A migraine is more than just a simple headache. If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have had a migraine episode, we feel for you. The experience tends to be different for each individual migraine sufferer but it’s always horrible and painful. Those with chronic migraines have to deal with the affliction on a regular basis. The usually one-sided pain can take many forms. Sometimes, the pain is so bad people are unable to perform daily tasks. If you’re a migraineur, it might help to know that there are quite a few famous people out there who suffer from migraines too. Despite having to deal with this severe type of headache, they’ve managed to become successful. Our medical conditions should never define us. These 15 people are a testament to the fact that it’s possible to take control and rise above the pain.
15. Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll is the author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and it’s thought that he may have suffered from migraine headaches. There’s even a type of migraine that’s called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. It’s possible that some descriptions in the Alice in Wonderland books were actual descriptions of what Carroll was feeling during his migraine attacks. The Alice in Wonderland syndrome is a type of migraine with an aura and is characterized by strange sensations and sometimes hallucinations. There’s only a very small percentage of migraine sufferers who experience the syndrome and oftentimes it’s not accompanied by pain. Kind of seems like a fun trip!
14. Carly Simon
The singer Carly Simon has dealt with migraines in her life too. She has been able to greatly reduce her attacks by identifying specific food triggers. For her, alcohol was a big trigger. Did you know that Carly Simon also wrote a song called “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain?” Neither did we. Identifying triggers is important but triggers aren’t always food related. Triggers can include a variety of things you encounter in your life. Like weather, noise, perfumes, stress and the list goes on and on. Just because something is a trigger, doesn’t mean you need to cut it out completely. Just be aware that it can contribute to an attack.
13. Lisa Kudrow
You probably know her best as Phoebe from the ‘90s television series ‘Friends.’ She’s had migraines ever since she was a young girl. In an interview with People magazine early on in her career, she explained that days with a lot of action and mindless eating usually ended with a migraine. We can relate. Often, people with migraines do not only have one trigger. It’s often a series or combination of things that cause a migraine to develop. Kudrow likely inherited her condition from her father, who suffered from cluster headaches. Cluster headache sufferers experience sudden onset severe pain. Not a fun experience whatsoever.
12. Elizabeth Taylor
The beautiful Elizabeth Taylor dealt with migraines even at the peak of her career. The lovely actress became a big star after appearing in the film ‘National Velvet’ in 1944. Unfortunately, during filming she was flung from a horse and very badly injured her back. That moment marked the beginning of chronic health issues for Taylor, including chronic pain. It’s said that she suffered from chronic migraines since she was a child but there’s no doubt in our mind that the fall made the issue worse. Some chronic migraine sufferers have associated muscle pain in their shoulders and neck. For some, the muscle stiffness contributes to the migraine. For others, the migraine causes the muscle stiffness.
11. Serena Williams
The famous tennis pro started getting migraines in her late teens. She was actually diagnosed with menstrual migraines. Any woman who has experienced migraines in conjunction with her period knows that these types of attacks are brutal. She has admitted that the migraines have affected her tennis playing. Playing on bright sunny days was particularly challenging for Williams. Triptans eventually helped her with her attacks. We imagine it’s tough to have to play a sport professionally while dealing with migraines. Oftentimes, the pain is worsened with movement or physical activity. Ouch. Many migraineurs are also light sensitive during an attack. Imagine playing tennis in the hot sun while dealing with a severe migraine? Yikes.
10. John F. Kennedy
The fact that John F. Kennedy was a migraineur is not very well known. But it’s true, the 35th President of the United States was a migraine sufferer. At the time, migraines were not very well known. And it was a kind of faux-pas for a leader to reveal his health problems. He’s not the only U.S. leader to have suffered from the condition. Thomas Jefferson dealt with severe headaches. There’s also evidence that Abraham Lincoln dealt with migraines as well. And the list continues. It just goes to show that being a migraineur doesn’t preclude you from being a leader.
9. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The super tall basketball pro started getting migraines as a teen. Kareem has said that he’s tried a lot of different things to help his chronic condition including yoga and diet changes. He’s actually even missed some games during his career because of migraines. But it’s only been a handful of times, thankfully. He’s quick to remind people that a migraine is not just a headache. We get it, Kareem, migraines are on a whole other level. Definitely not just another headache. Migraine sufferers can still get headaches, by the way. They’re often more prone to them. A migraine is a whole other ballgame, though. Usually it’s accompanied by severe pain, nausea, and vomiting.
