“Insurmountable Inability to Understand” Migraine

Fallon explains one of the biggest relationship stressors headache sufferers endure: Someone who has never had a severe headache or migraine simply cannot understand your suffering, no matter how clear your description and apparent your agony is.

“As I said ages ago, those who’ve never experienced a migraine, just don’t get it. Never have. Never will. That fact isn’t likely to change, so I no longer waste my breath trying to explain. But, I’m not above begging and pleading when the need arises. And I think the need has definitely risen to gargantuan proportions. . . .”

“I’ve begun to believe it’s a mental block in the minds of non-migraine sufferers. They hear the word and something just… blanks.”

Photo by Nara Vieira da Silva Osga

6 Responses to ““Insurmountable Inability to Understand” Migraine”

  1. Elaine Says:

    Wow, I can so relate to that! I feel like that all the time. I suffer from migraines and I, too, have noticed the “blank look” people get when you say the word migraine. Like it’s just a fancy term for headache and not a real disease. I am finally taking control of my migraines and have decided not to be a victim and not to even try to explain them to anyone else, but my doctor. Good Luck with your migraines, it’s good to know you’re not the only one dealing with them.

  2. Christina P Says:

    Yet we must find a way to transcend this “insurmountable” inability to understand. Somehow, the mental health community has been able to destigmatize depression and bipolar disorder.

    Can you truly understand what it feels like to be manic? No. Can you truly understand what it feels like to be deeply, suicidally depressed? No. And yet, there is more credibility for these conditions than there is for migraine.

    Rather than shrug this off as saying, they will just never understand, I reject that and say, Let’s find a way to fight for acceptance despite the fact that a nonsufferer cannot truly experience the sensation of space aliens invading their brain instead of being able to thing normally or see clearly.

  3. Kerrie Says:

    I agree with both of you. With some people, you can try and try to explain with no success. At some point you have to cut your losses so you don’t get too stressed about it.

    It’s also important to explain migraine and/or headaches to as many people as possible. This illness will never get positive attention until more people know what it’s about.


  4. Kathi Says:

    My husband is the worst about this. He rarely gets a “normal” headache and doesn’t believe that they really are that bad. He has a way of always picking a fight when my head is at my worst. He basicly just tells me “it’s a headache, take a tylenol and suck it up”…oh what I wouldn’t give to have that work for me.

    Oh, I’m so sorry about that.

    Take good care of yourself — you deserve it.


  5. Jeffrey Says:

    I, too, have this problem where I explain what kind of pain I’m in, and it’s like my mother (god bless her heart) tries to rationalize the pain by blaming other factors (sinus problems, allergies, not eating, etc). Giving her the benefit of the doubt, I do try other non-painkiller remedies before submitting to the pain and taking a powerful pain pill, but by then, the pain has risen to levels that no one should ever have to suffer, endure, or even closely experience.

    Though some of my other family members and relatives have somewhat an idea of the pain I’ve gone through, none understand just how frustrating it is to go to work and feel like I just don’t “make the cut” as it were. I want to do well with a job, persevere and push through the pain, but ultimately, the pain usually wins and I end up losing out professionally in my career life.

    There are also some in my family and friends who think I’m just one of those who don’t really want to work. The problem is that they don’t understand the difficulty in deciding whether to take the hit on attendance, pay, etc and go home to treat the pain, or stay and suffer even more. I don’t think anyone can quite understand it. Sure they’ll understand if a mother has two kids at home, and one of them is sick and needs to go to the doctor, but it seems those with no families of their own who suffer headache pain are left in the spotlight in front of people who think we just don’t want to work or do anything productive.

    I wake up every morning feeling like I have a 4-alarm hangover (and I swear I haven’t been drinking in almost a year), and it takes me sometimes hours just to get the energy to get out of bed and do something productive, even if it’s one or two tasks. Some might think I am just lazy, but that’s far from being descriptive of me. Whenever I want to get something done, I do it. However, when I’m in pain, I’m only able to do maybe two or three major tasks, and when it comes to doing house chores after that like cleaning, laundry, etc, that’s a whole other story all its own.

    Anyway, sorry for the longwinded speech, but I do understand the lack of “understanding” when it comes to this type of pain. It just feels like those of us who go through and try to “deal with it” are left to feel like we’re just being lazy, or procrastinate, or worse trying to fake our way out of responsibility whether it be a job, housework, etc.

    I agree with you completely. Most people I know feel guilty enough about not being able to do perform well at work, do housework, etc without having other people shovel it on.

    I, too, give mothers leeway. They just don’t want to see their babies hurt, especially by something that is a tough-to-treat life-long condition.

    I’m sorry you’re have such a rough time right now. You’re in my thoughts. Take care of yourself.


  6. Katie Says:

    Oh, I know this one only too well – to my cost. My father has actually gone and deliberately triggered migraine for me in the past because he believes it’s a suitable “punishment” for anything I do “wrong”. He’s never had a history of migraines – though my mother did and my stepmother does – and so he has no idea just what intense agony he’s inflicting on me every time he does that. And he’s all like, “get off your ass, lazy bitch” when I go to bed with one, or when I’m in post-migraine hangover. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t understand, and he clearly doesn’t want to either. It gives him something to use.

    That’s terrible! I’m so sorry.


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