Queer Eye's Karamo Brown Wants To Shatter The Stigma Of Migraines
When recalling his first migraine as a 17-year-old high school student, Karamo Brown, the Queer Eye star and co-founder of MANTL, says, "I was completely confused... I didn't know what it was. When you're in high school, everyone's like, 'It's just a headache; get over it.'"
Unfortunately, Brown is not alone in that experience. According to family medicine doctor and headache specialist Susan Hutchinson, M.D., many people mistake migraines for bad headaches or sinus infections, and oftentimes, people are stigmatized for the unrecognizable pain.
To help break that stigma, Brown and Hutchinson are supporting the Know Migraine Mission—a movement aimed at educating people on the symptoms and side effects of migraines.
While it's important for people experiencing the condition to know what's going on in order to seek necessary help, Brown says it's also important for family members and friends of migraine sufferers to understand. This will empower them to provide necessary support—something Brown didn't receive upfront as a teen.
Being invalidated in high school was disheartening, he tells mbg. "I think a lot of times as a culture we dismiss people when they tell you what they're experiencing. At 17, I didn't have the language or the courage to fight back," he says.
Instead, Brown struggled through fluorescent-lit lunches with his eyes shut. "As I got older, I realized I didn't have to suffer. I can find the language. I can find the support. I can talk to a doctor and tell them what I'm experiencing so they can really diagnose me," he states.
While there's currently no cure for migraines, Hutchinson says there are incredible treatments—which is why it's so important to recognize the symptoms. Knowing if or when someone is experiencing a migraine can empower them to seek care and, therefore, find treatment. Certain at-home management tools can also be helpful, depending on the trigger.
For Brown, stress amid the pandemic compounded by grief and change in routine exacerbated his migraines. "It was just really bad for me because you're in a moment when stress would be triggered constantly," he says.
To help maintain his physical and mental health throughout, Brown leaned on stress-management techniques, a consistent regimen, his doctor, and supportive friends (within his quarantine bubble, of course).
"For me, it's really about taking time to do things that are going to make me happy," Brown says. Jump-roping to get his endorphins flowing, waking up early in the morning to avoid bright sunlight, and meditating with the blinds closed are all ways he helps manage his migraine days.
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