What is migraine? Migraine is that cousin that you can’t stand. Remember him? We can call him Cousin Mig.
He shows up drunk to every funeral. He shows up depressed and philosophical at every wedding. Seriously, if it hadn’t been for that promise you made to your grandmother, you would have had a restraining order issued long ago.
Do you remember that time, a couple of hours before your daughter’s graduation? He begged you to go with him – just for a few more minutes – to help him fill out some paperwork at the employment office. But his car broke down in that tunnel, and you were too far from your daughter’s school to walk. He offered to get the help, and you spent hours in that smelly dark tunnel waiting and imagining nasty things.
When you go out for a good time with your friends, guess who shows up? Yes, your cousin. He has brilliant ways of embarrassing you in front of everyone. Before you know it, you’re fumbling for words in your anger, and end up embarrassing yourself. He monopolizes the conversation (although later your friends assure you it wasn’t so bad), and you end up going home to bed early, another evening ruined.
And yes, he comes to your house often. He doesn’t ask, or call first. And he’s way to friendly with your kids – we won’t even talk about that.
You’re always bailing him out of one scrape or another. Sometimes it’s expensive, other times just inconvenient. You’re trying to finish a report, or spend time with the kids (while they’re still young!), or enjoy an evening with a good movie. And there he is, at the door, with another emergency.
You really don’t want to blame Cousin Mig, but – if it hasn’t been for that one day (you remember what I’m talking about), would you have gotten that promotion? Or would you have been "all that" in the interview, and gotten the job you really wanted? And think of what you could have gotten done if… but why think like that?
Migraine. It’s probably hereditary (the promise to grandma, remember?), and it often strikes in the most "productive" years of life. (I admit it’s debatable what is most productive, but in reality migraine strikes at all ages) That means the years when your kids are growing up, the years when you build a career, the years when you travel. Whatever it may be, migraine is a thief that can steal the key moments of these years. The special events, the job productivity – when you most need the time and energy, you don’t have it.
Many people think migraine impacts you only when you have the symptoms (during an "attack"). That’s one of the biggest problems. If you have migraine disease, it impacts life all the time.
Have you ever stayed home waiting for an important phone call? Someone asked you to dinner, or you wanted to get that shopping done, but you set it aside to wait for the call. And, of course, the person forgot to call!
That’s migraine. You never know when it’s going to strike, so you can never plan anything with certainty. Will I be able to finish that job tomorrow? Will I be able to go to the concert on Friday? I never know, because I never know when the next migraine will strike.
This is a major feature of migraine that health professionals are really starting to understand. Just like migraine impacts the entire body, it impacts all of life. Just like the cousin of your worst nightmares (you don’t really have a cousin like that, do you?).
Migraine has an indirect impact on many other areas of life. Consider this vicious circle – missing work and losing productivity because of migraine, losing needed income, and then spending more on migraine treatment. The financial burden can grow and grow, and this is a very real issue for many migraineurs.
This is not intended to be a complaining post. Many migraineurs I know are very positive people. But you do need to understand, whether you have migraine or someone close to you does, that it has a huge impact on life. It’s an impact that goes beyond the pain level, beyond the hours in bed, beyond a missing day.
Frankly, migraine is closer to you, and worse than, your Cousin Mig.
That’s what migraine is, and that’s why we’re fighting it.
Here’s another brief description of the impact of migraine on society from the Value in Health journal.