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The Five People You Meet When You Have Migraine

The Five People You Meet When You Have Migraine

Talking to people about migraine can be nerve-wracking. You never know for sure how they’re going to react, but you have a pretty good hunch it’s not going to be helpful or supportive—even when that’s exactly what the person is trying to be. Every once in a while, though, people will surprise you.

Here’s my take on five types of people you meet when you have migraine. Do you have any to add to the list?

1. People who think a painkiller will put you right back to normal. OTC painkillers take care of their headaches in no time and, to them, a migraine attack is just a bad headache. The logic follows that a painkiller is all you need to end your migraine attack. As a concession to the perceived severity of your pain, they might suggest you take four Advil instead of the normal two. If you refuse the painkiller or say you’ve already taken one and it didn’t work, it is usually assumed that you’re using migraine as an excuse to shirk your responsibilities or, worse, are trying to get attention.

2. People who have All The Answers. This person knows someone who has migraine or knows someone who knows someone with migraine. Or maybe they’ve just read an article about someone who has migraine. In any case, they’re sure that whatever worked for that person is going to work for you. If you protest, there’s always another solution. And another.

3. People who think that you just need to try harder and/or have a more positive attitude. These folks are sure that your migraine attacks will cease if you took that medication they heard about or try harder to avoid your triggers or think happy thoughts. They live by the sayings, “hard work always prevails” and “mind over matter.” I presume they get most of their information about migraine from drug advertisements and happy-go-lucky success stories in the news.

4. People who believe you bring your migraine attacks on yourself. Lung cancer is the classic example of this, but migraineurs are subject to plenty of patient-blaming. It usually takes the form of assuming that you’re stressed out and need to relax. If the person has read an article about migraine in Woman’s Day, they might think you’re to blame because you drank a glass of red wine or ate a square of chocolate.

5. People who see how hard you work and believe that you are strong. It can feel like these people are few and far between, but they do exist. They recognize migraine for what it is—a chronic illness characterized by disabling attacks—and see you for who you really are regardless of migraine. These people know you’re not to blame for your attacks and that there may not be a simple fix for you. They admire your strength for enduring and your courage for trying new treatments even after one has failed. They don’t see you as complaining or malingering, they just wish they could do something to help. If you have one (or more!) of these invaluable people in your life, thank them for their support. They make living with migraine so much easier.

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


  • Peggy
    3 years ago

    I actually had a different type of encounter while having a migraine. Although it was stilted, it was enjoyable.

    You see, the other person was also having a migraine and we were both trying to act normal until we could get out of the situation we were in and go home.

    It was an odd conversation but a blessing to have and to know we understood each other. Odd because as you know, words don’t always come out right and you zone out at times and see things but we both understood what was happening.

    Doesn’t happen often for sure but it was, dare I say of a migraine, a relaxing conversation as there were no barriers to understanding. I felt real lucky that day.

  • mikie
    4 years ago

    The folks who say, “I get migraines, I take a couple of excedrin and they go away”. I just say, well that’s nice.

    The killer for me is when #1, 2, 3, or 4 is a medical professional that you’ve turned to for help…

  • Edward JC
    4 years ago

    Nailed it.

  • bluebird
    4 years ago


  • Teresa
    4 years ago

    My grandmother always says that if I sleep normal hours, that I would not have headaches. I used to work night shift for many years, and my body naturally is awake in the middle of the night. But, because I might sleep until noon, I am obviously getting too much sleep (even though I didn’t go to bed until 5).

    My hairdresser, and good friend, never takes pills for anything, so she thinks everyone should be that way. This is a real kicker… she tells me that if I get my gut healthy, then my whole body will be healthy, thus no more migraines.

    My Father thinks I need to work harder.

    I am 40 and have had migraines since I was 8. So, yeah, I have heard it all, and I have tried it all. If only it was as easy as everyone thinks.

  • marycr8on
    4 years ago

    That’s rough, your own father saying that to you! Obviously, he has no idea how much work it is just to get out of bed, some days, let alone deal with jobs, family and responsibilities.

    My hairdresser sounds pretty similar. She keeps telling me to eat clean, try Tapping and essential oils. What’s up with them knowing all this “green” stuff, yet working with chemicals all day? LOL

    I’m sick to death with the “sleep normal hours” thing too. I have always been a night person and I do sleep the amount my body needs. I just don’t happen to do it when other people do. Believe me, if I could, I would. But it pretty hard to get up at 7 when you can’t get to sleep until 5, 6 even 8 AM!

