Losing One's Identity to Migraine... and Finding it Again
“Because of my illness, my faults are in plain view. It’s simply too hard to hide that I’m selfish with my time, can be terribly insecure about the most bizarre things, and have great intentions with little follow-through.”
That's an excerpt from a 2007 post on my blog, The Daily Headache. It is a shocking statement to read eight years later. These are not my faults. These behaviors are not inherent in being me. Every item in that list is a function of having disabling chronic migraine. I am not selfish, I was desperately trying (and failing) to take care of myself. The insecurity about bizarre things came from trying to pretend everything was fine when my life was falling apart. And following through with other people is difficult when getting to the bathroom and feeding yourself are all you can manage in a day. Yet, I believed that list to be an accurate assessment of who I am. Migraine had obscured my sense of self so thoroughly that I didn’t know how far off my perception was from reality.
Even in 2007, I was aware that I was floundering in search for the identity that was buried under migraine. I tried desperately, but only got further from knowing who I was. Help came in the unexpected form of a career guidance book. My husband was in a career transition and purchased Strengths Finder 2.0 on a friend's advice. The book is mostly a vehicle to get the code necessary to take an online personality assessment. That assessment, created by a psychologist, is intended to uncover a person’s top five strengths. My husband found it so helpful that he urged me to take it. I didn’t expect much—a career seemed an impossibility at the time—but thought it would be fun.
The results were revelatory and applicable far beyond career planning. I cried as I read through the paragraphs that so accurately described the person I’d forgotten I was. I laughed when I came across sentences that reflected how I approach life with migraine:
- You are hardwired to pursue goals until they are reached. When obstacles arise, you become even more determined to succeed.
- Eagerly, you uncover facts. Sorting through lots of information rarely intimidates you. You welcome an abundance of information.
- You frequently identify ways to transform an obstacle into an opportunity.
Not only did the list of strengths remind me who I am, it plainly showed me how hard I work to improve my health. Because my migraine attacks had worsened steadily since childhood, I thought I must be to blame. I often berated myself, thinking that if I just tried harder, I'd feel better. Reading these strengths allowed me to see how false that belief was.
The changes wrought by migraine range from small and annoying to major and life changing. These changes, even the small ones, can add up to the heart wrenching loss of identity. I’ve seen this wreak havoc in so many people’s lives, including my own. By the time I purchased this book, I’d spent a decade searching for my identity under migraine. With $15 and a little time, I regained the sense of self that no other technique had uncovered. Strengths Finder was such an enormous help to me that I had to share, even if it’s odd to recommend a career guidance book on a migraine site.
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?