‘People don’t understand that these migraines are not just a little headache’

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“Oh! Headache again!” “Just take this pill and that’s it, it heals quickly, you’ll see”. “You are becoming very incapacitated, does your head really hurt like this?” “Oh! How boring with you! You always have a headache and you can never do anything!” “Oh! It’s a lie that the pain doesn’t go away with what you drank!”

These phrases have been heard over and over again by people with migraine or other chronic headaches. The misunderstanding of this disease is suffered at home, in the workplace, in their circle of friends and even in health centers.

Carolina Rodríguez Benavides, 38, has lived it since she was a child. It was not an excuse for not doing homework or a pretext for not going somewhere. The truth is, she did want to do and finish her homework and go to many places, parties and gatherings. But the migraine did not let her do even the most everyday things.

“Sometimes people think that you make up pain. And that is not true, it is sometimes unbearable pain. People don’t understand that these migraines are not just a little headache,” stressed this woman, who in addition to headaches sometimes has other symptoms such as nausea.

“When I was 15 or 16 years old, my mom, seeing me with so much headache, took me to Ebáis and from there they referred me to the Alajuela Hospital. But they only gave me pills that did not help me at all. Because of the same adolescent rebellion and because I felt that nothing was working for me, I stopped going.”

Damaris Araya has also lived with this misunderstanding for at least 20 years, but particularly during the last five years, when the attacks worsened.

“It’s hard. At first they went away quickly, with a couple of acetaminophen, but later it changed a lot and they didn’t go away the same. So it is difficult to explain to the family that the pain does not go away with the same thing as before and that I am really suffering, ”she said.

Family doctor Gustavo Adolfo Mora hears these stories every time a new patient visits him. Many times they have been through several doctors who have not had the sensitivity to detect that they had something different. He specialized in the study of the different headaches and how to accompany these patients.

“It is one of the most misunderstood diseases, at all levels. These people suffer a lot because it is not just physical pain, but also fighting so that the people around them understand what they feel and understand them,” said Mora, who is in charge of the headache consultation at the Marcial Rodríguez clinic in Alajuela.

Clinical psychologist Pamela Barquero, who works with Mora in the consultation, commented that for those who have this disease it is normal to feel misunderstood.

“Part of what we do here is to validate that pain to people, because it is very common for others to tell them that this is only psychological and that just by drinking something or thinking about something else the pain will go away,” said the psychologist.

Mora added: “Yes, there are hypochondriac people, there are those who can invent the symptoms, but the vast majority are people who really suffer from it.”

educate yourself to understand

Patients and doctors with whom La Nación spoke agree that the best way to help someone who lives with chronic headaches is to find out what these diseases are, why they last longer and are more intense than the headaches that others may feel .

The mere fact of understanding the dimensions of the problem for those affected and what this can mean for their daily activities will make it possible for those who do not suffer from these ills to learn how to relate to those who do.

They should be encouraged to seek medical help for their condition and reminded that self-medication will temporarily relieve the pain, but it will not solve the problem.

Accompanying the person in their process, listening to how they feel and motivating them to seek help will make it possible for them to live better with this situation. Just make sure you don’t harass her by checking to see if she took her medication, asking her every two minutes how she’s feeling, or pitying her. That could rather achieve the opposite effect.