Celebrities face stigma, too

With so many celebrities living with migraine, why is there still such stigma? Typically, when people with power and money face a stigmatizing condition, they speak up. As a result, the disease gets more public attention, is better understood, and gets more funding for research.

Why hasn’t that happened with migraine? When Michelle Bachmann ran for president, it was revealed that she had migraines. The press had a field day questioning her ability to lead. I was shocked and angry. After all, some of our greatest presidents struggled with migraine, including Thomas Jefferson. He wrote the Declaration of Independence in the middle of a debilitating migraine attack!

The stigma is so great, even famous, wealthy, successful people are loathe to speak up for fear of reprisal. Cindy McCain spoke of this in her June 2013 interview when she explained the many triggers she faced during her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign. She kept silent out of concern that the press might spin her story negatively to hurt Senator McCain. She had money, good health insurance, and a successful life. Yet her doctor dismissed her complaints as stress. It took years to finally get a correct diagnosis and treatment.

Migraine stigma damaged the presidential hopes of one senator. It also forced the wife of another candidate to suffer in silence for fear it would hurt her husband’s candidacy. If migraine stigma can damage presidential hopefuls, what chance do you and I have?

I would imagine that actors and musicians face similar stigma. After all, bright lights and loud noises are part of their job description. The performing arts are fast-paced and demanding with no patience for weakness. To admit a struggle with migraine could seriously damage someone’s career. Few brave souls have the courage to admit the truth.

That leads me to a little known facet of migraine. While not a medical symptom of migraine, many migraineurs report a dramatic increase in creativity during and just after a migraine. Despite the pain and environmental intolerances, many feel compelled to write, draw, paint, sew, crochet, compose, or engage in other creative pursuits. We cannot communicate well or think clearly, but our creative genius is very active. Most of my blog posts, like this one, are written in the latter stages of a migraine attack.

If you have power and wealth, please help us. Resist the fear of reprisal. We need you to speak up for those of us without a voice. We will support you. We will watch your movies, buy tickets to your concerts and purchase your CDs, and buy season passes to watch your games. 36 million Americans are counting on you. Will you answer the call?

I’m calling you out. It’s public knowledge that you have migraines. Please help us. Some of you have found good treatments and can control your migraines. Others might still be working to find the right solution. We don’t need to hear that “it’s no big deal”. We need you to tell the world what it’s really like to live with migraine. We need help raising money for research to find effective treatments and eventually a cure.

Ben Affleck
Carly Simon
Cindy McCain
Denard Span
Dwyane Wade
Elle MacPherson
Freddie Ljungberg
Gail Devers
Gustav Mahler
Hugh Jackman
Janet Jackson
Jeff Tweedy
Jonathan Baldwin
Jordin Sparks
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Khloé Kardashian
Kris Letang
Kristin Chenoweth
Laurie Anderson
Lisa Kudrow
Marcia Cross
Michelle Bachman
Patti Smith
Percy Harvin
Russell Brand
Serena Williams
Sharon Stone
Star Jones
Susan Olsen
Terrell Davis
Tori Spelling
Troy Aikman
Whoopi Goldberg

I’ve called you out by name. Now will you help or just sit quietly on the sidelines?

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