Sometimes I think people believe migraines are just a really bad headache.
I think this is because they are focusing on the symptom of pain, which is familiar to them, in the form of a headache. So then they think migraines must just be more pain. Even doctors focus on the pain mostly. The pain is a big deal. Not saying the pain isn’t a massive deal. It sucks. It sucks monkey balls.
When I was younger my migraines presented in a very typical way. I got a very recognizable aura in form of large blotches of light completely obscuring on side of my vision and visual snow. I got very normal nausea that was violent enough I was put on a dissolvable triptan, but nausea is a classic migraine symptom. And I had very acute sudden onset migraine pain. My migraines always occurred from hormonal triggers and sometimes occurred randomly at other times. This is the sort of migraine people think about when they hear the word. Even when they do not understand the level of pain we are talking about here.
But every migraine sufferer has different assortments of aura symptoms if they get them, and sometimes they do not get pain as a symptom at all. And every migraine we get is different than other ones we get. Especially when migraines become chronic… when the brain is always on overdrive and some aura symptoms begin to persist as a result. My visual snow, for example, became permanent. It was worse with a migraine attack but it is always there.
Migraine though comes with a variety of neurological symptoms that simply are mind-boggling to others. This vertigo I have been getting is not abnormal, even for me, since I get episodes of vertigo with migraines every so often. Now it is persisting.
Migraines-A-General-Overview I go through the basics but what I am referring to here is the section on aura symptoms that are very varied and make migraine far beyond just a migraine or even that classical image of a migraine. Distortions in the perception of time, in the hearing, in smelling, seeing, touch and motor skills. For example this migraine week I have been getting
“Autokinesis: Illusion of apparent movement of stationary objects. Objects may appear to be warping and shifting.” and “Dysmetropsia: Visual illusions involving an alteration in the size or separation of visual objects. Often seen in Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.” and then this one “Depersonalisation: affects our self-awareness. It is a feeling of being detached from a situation, watching your self act, while having no control. The world may feel surreal, intangible or dreamlike.” all with the vertigo itself.
So a migraine is never just a migraine. It is a disease. And we have attacks not headaches.
It is the brain we are talking about after all and the symptoms that occur during a migraine are diverse, bizarre and not ones people are familiar with. Hard to call in sick to work saying ‘I have a migraine but until the horribly painful migraine I had yesterday and went to work with, this is equally painful but I can really see my environment as it seems to be warpy and shifting, I have vergio and the floor feels spongey, the floor looks to be closer than it should be and hallway longer…. so while I could try to dampen the pain as best I can it is moot because I would have to be a freakin idiot to drive like this.’ Trust me I have tried this. Morning migraines tend to have full-blown weird woo-woo symptoms that mess up my ability to see and move.
There is a level of weirdness that we go through that is difficult to explain. Because I get so many migraines, well some of them are my classic migraine, some make me feel like I have the worst stomach flu ever, some the pain is so far beyond acute it cannot be treated, some make it impossible to see, some make it impossible to hear, some make it difficult to speak while others make it hard to comprehend what others speak.
I’m still fighting a killer status migraine right now and at that pain point where if someone said it was just a headache or that their migraines are not like that… I would likely punch them in the face.
It is a mistake to assume it is just a ‘bad headache’. And it is a stigma we deal with all the time.