11 Things You Should Know About Migraine Sufferers

Friday, 3 August 2018
In my house, migraines were a norm. I have them, my father had them, my grandmother had them. From an early age I learned when there was pain, you tried the best you could to pretend things were normal. It wasn't until the 'stroke' symptoms appeared that you should rest. While 14% of the world's population will experience migraines, an even small percentage of these migraine sufferer's experience hemiplegic migraine. There are two types of hemiplegic migraines: sporadic and familial. 



My family has the type of migraines that affect 0.01% of migraine suffers, familial hemiplegic migraines. Familial hemiplegic migraines (FMH) are a genetic, migraine disorder which gives your offspring a 50% chance of receiving the genetic mutation. Symptoms of this specific type of a migraine include: 

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Excruciating pain on one side of your head. My numbness and pain both affect the right side of the body. I feel the pain in my head while experiencing numbness in my face, neck, and arm. 
  • Pins-and-needles feeling. While my right leg and side do not go numb, I do experience pins-and-needles sensations that make it incredibly difficult to move. 
  • Aura or blurred vision.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to light, smell, and sound
  • Processing delays
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty remembering words or forming sentences
  • Did I mention pain? Lots of pain?

Ever wonder what you can do to help your friend or loved one suffering from migraines? Here are some tips to help be a supportive person in their life:

1. Do Not Downplay Their Pain
Most individuals tend to hear the word migraine and respond with 'Oh I get headaches too". First, Susan, a migraine is to a headache as Godzilla is to a lizard. They are not even remotely equivalent. Even while I'm writing this post, every time I write the word migraine, Grammarly tries to correct it to 'headache'. They are not the same bloody thing. Trying to downplay it only makes treating it more difficult!

If a loved one shares with you, they're experiencing a migraine, do not downplay that pain. Telling them "headaches are awful" only make them feel isolated and stigmatised. 

2. Try to Understand Their Triggers
Certain smells or food, alcohol, stress, sensory stimuli and changes in weather can trigger migraines. Understanding what triggers can exacerbate migraines in your loved ones can help make them a little more comfortable. If its strong perfumes, avoid wearing them for a few days. Avoid offering trigger foods to them when they're unwell. These simple acts really show you care. 

3. Ask If There Is Anything You Can Do To Help
Sometimes a migraine can be so severe a person cannot see. This makes it difficult to seek medical attention. Offer to drive them to doctors appointments or to pick up any medication they may need. Cooking can also be an impossible task so offering to make a meal is always appreciated. 

4. Try to Keep the Noise Down and Turn Off the Lights
Keeping the noise down and turning off the lights is the simplest way to help out a loved one with a migraine. Sensitivities to light and sound can sometimes be challenging hurdles to overcome to get mild relief. For some, the sound of their own breath can be excruciating, causing not only pain but nausea and vomiting. Making sure they're in a quiet, dark place can help aid in the recovery. 

5. If They Need to Cancel Plans, Just Say "No Worries"
It absolutely sucks having to cancel plans last minute. It sucks, even more, when friends aren't understanding and try to pressure you to still go out, underplaying your pain. Don't be that friend or family member. If your loved one needs to cancel, just tell them no worries, and you'll reschedule for when they're feeling better. Throw in a bit of #3 too. 


6. Cover for Them
One of the most supportive things you could do is help cover for them. This may mean helping decrease their workload for a few days, swapping shifts so they can rest, or helping them find coverage for their shift. You may even want to call in on their behalf. Sometimes migraines can be so painful the individual is unable to talk. 

7. Support Their Dietary Constraints 
This does not mean avoiding foods you love while you're around the individual. This could mean not pressuring them to "try a bite" or "just have one drink". Certain foods and drinks, even in small quantities can mean days of pain. If they're unwell, find out what food smells trigger them and suggest ordering something they can stomach. 

8. Tidy Up
Household chores become last priority when one has a migraine. Sometimes the stress of knowing the house is a mess is enough to trigger the next. Help straighten up around the house. Offer to do a load of laundry or wash the dishes. You don't need to do a full moveout clean to show you care. 

9. Do Not Offer Advice
If I had a nickel every time, someone said "my (insert rando person) tried (insert rando info they googled), and it worked really well. Have you tried it?" I may be as rich as the Royal Family. I know the advice comes from a good place, but unless you have knowledge on brand new groundbreaking research, chances are I've tried what you're about to suggest. Just like when Ann was preggo on Parks & Rec, and Chris was overbearing, all you need to say is "that sucks" or "how can I help"?

