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Not knowing how much you can take

Not knowing how much you can take ’til you’ve made it through

As I have mentioned a handful of times on here, I tend to run cold and very often have cold fingers and toes.  At six feet tall and very thin, I usually become chilly and shivery way before most people do. This often means I wear gloves (even just fingerless ones) or a puffy coat before most people even get cold.

During college, I lived in New York City and was cold all throughout the winter.  I walked a lot in the city.  I was born and raised in the South (Atlanta, to be exact), so winters are pretty mild and I was not used to truly cold weather. We got the rare snowfall, but until I moved to New York I wasn’t accustomed to having snow on the ground for weeks at a time, the wet cold seemingly seeping into my bones.  Foolishly enough, I didn’t own a proper winter coat then. I would put on a thin coat from Old Navy I’d gotten on clearance, layer with scarves, and wonder why I was so cold.

Eventually I wised up.  A couple of years after college, I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for about six months. I arrived in September of one year and moved at the very end of February the next, meaning I had a few months of Pittsburgh’s famously cold, wet, gray, and sludgy winters. I was worried about living in such a wintry climate since I do run so cold—how would I be warm enough?  Would I even be able to go for walks outside in the winter? Why did I choose this weird timing? Why couldn’t I have lived there in the summer?

I worked at a local coffee shop starting at about 5:30am a few days per week.  I would de-ice my car windows and sit in the car as the windshield defrosted. I drove on slick roads the two miles to the cafe, grateful that the roads were virtually empty at that hour.  One day I got to work, and one of our regulars (who was there every day before the opener even arrived) got out of his car and said, “It’s 2 degrees out today!”

Instead of commiserating with him about the cold, I started to laugh.  “Are you serious?” I asked.  “It’s only two degrees?”  I started moving the tables and chairs outside after salting the sidewalk, where snow had melted and then frozen over in a slick layer.  I still had a smile on my face.  I had worried so much about being cold, not being able to hack it in the North during winter, and here I was working outdoors in my puffy coat without complaint.  I wasn’t even really shivering since I was being so physically active.

That moment sounds so small, and it’s kind of embarrassing to tell this story because it is, on the surface, totally simplistic (and will seem ridiculous to anyone who wasn’t born and raised in a warm climate).  But here’s the rub:  it was an important moment for me, because I realized I could totally live with a situation I thought would be borderline-unbearable.  This type of epiphany has dawned on me many times since then, mostly when it comes to my health issues.  It can be so affirming and fascinating to realize that you have not only faced a situation you are fearing but that you made it through in one piece.

Have you ever had a moment where you faced something you were scared of only to realize you did just fine? Have you ever looked at your struggle with migraine disease and given yourself a pat on the back for not only surviving but thriving in the face of this debilitating illness?  Share your story below.

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.


  • bluebird
    4 years ago

    I face the unpredicability of my daily migraine-now called confusional-scary! Just when I was getting used to having brainstem with aura.
    I have had to soften about have a “sense of control”. Scary to hear “We have tried everything and nothing has really helped. Tooo many genes involved.”
    I awaken each morning grateful to be alive and curious about which symtpoms will manifest…and when. I am trying to maintain a sense of humor about the challenge of adapting to the unpredictablitlity of my symptoms and how that impacts my life.
    So waking up and going to sleep not knowing what version of myself will show up is scary if I let it be. sometimes I am scared I will just let out all the frustration and disappointment I feel and dump that on my partner…. Just haul off and tell the whole truth of some moment of deep resentment of Migraine…Scared that I will turn bitter.

    Letting go of expectations of my former reliable competent self -( but I haven’t really fully relaxed into acceptance cause I want a cure!!!!)
    I now take deep breaths and do what I can when I can.

    I have joined choirs and find that singing with others can sometimes lift me into a more joyous sense of being alive.. I usually feel like it will be Simply Impossible to participate-read the music or stay on the beat…. but the energy of the group seems to help- sometimes. I have now sung major pieces of music which I never thought I could..on a fancy stage with the orchestra. I even tried the bass clarinet…but that was too much.

