By now you may have heard that television reporter Serene Branson suffered a migraine on national television. As a longtime migraine sufferer, I can’t bring myself to watch the video that has spewed some of the most hateful comments I have seen on the Internet in years. Like Serene, I suffer paralysis and slurred speech when I have a severe migraine along with nausea and dizziness. I also have a strong aversion to light and sound, which means that I have to sit in a dark, quiet room for hours until my migraine subsides. The saddest part of this so-called viral video is that so many people think it’s a laughing matter. Sometimes I wonder if the reaction to Serene’s migraines is simply because she is a woman. If it were an older white man, would people have reacted the same way?
- She didn’t have a migraine. Obviously, it was fake. (Yes, I’m sure her hobbies include faking paralysis and faking slurred speech on live television.)
- She is making it up. (And I assume her doctors made this up as well?)
- She had a migraine because she is blond. (So if she was a brunette, it wouldn’t be a migraine?)
- She said gibberrish because she’s a journalist and everything journalists say is gibberish. (So, if she were a neurosurgeon, what she said wouldn’t be gibberish because nothing a neurosurgeon says is gibberish?)
If you suffer from migraines, please do not read the comments on any site. Some are insightful, but more are heartbreaking and prove that people don’t know the difference between migraines as opposed to common headaches that can be cured with over-the-counter medication. My mom still doesn’t understand the difference, despite the fact that I along with my dad and several cousins suffer from migraines. (Also, you should buy The Migraine Brain as soon as humanly possible, if you don’t own it already. This book makes me want to drive to Boston, show up at Carolyn’s office, and curl up on her couch like a baby.)
Although I still haven’t watched the video, I’ve noticed that a lot of commenters have compared what they say to a stroke. I can’t be entirely sure, but I can’t imagine people doubting that she would have a stroke. So why do they doubt that she would have a migraine? Is it simply the age old tale that we are afraid of what we don’t understand? Strokes are familiar. Migraines are not. They require visits to neurologists, a type of doctor I didn’t even know existed until after I had my first migraine and the emergency room doctor suggested I get one as soon as possible. (Yes, severe migraines can lead to emergency room visits.) Or is it simply the age old tale of it being easy to ridicule women from the anonymity of your own computer? What do you think?