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All in My Head?

“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?

11 Responses to All in My Head?

  1. Abby says:

    I hate when I hear that… because sometimes I think people really think that. And then I start thinking “maybe they’re right.” …BUT I know it’s not! Just like you it’s taken over my life. It’s “in my neurology” is actually a great answer. I’m going to start saying that.

  2. Can you say, “if you want to help , learn about migraine ..books, library …google it Uncle. Talking about it gives me a headache. I love you uncle”

  3. adunt says:

    This is a great question Kerrie, and one at stronger times I have felt equipped to answer – explaining the pain, articles I have copied, trying to use humor to diffuse the situation so I don’t lash out and lose even more friends…but that strength, like my energy to seek out new treatments and remedies comes in waves and right now I am wiped out. It’s tough enough to maintain a relationship with my boyfriend and keep a job. All I want to do is scream HELP ME all day every day and nothing is coming. I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to make this all about me. Your relatives should hear from your readers, those who you have helped, who reach out to you for support when we are stuck and hurting and can’t think of who else to talk to. Stay strong lady friend.

  4. Chrissy says:

    Spoken light a true fighter, sad to say we speak the same language. I felt all that you said. So true.

  5. Chrissy says:

    Lol. Lol. Like a true fighter I ment.

  6. Virginia Smyres says:

    My mother would say “consider the source.” In these particular instances, there is jealousy and lack of education involved, as well as trying to be cute. You are going to have to shrug these remarks off, forget them and go on being the wonderful, intelligent, sensitive young woman you are. I am hoping that writing this blogpost has been cathartic for you.
    Love and kisses,
    Mom

  7. Mikaela Solis says:

    Hi Kerrie,what drugs are you currently taking to cure your migraine? I got one and its hard to work every time i felt numb.Any idea?

    Thanks,
    Mikaela

  8. Robyn says:

    Kerrie I just want to thank you for writing this blog. I absolutely never read blogs (or write them) but when I came accross yours by accident I found a new friend. I am a 59 year old woman. I have had migraines on and off for most of my life. The last few months have been particularly bad. I am usually able to teach 5 or 6 piano students each afternoon if I take enough pain meds to take the edge off. Sometimes I have to wear earplugs to soften the sound of my sweet delightful students..sometimes I just have to cancel and retreat to my room with the ice bags. Life can be hard and then suddenly I ll have a great day or two. It helps to know that you understand and that you know I have tried a million things to control this and will keep trying.I am so glad to know you understand….I have a great husband and a wonderful life ….its not all in my head …or yours!

  9. Thanks for the support and suggestions. I tend to forget that my advocating for oneself takes strength… strength that is so often hard to come by when headaches or migraines are being demanding. Thanks for the reminder.

    Mikaela, there’s no cure for migraine, but medications that can be taken to abort/minimize them (like triptans, DHE or Midrin) and others that can be taken on a daily basis for prevention (magnesium and cyproheptadine help me).

    Robyn, welcome to the blog. I’m so glad you’ve found it to be helpful. I also write for Migraine.com, along with a handful of kind, intelligent advocates. It is a great site that you might find helpful. Hang in there!

    Kerrie

  10. Carolyn Singer says:

    I am a 25+ year migraine sufferer that has tried virtually every possible medication, supplement, and headache gadget. So what I am telling you is important. A few months ago I read a book called Wheat Belly about the problems with modern wheat. The author mentions several times that eliminating wheat and other grains can help with migraines. After several more books, I came across The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. In it there is a discussion of using the Ketogenic diet to eliminate migraine. It took about a month to adjust to the diet. It is not easy. But my migraines are gone and I have tons of energy. I feel like I need to tell as many people as possible. I completely eliminated my migraine meds. My husband has lost 20 pounds and lowered his CRP. We do not feel deprived on this diet. We feel great! If you are really suffering and ready to commit to a completely different way of eating, consider getting the Jaminet’s book.

  11. Margaret says:

    Would sarcasm be over the line, in that kind of situation? “No, it’s not all in my head, because migraine is a neurological disorder like any other, but thanks for dismissing not just my own 20 years of daily experience, but piles of scientific evidence, too.”

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