Patient Blogs | Migraine
What Only Migraine Warriors Know
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So many chronic conditions are followed by the word "warrior," and when most people think of one, I’m guessing images of samurais, Vikings, and for me, African kings and queens come to mind. These days, warriors aren’t so far removed. They’re in plain clothes and in plain sight. They’ve fought off breast cancer, are fighting through sickle cell disease, or live (with ample fight) with a chronic condition. 

For many warriors, they have not self-enlisted. They were drafted into some kind of war in which they’d just as soon not engage. But warriors, like maybe angels and unsung heroes, are all around us. I’ve never considered myself one. Maybe my tenure in the migraine world has qualified me. Maybe I’ve fought more than I know. I do have weapons. I do fight back. If you believe this definition, then perhaps I am. 

If I’m one, then I am one of many.  

Those of us fighting migraines are each different -- our journey to migraines and our exit from them are often different. However, when I talk to my migraine buddies and warriors, we often agree on these three things. 

Words can fail us. 

It can sometimes be hard to describe a migraine episode to someone who has never had them or certainly to someone who hasn’t lived with them for years. They are headaches mixed with a host of other symptoms that just make them all-around horrible. 

I don’t think people who aren’t migraine warriors understand how intense a migraine can be or how long it can last. I’ve had folks tell me, “Oh, I have a little headache. I’ll lay down for a few minutes and it will be gone.” I always marvel at those kinds of headaches. You see, a migraine can crash into a lovely day and render you immobile. Forget your plans. It can send you to your bed in tears and leave you there for hours – sometimes days. It can be incredibly hard to describe. 

My husband said something so loving once when he had a headache. I offered him meds or checked to see if there was something else I could do. He simply said: “Nope. I want to keep this headache for a little bit longer. I want to understand what you live with year after year.” 

There are many ways to fight. 

Whenever something bad happens in real life (or in the movies), there’s talk of not letting the bad guy or girl win. “We will not let them keep us down!” “We will not let them take our joy!” I feel the same about migraines. At times, fighting back may even mean giving into something that I know might be a trigger, but it’s worth it. I’m going to have that glass of wine at my sorority sister’s wedding. I’m definitely going to eat the piece of chocolate while in Paris. I can’t count how many times I’ve missed my normal 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep because someone I loved just wanted a little more time with me. This, my friends, can be fighting. 

Still, sometimes warring through a migraine means surrender. I’ve had my share of migraines that just wouldn’t budge. No matter what I did -- my prescription meds, some peppermint oil, deep breathing, or a strong cup of coffee -- nothing worked! 

It’s in these times that I fight back with an extra dose of self-care. Migraine episodes are draining for me. They derail a well-laid-out day. They get in the way of fun. I’ve learned to fight by saying “no,” waiting until the next day to finish a certain chore or delegating a work task that just isn’t a good fit for me. I guess a good warrior has to have strong, shiny, and impenetrable armor. 

Empathy and acceptance are real. 

When I hear someone battling migraine episodes, I immediately feel a rush of empathy. I feel myself softening toward them. I find myself easing back a bit on my expectations of them and I start to watch for signs they’re going through it. A colleague used to rub her temples and I’d immediately ask if she wanted to reschedule a call. As a child, I remember my mom retreating to her room, and as I grew up and had my own migraines, I’d give her a break when I witnessed her with one. I’ve volunteered to do extra tasks, pick up food, and watch toddlers -- all to help a friend, co-worker, or family member with a migraine. I have a soft spot. I’ve been on the receiving end of this kindness from those who also live with migraines. I’m thankful. There’s a little family. A migraine troop of sorts.  

Those moments when nothing is working -- or even when I find relief -- there’s a sense of acceptance. For now, and for 30-plus years, my migraines have been right there along with me – every step of the way. I continue to fight, but I accept that at times I’m outmatched. I have to sometimes retreat to my cave (coffee shop) or meet with the sensei (dad) or go back to the practice field (spa). I sometimes have to reset, but I never fold. 

The worst migraine so far has not prevented me from continuing to live a beautiful life. And even though my eyes may be shut -- in pain from a migraine -- it’s never prevented the sun from coming up each morning. It’s there when I’m ready. Waiting for me. 


 Tap into a community of fellow migraineurs on Facebook. Learn, share, connect in our Migraine Support Community.



Photo Credit: martin-dm / E+ via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 1992

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with migraine in 1992. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book, Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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