Migraines and Politics

(Written in late July)

I’ve been pondering a news cycle the last few days. The story is about Michelle Bachmann’s migraines. If you haven’t read the stories, the original one that I read is here and a follow-up is here.

The gist of the story is that apparently Michelle Bachmann has migraines. She and her doctor say they’re under control, but she’s had to be hospitalized for them before and people are concerned that she won’t be able to do the job of president because of the migraines.

Then on today’s flight I read an oped in the Times. (Yay for Economy Comfort and free NYTimes!)

The op-ed is by a migraineur and she talks about the fact that even when migraines are under control, they are never completely under your control, due to the very nature of migraines. She also is concerned that the preventative medications that Bachmann uses are never named, likely because of the fact that most of the meds are generally used for mental health. So there’s also a problem with stigmas.

So this for me isn’t about Bachmann. I’m not going to talk about her politics here. But I think that this is an interesting issue, for multiple reasons.

First, obviously I have personal interest in migraines.

Second, because migraines disproportionately affect women and women haven’t been proportionately represented in US politics, I think this is a unique issue.

Third, the tie between mental health and migraines is important. Both in terms of finding triggers and in terms of pharmaceuticals. But because mental health is still a huge stigma in the US, especially for women (as it signifies weakness), this is a big problem.

Fourth, while Bachmann is getting treatment, most people aren’t. That’s a problem. And even if people do want treatment, it’s expensive and incredibly difficult.

Finally, the fact that migraines are ever changing, ever evolving, and different for everyone affects both diagnosis and treatment.

So the story really isn’t Michelle Bachmann. It’s about how people can cope with migraines. And why they choose to. (I hadn’t mentioned that part before, but I’m pretty sure running for President, let alone winning, would set my migraines on HIGH ALERT.) But the story is only out there because there’s a public face. And it’s a polarizing face.

Migraines aren’t sexy. They won’t (generally) kill you. But they’re there and they’re normal and there is help. But you still have to take care of yourself as well.

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