Why I Am Grateful For My Migraines

I, like many of you out there, have an invisible illness.


I have been suffering from migraines for half my life. They usually occur every 4-8 weeks, leave me bedridden for 36-48 hours, and just wholly disrupt my life.


Unfortunately, migraines are a multi-faceted disease that we still don’t fully understand. This makes them extremely difficult to treat, conventionally or holistically. I’ve scoured the research, tried every type of natural remedy or suggestion. I’ve even used medications at certain points in my life, which surprisingly made things worse.


As though the migraine themselves aren’t enough, I’ve struggled with the stigma, misunderstanding, and ignorance that comes with them, as with any invisible illness. I, too, feel shame for having a disease that forces me to miss work and social events. I, too, try to hide my disease for fear of being misunderstood or not believed.


People don’t understand:

  • that migraines cause me to vomit every few hours for days on end
  • a migraine is so much more than a headache
  • how simple things such as light, noise, and smells cause the pain to worsen
  • the post-migraine “hangover” that makes activities like taking a shower feel like you’ve run a marathon
  • they are something I cannot control


However, perspective is a powerful thing. It can take us from feeling like a victim to taking back control of our life and circumstances. While migraines are mostly out of my control, I can control how I choose to view them and their effect on my life. We can choose the meaning we give our challenges, health or otherwise. These are mine:

  • I choose to come to terms with my disease.
  • I choose to accept that migraines are just one part of who I am. They do not define me as a person.
  • I choose to embrace my migraines as a lesson instead of fighting them. What is it they are trying to teach?
  • I choose to view them as an opportunity to listen more deeply to my body and the messages it sends.

I can honestly say that I am grateful for my migraines. They force me to stop (albeit painfully) and take a break. They help me remind me that life will go on if things remain undone. Instead of focusing on the days I’ve lost, I will thank my body for the much-needed break and be grateful for all my pain-free days.


Like most women, I’m still trying to strengthen my “no” muscle and put my own needs first. It’s as though my migraines are doing something for me that I can’t. When I struggle saying no or slowing down. When I don’t recognize that work days that start before the sun comes up and end long after it has disappeared are not a sustainable way to live. I need to say “yes” to more down time and incorporate things that bring me joy.


As I mature in my profession, I have become acutely aware that at its essence, my job as a doctor, is to help people learn how to listen to themselves. Symptoms are just your body’s way of communicating with you. (The more stubborn of us may force the body to use stronger, even painful, words.) Your body is trying to express it’s inherent wisdom. We need to be still to listen and be brave to take action.


What is your body telling you? How can you deepen your listening?

One Response to “Why I Am Grateful For My Migraines

  • I really appreciate your honesty and insight. I will be sharing this with my daughter who has suffered with migraines since high school.

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