I get bad headaches sometimes that impede my ability to do things that I’d like to do, and sometimes I make the mistake of telling people that I’m not sure whether they’re regular headaches or migraine headaches. If my interlocutor is prone to migraines, he or she will often respond belligerently, saying things like, “If you had a migraine, you’d know!” or “It feels like a NASCAR circuit is holding time trials inside your skull!” One of my friends from college suffered migraines that frequently made her vomit and kept her out of class for days at a time, which made it awkward when we wanted to use her roommate’s TV. Other people I know complain of migraines at work, saying that they’d love to stay the entire day—really, they would—but their migraines would make a half day much more manageable. It made me think that there were different levels of migraines, like different levels of earthquakes. But even on this head-pounding Richter scale, where does a regular headache end and a migraine begin? My migraine-suffering friends didn’t like my attempts at clever metaphors very much, though.
Eventually, I learned not to make conversation out of my personal ailments, because there would always be someone else who was worse off than me, and it was best never to get these people started.