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When Impressions are Unimpressive due to Migraine

Since starting my migraine blog several years ago, I’ve become much more empowered when it comes to my illness. After years of being embarrassed in front of strangers wearing a hat and sunglasses while everyone else was unadorned, I learned to put on my disguise and, if the mood struck me, I’d explain to people that I am very photosensitive and that fluorescent lights are a migraine trigger. Once I took a stats class in grad school with two good friends. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, I’d walk to the frontmost seat in the room, open the shades behind me so that natural light could come in, put on my hat and sunglasses, and get my notebook out. My friends sat on the other side of the room (which was probably good for our concentration levels), and at the very end of the semester a girl was surprised to see me hug D. as I passed. “Do you know her?” the girl asked D. “Yeah, she’s a good friend.” “What’s up with the sunglasses inside?” the classmate inquired. D. told her why I wore the disguise during class, and the girl said, “Oh! I thought she was just being cool.”

Oh how we misread people. Can you imagine that I ever felt anything but vaguely awkward and out of place needing to do my little OCD-tinged routine each day? Blinds, hat, glasses, notebook. Blinds, hat, glasses, notebook. I am shocked that anyone thought I seemed cool (or at least got the impression that I thought I was cool).

I think about how my attitude and mood can misrepresent who I feel is the “real” me. When I’m tired from a migraine (or from the medication I used to treat it), I can be anything from totally b**chy to loopy to weepy to yawn-y—or all of those things combined. I wonder about the impressions I make on people who’ve only met me in this stage, just as I wonder about those people who see me in the grocery store or in a conference center wearing my hat and sunglasses. Being a usually-intelligent person means I worry that others will talk to Migraine Girl (instead of Janet) and think she’s dumb or flightly or easily distracted. While I can be any of those things even on my best days, I am usually pretty quick-witted and smart. I know I need to let go of worries about what others think about me, and I’ve made big strides as far as the physical disguise goes. But when it comes to my intelligence, I still have some hurdles. Making a good impression is very important to me, and I tend to kick myself when I’m down sometimes, anxious about whether I seemed stupid because of my migraine or my meds.

Like many of my posts, this one went somewhere I wasn’t expecting. I think I’ll just go with it and say goodnight.

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.


  • Dina Issa
    8 years ago

    I hear you MigraineGirl. I’ve taken to asking my partner if I am “looking migrainey”.

  • Sarah Spence
    8 years ago

    Hi Janet,

    I am hoping you can help me. I just started working in a school and spend long hours under florescent light working on a computer. After 8 months I have started getting Migraine aura’s and flashing lights in shapes or zip zag wavy lines. I rarely get the migraines any more. There is no way to change the florescent lights…so what type of glasses or sun glasses would you recommend to help me with this? I have not gone a week without wavy lines in my vision for over 3 weeks. Please email me and then delete this post.

    Thanks in advance for your help with this.

  • Andy Gauvin
    8 years ago

    UV filter. Practically any lens besides hipster-faux frames will do.

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