In Defense of Michele Bachmann, Migraineur, Congresswoman, Presidential Candidate

I’ve got to be honest here: I’m not a fan of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), who has recently announced her intention to run for president in 2012 and even more recently been exposed as a chronic migraine sufferer.

Bachmann and I don’t agree about even one single issue, and I’m not a fan of her high-strung approach to garnering attention. But as a fellow migraineur I can’t possibly sit idly by while the media mischaracterizes migraine disease as a convenient way to make it look like she’s incapable of serving as president. While I don’t agree with her views, there is absolutely nothing about living with migraine disease that disqualifies her from being our first female president.

It’s appalling enough for anyone to be speculating about how incapacitated she might be by this disease based entirely on rumors from former members of her staff. But what’s much worse to me is the incorrect characterization of her problem as “stress related episodes”. What year is this? 2011? You could have fooled me into thinking it was more like 1911 when migraine was treated as a woman’s trouble and weakness suffered by those who couldn’t handle the ordinary stresses of every day life.

The most offensive article of them all (the one that “broke” this story and stole her choice to come public at a time of her choosing or not at all) claims she engages in “heavy pill use” as a result of these so-called stress episodes. Hey, guess what? Most chronic migraineurs take a lot of pills. Why the need to make it sound like she’s an addict in need of rehab because she takes medications for a chronic medical condition? Are diabetics addicts for needing their insulin and/or oral medications? Of course not. This news outlet (using the term news loosely, of course) has absolutely no idea what medications she is taking. Even if some of them are narcotics, what is wrong with that? Narcotics are there for people in pain, for goodness sake.

You’ll probably hear people talking about this given the attention the story is receiving. I encourage you to educate people when you hear them repeating the misinformation that’s running wild out there. As migraineurs we know what it’s really like to live with migraine disease, what really causes our attacks and what we are capable of accomplishing despite them. Please set the record straight anytime you get a chance. This isn’t about politics. It’s bigger than that. It’s about stigma and a scary tendency in our society to continue to treat diseases experienced predominately by women as a sign of weakness. We know better. We’re as tough as they come.

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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Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged

Comments

View Comments (46)
  • Will Hess
    7 years ago

    I completely agree with you diana.

  • Mehmet Sağlam
    7 years ago

    He also sent a letter to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann saying that he could cure her migraine with his migraine band filled with 25 different herb and flower extracts… You are herewith being kindly informed… MS

  • Mehmet Sağlam
    7 years ago

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  • Hanzade Uzunömeroğlu
    7 years ago

    Sanırım sadece migren değil diğer ağrılarda da etkiliolabiliyor.

  • Hanzade Uzunömeroğlu
    7 years ago

    İsmail Yıldızkol’un bioenerji uzmanı-sağaltıcı olduğunu Türkçe de yazsan iyi olacak Mehmet.

  • Anny Fyreagle
    7 years ago

    I’m not from your country, but I know enough to remember that your former presidents had migraines, specifically, Thomas Jefferson, a man no less. Rolling my eyes to the heavens. Also, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, and I’m sure there are many more in the making of your country. Honestly, I think the whole thing in incredibly stupid.

    If a person has a calling to do something with their life, they will do it. End of story. It will not be stopped but any obstacle that is put in their path. That your media creates such nonsense is just amazing to me given the miracles that happen every day and the challenges that people overcome.

  • Donna Johnston
    7 years ago

    I am not a fan of hers at all, but I agree that this is very stupid! Equally as bad as the “birther” idiocy that was going around with the President!

  • Mieko
    7 years ago

    Honestly, I know nothing of her political views or the forums she uses for running for the Presidency. However, I know from personal experience when people don’t like you, and it seems there are many in the government political machine and private citizens that do not care for her person or political views, they will find any reason to discredit you. But what I find offensive is saying she is unfit due to Migraine. I mean we had a President with polio – F. D. Roosevelt and he was in a wheelchair and don’t forget Woodrow Wilson. But now that the political machine can’t stomp her out because her views are too far to the extreme, oh look she has the mysterious, misunderstood, mythical Migraine – get her! And pill popping, nothing hurts like being called a junkie when you’re called a junkie.

