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“It’s Just a Headache” & Other Infuriating Comments

Being told it's just a headache is infuriating!Being told “it’s just a headache” infuriates readers. “Why don’t you take…” is a close second. Read on for more annoying comments that readers shared in their 30 Things About Migraine & Headache awareness meme responses. Leave a comment below to share what makes you angry to hear people say. (And here are the instructions for writing your own 30 Things.)

The Two Most Irritating Comments (By Far)

  • “It’s just a headache.”
  • “Why don’t you take [insert over-the-counter drug name here]?” (This is nearly as irritating to readers as “It’s just a headache.” The two phrases are frequently combined.)

Unhelpful Commentary

  • “Get over it.”
  • “Why don’t you go out on disability?”
  • “You need to do better at getting a handle on this.”
  • “You really need to figure out these headaches.”
  • “You need to see a doctor about that.”
  • “Why do you keep having so many?”
  • “I didn’t realize migraines lasted so long.”

The Fix

  • “Can’t you just take a pill?”
  • “Have you tried…”
  • “You need to see my doctor/chiropractor. They can fix you.”
  • “You just need to drink more water.”
  • “I have headaches too. You just need to get out more. You need to exercise more.”
  • “If only you would…”
  • “You just need to (fill in the blank with crazy random suggestions).”
  • “Have you tried X, it cured my cousin’s migraines.”
  • “Just pray.”
  • “If you just lost weight, your (whatever symptoms) would disappear /reduce.”
  • “Take a Tylenol.”
  • “Just drink salt water, or lemon juice [or some other substance that 40 years of migraines have proved useless].”
  • “I know someone who used to have migraines until they gave up cheese or chocolate or wine.”

Dismissal & Invalidation

  • “l have migraines and they don’t stop me.”
  • “Migraines aren’t that bad.”
  • “Well at least it’s not something worse.”
  • “Oh, I get bad headaches sometimes too.”
  • “You don’t act or look sick!”
  • “You’re too young to be sick.”

Triggers

  • “Do you think it’s just stress?”
  • “Do you know what’s causing them?”
  • “It must have been something you ate.”
  • “What did you do to cause that attack?”
  • “It’s only a little perfume.”
  • “It’s all natural fragrance.”

Again?!?

  • “Again, really?”
  • “You have ANOTHER headache?”
  • “You have a headache again?”
  • “Another headache?”

 

6 Responses to “It’s Just a Headache” & Other Infuriating Comments

  1. SuzieR says:

    My mother in law. Says nothing to me. Doesn’t ask about my chronic migraines, or express any sympathy. Even when she arrived for a week long visit right after I’d had a 6 day killer migraine. Everyone around us was lovely and caring to me. She was stone-faced as usual. Bitch. Stupid comments are better than nothing…

  2. Ellen G says:

    Heard them all. Especially the stress comments because I’m naturally a type A personality. I’ll never give up on keeping all those people that made those comments, informed about my status on a regular basis. Eventually they will learn.

  3. Amanda says:

    Oh yes. Sigh. I’m sorry these are so common. Have you seen the chronic pain bingo? https://myheartsisters.org/2014/11/23/chronic-illness-bingo/

    My least favorite (seeing as I’ve had multiple doctors throw this at me) is “Well, you are just depressed. If you get happier your headaches will get better.” Corollary: “its just stress.”

    Second least favorite: “You just need some sunshine and fresh air.” Um. No. Once I forwarded my husband the article about even blind migrainers being photosensitive he kind of cut this out. But he still thinks my symptoms are mental illness. This is really frustrating – because I think all the mental symptoms are a result of the same cause as the headaches, one doesn’t create the other, something independent of both is going on. Which I am starting to think is MCAS, but getting that diagnosed for certain is a mess. And no one in my state treats it, so I am on my own there.

    Thanks again, Kerrie, for this site and sharing your experiences. It is really helpful and encouraging. Holding you in the light, as the Quakers say.

  4. Dawn Meeks says:

    It is comments like these that helped to create a 20 year gap in between when first began experiencing dreadful migraine headaches and finally being diagnosed with chronic migraines just last week to receive actually treatment from a neurologist. Highlighting the reality versus the stigma on migraines is a noble endeavor and I applaud this site for working to raise awareness <3

  5. John Ptacek says:

    To be at peace with myself with respect to the fallout from this nearly invisible disease is Step 1, 2, and 3 for me. Ignorance in most cases is not willful. But I need to remind myself.

    Saw your humble and thoughtful response to the weekend migraine guy today. Well done. Comparison is almost always a bad idea because it does not honor individual experience.

  6. Bec says:

    YES! So pleased I’ve found this!
    I’ve always suffered from migraines and had them quite well controlled with medication but over the last couple of months I’ve started getting hemiplegic migraines with scary symptoms such as paralysis. The doctors thought I was having a stroke each time I went to a&e and while I am obviously very relieved this wasn’t the case the lack of compassion I’ve had from friends and colleagues since I’ve been diagnosed with ‘just a migraine’ has been unbelievable! One even insinuated I’d made a big fuss by my husband calling and ambulance when I lost the use of my left leg and had wasted the hospitals time if it was ‘just a migraine’ and if one more person mentions stress I might scream!

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