Pain Is Not a Competition

By Mia Maysack, PNN Columnist

Recently I chose to step away from one of the last support group forums I belonged to because it continually felt less than supportive.  

“Pain is pain” may be the motto of our community, yet there are persistent comparisons that consistently belittle someone’s reality in some shape or form.  It’s like a competition to see who has the most pain.

To serve as one example, “cluster migraine” is not a scientific term, though it is a phrase I use to convey the type of pain that I feel -- an inclusion of multiple beasts (chronic migraine, cluster headache and fibromyalgia) that are not to be confused as the same or even similar, but co-exist within me nonetheless.

There's no doubt that cluster headache is one of the most excruciating conditions known to humankind. If you haven’t gone through it -- there is no possible way to fully comprehend it.  This does not mean that migraine is any less valid or any less painful.

We all seek validation in having our perception understood and it is frustrating that we consistently battle general stigma and then turn around and cast the same judgment onto each other. Cluster or migraine aside, it’s like a whole new attack.   

One person could say migraine is worse because it can literally be never-ending, whereas cluster headache episodes are considerably shorter in length. 

The next person states that it doesn't get any more terrible than cluster headache as they're called suicide headaches for good reason. 


Then someone else shares they have lost someone to migraine as well. Point is, there's a spectrum.  

By eliminating the unnecessary tone of competition (that no one should want to “win” anyway), we make room for discovering the similarities we all share. One being that whichever way this sh*t pie gets sliced, it stinks!

Nobody wants or deserves to be shunned just because their truth is different. And no one gets to degrade how someone else views the world. Whether or not we agree, there should be a sense of camaraderie throughout our planet that is severely lacking. It most certainly shouldn't be among us Spoonies.  

Fixating on how an individual thinks does not benefit our cause. That same focused energy on the bigger picture could create lasting change -- like how the word “headache” isn't an accurate depiction of any brain disease or disorder to begin with. And if it were, aspirin would have cured it long ago, right? 

It’s imperative we avoid contributing to the very issue we want to solve by joining forces and declaring that we are more than just suffering patients. We are actual people living with the disability inflicted by these conditions.

And since we’re already in the fight for our lives, let's make sure it’s together and not against one another.


Mia Maysack lives with chronic migraine, cluster headaches and fibromyalgia. Mia is the founder of Keepin’ Our Heads Up, a Facebook advocacy and support group, and Peace & Love, a wellness and life coaching practice for the chronically ill.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.