I’ve never had a migraine, nor has any member of my family. In truth, watching Khloé Kardashian deal with migraine symptoms on Keeping Up With The Kardashians over the years was my first up-close look at how severe migraine pain could be—and I’m not the only one who was educated thanks to Kardashian’s decision to be open about her struggle.
It’s so easy to assume that celebrities, with their glossy lives and perfect Instagram feeds, don’t have to deal with everyday ailments and inconveniences. But when these people choose to let fans and followers in on their struggles, the result can be a beautiful bonding experience. That’s exactly what I felt when I spoke to Khloé Kardashian about her long history of migraine pain, and the scenes in which I’d watched her suffer through it on the show. “It’s so funny, when that was happening, I was like ‘Stop filming me,’” she says of the first time the KUWTK crew filmed her mid-migraine. “You’re so on edge when you have a migraine, and any little thing just annoys the hell out of you. I was like, ‘Get out of my face, stop filming me, no one cares to watch this.’”
At the time, Kardashian thought the footage wouldn’t entertain viewers—and in a way, she was right, but she majorly underestimated the clip’s power. Rather than entertain, it raised awareness and allowed fans to see first-hand what migraine pain was really like. “It’s so interesting how many people remembered that from the show,” she says. “But that just shows how many people do suffer from migraines or know somebody who does, because for some reason everyone remembers that scene of me laying on that couch in agony.”
I was like, ‘Get out of my face, stop filming me, no one cares to watch this.’
As a mega-celeb in the public eye, Kardashian has waded her way through enough tabloid headlines to know that people will pick and choose which parts of her story they want to believe—but when it comes to her migraine journey, she wants to be sure she’s heard loud and clear. Her first migraine symptoms began at age 12, making her a regular at the school nurse’s office.
Invisible illness is a hard concept to grasp for those who haven’t experienced it, and if a person who gets migraines knows no one else with the same pain, it can become quite an isolating burden. “I don’t have anyone in my family who has migraines, so I would express how I was feeling to my family and they would all just kind of say, ‘Oh, you have a headache,’ and brush me off,” she recalls. It wasn’t until a family friend suggested she see a neurologist that she realized she could seek out help for her pain.
That said, the diagnosis itself is often easier than the journey to finding relief. “I’ve tried everything under the sun, from homeopathic remedies to acupuncture to peppermint oil,” Kardashian says, adding that she used to regularly tweet her followers asking for their at-home recommendations. “You get desperate, you just want some sort of relief,” she says.
When she first reached out to her fans, she was overwhelmed with support, and surprised that so many of her followers could relate. “I know my fan base, we’re like BFFs in my head, so when I saw people like, ‘Oh my gosh I suffer from migraines, too,’ that was surprising for me—just how many people I saw that were in this little group with me, the migraine group,” she says.
I get presented and offered a million things a day, but if it doesn’t work for me I’m not just going to talk about it.
Kardashian says she has found relief, though, and it came via new migraine therapy Nurtec ODT (rimegepant), which is approved for the acute treatment of migraine in adults—so much so, in fact, that she’s become an advocate for their Take Back Today campaign, the focus of which is to foster a digital community where people with migraine can connect and share their experiences. The campaign encourages people with migraine to use the hashtag #TakeBackToday on social media to share their stories.
Like so many other people with migraine symptoms, Kardashian had her fair share of trial and error before she found a medication that worked for her. “For my whole adult life I was trying different prescriptions, prescribed and over the counter, and I was actually given Nurtec ODT as a sample,” she shares. It was after success with the sample that Kardashian consulted her doctor about the decision to use the dissolvable medication long-term. “I have been looking for a remedy, a medication, for something for so long. I get presented and offered a million things a day, but if it doesn’t work for me, I’m not just going to talk about it.”
Real talk: With everything going on in the world right now, we’re all more on-edge than usual. For Kardashian and so many others, stress is a major migraine trigger. “With the pandemic, I was experiencing more migraines because of stress and the uncertainty of the world,” she admits. Even outside of a global pandemic, it’s easy to see that Kardashian lives a majorly stressful life, with millions of followers watching (and judging) her every move, many of which end up captured on reality TV the following season. On top of all that, she’s a mother to beautiful toddler True, who just might be the most beloved baby on Instagram.
Kardashian insists that wanting to show up for her daughter was part of what made her so determined to find migraine relief. “After my pregnancy, I experienced a spike in my migraines. I think it’s from hormones, I’m not really sure, but you get this Mom Guilt,” she says. “True just turned two not too long ago, so she’s not gonna remember all this, but as a new mom every little moment is precious to you. So when I do have a migraine and I’m knocked out for the day, I feel so terrible. You’re just like, ‘I’m such a bad mom.’”
Kardashian describes how frustrating it can be when True wants to play and all she wants to do is lay down and rest her head. When I joke during our interview that it sounds like a cliché medication commercial I’ve seen before, she acknowledges how true-to-life those commercials sometimes are. “Those commercials are so relatable because they’re just so spot-on,” she says, adding, “I’m just grateful that True is so young and I that have found relief for me.”
All the skeletons are out of my closet. I don’t really have anything to hide.
With True as her top priority, Kardashian has quickly discovered that maintaining her own health is essential to caring for her daughter. “We don’t realize how delicate our bodies are, and we just put them through the wringer every single day,” she says. “It’s kind of miraculous what our bodies can endure.”
With this in mind, Kardashian is taking steps to ensure both her mind and body stay healthy. “You can’t get rid of stress altogether, so you have to learn to cope with it,” she explains. “Working out has been a game-changer for me, drinking a lot of water…all the things that we should do that we probably don’t make ourselves do daily, but they all help.”
Whether or not you experience migraine symptoms or any other health issue, Kardashian’s advice applies to you: “Make sure that you always put yourself first. Take care of you,” she urges her fans. “I’ve always been pretty open—all the skeletons are out of my closet. I don’t really have anything to hide. I’m an open book and I’m happy to be, so I think people were surprised about the way I’ve been able to push through my migraines and still do what I have to do.”
That said, she doesn’t want to downplay the severity of her struggle. “It’s not that easy, so I want people to know, you’re not alone for wanting to lay your head on the floor and not lift it up. I’ve been there, and it just sucks.” The only way to get relief, though, is to proactively seek it out. “I think people put off medical advice because they’re afraid, but with information, then you can do something with it. If you have no information, you don’t even know where to start, so I think being informed is the best,” she insists. “But first and foremost, make sure that you’re happy and healthy, because that’s the heart of everything.”