Is Migraine a Chronic Illness?

migraine chronic illness

I’ve suffered from migraines for as long as I can remember. There were times I’d come home from elementary school, go straight to bed, sleep until 7pm, wake up for 30 minutes, eat some pudding and go back to bed. The next morning I would have a “leftover headache,” a general achey gross feeling that lingered until I got moving for the day.

I am 34 now. To say that my migraines have gotten worse since those early days would be an understatement. They are much worse and MUCH MUCH more frequent than when I was a child. I’ve been told countless times that I would grow out of them, or that it is just a stage in my life, or that I should eat more bananas, or maybe I should change my diet or go see (fill-in-the-blank).

I have NOT grown out of them and judging from my family history, there is a good chance I won’t. It’s OK. I’ve come to accept that, this is just part of who I am. This isn’t resignation but it is a sort of acceptance, radical acceptance as they say in the psychology world. It’s accepting something for what it is, moving forward and coping, because not accepting it tends to make it worse, I become angry and frustrated. It isn’t giving up on trying to learn more about them or hoping for a change, but it does mean being able to accept the migraine and MOVE ON with my day.

I’ve tried so many different things to try and get relief but I also get so much unsolicited advice, so I thought I would go over what I do do to fight my headaches.

migraine massage

Things I’ve Explored to Help with Migraines

  1. Message therapy

  2. Chiropractor

  3. Acupucture

  4. Physiotherapy

  5. Excercise

  6. Prophylatic Medication (I have had some success with Gabapentin)

  7. Botox (not for my wrinkles!)

  8. Nerve block

  9. Medication for acute migraine attacks

  10. Dietary Modification (I don’t eat gluten)

  11. Hormone manipulation (birth control pills to regulate the hormone levels)

I’ve done all these things and yet I still suffer ALOT! Yesterday was my first headache free day for about a month and a half. I recently changed my medications around and it was NOT working well, so I have really suffered.

I’m not one to complain, although I’m sure my family is as tired of my headaches as I am and although I speak of acceptance, the anger, bitterness and frustration certainly mounts at times. Yesterday when I was headache free I had more patience, and energy for my kids then I normally do. It made me realize how much my headaches affect me. People are often amazed at how much pain I live in on a daily basis. I try not to let it affect me, I try and push through, or “sit in the pain”, as I’ve called it. Obviously there are days where I can’t push through, those days are the ones where the migraine kicks my ass! I HATE those days, because it’s yet another lost day!

I’m sitting right now, with yet another headache and a head cold, I feel gross, I feel exhausted, but I’m thankful. I’m thankful I had a day like yesterday, pain-free, light, clear, because I know I’ll get it again. The pain-free days are the days I hold onto when I’m dealing with a long stretch of migraines, they are the light at the end of tunnel.

Do I have a chronic illness? Yes. Do I like that? Obviously no! Does it define me? Hell no! Sometimes I wonder if it should though. Should I live my life in a way that allows me to accept my chronic migraines into my daily life? I don’t know, sometimes I think so, but what would that really accomplish? I have a career, I’m currently doing my Master’s of Nursing to become a Nurse Practitioner. My migraine friend is always with me, but it doesn’t stop me, it might slow me down somedays, but it doesn’t stop me.

I am having a hard time posting this blog to be honest. Not that I keep my headaches a secret but because as much as I say I’ve accepted it, writing about it makes it more real, makes it public. But whatever right? Maybe this will inspire someone else to push through!

So… is what it is! It’s part of me, it’s made me stronger.

Do you have migraines or another chronic illness? How has it affected you? Comment below!

This essay was originally published in the Beautiful Voyager Medium publication.