The Real Face of Migraine May Surprise You
Last updated: September 2022
Some of the strongest and most resilient people I know are those who live with chronic migraine. That may be surprising to many, but migraine is not your typical “headache.”
The interictal period
In fact, the disease presents itself in a wide variety of ways, many of which can be completely disabling and on a huge spectrum. Debilitating symptoms of an attack - such as explosive pain, vomiting, flashing lights, vertigo, speech difficulties, confusion, numbness or weakness on one side of the body, extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch and movement, or even loss of vision - frequently leave us unable to function. However, it is frequently the fight that goes on during the interictal period - the time between attacks - that can take the greatest toll.1 This is where the true strength, courage, and resilience of those who live with migraine are visible for all who choose to see.
Migraine is not just an isolated attack
Before I continue please allow me to clarify. As one who has lived with debilitating migraine attacks since early childhood, I am in no way lessening the impact of those attacks - or of the disability caused by them. However, for too long, the impact of the disease during this interictal period has not been understood or studied. Until recently, I wasn’t even aware that it had a name, which is problematic in and of itself! It would be ideal if it were true that migraine only exists in the isolated state of the most obvious symptoms. In reality, this is far from the case!
Treatments, missed events, and everything in between
In addition to the physiological changes that come along with the disease during the interictal period as well as the attacks, there are the endless exploration of treatments and combinations of treatments, frequent denials from insurance, missed hours at work, late assignments at school, canceled social events, family memories that were missed; and much more.
Running a marathon
In short, living with migraine is a marathon. As with any marathon, those who run that race are incredibly strong. They persevere through challenges that most others cannot begin to imagine and demonstrate resilience to bounce back against all odds. This is the real face of migraine. It is not one of weakness or fear, of excuses or lack of reliability. Rather, this is a powerful example of courage and determination in the face of a challenge that has no answer, is little recognized, and is highly stigmatized.
The real face is all around you
Those who run this marathon are all around you. They are your parent, your sibling, your son, or your daughter. They are your teacher, the student in your classroom, your doctor, or your neighbor. You pass them on the street, greet them at your local store, and worship next to them. They are athletes, actors, scientists, and writers. They are grocery clerks, journalists, nurses, and landscapers. The real face of migraine is all around you; it lives in the stories of the people you know but who all too often are afraid, or don’t know how to speak up. Migraine is a devastating disease that affects 1 billion people globally, 40 million in the USA, 1 in 10 people, 1 in 4 households.2,3 Its face is everywhere, and it is time for the stories to be heard – for the real face to be seen!
Are the family and friends you will be seeing this holiday season understanding about migraine?