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“Just a headache”

My biggest pet peeve is when people say migraine is just a headache. The only thing that bothers me more is when someone says they have a migraine when they only have a headache.

I get it. I get it. I really do get it. Some people can’t stand a headache. If you’ve never had a migraine or cared for someone with one, you can’t understand. To them, it’s the worst pain they can get. I understand that, but I think I still deserve the right to be offended when you have just a headache and you complain about “woe is me” when you are only slightly inconvenienced.

I also understand that if you’ve never had a migraine or cared for someone with one, you really think the headache is the only symptom. You think, “If I can work while in pain, then so can they.” But it still upsets me.

Yes, the pain is unbearable, worse than any headache I’ve had (I also get headaches pretty bad too). However, if that was the only symptom, I might at least be able to pretend as if nothing was happening. The key word there is might.

But it’s not just a headache, so I’ll never know. It’s the sensitivity to light that makes me recoil from light like a vampire and wear my sunglasses indoors like a d-bag. It’s the sensitivity to sound that makes the smallest rustle sound like the loudest thunderstorm. It’s the vomiting. Literal vomiting where I can’t hold down food (or my medication) for days on end. It’s the dizziness, the bruises from when I’ve fallen or run into something because I can’t even walk straight. It’s the mood swings. Everything makes me cry. It’s being freezing cold in 100 degree weather or sweating in 60 degrees. It’s the forgetting words or names. It’s the unable to finish sentences. It’s the huge gaps in my memory from my migraines. Yes, there’s days I literally can’t remember anything. It’s being tired, all of the time. I’m just exhausted and weak. It’s the irregular appetite, I’ve put on wait because I crave foods with a migraine. It’s so many things where just one is enough to incapacitate a person, and I’m dealing with 20.

So yeah, I understand. You can’t stand your headache, or you’ve had to work through pain. I understand, but that doesn’t mean that I’m okay with your words or that I’ll just excuse them. Because my migraines are a literal disorder. They have made me miss important events in my life. They’ve costed me friendships. They’ve made people lose trust in me or think that I don’t want to hang around them. They’ve made people think I’m lazy, they’ve destroyed my GPA both in high school and college. So yeah, I get it, but i wont understand or forgive anyone that brushes them off for being any smaller than they are.

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.


  • BethBlue
    2 years ago

    Let’s talk about REALITY. Let’s talk about how many of us spend days locked up inside our homes in pain. We finally get one blessed day — maybe even a few hours — that we think we might be able to survive outside, and we venture forth. What happens? Inevitably, we run into the one screaming toddler, the one smelly person, the one…well, you know: Life. And the cycle begins again. People who aren’t chronic migraine sufferers don’t understand, and when we grimace with disgust, they think we are intolerant, bitchy, or coddled. It’s not just a headache: It’s how our lives get screwed up on a daily basis because we are constantly dancing around the inconvenience and rudeness of life, and it gets worse every day. Many of us can’t work, and many more have to struggle to work through the pain. We have to look out for ourselves, and it’s a lonely existence. Our families don’t get it. Many of our doctors don’t get it. And our friends, if we have them? They sure don’t get it. No wonder so many of us are depressed! This sucks, and it’s no way to live.

  • sparkle
    2 years ago

    I totally hear you.
    The only people who really understand what my migraines are like are fellow migraineurs.
    I have had to work through a few nasty migraines because of an unsympathetic boss. I don’t even remember those days, all I know was I wore ear plugs sunglasses and dressed like and I don’t eve

  • GardensatNight
    2 years ago


    I read a lot now (well, my device reads to me, since I can’t use my eyes so well anymore without triggering migraine), since it’s something you cn do while lying there with ice surrounding your head in a dark, nearly soundless cavern trying not to die, and I am starting to notice how often authors write characters breezily lying about having a headache or migraine in order to get out of doing whatever. And it PISSES ME OFF.

    And I’ve started calling them on it in reviews. Which may make me look like a crazy for getting hung up on something they probably didn’t give a second thought to, but I very nicely point out how making characters lie about migraine promotes the idea that people with chronic migraine or chronic headache disorders are chronic liars, and hurts us in relationships with doctors, coworkers, etc.

    Anyway, I HEAR YOU.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    I encourage us to get involved with migraine awareness and make up a short paper with statements from experts and where the reference may be found about migraine. I have done this with family members. Am now working on a statement to give to friends, acquaintances and any one else who will take it. These aren’t just my words. These are from experts. It is up to each of us to help educate people. If nothing else refer them to the web site. Thanks.

  • lisa c santa cruz
    2 years ago

    I HEAR YOU migraine sister. the constant explaining is another thing that grabs me in the crosshairs. some people think we are not getting a handle on it and that bugs me too. one the other side of this blog is that people cannot help us with words unless the words are quiet and loving and i hear the compassion… which i do get frequently in my workplace. they are starting to get it and know its best to leave me to the despair because they have seen me a few times “migraine free” and really like me!!!

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