8. Whoopi Goldberg
It’s well known that Whoopi Goldberg suffers from chronic migraines. She’s still managed to become very successful despite dealing with chronic pain. The EGOT winner has written about her use of medical marijuana to cope with her migraine attacks. She’s an impressive woman, no doubt. She’s an example of someone who’s been able to deal with chronic pain and not let it stop her from living life. That’s not to say that people should push through the pain. It’s important to get to know your triggers and find a treatment plan that works for you, just like Goldberg did. If you suffer from migraines, your best bet is to find a neurologist that specializes in the condition. They’re the best equipped to help you.
7. Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman, who is well known for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movie franchise, has often had to deal with migraines. He even missed out on meeting the Prime Minister of Britain at the time, Tony Blair. He was starring in ‘Oklahoma!’ the musical. After the show, Blair was looking forward to meeting the cast backstage but Jackman was too busy barfing up a storm because of a severe migraine attack. That’s never fun! Sometimes migraines really ruin the party. That’s one of the reasons migraineurs are often saddled with depression in addition to dealing with chronic severe pain, they often miss out on life events and feel isolated.
6. Janet Jackson
Yes indeed! Famous singer, Janet Jackson has suffered from migraines. She actually suffers from a specific kind of migraine condition called ‘vestibular migraine.’ These kinds of migraines cause excessive dizziness. They do not always produce a headache but they can cause vomiting and sensitivity to sound. In 2008, she had to postpone her tour because of the vestibular migraines she was suffering from. Jackson is an impressive performer but with symptoms like loss of coordination it was no doubt important to push back her tour dates so she could get treatment and recover. We’re glad she got help and got back on her feet.
5. Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck suffers from migraines and even spent some time in the E.R. because of them. Although they are more common in women, they can strike men as well. Ben was even sidelined from attending a charity poker event in 2010 because of a bad migraine attack. He’s still a very successful man though! Also, if he needs to sit things out because the pain is so bad, it helps to legitimize the condition for the rest of us. Thanks for being open about your condition, Ben! When celebrities are open about their chronic conditions, it helps to legitimize it for the rest of us.
4. Sigmund Freud
It’s thought that Sigmund Freud suffered from migraines. He actually even studied the effects of cocaine for treating migraines. He called the treatment ‘cocainizing’ and even tried it on his own migraines. We doubt it was a good idea since it probably made things worse in the long run. Rebound headaches are common in migraine sufferers who overmedicate. The medication Triptans is a godsend for many migraineurs but overusing them can cause equally excruciating rebound pain. We think cocaine would probably do the same as well. Treatment is unique to each migraine sufferer. Many migraineurs have learned tricks to help alleviate particularly severe attacks when their medication doesn’t do the trick.
3. Virginia Woolf
The famous writer Virginia Woolf also suffered from migraines in addition to dealing with mental health issues. She wrote an essay called ‘On Being Ill’ in which she attempted to explain the pain felt during a migraine attack. She said that “[English] has no words for the shiver and the headache.” So true. The feminist writer attempted suicide several times. Her final attempt was in 1941 when she walked into the River Ouse with rocks in her pockets and drowned. She suffered from mental illness, and often chronic migraines go hand in hand with depression or anxiety. Migraines often leave people feeling hopeless and isolated so it’s no surprise that it can contribute to depression.
2. Elvis Presley
Yep. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was a migraineur. The National Migraine Association actually looked into Presley’s drug use when they discovered that he suffered from migraines. They discovered that it’s likely he took drugs to quiet the pain of his chronic migraine condition. At the time, there were very few treatments available for the condition. Thankfully, migraine sufferers today have a bevy of treatment options at their disposal. While there’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of understanding the condition, we’re way better off today than Presley was in his day. It’s so sad that he was in so much pain and unable to alleviate it.
1. Marcia Cross
That’s right, Marcia Cross suffers from migraines. The actress who appeared in ‘Desperate Housewives’ has been dealing with the chronic condition since she was in her early teens. In 2005, she spoke to People magazine about her struggles with migraines. She admitted that many of her past relationships were affected by the severe attacks. She now has her condition under control and seems to have a good grasp of her triggers. She has also found that hiking and yoga were helpful additions to her lifestyle. It’s true that lifestyle changes can really help reduce migraine attacks. Proper sleep, adequate nutrition, and exercise can help to reduce the overall number of migraines. These tactics aren’t always a cure-all, but they certainly do help.
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