Explaining “Migraine” Doesn’t Mean Just Another Headache

How do you explain that a migraine attack is more than a routine headache when the pain is so subjective, the symptoms so strange, and each experience so different from the one before?

I don’t have a clue. That’s the problem. As regular readers will recall, my migraine attacks have become increasingly frequent since around the beginning of August. The summer heat combined with the stresses and lack of sleep inherent in the beginning of the school year (when both my husband, a teacher, and my daughter, a third grader, return to their daily grinds) equals a full blown attack by about 3 pm almost every day. An attack which my husband frequently describes as “a headache.”

Migraineurs know that “a headache” doesn’t even begin to explain or describe a migraine attack. There are a number of other symptoms besides pain that present during an attack, including nausea, lethargy, visual disturbances, disruptions of speech, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, appetite changes, and more. But, they change (at least mine do) from attack to attack, which means every migraine episode is different from the one before – sometimes dramatically different. In addition to the myriad symptoms of an attack, using the phrase “a headache” to describe the intense, ice-pick-like stabbing pain of a migraine seems almost laughable. And, while I know he was trying to be understanding about my pain and the fact that I was ill, the lack of overall understanding apparent in his description left me feeling weak and discounted. After all, what kind of a wuss can’t handle “a headache”?

This is, perhaps, one of the most frustrating aspects of living with an invisible illness. I’ve tried telling him to research it, but there’s so much nonsense out there written by people who don’t really understand what it’s like that it seems futile to just direct him to the internet at large. What do you do? What helps you explain your illness to others?

3 thoughts on “Explaining “Migraine” Doesn’t Mean Just Another Headache

  1. I totally understand where you are coming from. I am not sure anybody gets how bad I hurt and how sick I get with chronic migraines. Over the years they have got so bad that last year I was out of work for 7 months with migraine & vertigo, went to all kinds of drs & did so many tests. Botox shots finally stopped the vertigo but no help with the any of the other migraine symptoms. Went back to work for 6 months while having constant migraine with severe nausea, light sensitivity, severe noise sensitivity, and brain fog memory terrible, trying to talk but cannot remember the words I was trying to say. Then about 6 wks ago had a real bad attack that hit hard and it aint stopped yet so out of work again. and the depression and anxiety are in over drive. had to start talking to counselor because i am so overwhelmed and exhausted with the pain and all the other symptoms that i have to deal with. I know their are people that have way worse illnesses than me so I pray for them. But I wish the people in my life would understand that I dont choose to have this illness that has me sick and in pain 95% of the time. Being in a dark quiet room helps but it is so isolating especially when depression & anxiety gets bad. At this point the only time I leave the house is for doctor appts.
    My 11 yr old son started having severe nausea & vomiting episodes last year the episodes lasted 2-3 days & he looked pitiful and just wanted to sleep. It took the drs along time to diagnose him with abominal migraines. they kept saying a virus but it was getting very frequent with no fever. So now he takes an anahistamine (not sure if i spelled it right) for the abd mig. Also he has nausea pills here and at school just in case. He is doing alot better now. Breaks my heart that he has any kind of migraines.
    I really appreciate you opening up to us about your illness it has helped me just to get some of my frustrations out in this comment. Thank you again and may God bless you and your family. ☺

    • Angie, I am so sorry you’re dealing with this. I know exactly what you’re going through. Please know that you aren’t alone. Have you read my e-book, “Finding Happiness with Migraines”? If not, I recommend taking a look at it. It might make you feel better. My heart goes out to you and your son. My daughter gets those abdominal migraines too. Here’s hoping everyone feels better. ❤

      • Thanks for the kind wishes. I will have to read your book. I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Hope all is well with you and the family.

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