Crowd of people offer unsolicited advice to angry woman smushed between them in the middle

The Number One Suggestion I'd Love to "Stop" Getting to "Stop" My Migraines

When I was pregnant, the advice popped out as soon as my belly did. Moms, grandmothers, and occasionally even a toddler would corner me in a store or bathroom line to impart their words of parenting wisdom.

There was never any way of escaping these helpful hints, and I understood that most felt like they were assisting me - even if the advice felt overwhelming. While I didn’t expect all these nuggets of wisdom with my pregnancy, I have come to anticipate them with my migraines.

Smile and nod

My struggle with chronic migraines isn't as obvious to spot as my pregnancy. When I have a migraine, my head doesn’t grow to four times its normal size like my belly does. The advice I receive when it comes to dealing (and “healing”) my migraines usually evolves out of a conversation I’m having with a new friend.

I totally understand that this friend is trying to help me out of my pain so this is why I’ve generally adopted a “smile and nod” policy. If there’s an opportunity to delve deeper, I’ll certainly talk about the stigma of migraine disorder and how it’s more complex than one quick fix.

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The stress factor

Over the years, I’ve gotten a great many "helpful" hints to stop my brain from grilling itself, but I do have one recommendation that's consistently repeated. I’ve been surprised at how much this one gets thrown into my "How To Not To Have A Migraine" suggestion box. Here’s the number one tip I get on how to stop my migraines:

Stop being stressed out. “You get migraines,” the woman began, “you should stop being so stressed out.” And with that, she smiled and changed the subject. Now I only half-listened to the rest of our conversation because I was scanning my body for any ounce of stress. I was afraid it would inadvertently cause a migraine. It didn't matter that I didn’t feel stressed. I continued looking for that tiny teaspoon of angst hidden behind my ribs. But as I did, my tension began to rise.

The test of (migraine) time

In the beginning of my migraine journey, I took this "stop being stressed" advice to heart. I assumed I was somehow the constant cause of my own migraine pain.

Hearing this well-intentioned advice reduce my neurological disorder to a mere stress issue contributed to me dismissing the seriousness of my disorder for years. So this thought did cause me stress, but it didn't cause my migraines - just great amounts of embarrassment and shame. It took some time, but I know now that while studies show stress and migraines can be linked, migraine disease is super complex and can have many causes and triggers.

You know yourself best

Random advice and useful tips from strangers can sometimes be helpful. Like when I was pregnant, that toddler told me kids love cheese crackers and she was right on the money. These days, I know to listen to my own heart (and head) before I value other people's pointers above my own - unless these tips involve cheese crackers.

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