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Losing One

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.

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


  • Sarah
    4 years ago

    Oh, how this resonated with me. I’ve been fortunate, so far, in not completely losing my identity, but I definitely relate to many of the things you labeled as being your “faults” and have felt them as my own. It’s been rough recently, but I am fortunate enough to have friends and family around, who while they don’t truly understand what I’m going through (with a few exceptions), they are supportive and offer as much assistance as they can…and I am fortunate enough to recognize that. My friends never make me feel bad for having to cancel a plan last minute plan…in fact, they do just the opposite. And are understanding when I tell them that I don’t want to make a plan because I never know when the migraine will decide to rear its ugly head. I don’t feel any less guilty for those things, but at least it isn’t me AND them pushing those thoughts on me.

  • Butterfly7
    4 years ago

    My husband has found the strength to relocate us to another region of the country, possibly changing careers. My MAJOR migraine triggers are longitude, weather & food. I live in NYC & we’ve discovered that the Canadian weather-fronts combined with our physical location has a huge effect on my body. When the barometer plunges, my head explodes, in this region of the country. When we’re south of the Potomac, the symptoms aren’t nearly as bad. Interesting, huh?

  • Sarah
    4 years ago

    Oh, goodness. I understand the whole barometer plunging thing. I live in Central FL and summer is atrocious for me. I can predict a storm four hours away, almost to the minute, when I’m outside, which is most of the time. I’m not sure which is worse…the migraine here or the allergies back at my childhood home in Oregon.

  • Nonster
    4 years ago

    Timing is everything Kerrie. I just cried with my son,who has known me with headaches since he was 21, he is now 31. Through my tears I explained to him that I didn’t want to be remembered as ‘my Mom always had headaches and was in bed ‘. I wanted him to remember me as ‘the fun Mom, the one who created fun out of cardboard boxes, who made birthdays a great celebration, had many friends, she loved to dance around the house, she lived,she loved. That’s who and what I want him to remember about me.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    Hi Kerrie,
    It’s really great that you mentioned this!
    Last winter I started working on career/personality development. I read strength finder and took the test, as well as a book on Creativity, among others. It was so so soooo refreshing to look at myself in terms of personality traits that have nothing to do with migraine or my body, as I’d spend so much of the past few years focusing heavily on my body.
    One of the things that strength finder told me about how I do react to my migraines though, was that my top strength is “learner.” I do what I can to learn everything about my condition, and that I feel has helped me. Like you, it was a pick-me-up to read that.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    4 years ago

    I think this is a great place to share this book. Many of us forget who we are due to migraine.

    I’m going to buy the book right now!


  • sunshine.
    4 years ago

    Thank you so much Kerrie. anything that helps one can potentially help others! I had a simmilar experience doing a personality test in a matching site. I came up as adventurous, playful and open to new experiences which is how i used to be but is at a stark contrast to my currently depressed and disabled version of self. Migraine errodes one’s identity-i have no doubt about it.

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