Why You Should Tell Your Migraine Story
In a writing class recently the teacher brought up something I hadn't considered. He talked about why story is important. From Greek myths and the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars (yes, that was a big jump there!), story has been a key part of all cultures. It's a way we can learn about the world. Sure, we can travel and experience a lot if we want to, but we can't have a conversation with Einstein, walk through the streets of Rome in 200 B.C., or fly a spaceship in a galactic war. I would hazard to say that stories round out our human experience and make us more connected to the world.
Discovering other people's migraine stories
So how does this relate to migraine? In 2012, I started to get a migraine attack every single day. I thought I was alone. I knew some people who had migraine, sure, but every single day? I discovered migraine.com and other migraine sites and forums, and was able to read and learn about migraine. I found the stories of others helpful in knowing I wasn't weird or unusual. My doctor could provide me with medicine and treatment, but only the community could share my deepest fears, struggles, and triumphs. Then in 2014 I started writing bits and pieces of my own story to share with others. It was incredibly cathartic, but beyond that it seemed to register with many.
That being said, sharing stories within the community is like preaching to the choir. We all "get it" at some level. Though there is power in that, what of the people in our lives who don't have migraine? What and how should we share with them?
I try, when appropriate, to share as much as possible. If an interested listener hears my story, just like when watching a movie, something happens—they can "walk the streets of Rome" in my shoes. I do like to have migraine statistics and facts at my fingertips, but I feel that stories hold more lasting power because they give other people a window into an experience they haven't had.
Learning how to make your story relatable
At this point you might be thinking this is all well and good, but how do I tell my own story? Maybe your family and friends are sick of hearing about migraine, maybe you're afraid you'll seem like you're on a soapbox. I find this a common problem and one that I face as well. I sometimes clam up when asked about my migraines because I know the glazed-over look that talking about them often causes the listener. One suggestion I have is, don't make your stories about migraine. Make them about something anyone can relate to: a first date, a test at school, a trip to the store. Weave the migraine aspect into the story. "Oh man, I was having such a great first date. He actually showed up on time and took me to a nice place. We ordered the same thing at the restaurant—finally a guy who also likes seafood! Then all of a sudden half my vision is half-gone and I'm doing my best to pretend nothing is wrong. I made it through the whole night, and he had no idea!" If it's about a doctor's appointment, tell a few details that have nothing to do with your own health. "The doctor is obsessed with cats. She even had a cat statue on her desk." Finally, use humor whenever you can, even if you have to make fun of yourself. People like a good laugh. "Oh man, let me tell you about the migraine job interview debacle. My aphasia was so bad I couldn't remember the name of the company!" If you can catch someone's interest and make them feel like they experienced the story themselves, they're likely to care more about what you tell them. No soapbox needed.
Lastly, if you're feeling the need to share, you're always welcome here. Comment on an article, post in the forums, or share your story. If you'd rather write your story than speak it, you could send your friends and family the link to your story or post on social media.
We all have migraine, but we're all unique. We'd love to hear from you.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?