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A Migraine Quality of Life

Recently someone said to me, “It’s good that migraine isn’t interfering with your quality of life.”

My first impulse was to think, “Yeah, right. If she only knew.”

I know she meant well. Quite frankly, she caught me on a good day and only observed a few minutes of that day. Based on what she saw and heard, it didn’t appear as though migraine had any control over my life at all. I was alert and cheerful, dressed comfortably with make-up and a nice hairstyle. I looked good. Her assumption was false, but I cut her slack because the assumption was a reasonable one to make given the evidence.

That’s when I started thinking about the term “quality of life” and wondered what it really meant. In a healthcare setting, quality of life often refers to a patient’s ability for self-care. Someone who can manage the daily tasks of eating, getting dressed, and managing their personal hygiene is thought to have a good quality of life. Even in that context, migraine does occasionally affect my quality of life. In the middle of an attack, managing the activities of daily living is certainly a challenge.

When most people think about quality of life, they think bigger than this. The ability to care for others, hold down a job, engage in hobbies, and maintain a social life are important aspects, too. That’s where the unpredictable nature of migraine starts to take a bite out of quality of life. Sure, I may look good and function just fine one day. Trying to do that every day – that’s when my quality of life starts to suffer. If I want to maintain a good quality of life, then I must make room for the limitations migraine requires.

Trying to live like everyone else is a fool’s errand. I can no more tolerate that than a quadriplegic can function without a wheelchair. Migraine requires that I make accommodations. It is only because of this that I can appear to have a “normal” quality of life.

Here’s an example:

Recently, a round of bad weather made me vulnerable to migraine attacks. I’d been able to keep migraine at bay by wearing ice packs ‘round the clock.  My husband and I needed to go furniture shopping, but hesitated because I was so vulnerable. Unfortunately, the intermittent thunderstorms were predicted to continue for more than a week. There wasn’t going to be migraine-friendly weather for quite a while. Instead of postponing our shopping trip, we decided that I could make the necessary accommodations to complete our shopping trip. So, I filled a small insulated bag with various ice packs and packed it inside a large purse. Because I have accumulated several ways to wear ice packs hands-free, I was able to wander about the store in comfort. I also made sure to wear my FL-41 tinted glasses and packed my migraine emergency kit, too. Inside this small kit was a pill box with medicines I use to treat migraine attacks, a small jar of Tiger Balm, a tube of Migrastick (peppermint and lavender essential oils), a vial of my rescue medicine, a syringe, alcohol wipes, band-aid, and a portable TENS unit. The entire kit is about 6 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 1 inch deep.

“Didn’t you feel self-conscious?”

Nope. Sure, I could have chosen to feel self-conscious, but I didn’t. No one stared. No one asked uncomfortable questions. Everyone went about their business and didn’t care one bit about the crazy lady in the makeshift ice “hat”.  As each ice pack warmed to room temperature, I would swap it out for a cold one inside my bag. This is simply something I must do in order to have the quality of life I desire. I could have chosen to stay home, privately wrapped in ice, justifying my isolation because “other people” might judge me unfairly, but I didn’t.

It’s your turn

Can you think of a time when you made accommodations for migraine so that you could participate in life? Tell us about it!

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.


  • Lisa A
    3 years ago

    I sure get it! For my son’s graduation from college,it was in a big arena. Ugh. However I went prepared—M tool kit and I wore earplugs and sunglasses and had proper snacks and hydration. Oh I had to wear a visor inside. Well I may not look great or smell good, lol, but I will do what I must in order to participate in my own life and be with those whom I love!! Vicks vapor rub saves my nose from those awful smelly ladies room that have those terrible plug ins. Awful for me. I DO NOT care in public anymore. Nope! Besides, sometimes all the crazy shenanigans provide for funny stories. Might as well find the humor.

  • KaciMo
    3 years ago

    When I was in college, I had an afternoon class in a room with lots of windows. One day the blinds were open (They were typically left closed.), and when the sun moved to a certain spot in its descent, it shone right in my face. I had a tiny inner anxiety attack over the giant migraine I was going to leave class with, but then I remembered my sunglasses in my purse!

    I discreetly put them on, not wanting to distract any of my classmates, but the professor called me out on it! He made some joke about it, thought I was just wearing them because the sun made it hard to see. I played along, everyone laughed, and we got back to the lecture.

    I haven’t done this one in several years, but I’ve been known to remove the bulbs from the lights over tables at restaurants–or sometimes you can get away with precariously draping a napkin over them. Those lights are often so darn bright! And they’re right in your line of sight! The servers always look really confused when you do this though, so it’s typically a good idea to explain.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Kaci! I have so totally done the sunglasses thing, it helps! I’d have loved to have seen the servers’ faces! Thanks for sharing, it made me smile! -All Best, Donna ( team)

  • Jani8
    3 years ago

    I can’t quite remember going shopping with an ice pack – yet. I’ve usually just try to bear it. What I want to ask is how do you keep the ice packs hands free? I’ve never been able to figure out how to do it.

  • Tammy Rome author
    3 years ago

    I own several wearable ice “hats” – a Migracap, a Migraine Hat, and an Ice Kap. Do a search for them. They’re a really good investment

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