Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge 4 – “Still I Rise”

  • Migraine and/or headache, whether episodic or chronic, knocks the patient off their feet. Once, twice, a hundred, a thousand times we are attacked, beaten upon the head, and once, twice, a hundred, a thousand times, we somehow find the strength to get back up and go on with our lives.


    Moreover, we know that, at any moment and without any warning, we could be attacked again. It’s a war we fight without veteran status. Some of us live in fear, while others have learned fear is the enemy.


    Today’s blog challenge is the late Maya Angelou’s inspiring reading of her poem “Still I Rise,” and I think it’s going to have different meanings to each person who writes today. It's one of my favorites, and I planned this video challenge before it went viral after her death, affirming its power to me.

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    I have several health issues that beat me down, and I often receive emails and private messages from other patients wondering,

    “How do you do this? How do you live this way?”

    My answer has always been,

    “I get knocked down a lot. Every time I am knocked down, I just keep getting back up again.”

    Sometimes it is the opposite though. I am often told,

    “You are so lucky your friends and family all support you.”

    “It’s so much easier for you because you don’t have the challenges of lost relationships.”

    My physical pain is sometimes terrible. My suffering, indescribable. I have broken down in pain, and begged my husband to help me understand why God will cure a neighbor’s cancer so easily, and leave me to suffer every moment of each day for decades. Yet, my worst pain is not always physical.


    It’s rare that my physical or emotional pain is understood by others, and I often suffer because my pain is not believed. I hear friends and family talk when they don’t know I can hear them. I feel them stiffen when I reach for a hug. I am treated as a hypochondriac, as though bribery would make me "normal" again. My husband receives words of condolences, cheers and even gifts for living with me and taking care of me without leaving or divorcing me, all while I stand next to him, listening. When I need to talk with a loved one for support, the subject is changed, or the conversation angrily ended. In the presence of my children, I have been told I am a disappointment and that my life has been a waste. I’m often reminded “At least it’s not going to kill you.”


    There are so many ways we can be knocked down and have to rise again. When we can do it and still smile, that is a blessing. Often those smiles come long after we have regained our balance. Sometimes we have to fake it until we make it. Sometimes we need help. We often need forgiveness to help us rise to our feet again.


    Remember, living with a chronic illness means you will go through many stages, nearly identical to the stages of grief. Grief due to loss is a terrible thing, but time changes it. It is never over, but we learn to live with it and the wound becomes a scar. Chronic illness stages tend to repeat themselves over and over again, making the process of learning to live with it extremely difficult. It’s like grieving over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. It’s having a wound opened time after time.


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    The most important part we can’t forget… No matter how long it takes, so long as we rise after a fall, we have won, and it’s okay to smile victoriously. We are warriors!


    Please share these awareness posts with others who may not understand what life is like with migraine and other headache disorders. A spark requires oxygen so it can grow into a wildfire, and you are the breath of this project. With the wildfire of awareness comes the hope of reduced stigma and better, targeted treatments for these misunderstood disorders.


    “When fighting a gorilla, you can’t stop when you get tired. You stop when the gorilla gets tired.”


    Live your best life,



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    © Ellen Schnakenberg, 2014 • Last updated June 4, 2014.

Published On: June 04, 2014