We are masters of disguise. Through blinding pain and an overwhelming assault on our senses, we power through our days, attending to everyone and everything except ourselves. Only when Migraine is at its most extreme do we finally admit defeat.
When we spend our precious energy trying to hide Migraine from the world, our efforts can backfire. Sooner or later, Migraine will get the better of us. Hiding will become impossible. It will happen when we least expect it. Shame and humiliation will take over as we are forced to make a hasty retreat.
Migraine is not shameful
I recently spoke with a friend who was embarrassed to use her triptan injections in public. She preferred to suffer through an attack rather than face the unlikely possibility that a stranger might think she was a drug addict. Others have expressed fear of ridicule if they use FL-41 tinted glasses, wearable ice packs, headphones, ear plugs, carry a water bottle, or even take their medication.
Would we ever begrudge someone a pair of glasses, a hearing aid, rescue inhaler, blood glucose testing, or use of an EpiPen? Of course we wouldn’t. Why then, do we expect others to deny us access to simple tools that maintain our health?
We create stigma
When we try to hide Migraine, we create more stigma. It’s time to ditch the belief that Migraine is something too shameful to discuss. Hiding helps no one.
When we try to hide Migraine’s impact on our lives, we do the world and ourselves a disservice. Hiding perpetuates stigma by keeping the truth secret. We are helping no one by silently enduring the sensory onslaught of bright flashing lights, loud noises, and strong odors. Martyrdom isn’t the way to break down stigma. We can’t expect the world to understand or accommodate our needs if we won’t communicate our needs. It’s self-sabotaging to avoid taking care of ourselves for the sake of appearances.
Break the cycle
When I decided to stop hiding the impact of Migraine, I made a startling discovery. Fearing the worst, I spent countless hours rehearsing my response to anticipated stigma. I built it up in my mind, preparing for a confrontation that never occurred. The stigma was all in my head.
When we allow people to see the impact of Migraine, we are breaking down stigma. We teach by example. We can be ambassadors for every Migraine patient simply by showing up.
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Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.