By Kerrie Smyres | October 22, 2012
“Your headaches are all in your head,” two uncles have told me recently. I think they were trying to be cute, playing on the notion that the pain is actually located in my head, so my illness must be in my head. I don’t think either one was trying to be insensitive. And yet, there’s not much someone could say to insult me more.
This illness has overtaken my life. It renders me unable to work and keeps me from spending time with friends and family. My house is a mess and I can barely keep up with feeding myself healthful food. To have a family member insinuate — even unintentionally — that I might making it up or am somehow mentally weak invalidates the immensity of my struggles.
The first uncle said it on Facebook and I ignored the comment. When another uncle, from the other side of the family, said it on the phone last night I said, “No, it’s in my neurology.” He said “Oh, is it?” and moved on to a different topic. I’ve been mulling over it all day, trying to decide what I could have said to this man in his 70s who knows little about migraine (after all, he refers to my illness as “headaches”). I could have pointed out that it is a neurological disorder, just like ALS and Alzheimer’s, both of which have had a significant impact on that side of the family. Migraine doesn’t have the same outcomes as those illnesses, though, and I didn’t want to scare him.
I’m still at a loss for the best way to deal with the comment. I should probably figure it out before any of my other uncles decide to tell me my migraines are all in my head. Any suggestions?