Life with Migraine isn’t always easy. For over 30 years, my stubbornness and bad habits made life much harder than it needed to be. I was living in Migraine denial and it looked something like this.
Haphazard trigger exposures
My grandmother warned me about triggers. In fact, until very recently, her advice about Migraine was more helpful and accurate than anything my doctors said. Too bad I didn’t listen to her. It wasn’t that I didn’t know my triggers. I knew exactly what set off most attacks. The problem was that I wanted to avoid appearing weak or incompetent. I’d been accused so often of using Migraine to get attention that I could not bring myself to ask for accommodations. My requests often created more questions and skepticism, so I learned to suck it up.
Over-reliance on abortives
I wasn’t really avoiding triggers, so I got a lot of attacks. Covert pill swallowing became my super power. Before I realized what was happening, I was deep into Medication Overuse Headache (MOH) with a daily headaches and a heaping dose of painkillers. The habit continued throughout high school and college. It wasn’t until age 25 that a migraine specialist finally convinced me to stop taking so many pills.
Delaying treatment to “tough it out”
The attacks would get out of control when I tried to delay or avoid taking medicine. I had no rescue options, so once the vomiting started, a trip to the emergency room was inevitable.
Stubborn refusal to try preventives
I was 20 years old before any doctor even suggested a preventive. By then, Chronic Migraine and MOH had a firm hold on me. The one preventive I tried had terrible side effects that frightened me, so I quit and didn’t bother talking to the doctor. It would be another 18 years before I tried again.
Never building a Migraine attack pack
I was lucky if I had a bottle of ibuprofen (Advil) in my purse. Ice packs, peppermint tea, sleep masks, and ear plugs weren’t even on my radar. All those hours of unnecessary suffering now seem like such a tragic waste.
Refusing to ask for accommodations
Instinctively, I knew what I needed. Asking for accommodations was out of the question. I’d already learned the hard way that talking about Migraine at all earned me the scowls and exasperated sighs of teachers and bosses alike. Determined to never let Migraine be my excuse for failure, I suffered in silence while lights, sounds, and smells assaulted my vulnerable brain.
Overestimating my abilities
This is one denial habit that still haunts me today. When faced with something I really want, it’s all too easy to ignore my limitations in pursuit of a goal. As a young adult, I would often make promises based on my desire to achieve rather than admit that Migraine might stand in the way.
Hiding the true impact of Migraine
The “stubborn gene” is dominant in my family and I got an overdose of it. Using raw willpower, I disguised the severity of Migraine disease from as many people as possible. Even with those closest to me, I rarely admitted the true scope of my symptoms.
Finally, at age 40, I’d had enough. I dropped the façade and started being brutally honest with myself and those closest to me. We were all shocked by the severity and frequency of symptoms. That’s when I knew I had to redirect that stubborn, iron will toward finally getting control of Migraine. I finally stopped living in Migraine denial.
Have you see a bit of yourself in my story? I hope not, but experience tells me that I’m not the only one to live so long in denial. The good news in my story is that I finally broke free. Thanks to the love and support of my family and friends and some good Migraine doctors, Migraine is better controlled than ever for me. One day, you will get to say the same thing. Just don’t give up and don’t lose hope.
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Headache disorders counselor and advocate Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in treating clients with Migraine and other headache disorders. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.