As I’ve noted repeatedly at this blog, I am a chronic migraine sufferer. I’ve discussed how they affect me as well as how they affect my family. I’ve also mentioned in the past that stress is certainly one of the factors in my migraines, however, and this is the important part, it is not even close to the only factor. Actually, I’ve had one migraine in the last 3 months and they have been among the most stressful months of my life. My other two main triggers are weather (thankfully, we’ve had a particularly dry summer) and hormones (which I’ve been able to thoughtfully control thanks to a great neurologist).

Today, I received an instant message with a link and the comment that I was going to be angry. I am. I’m very angry. The link was to the message entitled: “Stress Condition ‘Incapacitates’ Michele Bachmann; Heavy Pill Use Alleged.”As someone with chronic pain, I couldn’t wait to read what someone who clearly has not had this condition had to say about someone with migraines. What I knew I’d read was total misunderstanding and an attempt to smear a reputation based on half-truths and worthless reporting. I don’t care what you think about Michelle Bachmann as a person. I don’t. I don’t care what you think about her politics. What I do care about is someone misreporting facts about chronic pain and pill usage when it already has a bad rap. If Michelle Bachmann is popping pills like candy because she’s addicted and that impairs her judgment, fine, report it. It’s worthy and the public needs to know. If Michelle Bachmann has chronic pain, is managing it properly and using preventative and abortive methods with proper dosage to control her migraines, then this is ridiculous, alarmist reporting.

Back in 2006, Ben Affleck went to the hospital and endured months of ridicule for treating a migraine and the media freaked out. What struck me as odd about this is that many migraine sufferers will still work through a migraine and most of us, when we get to the point where our abortives (the medications that are used to attempt to stop a migraine when it has already begun) are ineffective, will head to a clinic to get a steroid shot and some phenerghan. Steroids are highly effective at stopping migraines and the phenerghan stops the nausea so we can get some rest. There is nothing unusual about Ben’s trip to the E.R. but the news was reporting it in a couple of ways. The first, as if he were a wuss. Anyone that has an inkling of a migraine knows that they aren’t for wimps. The second as if he were experiencing the worst pain ever and they’d hospitalized him to run tests. I don’t know what they did to him. What I know is that migraine sufferers do what they have to do to go on with life. They don’t generally want to lay in bed for four days if they can avoid it. In Bachmann’s case, the article states that she was hospitalized and released on the same day for migraines. Gee, I wonder what occurred? Could it have been, in the interest of saving herself a full day’s worth of work, she got the steroid shot and maybe an IV for hydration (another possible trigger of migraines is dehydration) and got back to work? Many migraine sufferers are type A personalities and get them because they work too hard, not because they are slackers.

Why is this an issue? Michelle Bachmann plans to run for President, according to the article, and “some” (who are these people?) fear she’s not up to the stress. Let me reiterate, yet again, stress is only one trigger. For some people, chocolate is a trigger. For some, sweeteners, others, the MSG often found in chinese food. Do you avoid chinese food because of unpleasant side effects?

Michelle Bachmann’s spokesperson states that she has her migraines under control. I find the “heavy pill use” notion preposterous. The first thing a migraine user considers when a doctor attempts to foist a new pill on them is how it will affect his or her migraines. My guess, if I had to make one, is that Ms. Bachmann is on a regimen that most of us chronic pain migraine users have. She likely takes a preventative medication daily that helps prevent her migraines (1 pill a day, generally). She likely takes an abortive pill as needed when the migraines occur (1-2 pills per migraine). She may take phenerghan (bless its little heart, 1 per migraine to make you not throw up while you ice your head). Tally it up, folks. This is 1 pill a day and possibly 2-3 pills (maybe a couple more depending on her personal regimen) as needed when she has an attack. This is relatively FEW pills for a chronic pain sufferer. If things are really bad, she’s already shown she will suck it up and go the route of getting it fixed quickly at the clinic. Granted, this is just my guess and I’m not her doctor nor do I know her personally.

Is perfect health now a requirement for the Presidency? Is it now a requirement for any job? According to the University of Maryland webpage (and this is a secondhand source from the American Chronic Pain Association), 86 million Americans experience chronic pain. Do we not elect our officials to represent us? Do we no longer allow people to run for office if they may have a handicap or something that may slow them down? Andrew Jackson, who some may know is not my favorite president, had chronic headaches. JFK had Addison’s Disease. Woodrow Wilson had a stroke, Roosevelt had polio and Coolidge was depressed.

Don’t think for one minute that our current President doesn’t have flaws. Don’t think that the other folks who may want to run don’t have flaws. Before you judge someone with chronic pain, especially someone who, by all accounts, is working hard to keep it under control, take some time to really consider what that person is going through and what they have to offer. I’m all for choosing the best person for any job, but discriminating against someone for something they can’t control, even if they can do the best job is unfair and wrong. Hating on them and calling them a pill popper because they don’t play for the same team you do or because you want someone to pay attention to your writing is ethically unfair and wrong. Write responsibly, folks and educate yourself before throwing someone under a bus.