Understanding Migraine

Understanding migraine is very difficult for those who have only had an occasional headache that Tylenol takes care of.

So how many times do we have to hear it? “It’s just a headache!” This type of comment comes from family, friends, co-workers and worst of all..from the boss. Almost automatically the guilt starts setting in and we make excuses for our pain. I don’t know about you but I have used the following:

  • It’s not that bad..really…if I can just go to bed I’ll be fine
  • I’m fine, I’m fine..don’t worry about me, I’ve had worse than this.
  • Let me just take a pill and I’ll be right back to work..in great shape!
  • Maybe if I just wait long enough..it will go away. (hmm..)

These excuses are a way of coping with the perception that we are not acceptable to others because we have migraine. Well at this point I think this is wrong. Maybe it is time we start educating those around us so they can begin understanding migraine attack and what it is really all about.

understanding migraine headache

I have lectured nationally on the subject of headaches and usually I will open with a question such as “How many of you out there do NOT get headaches?” When people start raising their hands I will then ask them if they have ever had “brain freeze” after drinking something very cold. Usually the heads start nodding in agreement. I then explain to them that the brain freeze they are having is a form of a vascular headache and I would like them to imagine having that headache for hours..or even days! Their eyes widen and then I can see that many of them finally get it.

Most of the time,when understanding migraine, this strategy will work with friends, co-workers and family but the boss might be a bit different. Many supervisors just don’t want to constantly hear that an employee is routinely ill from pain. Dealing with the boss may take a little more tact and you might have to enlist the help of your health care provider who could write a note or letter explaining migraine disease.

If your boss is understanding, and you feel comfortable discussing your headaches, sit down with this person. Have some information ready to try and let them know how excruciating this pain can be. Try not to sound like a victim! (ie no whinning!) Assure your boss you are doing everything you can to get better.

If you feel that your job is at risk because of your headaches, discuss FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) with your provider. I have put this in place for many of my patients and it may help protect your job while you get the headaches under better control. You do have to make the effort! Just about every employer, no matter how understanding, will get weary of an employee with years of absenteeism and no improvement in a headache profile.

Most people who have never had excruciating headaches just don’t get it but really, is it their fault? When it comes to understanding migraine, it is up to us to keep educating those who have never had headaches, and hopefully the perception will continue to change. More on migraine headache symptoms.

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