medications list “fatigue” as a side effect. Napping is a great way to fight fatigue. In my opinion,  a nap is always a good idea.

2. You Run a Portable Pharmacy

I have learned the hard way to never be caught without medication on hand. In order to out-smart myself, I have strategically placed triptans and acetaminophen in every purse, bag, pouch, wallet, etc. that I own so that I never get stuck in a situation where I am without medication when a migraine strikes.

1. You Are A Warrior

I have been through hell and back but I’m still here. I’m fighting everyday against an invisible, misunderstood, debilitating disease along with 2-3 million others in the U.S. alone. Though I have to admit it has crossed my mind, giving up is not an option. Knowing you are not alone helps. Anyone who suffers from chronic pain is a fellow warrior and deserves credit for continuing to fight everyday.

Ridding Yourself of the Toxins

Thanks to the fabulous Miss Britney Spears I can no longer think of the word toxic without simultaneously thinking diamond-studded nude catsuit. Now I don’t know what rolling around in said catsuit has to do with a toxic relationship but it sure as hell caught the world’s attention.

When I think of toxic relationships I think more along the lines of Whitney and Bobby. Ri-Ri and Chris Brown. Paula Dean and sugar. Superman and Kryptonite.

When anyone is faced with a toxic relationship they learn a lot about themselves. They are forced to find strength within, to stand up for themselves and hopefully learn to walk away and lean on others. There are many different kinds of toxic relationships – frenemies, boyfriends/girlfriends, friends with benefits, evil stepparents, and the worse one of all – the relationship you have with yourself.

There are stages in life when those significant relationships in your life may change and  the people who are more important to you at one point may be less important to you at other points. For instance, when you first come out of the womb you rely on your parents for everything. Your parents are your best friends in the entire world and you can’t wait to come home from school and tell them everything. As you grow up you become embarrassed by your parents, reply with a dismissive “Fine,” when asked how your day was and your friends slowly become the people you confide in the most. Then as you grow up the amount of friends you have may decrease in number but the value of your friendships increase in value. Once you move away from home, whether it’s for college or whatever reason, your relationship with your parents most likely changes once more. You go back to relying on them for all their wisdom and expertise. No matter who comes in and out of your life, you often learn in the end that its your family that always remains loyal and trustworthy, whether that family is biological or chosen.

When you are sick this process is kicked into high gear and you may need to weed out your toxic relationships at a quicker pace than most. After suffering from migraines for over 10 years now I have learned a lot about myself, my family and my friends. People continue to surprise me but one thing has always remained constant.  No matter what I’m going through its so important to have a strong support system to fall back on. I would be nothing without mine. I know I can be difficult when I need to go to my dark, quiet place and whether that’s literally or figuratively speaking varies on the day. But when and if I need to cancel plans last-minute or turn all the lights off in the house, it’s important to have people around me who understand, get it and don’t make me feel guilty for it – that is truly priceless.

Now don’t get me wrong, not everything’s all rainbows in butterflies between my family, friends and I 24/7. It’s taken me a long time to train my support system into the lovely bunch they are today and it’s still a work in progress but here are some key tips to weeding out the bad eggs and spotting the good ones.

Toxic friends and family are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. When you are sick the last thing you need is a friend who is a bad influence, who doesn’t understand or who is going to pile on the guilt. We have enough guilt already that we put on ourselves. The last thing we need is our friends making it worse. I would love more than anything to go out and run a marathon with you. Unfortunately I can’t do any intense physical workout without my head feeling like there’s a fire inside it. I’ll be waiting at the end with a bottle of water for you though. Please don’t give me those puppy dog eyes. You want to go out and get wasted? Woo hoo. I used to love taking shots! And margaritas? My fave! But count me out. I’d rather not wake up with a 10-ton brick on top of my head thank you very much.

And no, I don’t expect you to understand how I feel. And I wouldn’t want you to either. The best thing you could do is take an interest, become educated on the subject and be understanding and empathetic. If I have to cancel plans, don’t make me feel worse than I already do. You think I want to miss out on all the “normal” things Yuppies my age should be out doing? Just go! Continue on with your plans and hopefully we can do something next time.

And please, don’t assume you have the answer to my illness or know the cause. I know you’re trying to be helpful but if it’s been 10 years don’t you think I’ve tried and researched just about everything with a lot of different doctors? After seeing neurologists, allergists, ophthalmologists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, massage therapists; getting MRIs, CT scans; trying endless combinations of pills, nasal sprays, injections; doing yoga, Pilates . . . If I haven’t found a cure by now then I doubt you are going to come along and all of a sudden figure it all out. It’s just not that simple.

Now the toxic relationship I have with myself isn’t so easy to fix. I can’t just stop being friends with myself, get mad at me and phase me out for a while until we stop speaking altogether. No, the relationship I have with myself is a little more complicated than that. I need to face myself because whether I like it or not I’m stuck with me.  FOREVER. dun dun dun. Queue the dramatic horror film music. This means I really need to learn to get over my own guilty conscience. Whether my friends and family understand or not, I have a tendency to feel extremely guilty for the plans cancelled and the good days ruined by my condition. However forgiving or understanding my family and friends may be, I can’t help but feel guilty and paranoid that I’ve let those around me down.

There’s also a feeling of anger and resentment that I need to let go of. My condition has hindered my abilities greatly. I’ve had to face facts that there are certain things I’m not able to do. Rather than let the anger or jealousy get the best of me I need to learn to appreciate the things I can do and live in the moment, the now.

When you’re sick it’s especially important to rid yourself of toxic relationships and only surround yourself with either people who understand what you’re going through or are able to be flexible. Think frequent rain checks. You need friends who are willing to love you through good moods, mediocre moods, appreciate happy moods and learn when to just leave you alone.

So thank you to all of my family and friends who have stuck by me through it all. In a way my condition has really been a blessing in disguise and has allowed me to find out who’s really there for me and for that I am truly grateful. You know who you are. This one’s for you.