    Yeah – sticks and stones may break my bones but your words can kill me.

    Despite her views, political or personal she needs support, unified, from the Migraine community. We need to stand up for her and say we’re not going to take this (insert an expletive of your choosing) from you well-bodied people who think we should be ostracized or told to sit down and shut up cause YOU in the general public choose to stay misinformed about Migraine.

    Migraine Sufferers UNITE! =)
    (Can you I am pissed?)

  • Julianne Zimmerman Alley
    7 years ago

    I’ll probably get reamed for saying this but I do think that suffering from weekly migraines does make her a poor candidate. I know that I personally am not productive and can’t even complete basic daily functions like eating when I have a bad migraine, much less the important tasks it takes to lead a country. We cannot afford to have a leader who is incapacitated on a regular basis, whether by migraines or something else. Yeah, you might be able to “push through” a migraine here when you have something important to do but that isn’t every day like it would be with a president.

    That being said, I also believe that should be HER choice to make. If she thinks she can do it, then she should go ahead and run. I can’t tell you how severe her headaches are. She is the only one that really knows and therefore knows what she is capable of dealing with. This is not an issue for the press to decide.

  • Marisol Carter
    7 years ago

    while I agree that the article was as infuriating as the misinformation about migraines in our society..my experience with migraines the last 20 years has taught me that I can’t live a “normal” life because I am totally incapacitated most of the time… That being said it should have no bearing for this lady because the possibility exists that she may not get them as frequently and she is properly medicated so as to not be down for the count almost daily like many of us. And I definitely agree that there is a need to educate the masses that this is a disease like any other and should not be held against us for any reason considering that most migraineurs I know including yours truly can handle stress better than the average bear..ask any migraine sufferer..I’d rather be face to face with stress looking for resolutions than contemplating hurling myself out a window because of the pain in my head. Good article thanks.

  • Julia Hill
    7 years ago

    Marisol have you asked your doctor about “topomax” for your migraines. I have taken it for almost 15 years and it has been a lifesaver. No side effects and no addiction. Headaches are very rare. Worth asking about.

  • Abigail Bristow
    7 years ago

    I really dislike this woman and everything she stands for ut I totally agree with this post the fact of the it’s not about her it’s about everyone that has to live with this everyday they might as well have written that article about any of us. I think this is the best post I hve read on here by far m posting this to my wall I hope that’s ok anyway I hope everyone here well and can find some reilief from our burden have a grenight <3 U <3 abby.

  • Abigail Bristow
    7 years ago

    wow I really can’t spell today sorry about that it’s hard to type and all of that when you can’t see straight maybe I should take my pill now!

  • Patty Biggs
    7 years ago

    I signed up to this site to get and share information about migraines, not to hear attacks on Republicans. I find it very disheartening. There is a lot I could say about democrats (i.e.liberals), but this is NOT the proper forum for it. I do appreciate all the articles about migraines, as I have suffered from them since I was 9. Let’s just keep politics out of it. Thank you.

  • Ryan Deo
    7 years ago

    Completely agree with your perception of the spin. Many people who live with migraines do so with grace and strength. However, there are types that affect the ability to function so greatly that it could impede the ability to perform their duty. But those are far from a stress related episode.

    My wife lives with complicated migraines, a rare debilitating subtype( that took 3 years and doctors in 3 states to diagnose) that manifests very similar to a stroke or TIA. She takes a lot of pills. DHEA, DAH, Excedrin, Vitamin D, B12, Niacin and if they are bad enough receives a Torodol injection.

