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Let’s Stop Blaming Ourselves for Causing Our Migraines

Chronic migraine is a complicated neurological condition. It is not comparable to allergies. I am allergic to pollen. Pollen triggers my allergic reaction. The symptoms are ordinary and predictable. I can take an antihistamine, and the symptoms will be relieved to at least some degree.

Certain environmental events might aggravate my chronic migraine symptoms. Yet, there are times when those same events do not aggravate my symptoms. I do not know why and neither do the doctors. Heat might aggravate my migraine symptoms. Sometimes, unusual stress or strong emotions are followed by especially bad symptoms.. Sometimes, all is well and life could not be better, and, boom, I will get a sudden full blown debilitating migraine attack on my body. It has happened many times while I was on vacation and enjoying myself greatly or at home and totally relaxed.

I believe that those of us with chronic or episodic migraine and our health care providers are wrong to refer to “triggers” for making our symptoms worse. That line of thinking reduces migraine to a health issue as simple as allergies. Allergic reactions are well understood and treatable. We should be referring to what “aggravates” our symptoms and acknowledge that migraine symptoms are caused by a dysfunction of our nervous system. We have no control over it. At best, we can hope to be able to recognize aggravates and keep them in mind as we make decisions about our daily lives.

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.


  • Codybone
    1 year ago

    That is well said. I myself have been dealing with migraines all my life and in the past few years have gotten worse. I do not have pineal cyst in my brain canal which is at 1 cm. I have many Dr’s say that could be a problem but never said yes or no, just not sure. The Dr’s are lost and keep sending me to see someone else because they cannot figure them out. I try not to take too much medication because I am afraid of rebound headaches.

    One thing that I have notice is one day I feel great and the next day I am down again for a few days. The worst part, these migraines are putting a hurt on my family. My husband and son do not understand the pain that I go through with these migraines. Everyone thinks they are just headaches but they are not. I even lost my job because of the migraines, my Dr. took me out of work because they were that bad and when I hit the 12 week mark for being out of work they fired me. I was on medical leave but that did not mean anything to them.

    I am glad not feel bad that I am not the only person that has to go through this.

  • aks868
    1 year ago

    Wonderful statement! I am constantly having to remind myself that I did not cause these migraines. It is so easy to fall into the self-blame trap because no one really knows how to treat this illness. The frustration with the doctors, I believe, sometimes turns inward to self-blame, because, if they cannot fix it, then it must be me who is at fault. Nevertheless, it is the lack of migraine research, funding, understanding, and knowledge, not we, the migraineurs, that are the causes of our years of suffering.

  • Holly Baddour moderator
    1 year ago

    So true, @aks2868! Many times doctors will have patients move on to other practices if they haven’t been successful at “fixing” them. It leaves the patient internalizing a sense of fault and futility when really what brought us to this intersection is multifactorial:

  • Luna
    1 year ago

    Great statement.
    “We should be referring to what “aggravates” our symptoms and acknowledge that migraine symptoms are caused by a dysfunction of our nervous system. We have no control over it. At best, we can hope to be able to recognize aggravates and keep them in mind as we make decisions about our daily lives.”

  • Lee614 author
    1 year ago

    Thank you! I am hoping that as we voice our observations and experiences that the medical system will begin to look at migraine in a more comprehensive way. Hopefully, we will be the force that leads to better understanding and treatment.

  • deadeyes
    1 year ago

    My doctors have always referred to them as “triggers” and because they were not consistent, I have spent the last 5 years unsure if I had identified all my triggers. I have cut a lot of things out of my life because a migraine followed the event or food. I thought everyone else had figured out their triggers and I was just slow because I could follow the rules and still get an attack. I am so relieved to hear the I am not stupid for not figuring out how to prevent my migraines. Thank you

  • Ruth
    1 year ago

    When I was young (in my teens) I tried to figure out what I had done that was so bad that God would punish me like this – but I couldn’t thing of anything I’d done that was so bad. So then I decided I must have done something in a past life, like brutally murdering kittens or eviscerating a baby… or, maybe I was GOING to do something in the future. Something so bad, he had to start punishing me now just to get enough punishment into my life to make up for it. It took a very long time for me to just accept them as part of who I am, and stop fighting them.

  • Lee614 author
    1 year ago

    I am so sorry that you went through that line of thinking! That must have been so devastating for you as you were going through it. It also took me a long time to accept that this is how I am now, and I continue to learn to live with the effects.

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