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Why Migraine Awareness Week is so important

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Migraines are the third most common condition in the world, yet despite being recognised as one of the most debilitating lifelong illnesses, suffers are still not taken seriously and understanding is painfully low. 

“Oh, you look fine”

“It’s just a headache” 

“Just take some paracetamol and get on with it”

I’m sure if you are a migraine sufferer yourself, you’ve had at least one of those things said to you; I know I certainly have.

Statements like these are the reason that Migraine Awareness Week is so important and, unfortunately, still very much necessary.

Indeed, there is a significant lack of awareness and understanding when it comes to migraines, and how draining it can really be.

I was fourteen when I first began suffering with ocular migraines, a rarer type of migraine that only affects between 10-30% of suffers.

I wasn’t aware that I actually suffered from the condition until I was seventeen and stumbled upon a vlog by Helen Anders, where she spoke about her struggle with migraines.

After three years of just trying to ignore whatever it was, this was my light bulb moment.

Since then, I couldn't even begin to tell you how many plans I've cancelled, lessons I failed to attend or lectures I had to leave early; If a migraine is coming on, the day is basically a write-off. 

Migraines, such as mine, are often dismissed as simply just a headache and are cripplingly misunderstood.

The pain in unseen, meaning a fast track pass to stigma street.

This pattern of validating an illness based on if there are physical symptoms or not is baffling and archaic.

We’ve seen it most commonly with attitudes to mental health; the notion that if you can’t see it, it must not be real.

This is why awareness weeks are essential for fighting this damaging mindset.

Ultimately, Migraine Awareness Week shouldn’t have to exist, in much the same way as mental health awareness weeks also shouldn’t have to.

Unfortunately, however, in our current society they still need to.

Almost the entire reason why these weeks are created in the first place is to educate others because people who have these conditions are not believed, not taken seriously and often palmed off.

So, no, in a perfect world, Migraine Awareness Week wouldn’t have to exist because all health conditions would be treated with the same level of urgency and compassion as each other.

However, for now it plays an extremely important role in making progress for the illness that shouldn’t be dismissed. 

Migraine Awareness Week remains integral for fighting the stigma and educating the public, especially teachers and employers, on this relatively overlooked condition.

I know someone personally who was sacked from her job for having too many days off due to her migraines.

How can the condition be so common, yet employers appear to have little to no understanding of it?

This year, the awareness week is putting a strong emphasis on the relationship between migraines and the workplace, aiming to educate employers about the neurological condition, which I think is a brilliant step forward for the movement.

Employers must be made aware that it is extremely likely they will employ someone who suffers from migraines and that due to the nature of the condition, it affects everyone uniquely. And no, it’s not just a fabricated excuse to bunk off work for a day. 

So, here’s to a future where people will finally take migraines for what they are: way more than just a headache. 

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