The ONE symptom we all have in common
Despite the wide variation of symptoms, there is one universal symptom I think we all experience. This symptom cannot be found in the ICHD-3, nor is it likely that your doctor will ever ask about it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I believe that every single one of us is either suffering from or recovering from INVALIDATION. There is no diagnostic test for it and no medicine will cure it. Most of us don’t even know we have it.
Invalidation occurs when our experiences are questioned, minimized, ignored, or otherwise deemed to be anything other than what we actually experience. The more frequently and earlier in life that it occurs, the more damage it does. Almost anyone can invalidate our experiences – family, friends, teachers, co-workers, doctors, and even other migraineurs. Sometimes people are guilty of invalidating our experiences without even realizing it.
What are the symptoms?
Chronic feelings of worthlessness, feeling misunderstood, thinking we don’t have the right to our own feelings, questioning our perception of reality, and feeling defensive are just some of the symptoms. Like victims of abuse, people subjected to invalidation are at increased risk of doing the same to others. Not being able to trust your own perceptions can leave you feeling insecure. You begin to question everything. If you can’t trust your own perceptions, how can you trust others?
Are there treatments?
The one sure-fire way to fight the effects of invalidation is to receive loads of validation. Hearing the words, “I believe you,” is healing. When someone takes a genuine interest in learning about your life, it begins to heal old scars left by those who questioned your experiences. That’s why support groups, both on and offline, are so important for people with stigmatized illnesses like migraine. When we find out that other people have the same experiences, it restores our faith in ourselves. So many times, our readers will respond to articles and each other’s posts by saying, “Me, too. I thought I was going crazy.” That’s validation.
Can it be prevented?
Sure. It’s not easy though. We can prevent migraine patient invalidation by educating people. When the truth about migraine is widely available to everyone, then we have a fighting chance. Slowly, in small pockets around the world, we are making progress. There is still a lot of work to be done, though. We can start by educating those closest to us and by practicing validation with each other. When our experiences differ from that of other migraineurs, we can open our hearts and minds to believe their truth without negating our own.
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