Braids and Beauty: Concessions of Migraine

Braids and Beauty: Concessions of Migraine

It has always been a part of my culture and an especially prominent practice in my family to wear braids. I grew up wearing them, learned to do them myself as early as my pre-teen years, and have always had an affinity for certain hairstyles requiring that I braid my hair. I remember watching television as a young girl and seeing actresses who had similar hairstyles as me and it was formative and brilliant: I felt represented and loved that I shared something with characters I looked up to. As a lifelong migraine sufferer, however, I am not able to wear braids often.

Migraine's impact on one's livelihood

This made me very sad to realize as a young child because it made me feel othered and somehow not able to exercise some parts of my culture. Sure, many people may not think of hair and braids in particular when they think of migraine, but I am sure there are many migraine sufferers who experience having to concede some part of their appearance or livelihood because of migraine. Braiding hair is a skill taught through generations in my family and the kind of hair braiding specific to my culture is very important to me, I love the styles and versatility that comes with it. However, braid maintenance and application can be somewhat painful, and if I have a migraine it is almost certainly out of the question for me to have them. If I don't have a migraine, the weaving of my hair can definitely trigger them.

Coping with an altered identity

Some might consider outward style trivial, and even say 'it's just hair' but for me, I believe style can tell a lot about a person's interests, and even culture. From a young age I realized that living with migraine meant that I would be unable to always present in the style I know and love because it would be too painful to do so. This is a reality that I sometimes find very heartbreaking. Of course there are other styles I wear my hair, and in which I still feel beautiful,  but there are many times when I have to remove them after just a few hours or so because I can't have the pressure of that particular style in my hair. All of the adventure and creativity and skill that accompanies them wasted in a matter of hours when a migraine takes hold.

Not just hair to me

Thinking about the way I present my hair and being unable to always wear it the way I want prompted me to think further about the concessions I make regarding how I feel, look, and act because of migraine. Often times, migraine sufferers are having to miss out on important events with loved ones, adjust to lower quality of life, and even dress, speak, and be different than they would ideally like to. My hair and the way I want to wear it very much falls into the category of things negatively affected by migraines, and it is as important to me as being able to show up for work or attend my younger brother's basketball game. Braids are just another part of myself I sometimes have to concede to migraine.

Trying to be unapologetically me

I still try to find ways to express myself even if I can't always do it through my hair, and that includes my style of dress, the music I make, the books I read, and the things I am attentive to, even if I do miss some aspects of myself because of migraine. Sometimes I still practice braiding styles on a mannequin to develop that craft further, because it is something I may want to teach to friends or family down the line and is something I want to maintain despite migraines influence on my life.

Are there things that are important to your style that you have to consider conceding because of migraine? How do you cope with the loss of a part of your identity being overshadowed by migraine? Let's discuss in the comments!

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