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The Things I Miss

While I don’t condone the notion that positive thinking solves all of the world’s problems, looking on the bright side is certainly important when living with migraine. I work hard to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for all the good in my life, and there is undoubtedly a whole lot of good.

However, I think it makes sense to also indulge my emotional side sometimes and shed a tear or two over all the stuff I haven’t been able to do since my body became susceptible to frequent and severe migraine attacks. Dwelling endlessly in my losses due to migraine is probably not a healthy exercise, but, I’ve found that if I try to put on a brave face and ignore those losses entirely, they catch up with me when I least expect it — mostly in public – in the form of spontaneous crying and inevitable embarrassment.

Toni Bernhard, insightful author of How to Be Sick and contributor to Psychology Today, says this about chronic illness:

“…there’s a lot to grieve over—the loss of the ability to be as productive as we once were, the loss of friends, the ability to take part in cherished activities, and independence. Grief comes in waves, and can arrive unexpectedly. One moment, we can feel accepting of the changes in our lives. The next minute we can be overcome by sadness. A simple interaction can trigger it.”¹

Various places where I have lost my composure over loss-related-to-migraine include: a public park while on a romantic getaway when I couldn’t find a non-triggering meal; at a breakfast place after running into an old friend who asked about my career; on the subway after having to leave work early due to pain; and at a family dinner when everyone burst into song and it was so beautiful but also way too loud.

Maybe those emotional outbursts could not have been avoided, and maybe an adult crying in public is something that should really be more socially acceptable than it is, but regardless, each of those situations indicated to me that there were things lying beneath the surface that I really needed to address.

So, as part of a healthy grieving process, it’s important for me to at least occasionally acknowledge the really big changes in my life, and have some feelings about them in a safe space. Each time I do this, I find the load get a little lighter.

Feel free to join me in listing the things you have lost due to migraine. [Get the tissues.]

I miss…

  • Being spontaneous
  • Listening to music more waking hours than not
  • Singing loud and often
  • Staying up late
  • Drinking more than one drink in one night
  • Red wine
  • Dance parties
  • Playing piano
  • Travelling (without pain)
  • Eating what I want, when I want it
  • Working full time as a teacher
  • Teaching music
  • Making plans with some certainty I will be able to keep them
  • Wearing myself out and feeling good about it
  • Did I mention red wine?


I would be dishonest if I said that migraine has only detracted from the quality of my life. While I would give it up in two shakes of a lamb’s tail if it were that easy, there are silver linings in a life with migraine that I value. However, I will leave those for another post. What I really want to say here is that it is more than okay to grieve our losses. It’s healthy. It’s necessary. It allows us to eventually let go and move forward. It can also help to show us how darn strong and resilient we’ve been despite everything. And maybe, just maybe, it will help us deal with emotions proactively, rather than leaking tears into our brunch amid a room of strangers.

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.

  1. Bernhard T. 3 Things the Chronically Ill Wish Their Loved Ones Knew. 2014. Available at: Accessed April 3, 2016.


  • Marcus
    4 years ago

    I can’t believe I just read what you shared! Bless you, bless you! Yes, being positive has its place. And finding small and even large blessings. I’m a firm believer in my faith in God and in Jesus.
    But even that has taken a substantial hit from my chronic daily migraines. My list of losses is long like yours and others here (thank you all for your honesty)! And I do think being honest with ourselves first, our mates, family, friends, etc., is highly valuable and healing!
    The losses are pervasive and real. And often made worse because our disease is not always obvious, except to our inner circle.
    I too could speak of silver linings. Yet I’ve chosen not to gloss over my losses.
    So again, thank you!

  • KarenE
    4 years ago

    Anna, your post made me cry. It’s so hard to be positive and to try to find the good things in life anymore. I have been disabled with migraines for the past 9 years. I feel like I’m serving a life prison sentence.

    I miss all the things you listed. I miss the social aspect of working. I am fortunate to have some very good friends, some of whom have migraines. When I met my fiancé, I figured he would walk away once I told him about the migraines, but they run in his family, so he understands what they do to me. I am so blessed to have such a loving, patient and understanding man in my life. I often tell him he shouldn’t feel obligated to stay with me, because the migraines interfere with so much of our lives, but he loves me and says he in for the long haul. I don’t know what I did to deserve him.

    I look at photos of myself 10 years ago, and compare them to what I look like now, and I see what the migraines have done to me. I’ve aged at least 20 years in 10. I’m slim, but have a round face and chubby cheeks, and until the migraines, I had always looked young for my age. That’s no longer the case. My 40-year class reunion is coming in August, and I’m anxious about going because I feel old and worn out.

    Damn migraines. Do any of you ever wonder what we did to deserve this misery?

  • grammayumyum
    4 years ago

    Ditto being spontaneous, staying up late, traveling, and wearing myself out while feeling good about it.
    Also, I miss being able to:
    * honor my word/commitments
    * shop anywhere/anytime, because I can’t tolerate fluorescent lights (BIG trigger)
    * work due to fluorescents
    * go to school due to fluorescents
    * go out to eat or almost anywhere due to fluorescents (yep, even the new curly CFLs and the ones that are disguised to look like the old incandescent bulbs)
    * be the goofy, funny, giddy, spontaneous person I used to be
    * go to the movies due to the blasts of white flickering light
    * drive at night due to headlights/traffic lights/lighted signs
    * have a scented candle or use perfume
    * be around others who wear perfume/cologne, hairspray, etc
    * have a piece of chocolate cake for my birthday

  • BCN
    4 years ago

    This post made me cry.

    I really miss being the funny, spontaneous person I was someday, a long time ago.

  • Jojiieme
    4 years ago

    Yeah, doing stuff, sharing a real drink or a glass of wine, a piece of birthday cake… Concerts…dancing…Summer stuff outside…fragrant gardens…

  • BethBlue
    4 years ago

    I miss money — that is, I miss working, and the financial security my family was able to enjoy when I did. I miss the ability to buy something and not have to justify the purchase to my husband, because he’s the one paying for it. I miss the freedom to eat things like fast food — a hamburger, or a french fry — without worrying what it will do to my brain. I miss movie theaters, and other places in which people gather and make noise that now distract me so wildly that I just can’t stand them anymore. I miss sleep. And I miss my family, because I sense that I have driven them crazy with this ridiculous disease.

  • katsock
    4 years ago

    This morning my mother asked me to come outside to look at something and I was outside maybe 5 minutes on a very overcast day. I did not even think about it until I walked back inside and the difference was VERY noticeable. I got upset knowing that I set myself up and then that made me more upset which I can do either(emotions anger, sad, extreme happy are a trigger for me)so that sort of started a spiral for me this morning. I was angry that I did not pay attention to the light and then angry that I was not allowed to be angry and frustrated about all of it. Did it start a migraine? Yes, as I type this I am running about a 4 but I think it is going to get worse as we have storm fronts moving in and for some reason none of my medicine seems to work on weather related triggers so I am expecting a bad weekend. Oh well, what can you do?

    The anger comes because I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger so losing the ability to be outside is sometimes hard but espically when it was only 5 minutes.

  • gailpearce
    4 years ago

    I miss being able to work around the house all day. Now it’s down to about an hour a day.

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