There are a lot of misconceptions and stigma associated with migraine. Everything from “it’s just a headache” to “people use it as an excuse” and many more. There are additional perceptions about how a person should react to their migraine condition, attacks and/or symptoms, as well as how someone should experience any pain that comes with it. The problem with these perceptions is they are often based on subjective interpretations and beliefs and serve to further stigmatize the condition; more importantly, they fail to acknowledge the idiosyncrasies of each person, each diagnosis, and each attack.
The reality is no one has to tell you how to respond physically or emotionally to a migraine.
This is never more apparent than when confronted with the pain of an attack. How you experience it not only can depend on physiological and emotional factors but also can vary from one attack to the next. For instance, one study explored the consistency of symptoms across three consecutive attacks and found that, of each of the 30 participants, no single attack was identical to the others. It also important to note that attacks also change with age, with a clinical consensus that frequency, intensity, and prevalence of symptoms tend to decrease for those 50 years or older. Thus, with each attack manifesting itself differently, your responses to them can equally diverge.
The definitions and labels associated with migraine responses are also incredibly subjective. Many prefer to be viewed as a warrior, someone who is fighting or winning the battle, and they regularly catalog and share their experiences publicly in this manner. But those phrases might have completely different meanings for people. For some the “battle” might simply refer to getting out of bed; for others it could mean making it through the work day or accomplishing other daily tasks.
Even more, a migraine attack may not be perceived as a battle that has to be overcome at all, but rather a serious health episode that requires immediate attention and treatment, whatever that may be. And again, each individual attack can vary as well so how you feel in one instance might be drastically dissimilar from another. Thus, classifying one approach as better or more appropriate negates all of the factors that go into it.
The emotions that correspond with an attack are also unique to the individual and the attack. Perhaps anger or frustration or sadness overcome you in the moment. Allowing them to be experienced without judgment from self or others can be cathartic. Diana Lee from Migraine.com shares several recommendations to keep these emotions from becoming status quo:
The bottom line is there is no “right” way to have a migraine. Much like the attack itself, your responses to it are going to reflect the circumstances surrounding it and can therefore be dramatically different from one to the next.
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