I Am Not a Migraine Sufferer, I Am Not a Victim

Do not call me a migraine sufferer. I have an illness called migraine, but I do not suffer from it. Having migraine is not a choice, suffering from it is. Suffering is an emotional reaction, a decision someone makes to allow the difficulties in their life cause mental torment. I cannot avoid the physical and emotional pain of migraine, but I can choose how to react to it.

I can hate that I have migraine and wail constantly that it’s unfair. I can obsess endlessly about how much has been taken away from me and how my life will never be the same. There’s no denying I feel like that at times. I can let those thoughts dominate my life, or I can indulge in short pity parties, then pick myself up and think, “This stinks. How do I make the best of it?” Time after time, I continue to choose the latter.

By calling me a sufferer, you assume I am a victim. I struggle with migraine, I am frequently disabled by it, but I am not a victim to this illness. I will not let it consume my life. It has tried. Oh, man, has it tried. Migraine has forced me to give up so much, but I remain committed to finding goodness and happiness and fulfillment while living with it. Is that the attitude of victim?

Despite the prolific use of “migraine sufferer” in common parlance, I refuse that label. I refuse to let anyone else decide whether or not I am suffering. I refuse to let my body or my spirit succumb to migraine, as impossible of a feat as that seems some days.

I am strong and courageous, persistent and proactive. Do not call me a migraine sufferer — I am a migraine champion.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (13)
  • Paulaff
    5 years ago

    This is a good article. I’m chronic daily for ~ 20 yrs now & have ‘suffered’ from it in the past, but now, being retired, I think I usually accept it. What I mean is I continue to live my life as normally as possible even when the migraine hits. I think I’m lucky in that being on Lyrica the pain is not always as intense as it was, although still frequent.
    When I’m working at the computer, or out with friends, I’m not always aware of how bad the migraine is until stopping the activity. It’s as if it’s not really there until I stop. When I realize the headache is bad, I’ll take something for the pain, & then I go sew, or knit, & it becomes the vehicle for me to do these sedentary activities that I would not normally do in the daytime. In other words, it gives me an excuse to do these other things that I like to do. So for me, now, it’s often a win win situation. It’s my life, & I WILL live it!

  • arden
    5 years ago

    Appreciate the spirit Kerrie brings to the table, to help us all learn a better way to cope.We need more courageous beings and fewer victims, even though tortured and tormented by the trial of migraine. If it strips you down to your core and you stand naked with your Creator, it has helped you.If it has taught you to stand up again and again and never give up it has strengthened you. If it has brought you to your knees pleading for help beyond our own capacity and endurance, it has begun to make you holy.When its all over will the pain have refined you or made you bitter. Its up to you.

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Kerrie,
    I appreciate your article and it’s positive intent, however, for me and I would think other migraineurs, we are victims of a heinous disease. There is no cure and while we flounder trying so many different remedies by many specialists …we do suffer. I do not keep that in the forefront of my brain all the time…but when you are chronic..like you and I…it’s difficult for me to say I’m not suffering. The other night I was at my limit……it’s been a rough 2 weeks…and I’ve been slammed with really high pain levels….so I’m not quite ready to wrap my head around your theory…although on paper it looks great. But in the end…I work around migraine…migraines do not cooperate with me.

    Blessings
    Janet Jones

  • kateymac
    5 years ago

    The concept of pain vs. suffering is also something that Buddhist monks, for example, as I understand it, spend a lifetime learning, teaching, and working hard to maintain. Many of us also try to learn it in meditaion, yoga, church. It is hard to explain, and to put to use in one’s life. It’s not a simple concept for any of us, in my experience.

    For years, BEFORE chronic daily migraine, I found such principles to be immensely helpful and grounding with numerous sources of stress in my life. It was astounding. HOWEVER, since migraine has become daily, for 12 yrs now, I have not managed to find solace in this idea anymore. I try, believe me — but I just can’t get there when attack after attack drags me back down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

    I feel there MUST be a way for me to find joy in my life again. I find it in many moments, but not as my default setting, as it was long ago.