  • Kate Kopasz
    7 years ago

    It’s refreshing to see that you are so educated, understanding and supportive of your wife. Not everyone is so lucky. I get basic, run of the mill, episodic migraines but my 15 year old daughter has suffered Chronic Daily Migraines for 4 years now and cannot even attend school any longer. Migraine Disease,especially in it’s severe and rare forms like your wife and my daughter is truly life-altering for even family members. I really liked your comment about the grace and strength it takes to suffer with this condition. Thank you.

  • Summer Michele Plum
    7 years ago

    Agreed. I about took someone’s head off the other day when they said, “You can choose when it goes away.” EXCUSE ME? Choose? Oh really?

    I dislike everything Bachman stands for, but making her disease as the reason she’s unqualified? Not okay at all.

  • Kaitlin Moran Lacey
    7 years ago

    How about we fuss over her awful comments about homosexuality, or that she tried to blame swine flu on democrats?

  • Joni Kennedy
    7 years ago

    If you could choose when migraines go away , you could also choose not to get them in the first place. *sigh*

  • Kate Kopasz
    7 years ago

    In one way, I agree with everyting you’ve said Diana. This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about women’s weaknesses – but it is about the public’s awareness of Migraine Disease as a neurological condition. And, if we are beinghonest – I really DO think that most of us here know it CAN very well be incapacitating sometimes.
    As Janet Geddis said – It does us all a disservice to deny and minimize this horrible pain as JUST a headache….( and therefore no big deal). Isn’t communicating that Migraine Disease is much more than JUST a HEADACHE our biggest goal in spreading awareness and getting the support we need in all areas – the workforce, the school, research, and among our peers?

  • Kate Kopasz
    7 years ago

    I KNOW we think alike on this subject Shari!!!

  • Shari Bauman McGill
    7 years ago

    Agree with you completely Kate.

  • Karen Manchester Pontrelli
    7 years ago

    Great article, Diana, and I love the last line “we’re as tough as the come.”

  • Kristen Brouhard
    7 years ago

    It seems to me that the media attention on this matter is more a sign that the Republican powers-that-be have decided to take her down a peg. They want Perry, and this is a way to throw her under the bus.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    I think you’re definitely on to something there. Absolutely sickening smear campaign. Thanks for sharing my article, by the way!

  • Chris Zahn
    7 years ago

    Since when is migraine “stress-related”? It’s a brain disorder. It also should not be used to try to explain away this individual’s stupidity.

  • Jean Marie Gaskill
    7 years ago

    Sorry (migraine or not)…stupid is as stupid does.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    You’re absolutely right, Chris. It’s a neurological disorder. Plain and simple.

  • Anne-Marie Allen
    7 years ago

    AMEN Diana…could not have said it better myself.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    Thanks Anne-Marie!

  • Carolyn Nelson Doherty
    7 years ago

    But what does it say when she says one thing and her son says something else? I don’t trust her. I’m from Minnesota and don’t want her to represent me in politics or migraine disease if she isn’t going to be honest.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    You make an excellent point, Carolyn.

  • Janet Geddis
    8 years ago

    DAY-UM. I am sharing this!

  • Heather Zanitsch
    7 years ago

    Oh, sure they can accomplish great things! I think that’s in part because we are survivors and it’s true that our burden makes it strong. And I know even episodic migraineurs are going to have bed-ridden days where they can’t even THINK of getting out of bed. My dishes get left in the sink for days sometimes, and my laundry doesn’t EVER get folded, if they even make it into the dryer the same day I put them into the washer. I cannot imagine being President. That’s far more than dirty dishes and wet socks – it’s taking care of a country that is being pulled apart by opposing factions who do not understand the spirit of the people they are supposed to be representing. I do not and have never viewed migraine as a strictly female disease – while it disproportionately targets women, it also affects men as well. I am too angered by the callous commenting about how she’s weak and this is a woman’s burden and therefore she should step down for those reasons. No, she should not step down for those reasons. If she needs to step down because this is too much for her disease, then she should not be looked down upon. She is a chronic pain sufferer, but more importantly, she is human.

