June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, and even though I have this fancy blog, I haven’t been participating in the blog challenge sponsored by the American Headache and Migraine Association, or really doing anything else that I don’t normally do.
I get migraines all year, not just in June. I don’t like the idea of squeezing migraine awareness into thirty days, where it’s competing with other events like Pride, summer reading, and family vacation.
(Now, I don’t want to poo-poo the good work of people who use Migraine and Headache Awareness Month to good effect. These are mostly the same people who are making incredible efforts to fight for people with migraine all year long. I’m just not convinced an “awareness” month is the best way to do it.)
I also don’t like black history month, or women’s history month, or breast cancer awareness month, etc, primarily because we shouldn’t need themed months* to acknowledge achievements by people of color and women or to think about deadly (or disabling) illnesses, and partly because corporations have monetized things like breast cancer awareness month to the moon and back again. I do not want to see that happen with migraine disease.
This vision is more like a mirage, but I want to live in a world where everyone is engaged. Where everyone is aware, and self-aware. Where we acknowledge the tragedies and oversights of our past and make up for them by celebrating our current and past diversity and triumphs—not in thirty day chunks, but continuously. Where corporations actually help health-related causes instead of using them to make more money.
It’s unrealistic to think every human being can be aware of and thinking about every cause all the time, but if we’re always conscious of the fact that our actions affect other people, and if we are open to learning about the negative consequences our actions have on certain populations, we are going to make better overall choices, and that’s going to lead to a better world.
If you’re going to argue that we need “awareness months” or “history months” to make up for all the times we’ve ignored people of color and people with serious and chronic illnesses, I’m going to counter and say that’s a cop-out. That’s an excuse to only think about people of color and the experiences of minorities for thirty days, and then go back to thinking about rich white men the rest of the time. It’s an excuse to donate $25 or $50 or $100 to some organization so you can feel good about yourself without actually doing any work.
Yes, donations are good. But don’t stop there. Call your elected officials. Educate ignorant health care professionals, friends, and family members. Volunteer for causes you care about.
We all deserve recognition for the trials we face as the chronically ill, the black, the Asian, the Hispanic, the American Indian, the women, the LGBTQ, but we deserve it all year long. Not just in June (or February, or March, or October, etc.)
*I think the exception to this is Pride. Because it’s not really an awareness month. It’s a month for celebrating gayness, queerness, trans-ness, etc. There are parades. And concerts. It’s fun. Sure, there are events to mark black history month and women’s history month, and some of them are definitely fun, but the time mostly revolves around recognizing important people who shouldn’t need a special month to get recognition. If we could make awareness months/history months more like celebrations, then I’d be onboard.
Ultimately I think the value and effectiveness of an awareness month depends on how we utilize it. I do think having blog challenges and Twitter hashtags and memes are good things. But again, I don’t think we should limit it to thirty days.