There's nothing funny about getting a migraine

The pain's like a hand-drill direct to the cranium but whenever I have to cancel plans because of my old adversary, I suspect people think I'm making too much fuss

Rebecca Armstrong@RebeccaJ
Wednesday 03 April 2013 12:13
Migraine affects an estimated eight million people in Britain (Picture posed by model)
Migraine affects an estimated eight million people in Britain (Picture posed by model)

Whenever I have a migraine, during the long hours of lying in the dark waiting for the agony to abate, there's a lot of time to think. One thing that always pops into my mind is an old sketch from The Catherine Tate Show.

Tate's foul-mouthed character Nan is setting the world to rights in a doctor's waiting room, when an ill-looking woman pipes up.

"I'm sorry, do you mind keeping it down? I suffer from terrible migraines..."

"Oh, I am sorry sweetheart I feel terrible for you. Don't feel you've got to explain anything to me. I feel dreadful. Would you like a mint?"

"I just need to see the doctor."

"Yeah, you go and see the doctor sweetheart, yeah. He'll sort you out. Aaaaaah."

At this point, the migraine-sufferer is called in by the doctor.

Then Nan lets rip.

"WHAT A F***ING LIBERTY! She's got HEADACHE! Sat in a doctor's surgery with a headache. Oh they want SHOOTING THEY REALLY DO."

When I have to cancel plans or call in sick because of my old adversary, I suspect that some people think I'm making a bit of a fuss over a headache. Having spent Good Friday and Saturday alternating between my sickbed and the bathroom floor, I'd like to remind everyone who isn't one of the eight million sufferers in Britain that a migraine ISN'T JUST A HEADACHE.

Not only is there the pain and the spavined vision, there's vomiting, and numbness too. As The Migraine Trust explains on its website, a migraine is a "complex neurological condition". Do spread the word. I tried to when I crawled to the chemist to get prescription migraine tablets, and the pharmacist made "helpful" suggestions as I waited. Had I tried painkillers? I'd rather just go straight for a gun, I said, trying for a friendly explanation of how I was feeling but ending up sounding insane.

Because the pain of a migraine does make me go a bit mad: whether it's fantasising about clawing my eye out or relieving the pressure with a spot of hand-drilling directly into my cranium.

The madness – and the pain – has subsided now, and I shudder to think of how the people who get migraines once or twice a week cope. Mine are every few months and look at the fuss I make. But if there's one thing you could do, when you next hear a colleague or friend has had one (and there are 190,000 migraine attacks every day in the UK), it's to say "poor you" rather than, "ooh, headaches are awful, aren't they?"

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