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768044 tn?1294223436

To what extent do migraines define you?

The other day I started thinking about how much migraines define who I am.

Does anyone feel as if their migraines (chronic or infrequent) define who they are? Is this a personal feeling, or do your friends, family and colleagues also see you that way? If so, to what extent do you feel they define who you are and how often do you feel this way?

Also! In what other ways do you define yourself? What are your passions? What sort of roles do you play (family member, friend, worker, learner, member of an organization, volunteer, etc.).


Prior to my chronic migraines, I most often thought of myself in terms of what I was studying or what job I had. I worked in the clothing industry for a long time (over 5 years), and at the time I was proud of how long I had worked for the same company (I was in my early 20s, so 5 years was a long time back then) and so I would often introduce myself in connection to my job ("I'm Marilee, I work for a company called..."). I was also a college student for a number of years too, and felt very connected to my college. I often volunteered at school events, and worked part-time for various faculty members. My major (anthropology) defined me in a major way as well, and I connected my sense of self to my academic research and goals.

Recently though, I often feel as if I am mostly defined by my chronic migraines, by my disability. When I meet someone new, and they ask what I "do", depending on the social situation, I have to exaggerate the very limited part-time work that I do (making it sound like a career or even just a steady job) or exaggerate the very limited amount of part-time studies that I take (implying that I go to school) OR I have to honestly explain that I have a chronic disability and I really don't do much.

If you asked any of my friends to describe me, they'd probably bring up my migraines as a major descriptive factor... and I'm never really sure how I feel about that, and sometimes it even hurts a bit.

I think there is probably a healthy balance between accepting that a disability can sometimes permeate all facets of life and also knowing that there is much more to us than just our migraines. I am going to try to work on finding this balance in my own life.
4 Responses
875426 tn?1325528416
I tell people I am disabled.  I have more than one thing disabling me, though officially, I am on disability for migraines and one other category.   My disabilities I think majorly define me because I feel very limited.  I get migraines, I am easily stressed, I have major TMJ issues that limit my talking, I have P.O.T.S., interstitial cystitis, intense GERD and a pituitary tumor I'm concerned about, etc..

   I remember feeling of little worth after I became disabled, because I felt I couldn't do much of anything.  But my mom reminded me God defines value.   I want to have ministry, even if it's a little bit, because I don't want to just be passing time in this world.  And God has given me opportunities like on medhelp for which I am thankful.
910419 tn?1289483727
Back when I was in elementary and mid school, before the migraines became chronic, I was COMPLETELY defined by my schoolwork. I lived school, breathed school, etc. Then when I had to withdraw from school in my Junior year, I went into complete shut down as I had nothing by which to define my life. I let the migraines just totally take over my life, and I basically spent the next 3.5 years on the couch. Then I had to wake up and get help.

I'd say that I'm disabled, because that's what I am. I don't try and gussy it up or make it worse than it is, but I am disabled. I'm lucking in that I don't really have a "before" and "after" set of memories as the migraines grew with me. So, to some extent I've always been defined by my migraines and their limitations on my life.

Recently, I've been trying to find other ways to define my life, but it's not easy. I'm finding some success in claiming that I'm an author, as I have self-published a children's book on pain, and have been officially rejected by one professional publisher. So that's something that my mom would call 'positive', even if I don't think that being disabled is negative.
1446700 tn?1284563339
Hi hun!  I am very lucky.  My hubby and only a choosen few know about me being on disibility.  I have never even told my kids.  Most everyone thinks, that I just decided to be an at home mom one day.  I never corrected them.  I was embarassed, that I could no longer be the independent women I use to be.  Yes, everyone that is close to me knows that I suffer from Migraines, I mean how could they not.  However, only a select few know the rest.

I was raised in a home with emotional and physical abuse.  My father made his feelings know about my mother and us getting sick or injured.  We were made to feel weak and in many cases the abuse was so sever, that he made others question our own sanity.  Imagine being 6 years old and asking your mom if you are really sick or if it is just in your head.  I have spent years with this shadow echoing in my thoughts.  Every new doctor opens up those old fears and feelings.  

So I guess for me, I can not define my life or who I am from my Migraines.  I define my life by how well I can hide it.

Part of my reasoning is not my passed childhood issues.  Some of it is my adult expeirence.  I told a lady at church that I was disabled and just could not participate in all the activities she thought I should.  That between family life and my health issues, I did not want to start something I could not finish.  She, then later a few others, acted like I was lying.  Just because my issues are not physically deforming or noticible all the time, does not mean they do not exist.  I told them this and told them that if they were going to be in a position of authority in a church, maybe a little more sympathy or empathy was inorder.  Even though nothing else was said, I can not help but relive and rethink all that people say and do.  All that I say and do, for that matter.  I try to call it reflecting, but maybe its a bit obsessing.

Its difficult not to view ones pain as a negitive aspect of life.  Its difficult not to feel limited or defined by what we can or can not do.  For me thats where distraction comes into play.  I see you are a writter.  I wish all the best on your book.  What a blessing it will be to so many children and their families.  To have such a positive and understand outlook.  Good luck and God bless!
681148 tn?1437661591
I feel similar to what SurgiMenopause said.  I am on disability, too--and for more than one official reason.  Migraines are such a huge part of my life that it's hard to define that fine line between letting migraines define who I am or not letting them.  It's rather frustrating at times, because people without migraines can be rather disturbingly cruel.  That has been my experience.  I have actually been cruelly discriminated against for having this disability.  
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