Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Can you run the country when suffering from migraines? That’s the big question set in motion this week by news that presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann is crippled by her headaches. Conservative political blog The Daily Caller outed the Minnesota Republican representative with the sensational headline, “Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged.” Forget the fact that in her career she’s already accomplished more than most non-migraine sufferers.
Still, the insinuation is that, during a crisis, Bachmann might suffer an attack and find herself holed up in a dark bedroom, unreachable and indisposed. Some media outlets are calling the story “sexist,” since migraine sufferers tend to be female, and thus propagates the idea that women aren’t built to handle high-pressure situations (stress is a known migraine trigger).
Women who share Bachmann’s condition have been hitting the Migraine & Headache message boards to share their thoughts on whether people with migraines can hold high-powered positions, like President of the United States. While you might think migraine sufferers would be in an uproar about the stigma the story is reinforcing, many actually agree that running a country would be impossible while dealing with migraine episodes.
“I would be concerned about their physical and mental ability to do their job in the middle of a crisis. I think a high-stress job would be the worst for a migraine sufferer. A job with more flexibility would probably be the best,” says plumlover.
“I was thinking about this while just trying to do work around the house (I woke up with a migraine). I can't imagine have to deal with this [pain] while making important decisions. Maybe a nice office job where you can work independently would be the best,” says karla1842.
Others, like wisdomtooth2020, finds the whole issue patronizing and pathetic. “As a fellow migraine sufferer, I had to do some work to determine my triggers and take steps to take care of myself. I probably will never be free of migraines but they don't run my life. As far as I know, Mrs. Bachman has been able to do her job as a wife, mother, foster mother, elected official, etc. without migraines handicapping her. If she had an episode or two that required a visit to an ER, it was appropriate and necessary. I don't think it should disqualify her from running for president or any other ambition she has.”
Eitakuol, who also sides with Bachmann, points out that Thomas Jefferson was thought to suffer from migraines, and that John F. Kennedy was on large amounts of painkillers due to constant pain from a degenerative bone disease.
In fact, according to historian Robert Dallek, J.F.K. was often “heavily medicated,” and had nine secret hospital stays within a two-and-a-half-year period in the 1950s. So to suggest that Bachmann couldn’t run this country because she gets frequent, painful headaches just proves how little we know about what it takes to be a strong leader, successful businessperson or a country's president. Certainly, it’s not easy, but doesn’t that just make her accomplishments that much more impressive? Perhaps her ability to overcome her pain speaks greater volumes to her character, and rather than viewing her as weak, we should be lauding her for her incredible strength and perseverance -- two qualities that would undoubtedly serve her well as President.