Expert Answer: Educating Others About Migraine Disease

Question: I think one of the biggest problems migraine sufferers face is that often we do not look ill. For me, when I get my aura I feel just fine although I know what is coming.

Often co-workers and employees see one leave work or not come in but fail to understand what a person with migraines experiences. They see us miss work, but fail to see the times when due to an attack a migraine sufferer has to stay at the hotel while the rest of the family has fun on vacation, walks off a golf course mid-round, has to leave a nice restaurant mid meal, misses a family gathering, etc..

How far or what steps should one take in educating co-workers or employees about the facts of migraines and how it relates to each of us? In my case I own a small business but I fear I get the same stares and comments behind my back when I get a migraine. I think for the non-migraine public there is a lot of misinformation plus the stigma that migraine sufferers are somehow depressed and/or mentally ill, which at least in my case is totally not true. So is there a good way to educate coworkers/employees without seeming self-indulgent or without making it look as if one is trying to garner self-pity or something? Is educating them about migraines even suggested?

Answer: I think educating the people in your life is nearly always a good thing, but I recommend different approaches for different groups. For close family and friends with whom you already have a good, supportive relationship, I suggest you provide information about National Migraine Awareness Month in June, to give coworkers and employees some basic factual information about migraine disease and share with them what it’s like to live with it. This allows you a natural opportunity to bring up the topic in a casual, low pressure way that won’t seem quite as out of left field to your employees or coworkers.

Hopefully being moderately open with your coworkers and employees will cut back on the resentment that so often presents itself in these situations. I have dealt with that in the past, so I truly understand how difficult it can be to overcome, even when it’s concerning people you’ve had a good rapport with in the past.

Ultimately, I think finding the appropriate level of openness for the particular group of people in your life is the key to navigating the tricky waters of a misunderstood chronic, invisible illness like migraine disease. But what do our readers think? How have you handled these issues? How did your approach work out? How would you handle these situations differently knowing what you do now? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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