My migraine identity

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A mild day in February 1964 marked my debut. The pink and white beads surrounding my small wrist identified me as SCOTT, a clear and concrete statement of who I was, with no indication of where I would go from there.

Since that day over 50 years ago, I have worn many hats and migraine has lived under each one. Like it or not, my illness has been part of the definition of me, from child to young adult to midlife crisis.

I’ve been Dad’s daughter, Mom’s kitchen helper, Don’s little sister, Brad’s wife, and Trish’s friend. I have been the pet of a teacher, classmate, sorority girl, employee, neighbor, and stranger you pass on the street.

Every version of me was visible on the outside, as my illness silently waited to strike. Migraine is like that. He won’t be denied his time in the spotlight, no matter how much I wish he wasn’t a part of me.

The term migraine wasn’t written on any of my labels until sometime in my twenties. Before my diagnosis, I accepted my fate as a nameless weakness that I could not improve. The diagnosis changed the key from despair to hope, but it did not eliminate the effect of the disease on my state of mind.

I don’t care how the saying goes, I think words really can hurt me like sticks and stones, especially when those words paint a picture of someone I never want to be – too weak to bear the pain of a headache, of a liar who calls in sick to get out of work, or of a bad person who puts his own selfish needs before others.

For many years I was tormented by the opinions of those around me. It took me a lot of time and education to convince myself of the courage it takes to overcome the pain. These days, I wear the migraine warrior identity with my head held high, no longer giving credence to the shame others try to put on me because of an illness they can’t see.

Migraine is defined as a physical illness, but it can also affect mental health. Even the toughest among us can tire of the disappointment of putting life on the shelf while migraine takes center stage. In times of doubt and despair, I remind myself that migraine isn’t all I am.

When I grabbed that blank label and wrote MIGRAINE in big bold letters, I turned the page from mental anguish to the healing strength of accepting who I am. Armed with knowledge of triggers, symptoms, treatments, and prevention, I accept migraine from my perspective.

I know the truth about me. I know the demons I kill. I know migraine can hover behind me, casting a shadow over my life, or I can claim it as my own and fight it face to face.

Some would say don’t let migraine define me, but I say such words set me up for failure. I can’t run away from who I am. Whether written by the hands of perspective or genetics, choice or fate, my labels belong to me.

To all of my fellow Migraine Warriors battling the physical and psychological pain of our disease, I see your courage and understand who you are. With respect, I tip my hat to you, whatever hat I’m wearing.

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Photo credit: Raphye Alexius / Image source via Getty Images

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