Being diagnosed with migraine can feel like a small death. You have to start saying goodbye to the way life used to be. You mourn the loss of spontaneity, being carefree, and the you that existed with no pain. Or, if you are like me and have had migraine your whole life, you mourn the idea of the life you could have had if pain never was a factor. It feels as though there is no one else who gets it, no one who understands just how much was taken from you.
I understand it completely. This letter is to validate you, your pain, and your purpose. Society only seems to acknowledge what people can physically see or feel. Having an invisible illness that has been highly stigmatized makes you feel more than invisible. You begin to feel like you don’t even exist. People diminish your condition, believing it can be fixed with a few aspirin, drinking more water, or going for a walk. And the well-meaning friend, co-worker, or family member floods your newsfeed with products, procedures, articles, and remedies that you’ve already tried or know to be useless.
There is this lack of connection with the outside world -- a space that simply does not understand the complexity of migraine. You live outside of their bubble and no one is really interested in coming out to sit awhile in yours. Not that you blame them. We don’t want to live in our dark, quiet, trigger-free bubble either. It’s lonely in there. But it would be nice if someone offered to keep us company for a bit and experience some of what we go through.
All we want is to have some normalcy. That, we know, is not quite achievable, but we try anyway. I see you doing everything you can to be everything to everyone except for yourself. I’m guilty of that every single day. We tend to overcompensate for not being well. Whether it’s at work, in school, or in our responsibilities as spouses or parents, we push ourselves beyond our limits. All because we feel as though we are not enough.
Migraine is a thief. It steals time, productivity, and some of our abilities. But it does not have to steal your identity. It is important to remember that you have never been your migraine. You have a genetic, neurobiological disorder that you did not choose to inherit or develop. The characteristics of your migraine are not a reflection of who you are. Having physical limitations does not make you less valuable than the person who is well.
Your value is in the undeniable strength you have, the ability to make the sweetest lemonade out of the sourest lemons life throws at you daily, and in your level of compassion and empathy. You underestimate just how awesome you are. The battles you conquer are not for the lighthearted or squeamish. You go to hell and back and still manage to get things done. Not everyone is built the way you are built. Find your glory in that! You have an unbelievable amount of patience because, with migraine, you just have to wait it out. Therefore, you tend to take things in stride. All of these qualities make you unique and special. I see and value everything that is you.
The pain you experience is like no other, and the symptoms are just as bad if not worse sometimes. You deal with immeasurable amounts of frustration and disappointment more times than you’d like to count. It seems that you spend more time in your cave than with the ones you love. Too many times have you had to prove your pain in order to get treated, fill a prescription, or have a procedure approved. You are tired and worn out. I get it way more than I’d like to admit. I want you to know that I see and validate all of your experiences. You are not alone in any of it.
Finally, I want you to know that you always have purpose. Migraine does not have to take that away from you. Its meaning may shift if you cannot do some of the things you used to, but it is never extinguished. Your passions are still a part of who you are and you deserve to do what makes you happy. Invest in yourself in whatever way satisfies you. If you are struggling to find your purpose, start with this – You are enough. You are doing the best that you can even if it’s not very much. That’s okay. Be kind to yourself. You are more than worthy of self-kindness, self-love, and self-compassion. You matter — plain and simple. You did before migraine and you will continue to matter with it.
Living with migraine is a journey that can lead to self-discovery. You will learn things about yourself that you never knew before. One thing that will never change is the essence of who you are. Illness does not define that. Only you can. You are still a person with a voice, a heart, and passions. Migraine doesn’t have to rob you of them no matter how hard it tries to.
With loving kindness,