    Migraine HAS taken so much from me, and I have yet to find a way to live peacefully with that. I struggle internally, every day: who am I without my former skills, abilities, competences, productivity, etc?; who am I if I am sick every day?; who am I in this migraine solitude that has left my friends in the dust? Who am i without music & crazy dancing?, etc., etc., etc… How do I deal with the anger and grief that never seem to stop coming?

    I like that you put it out there, Kerrie, and that you follow up with gentle understanding and empathy for those of us who aren’t in that place. Thanks for all that you do.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for you comments, Kate and Janet. I still think and feel all of the things Kate mentions. Such thoughts have dragged me down for days, weeks, months and even years, but I also always bring myself back to refusing to think of myself as a sufferer (even when I feel like one). I have to, otherwise I would lose the will to survive and the motivation to keep trying new treatments after yet another has failed.

    It isn’t that I’m somehow above hating migraine or that I’ve conquered the emotional aspects of it, but that calling myself a sufferer adds even more despair to a situation already rife with it.

    We all cope with migraine differently and, after much trial and error, I’ve discovered that not thinking of myself as a sufferer is the best way to keep myself going day after day. That doesn’t mean my way is the only way or the right way or the best way, it’s just what works for me.

    Thanks again for your comments. I wish you both all the best.

    Kerrie

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Kate,
    Wow! I couldn’t have said it better. While I usually can identify with all of Kerrie’s articles and forward them to family and friends….I’m with you on this one ….I’m chronic daily and I find myself echoing your post.

    The me I used to be when migraines we not chronic daily ones …is a faded memory. I wonder if that me will ever reappear and I will be productive..exercise..read..listen to music..leave my bed, or couch…then the next step would be my house.

    Blessings
    Janet Jones

  • Leo
    5 years ago

    It took a long time for i could hear this. Being ignored when i told as an an eleven years old that i had terrible headaches. Later on that it was my own fault. I felt a victim.
    Not being seen or heard. But now i know you are right. Thanks.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for making that point, Leo. It got me wondering how I would have reacted if I’d come across this same post written by someone else 10 years ago. I remembered coming across an article whose writer had an take-charge, can-do attitude about coping with chronic migraine. I thought it was total bull and that she couldn’t possibly have pain as severe as mine. And yet, even as my pain continued to worsen until I was housebound, I somehow developed the same attitude. I think I had to in order to survive.

    Thanks again for getting me to look at this from another perspective.

  • susan-jilliansmith
    5 years ago

    Everything you just said.. is exactly what the insurance companies love to hear. That we are not really ill, that with just the change of a word – in this case “suffer” we are fine.
    You might be helping yourself with this statement, but you are hurting many others – like me – who live in unholy terror of what is going to happen to me because of this disability – that HAS taken my life – and DOES control me. I do SUFFER because of this illness – I am poor – and ill.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    I did not intend to imply that migraine was trivial or insignificant or that those with migraine aren’t ill. Migraine can be horribly debilitating and its impacts reverberate through all areas of a person’s life. Chronic migraine brings tremendous physical and emotional pain. For me, personally, thinking of myself as a sufferer adds even more emotional torment, so I no longer do so.

    I’m sorry you’re going through such a hard time and wish you all the best for finding relief soon.

  • Leo
    5 years ago

    Although i sympathize with you, i know the odeal of a chronic migraine, i have to disagree. The insurance companies don’t like to oppose people who speak for themselves, even when they have a severe illness. If we unite we are a strong force.

  • claudiaglenn
    5 years ago

    I tried to explain this concept to friends a few years ago- the idea of suffering. No one understood.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    It is very hard to explain! It’s not about the dictionary definition of the word, but that the way a person thinks about their pain (emotional or physical) influences how they experience that pain — study after study shows this to be true. Not calling oneself a sufferer doesn’t necessarily change the degree of physical pain, but can make coping with it so much easier. It certainly has for me.

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