For Namesake

Since March 2023, I started using the phrase "two dozen symptoms" instead of calling it migraines or sickness or illness. Terms like illness and sickness had some terrifying power as they made people mad at me. I used to get the "how dare you" stare as if I told them a lie. I heard it often, "There is no illness. It’s in your head."

My migraine symptoms were minimized

I was told time and time again that I speak nonsense and pretend to be ill. "You don’t look sick" was a common phrase I heard in the last decade of my life. "You are weak since you don’t eat properly," came biting at me from all directions. By not eating properly, they meant to say I don’t have enough processed (unhealthy) food like them. I am supposed to reduce the quality of food that I eat and eat more junk like my well-wishers do.

I don’t mind them having junk throughout the day. It’s their life, their call. I don’t get a say in their matter. Similarly, they have no right to force me to have things for which my body is not made. I am supposed to eat food that is easily digestible and utilised by the body to fulfill its nutritional needs. I need to listen to my body, not to my well-wishers, not even to my wishes.

Trouble describing my migraine symptoms

Using the words "illness" and "sickness" didn’t do the thing. What made it worse was using the jargon "migraines". Everyone turned out to be experts in knowing and understanding this term. A flood of do's and don’ts came my way.

An obvious pattern emerged:

  1. Meet people
  2. Get out of my cave
  3. Eat food like normal people
  4. Earn a ton of money, which my future wife and children would spend on all kinds of things having no real value

What they meant came from their point of view, not the point of view of someone with two dozen symptoms. What I understood from this pattern was:

  1. Allow people to give you a flare-up as people turn out to be the biggest triggers for my symptoms by pushing me to do things which give me flare-ups upon flare-ups
  2. Move out of my migraine cave and end up in a zone full of triggers as I am not supposed to be trigger-averse
  3. Eat a lot of junk so the digestive issues (like bloating, acidity, gas, and constipation) lead to further flare-ups and nutritional deficiencies
  4. Work like a donkey because earning a lot of money is what a man is supposed to do whether one wants to have a luxurious lifestyle or not and he has no time left for anything else in life other than making money

Learning how to describe migraine

When I tried using the phrase "two dozen symptoms", I found it working its magic on everyone. People had no reply to this initially. It was a revelation for me. These three words turned out to be magical. They had a strange impact on my well-wishers who stopped calling me a liar. I was no longer pretending to be ill. They had a new mantra to chant: everything has a solution and there is treatment for every illness in the big hospitals in South India.

Even the use of this phrase didn’t help. At least, my well-wishers stopped calling me a liar. Now, it’s more about me pretending to be ill because I don’t look ill and I don’t go to big hospitals for a sure-shot cure.

Playing tactful games to describe migraine

Being tactful is not easy. Politics play a role in every facet of life and one needs to be on their toes in order to win-win-win. Having two dozen symptoms makes me believe it’s not worth it. Whatever I am able to do in life, I will do it without wasting too much time on this. Let others play the "tactful games".

As of now, I will stick to using the phrase "two dozen symptoms". It sounds magical. Prestigious! Like a qualification for not having to listen to others and do whatever I feel like. When someone asks me, "What is your profession?", I wonder if I will say, "Dealing with two dozen symptoms".

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our In America Survey yet?