Why I Say I Have a Migraine When I'm Really Just Anxious or Depressed

Mental health and physical health are often two of the same, but we treat them quite differently. We tend to look at physical health as a necessity, and if it is compromised, we respect that one may need to take time off. So why doesn't mental health work this way?

Mental illness is an illness; it says so in the name. But, it is still treated as taboo or as an invalid reason for accommodations. This sentiment is absurd seeing as when I, and most others, am feeling anxious or depressed, I am just as debilitated as I am when I've twisted my ankle or gotten a cold.

Because of this attitude that mental illness does not equate to physical illness, I have consistently blamed my mental disturbances on physical ailments, specifically migraines.

As somebody who is already susceptible to migraines, using them as an excuse was an easy fix for me when I didn't want to explain to somebody my history of mental illness. Telling somebody that I have a throbbing headache can get me off of the hook for a lot more than telling them I am anxious. It makes sense that not everybody could empathize with me, but it is sad that some people (professors, supervisors, peers, etc.) won't even accept my true ailment. So, to save myself and others the time and energy of a not-so easy conversation, I stick to my faux-excuse.

Nevertheless, I urge us to try to empathize and accept everybody's different mental or physical struggles and understand when they need to take time off, as we all do once in a while!