  • David
    4 years ago

    Great article and most of us have heard such statements; however, it does point to the many ‘ideas’ out there that we all hope helps. I had a migraine on Monday and one on Tuesday. Why? Not sure. I had some ‘burning’ done on my face Monday to prevent any cancers joining. Really hurt, but did that cause my migraines? Don’t know.
    I can stop them without medication, but I have aura, so
    it’s much easier to treat than common migraines.

    I believe empathy is lacking among those who never had a migraine. Statements like “We’ve all had bad headaches” obviously never had one.

    Someday, this problem will be solved. I’m 73, so I might not see it, some of you young folks will. 🙂


  • Colleen Meegan
    4 years ago

    I haven’t had a migraine in a while, since I had 2 treatments of Botox. Of course, that is dependent on one’s insurance company agreeing to it. Then I lost my job & insurance; could not afford expensive Botox myself, so I am not sure if I will get them again. I still get many other types of headaches daily: oh well.

    One thing I have to say about aura: if you recognize it, tryptans CAN abort the actual migraine itself, thank God.

    Having said all of that, Dave, I am so empathetic to your being 73 and STILL having migraines!

  • sarah
    4 years ago

    How about the person who sees that you feel miserable, asks “what’s wrong” and you say “I have a migraine”. They respond with a terse and insincere, “I’m so sorry”. Then they go back to whatever they were talking about/doing etc. before they asked you. Absolutely zero empathy.

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    thank you. so completely validating on all accounts.

  • Rosiebelle
    4 years ago

    I find so many people whose response is a pained expression, fake concern and irritation because my migraine is going to affect them! My mother sighs and says” oh, one of those again- what about the birthday party for so and so? Your not coming?? How can that be?? Or a co-worker that is wanting me to do something or feels like I’m slowing them down. They also have that pained look on their face and they continue to ask me questions even though I explaing that a migraine has started, I can’t see 50% of what’s in front of me and I can’t process information! They will say, oh you have a migraine( pained look) can I ask you a question…. This kind of person is actually put out because they feel my migraine AFFECTS them! Ridiculous!

  • Colleen Meegan
    4 years ago

    I missed my daughter’s high school graduation (among many other events) due to my head being in the toilet, violently vomiting while praying to die. Guilt is another aspect of migraine!

  • Christine S.
    4 years ago

    …I’ve dreamt of beating members of #’s 2,3, and 4 to pulp. Does that make me a bad person.??

  • Jill M.
    4 years ago

    it makes you a normal person as far i see it! 🙂

  • Tanya
    4 years ago

    How about those who “had one of those once” (so they know ALL about it), took a hot/cold shower, went to bed and it was gone. Usually followed quickly by, “Have you tried that?” to whatever their quick fix was. Surely if you try what worked for them that one time you’ll never have another migraine. And if it doesn’t work for you, you just didn’t do it right. The shower wasn’t hot/cold enough or you didn’t go to sleep soon enough.

    I’m fortunate enough to have some really understanding people in my life, but I’ve also ran into all these examples.

  • Reesearoo
    4 years ago

    **clapping loudly** That is my pet peeve. These people who have had a sinus headache, or a bad headache once in their life and classify them as migraines. Please! They have no idea what a chronic migraine sufferer goes through. And my other pet peeve? “Haven’t they found out what is causing that yet?” I swear, I want to get physical sometimes. If people can’t say something intelligent, its best to say nothing. (Can you tell I have one right now??) 🙂

  • Jcs727
    4 years ago

    I would add to the list the “migraine sufferer who has never had a migraine in their life”. I have met so many people who say they suffer from migraines but, once we talk, I know that they never truly experienced one. They describe a bad headache with some nausea that goes away in a few hours. I have never had a migraine subside in a few hours. It usually wakes me up at night and can last for hours and hours with vomiting, nausea, chills, sweat, etc. even after the pounding might subside, I may still be extremely nauseous or vice versa. Advice from these “sufferers” is usually useless.

  • wendy
    3 years ago

    I agree with some on both sides here, and have been “guilty” of some of some of the complaints. I have tried to encourage a friend with migraines to try to get a regular sleep schedule, as I know (when have-to-life and migraines do not get in the way), or can be helpful, and I’ve suggested to consider trial food elimination. At the same time, we have a society that thinks almost all disease can be cured, and as someone with migraine I just sigh and say “I wish!”. As far as someone else not doing enough try to get better, sometimes I have let that way about others (and myself), especially when going from episodic to chronic, knowing as times change so do strategies…and realizing my personal line of how much I can push myself to explore/work on “stuff” that may help me fluctuates a lot …as other writers here have mentioned themselves. I try to go mostly on the intent of the person who offends me, try to politely respond and sometimes lie (I.e. I have to work early tomorrow versus I can’t handle to the noise your normal, healthy kids are making without tears soon.). No easy solutions.

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