    I am scared to do public speaking but make presentations about issues I am passionate about- all the while hoping- hoping my brain won’t stop mid stream. My speaking might be soft and slower than planned but people listen!
    I usually fell the need to prepare the audience for a possible lapse into Migraine..and regard that as educating the public.

    Mostly I am scared to talk with members of my family for fear that my brain won”t work well enough to pass as the person I want to be -and the one I think they would want to have in their lives…you know …smart , funny, compassionate listener.
    I fear my sense about what to say is sometimes compromised. So I don’t call them often and it takes courage when do. I try to chose a time when I am feeling better than average. Usually I am glad for the contact ..but then I get “You sound good… so You Must Be Better”. I wish!!!!

    Now I get to chuckle about it…breathe deeply and remind them that I don’t call when I am feeling poorly. I hear- “That’s a good plan”. So it takes courage to stay connected. But I have accomplished being real with them. That was scary.

    I sit on a Board for a community group. I cannot commit to taking on projects. I have had to expose myself to being seen when I can’t think straight or speak properly – but they still want me on the Board. So I have had to let go of fear of judgement for not pulling my weight and some kind of shame to be there. Still working on relaxing about that…but I attend and contribute what I can.

    I fear family or friends or neighbors are thinking “maybe you don’t have a problem, not really”. So then I get to trust they will have compassion. Scared of rejection I guess. But sometimes I feel that too. Maybe I am just weak,crazy or lookng for an out..I know it’s not true but sometimes it feels like that. OR that it’s just tooooo much and I want to drive off the dock or set sail into the sunset. I know I am in trouble when this happens and remind myself to breathe through that phase. Trust I can get through it. Distance my self from the pain and breathe. Just being Patient with the process takes courage. So far so good.

    Sometime I fear getting disoriented when I am in the city or travelling alone. I fear looking vulnerable- like the weak animal in the herd.
    The kindness of strangers is a gift and has worked so far to keep me from getting lost or eaten by the lioness. And a wheelchair in the airport really helps if I am out of steam. Asking for help and receiving it is amazing.

    The witness consciousness in me knows I am having these symptoms and they are not the “I am” who is having them – The core of my being is not the symptoms . Seems to help me.

  • Bev Todaro
    4 years ago

    Hi Migraine Girl. I live about a half hour away from Pittsburgh so I know those famous winters. I’ve had migraines for around 40 years now so I have learned to get through it. I started out just having 1 a month for years then they started to get more frequent. I took Excedrine like it was candy. I had to have 60% of my stomach removed because of bleeding ulcers. I then started getting hemiplegic migraines. We went every where for help. We did find a good headache doctor, but we weren’t able to stop them completely. I had to go on disability. Luckily I had 20 years at my job so I had disability there too. I still get them about once a week and we still haven’t given up hope to stop all together. I keep trying everything help the pain too. I can’t take triptans. Tonight I’m trying a migraine pillow called My Pillow. Have you heard of it? And also I’m trying this roll on stick called Mygrastick. Have you heard of it? I know I’m crazy. Hey I have keep trying. Of course I’m not going to try anything dangerous or illegal. Well, I’ll let you know if they work and maybe you can let me know it you of anyone who has used them. Thanks. Bev.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Dear Bev,

    Thanks so much for your note. I don’t think you’re crazy for doing whatever you can to try to feel better! I haven’t tried the pillow you mentioned–let me know how it works out for you. I have had migrastick before and got a lot of relief from it. It didn’t knock any migraines out for me, but it made me feel calm and gave me some temporary pain and discomfort relief.

    Having a doctor who specializes in migraine can be life-changing. It sounds like you’re like a lot of migraineurs in that you have perhaps overdone it when it comes to medications in an attempt to feel better. This article about medication overuse headache might help you:

    Let me know how you’re doing. Wave hi to Pittsburgh for me! 😉

    Take care,
    Janet G.

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