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Having a migraine attack is terrible. For anyone who has never experienced one, think of the worst headache you’ve ever had. Now multiply that by 100. Then, sprinkle in some nausea, neck stiffness, body numbness, fatigue or visual disturbances. Yep, those migraine side effects feels just as brutal as it sounds. While most people think of migraine (yes, singular) as just a headache, it’s actually a neurological disease that affects the biology of your brain. It’s always there — even when the head pain and other migraine effects stop.
But dealing with chronic migraine, meaning you have 15 or more headache days per month, can be completely debilitating and it can impact your life in many ways. Besides the obvious head pain that ranges from “Ow! Someone is stabbing me repeatedly in the area behind my eyes!” to “Gah! I’m being bashed in the head with Thor’s hammer!”, here are some other things someone with migraine may experience.
It is physically debilitating
Sure, “Can’t Feel My Face” is a song we all know by The Weeknd, but it could just have easily been penned by me as an ode to my migraine symptoms. I know I’m in Migraine Land when my lips get numb and tingly and my left arm gets weak.
Some other unfortunate migraine effects can include slurred speech, neck stiffness and fatigue. I also sometimes get what I call “lightning vision,” where everything looks buzzy and electric. Wonky vision would be a cool superpower (“Fear not, Gotham; Lightning Vision Girl is here!”), but as a symptom? It’s not so super. What’s also not super is how frequently I have to forgo my favorite weekday pastime: hitting the gym. After all, I can barely lift a finger when a migraine attack hits, let alone a barbell.
It ruins food
In my quest to be migraine-free (or at least migraine-fewer), I’ve tried every healthy eating diet the internet has recommended. The result is that I’ve cut basically every fun and delicious food group out of my life. Gluten? Gone. Dairy? Done. Caffeine? Cut! It! Out! Trust me, you do not want to go to a restaurant with me; watching me do verbal gymnastics to order per my eating specifications is painful. And honestly, do you ever really know what’s actually in your restaurant food? The answer is a big, fat, whopping no. So most of the time, I opt to not even go out to eat in the first place. On the flip side, though, when I am in the midst of a migraine attack, I’m so nauseous that I can’t eat anything at all, so it basically solves the “what am I having for dinner?” conundrum for me.
It drains your bank account
Being chronically ill is not cheap. Neurologist and general practitioner and acupuncturist, oh my! Luckily, I have good health insurance; but still, copays can add up and so can the cost of organic meat and produce, gluten- and dairy-free everything, supplements and herbal remedies and oh-so-many massages. Paycheck, meet migraine expenses.
It forces you to call in sick, constantly
And speaking of my paycheck, every time I send a sick-day email explaining that I can’t come to work because of my migraine, I envision my supervisor and coworkers gathering around the computer screen to mock my excuse. “She’s sick! Cough, cough!” And who can blame them? Last year, I used up all of my annual sick days in the first six months of the year. That’s because working during a migraine attack isn’t just unbearable, it’s literally impossible. If I have a lightning vision or a splitting headache or debilitating fatigue, I can hardly lift my laptop, let alone drive my car into the office. Even if it’s not a full-blown migraine, I can make the trek to work, but I’m still not “all there.”
It consumes your time
I get so tired of lying on my couch, addled with a splitting migraine attack and unable to do anything else except watch so-bad-it’s-good television. Because the biggest and most unquantifiable cost of my chronic migraine is my time: my going-out-with-friends time, my date-night time, my work-on-my-passion-project time, my snuggle-up-and-read-a-good-book time, and even my I-just-want-to-watch-a-terrible-reality-show-without-a-head-pounding-migraine time. But the reality of my life with migraine is that I’m the friend who always bails. I’m the girlfriend who makes us order takeout instead of preparing the romantic dinner together like we’d planned.
Migraine doesn’t define who I am, but it sure does dictate what I do.