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My Migraine Story

May 30th, 2008


What’s your Migraine story?  We all have one (all of us with Migraine disease, anyway).  Having a sensitive nervous system sets us apart from the majority of people around us, and we all go through a process of realizing or coming to terms with that.  With what it means to us and with how it impacts us.  That process  and story have become clearer to me as I have entered the on-line Migraine community, in this curious role of migraine blogger.

I have worked as a coach for many years now, helping people set goals, make choices, and live powerful lives, both in personal and business contexts.  In the course of that work I have had to make many accommodations to my Migraine disease, my chronic fatigue syndrome, and my recurrent sinusitis (to name the major culprits).  I have had the privilege of helping a number of other people with chronic conditions figure out how to structure their lives, businesses and careers so they can live fully despite their illnesses.  The moment of truth for me came when I realized, about 7 months ago, that my chronic illnesses are not just an impediment in my life.  They are an opportunity to share my professional tools and skills, and the wisdom I have accumulated, to help others manage their lives with Migraine.  I was already doing it, but I had one of those moments where perception shifts, and I saw that this could be a major focus for me.  Call it an epiphany, an aha, or a moment of madness, but here I am.

In my own journey it’s not a bad thing to be looking at my life through the lens of Migraine disease.  I am not interested in having that be all that defines me, but it is dangerous to ignore it.  I have questioned a lot
how my life might have been different without this condition.  I approach this question now after nearly a half-century of life.

I’ve had migraines since at least my teens. I don’t remember the first, but at 17 after
surgery at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx (that’s another story), leaving the hospital we drove past the Montefiore Headache Center and I thought “Wow, someone actually treats headaches? Someday, maybe soon, I’ll have to go there.” So I’m guessing I had migraines before 17.  Certainly, the first few I remember clearly, in my mid-twenties, I was already calling them migraines.  I could distinguish the headaches with nausea, vomiting, and nearly unbearable sensitivity to light and sound, from the regular, run of the mill headaches.

In retrospect, migraines have had a big impact on my life and my choices, even though they didn’t become frequent for me until my early forties. The biggest impact in my earlier years was on my career. I
completed law school and went to work at a big Wall Street firm. Everyone who knew me was surprised by that choice, but for me it was important to prove I could succeed in a high prestige, high pressure
world. I proved it for two years and left. In the meantime I had some doozies – vomiting in the gutter in NYC became a familiar shame in my life. I would have told you at the time that my migraines were triggered by stress.  But in retrospect, those moments of high stress came with sleep disturbances (pulling all-nighters to get a brief finished or prep for court), excess caffeine, and the poor eating that went along with them. I went into the less pressured environment of a legal services office, and migraines became less frequent, until after my first child was born. Then I had the new pressure of juggling baby and child care, parenthood, chronic lack of sleep, with part-time legal work. Oh, and let me tell you about part-time legal
work. Part time in the law is like 80+ hours this week and none for the next 2 weeks, not like “I’ll work Monday, Wednesday and Friday when I have child care!” A set up for stress, exhaustion, a frantic life.  By our mid-thirties we had two kids, a house, a yard, a mortgage, and one of us (me) got sick a lot.

I left the practice of law a decade ago and began doing work that I could structure in a way that worked in my life.  Writing and coaching.  Doing that work while making sure that I slept enough, ate right, used meditation as a regular practice.  I made those career and lifestyle changes just in time to develop anaphylactic allergies to pain-killers; just in time to have a sudden increase in my migraine frequency from a few a year to a few a week.

To tell you the whole story would require a book.  I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten it written.  The main thing I am looking at today is who I am – as a migraineur, yes, and as me, who is much more than just this disease.  I have always thought of myself as tough.  You can laugh if you want.  Yes, I’m rather small and soft, not particularly athletic, and I’m not a mean person (though I can be sarcastic).  There’s a mental toughness, though, a determination to keep going, to build, to create.  And on the other side of that, I have to accept my delicacy.  We are sensitive, we migraineurs.  Sensitive to our environments.  Vulnerable to odd things that don’t bother other people.  I can’t seem to change the fact that I get sick a lot.

For a working symbol, I’m going to use my Iris.  They are profoundly rich and beautiful.  They do bruise and wilt easily.  They need to be fed, watered and cared for.  But they keep coming back, and growing, taking more ground.  They are a connection to the splendor of life.

What’s your Migraine story?

- Megan


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Posted in Medicine, Musings | Comments (2)

  • http://deborah-weatheringmigrainestorms.blogspot.com deborah

    You know, Megan, I understand you so well, the words you write, the very way you explain yourself. It’s very mirror-like. Must be a migraine thing. I, too, am very small and soft, maybe too soft, and not athletic – but you know, who can be when moving makes the monster come out, right?

    I like your Iris story anyway.

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