10. Keep in Touch
We may fall out of touch for a bit. This doesn't mean we love you any less or that we don't want to see you. Migraine brain and the migraine hangover can often make it incredibly difficult to remember much of anything. Just send a quick text. This helps us feel a little less isolated and not so bad for having to bail on stuff. 

11. Research Migraine Art
There are so many VR simulators and migraine artwork that help depict what an individual with migraines might be experiencing. I highly suggest checking these out. It can help give you a person first account of the impact of migraines. 

Migraines can leave one feeling incredibly isolated. But with a strong, understanding support network, you don't have to feel so alone. If you suffer from migraines, what would you like your support network to understand? If you've never suffered from migraines, what would you want to understand better? Join the discussion in the comments below. 

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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27 comments

  1. Even once they know their triggers it can be hard to avoid them. I have friends who have migraines and they sound so awful to deal with.

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    1. I may one day write a whole post on triggers and how to avoid them. Avoiding triggers can definitely be more challenging when your friends do not understand them.

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  2. This is so great! I don't get migraines but many friends do and being understanding is important! They aren't "just headaches" and it is wonderful to try and help as we can for sure.

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  3. Understanding and empathizing with others is something we all should do. I have heard of migranes off and on all my life, but did not necessarily look at all of the symptoms that are associated with it.

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    1. And the symptoms I mentioned are specific to hemiplegic migraines. Other types of migraines experience different symptoms. Understanding, awareness, and empathy all help decrease some of the worry that we with migraines experience.

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  4. My ex-bf is a migraine sufferer and there are days when he would just disappear because of how bad it is. It would affect our relationship too. I feel sorry for him and I still wish him well.

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  5. Good to know. I don't suffer from migraines all the time but I have had them twice that I can remember. I was nauseous and couldn't open my eyes both times -- very miserable. Thank you for sharing!

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  6. I have some of the worst migraines so I can definitely agree on so many of these points. The pain I get keeps me in bed for a whole day if I'm lucky.

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    1. I'm so sorry that you suffer with migraines. I hope you have a strong support system and have found some methods to help ease the pain a little bit. Stay strong!

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  7. I do not have migraine but I know someone who has. Number 4 I think is so helpful as my friend sometimes eat in the dark because of this

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  8. Some people need to know that migraines aren't just minor thing. These are some great tips on how to deal with people having migraines.

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  9. I used to think I got migraines because I would have excruciating headaches and just wanted quiet and to be left alone. It wasn't until I witnessed someone with a true migraine to realize they are very different from really bad headaches. These are good tips, and I will be passing this information on to a friend of mine.

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    1. You may still have been experiencing migraines. There are many different types of migraines. Don't discount your pain because it was different to another migraine sufferers!

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  10. Wow, I don't think I would be able to deal with constant migraines, but these are definitely good pointers for those who suffer.

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  11. We went for a lunch with my friends today and one of them told me about the worst pain she had. And so to compare her symptoms I had to screenshot this and send to her. I wish there's an end for this pain.

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  12. i used to get really bad migraines and it was becasue I was eating too much processed sugar which i had to ditch for health reasons about five years ago and also when i dont eat enough healthy fats.

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  13. I used to experience migrained when I was studying in University. Especially when I see the light eg very bright sun light. Later on my migraine improved and gone after I picked up some exercise and learn about breathing exercise from yoga lesson.

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  14. I had migraines so bad for a long time. As soon as I got my hysterectomy, they dissapeared!

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    1. Wow! That's awesome! There is a link between estrogen production and migraines. It's one of the reason I can't be on any medication containing estrogen.

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  15. What an interesting post! I totally agree with your statements. My sister used to have bad migraines and I never took them seriously until she got an upset stomach after she had not eaten because the kitchen was "too bright." And my sister loves to cook so it was a big deal. If we ever have to cancel plans, I always tell her no worries and wish her well! :)

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  16. Migraines are the worst! Mine started when I got pregnant and have been lingering ever since.

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  17. This is so important to keep in mind. I get them from time to time and they're the worst.

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  18. Thanks for this great information. My daughter suffers from migraines and it’s always nice to know what can help.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that. I hope this has been helpful for you so that you're able to understand and support her even more :)

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  19. My husband suffer from frequents migrains, this recommendations are very helful, thanks!

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  20. Wow such a detailed post about Migraines... I don’t have migraine but I have my friends who really suffer from it... I would definitely ask them to check this post out 😊👍🏼

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    1. That would be lovely! Then they can share it with more of their support system so friends and family can know how to help them! Next time your friend has a migraine, you'll be a pro at supporting them!

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