Social stigma: fake handbags, sluts and migraine

Social stigma: fake handbags and migraine

Social stigma is everywhere. Who can afford what, who looks like what, what your job is, people who work or are unemployed, whether you went to University or not (or which). We like to judge.

My Mum was talking at the weekend, about someone she knew who has a thing for fake handbags. Now, a brand names comes as a mark of quality not a label to be faked.

You can look at this one of two ways: there are those who want to be seen as possessing something expensive and desirable. But I see them as people who lack in self-confidence, and by assuming they are judged by others, they are in fact judging themselves the most.

Why are they disapproving of themselves, what makes them not feel valuable enough, that they don't have enough prestige and that a fake watch will make it all better?

Social stigma: fake handbags and migraine

And what kind of magic watch fixes that!? Of course, if questioned they will just tell you that they like the design.

What does this say about their personality? Does it highlight a certain vulnerability, a need to fit in and cave to 'social pressure' that doesn't actually exist, to inflate themselves to be what they wish they could be?  And of course I'm judging because I'm writing about being judged.

I wear brand names, sure, but you can never tell, they're not emblazed everywhere. They're in the labels of my shoes, the tags in my clothes (even the scratchy ones), for me to know I have purchased goods of quality, made from beautiful fabrics and that they're going to last me a while.

It exists not just through brands, but through style, a key part of our personal expression. You can  be assumed slutty, a complete square, a stoner or on the other hand, cooler than Sweet Brown's  cold pop.

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Social stigma exists around health too, sadly. Certain illnesses are assumed to be suffered by the poor, certain ethnicities or those who are a bit shower-shy. We migraineurs suffer stigma too, a whole lot of it.

First of all, a migraine is not a headache. Did you know some kinds of migraine exist without head pain at all? That's assumption numero uno.

Ware misunderstood in plenty of other ways too: we're fussy, we are awkward, and of course we put up with our symptoms without helping ourselves.

It's a joke, a completely blasé condition, not a serious one (let me tell you I know of several suicides due to chronic migraine) - suicide has a whole stigma of its own.

Social stigma: fake handbags and migraine
Photo credit: Al Shep

Migraine - and suicide, mental disorders - for people who 'just need to get over it', or 'overthink'. For the record, migraine is not a mental disorder but it's a serious neurological condition, it's just how the sentence worked out.

Employers don't understand migraine, or want to understand it. Colleagues don't understand how serious it is or how things they consider trivial can trigger a spiral that could see me in hospital - and has.

And we're weak, hormonal women - migraines are mostly suffered by women but 1 in 10 sufferers are male. And they experience a whole new level of stigma as migraine is seen as a feminine condition. Add that to , 'it's not an important illness' - oh yes, I've had it all.

If someone has cancer you don't really say 'have you tried this?' but somehow people feel free reign to tell every migraineur they ever meet about migraine smoothies and the rest. When I mention I have botox I always feel the need to say 'medical botox' so I am not judged for having cosmetic procedures, or the fact that I need them.

And then the 'have you tried xyz?' continues - from people who have never had them!

No, I have just suffered unnecessarily for the past 2 years, never thought about seeing 4 doctors about it. 

Nobody ever said that to me when I had a broken foot, the flu or a tropical disease!

In 'Thinking Aloud, Social Stigma and Migraine', Laurie Taylor discusses how migraine became a 'womens' illness' and the historical journey of stigma.

Listen to 'Thinking Aloud, Social Stigma and Migraine' from the BBC today - migraine is mentioned from about 14 minutes by clicking here.

A photo a day for migraine awareness: Day 6

2015 London Marathon - The Migraine Trust

I'm running the 2015 London Marathon on The  Migraine Trust's charity team to raise much-needed funds for research fellows to try find a cure for migraine.  Please consider sponsoring me here

Yay Saturday. Today I went to a charity meeting. I'm on the User Board for The Migraine Trust and we meet a few times a year for updates, brainstorming fundraising, website and promotional activity (poster design, PR) as well as discussing treatment news, media updates and of course a bit of science.


But before that: breakfast. I love going out for breakfast and Mark treated me to a yummy one at The Delaunay as we had an early start. If you ever go, you must get the Omelette Arnold Bennett. It was a godly experience although not very waist-friendly with smoked haddock, bechamel and parmesan. But omg!

Then I headed to Russell Square for my meeting - ironically the charity's office is across the road from my neurologist! I really enjoy these sessions as not only am I giving back to the charity that'd given me so much support, understanding and confidence about my chronic migraine, but I also take so much away. And, of course it's amazing to meet others (about 8 of us today) in similar situations to myself. Today we also had a presentation from one of their funded research fellows (the charity's main aim is to fund research), and she's launched the UK's first dedicated headache (and migraine) research centre at King's College. Isn't it hard to believe that there wasn't one until very recently?!

If you want to support them or find out more please head to The have a few charity places for the London Marathon so do share!

After that I headed to meet Mark for a freemasonry Christmas lunch, before I migraine hit (I think it was caused by staring at a projector without my sunglasses on). My triptan cocktail (frovatriptan, naproxen and domperidone... I take these at migraine-onset and they usually stop or dampen them. I save them for work usually as am only allowed 12 a month) didn't work so we had to cut our meal/afternoon short but at least I got out of the house: a terrible thing to think aged 32 but I spend a lot of time at home recovering from a week at work!

Thankfully Mark had driven us to London so we didn't have to wade through tubes and trains and buses to get home. As soon as we were in the door I put my pjs back on and promptly fell asleep on the sofa! I felt much more human when I woke up and am now just a bit postdromey (post-attack migraine hangover/fatigue) but I live in an almost-perpetual state of that so it's business as usual! Tomorrow will involve a bit of work and a lot of slobbing about, hope your Saturday was awesome!

Kim x

A photo a day in December for migraine awareness: Day 5


A bit of migraine trivia today. This is a mixture of red wine tasting for our wedding and chocolates as an early Christmas pressie from my brother. Red wine and chocolate are known generally for causing migraine. Well, they do for some people but then so does office lighting, perfume, alcohol, smoke, gluten, caffeine, aspartame, temperature and air pressure changes, rain, cold and plenty of other stuff. We're all different but almost everyone I meet that I end up explaining my condition to is shocked at me drinking wine or eating cheese. Not true, folks. Plenty of us have no food triggers. Some people have no triggers at all, you could argue that 'life' is a trigger (I do!) Just another 'fact' that people assume about migraine. Ask yourself how much of the stigma and social assumptions are true.

A migraine photo a day in December: Day 4


Classy bird. Had a low pain day today mostly but this was taken on one of my worse days which explains why I look like I've died mid-migraine. I ended up using these cool patches on a trapped nerve today instead which triggered off my head somehow. They're great as I'm limited to the amount of meds I can take (I'm on 8 different medicines!)