Person turns off the TV on an image of someone clutching side of head. Question marks surround screen.

Migraines In Movies: My First Inaccurate Introduction

“You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right.” I say to my husband.

My husband is correct! We are totally out of milk. Not only have I marked this momentous occasion on my calendar, but I also throw a movie quote his way to let him know he scored the highest of marks. This ups our conversational ante. I wait to see if he catches it. Without hesitation, he says, “When Harry Met Sally.” He’s a keeper—especially if he buys more milk.

The importance of movies in my life

When he and I first met, he said my main method of communication was through movie quotes. I said, “You talkin’ to me?” and then we marched down the aisle to the Star Wars theme.

My husband had me pegged from the start because movies have always impacted my life. As a child, the storylines captured my imagination. I gained confidence from my movie heroines because “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” and I learned valuable lessons like “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” So, not surprisingly, movies (and television) were where I first learned about migraines.

The torture of a migraine attack

There wasn’t a person in my social sphere who suffered from migraines, so when I first started getting them I was confused. I knew my brain felt like it was roasting on a fire pit. I knew I needed absolute silence and darkness to survive the pain. This entire physical experience was totally “Inconceivable!” I tried to figure out what this torture might be.

How migraine is portrayed in movies

In the movies, when a woman (I could recall very few men saying this) said she had a migraine, one of two things happened: She would go about her day in mild discomfort or excuse herself to lie down. Then she’d appear in the next scene looking fine. This was my introduction to what a migraine looked like. Of course, it’s nowhere near accurate.

Migraine attacks aren't that simple

I’m not sure why the depictions I saw growing up are such scaled-down versions of a migraine attack. For a time, this influenced my movie-going brain. I believed I should be able to function through my painful episodes. At the very least, my mascara and I should look and feel perfect immediately after the scene change. “There’s no crying in baseball!” and there's no crying when dealing with a simple migraine—but any migraineur knows that it's not that simple.

It was only after opening up to close friends and family that I understood what I was experiencing. No one expected me to power through bouts of overwhelming pain and nausea. My condition was being portrayed inaccurately.

Accurate depictions lead to better understanding

The good news is the stigma surrounding migraines is changing. Recently, while watching an episode of GLOW on Netflix, a migraine was portrayed truthfully. I hope this trend continues. It will educate people like me who’d never come in contact with this disorder until it became a part of my daily life. This will bring more understanding and empathy so we can all “Live long and prosper.”


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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.

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