  • Louise M. Houle
    7 years ago

    Just to be clear…. It’s not that I don’t think one can accomplish great things while also living with chronic migraine, but as Janet and Kate have pointed out – migraines can be incapacitating and to minimize entirely their effect on her life – I agree – does us a disservice.

  • Heather Zanitsch
    7 years ago

    Yes, I agree that illness should not stop a potential candidate and/or President, because we have had plenty of ill Presidents in the past who did just fine. And in some ways, migraine makes us stronger individuals because we know what it’s like to fight. At the same time, however, I feel that if she really IS that sick with migraine (and it’s not just a media attempt at putting a thorn in her side), with stress listed as a trigger or exacerbating factor, then I am not sure that running is wise. If one is incapacitated for a week at a time with migraine and making trips to the ER for treatments, then she is NOT managing her condition as well as she could be and is, in fact, doing the opposite of what a migraine specialist would tell her to be doing. In that case, I don’t feel that she should be running for President because if campaigning is hard for her now, then what will the stress be like if she makes it into office? The stories are conflicting, at once, “she’s managing her condition” and then “she’s often incapacitated for days at a time”. Well, which is it? I don’t trust the media on this issue at this time, and as a migraineur I know we are all different and we do things differently and we often push ourselves beyond what we think we can do, but if I were in her shoes and the stories of days-long incapacitation were true, I think I might step down from running. There is no running a country under that burden. But that’s just me. I couldn’t handle it, and kudos to her if she IS handling it well.

  • Louise M. Houle
    7 years ago

    It’s a hard one. I agree with both of you, Diana (great post!!!) and Janet… I also wonder… while we know that stress does not CAUSE migraines (episodic or chronic), it can be a trigger. When learning to manage chronic migraine disease (15 or more episodes a month), we talk about reducing stress as ONE strategy. If she has the capacity to manage her stress as well as her pain, through medication and/or other strategies, well then more power to her. But I can’t help thinking a run for Presidency would rank pretty high up on the stress scale. hmmm…

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    I think she’s in a no-win situation. If she’s honest about the true burden it fuels the story that she’s too weak to be president. But it’s still hard not to want someone with such a high profile to be honest about how difficult it can be.

  • Janet Geddis
    8 years ago

    P.S. I LOVE this line you wrote, Diana: “This isn’t about politics. It’s bigger than that. It’s about stigma and a scary tendency in our society to continue to treat diseases experienced predominately by women as a sign of weakness. We know better. We’re as tough as they come.”

  • Janet Geddis
    8 years ago

    But, Diana Lee, what do you think about her fervent denial that migraine has an impact on her life? In this NYT article she denies that she is ever incapacitated, and a few lines later her son confirms that she’s had to seek treatment in the ER–a sure sign of incapacitation. I am all for migraineurs “coming out,” but doesn’t it do everyone a disservice for her to so vehemently deny that she is dramatically affected by these episodes?http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/20/us/politics/20bachmann.html

  • Karen Johnston
    8 years ago

    As a fellow migraineur myself, many people do not understand that this is not a choice but rather something to deal with just like anything else. I am sure many politicians have various things wrong with them which is ok.

  • Kelly Smith Wahle
    8 years ago

    My thoughts exactly, Diana. Fantastic post.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    Thanks, Kelly!

  • Rachel Z
    8 years ago

    Ditto. I am certainly no supporter. Not only is she a nut job, so is her “christian cousellor husband who’s big thing is converting gays. But I’ve dealt with so much discrimination both in the workplace and socially for having chronic daily migraines (did i mention also refractory?) that this makes my blood boil. This is just what we need. The media running around and telling the public that migraine is nothing but a “stress-induced” condition and we’d all be cured if we stopped being so neurotic!!!

  • Diana-Lee author
    8 years ago

    Well said, Abby!

  • Abby
    8 years ago

    Thank you for this. I am appalled that the media is saying this about her. I can’t stand the woman, she is a nut-case… but her ability has nothing to do with her migraines. There are SEVERAL reasons why she shouldn’t be president… her migraines are not one of them.

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