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An adult woman lays in bed in a dark room with a washcloth rolled up over her eyes. From the bottom right of the image comes a beam of light with hearts floating in the beam of light.

How My 4-Year-Old Released Me From Migraine Guilt

“Hi there,” my phone call began, “I’m so sorry, but I won’t be able to make lunch today. I have a migraine.”

“That’s no problem,” the kind voice responded, “Please take care of yourself, and by the way—you aren’t allowed to feel guilty.”

I said goodbye before the tears came.

A chunk o’guilt named Cheryl Davis

I’d suffered with migraines for over five years, but I hadn’t been able to put into words the weighty emotion that accompanied them. In that moment, my dear friend was the first to name my worry like he was casually ordering a cup of coffee. I wondered if my massive chunk o’ guilt would continue to stick with me each time I canceled plans because of a migraine.

Over the next ten years, my migraines steadily increased–along with my chunk o’ guilt. I’d become a pro at rescheduling plans but a dud at figuring out how to assuage my guilt when doing it. I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing those I cared for and that seemed to trigger my guilt that had grown to about the size of a small state–like Texas.

Since I had yet to cure my migraines, I switched my focus to curing my shame: I tried deep breathing. I tried journaling. I tried naming it—Cheryl Davis. Nothing worked.

Expecting to be loved less because of migraine

For the next ten years, Cheryl Davis and I remained close friends. When I became a parent, Cheryl turned up her intensity. I knew there’d be times my migraines would keep me away from my son, but I hadn’t predicted how my guilt level would increase. I wanted to be there for my baby but my migraines kept me at a distance.

My roasting brain would conjure up scenarios where my son grew up angry because he’d missed out on the best parts of his mother—the fun mom that could play tag in the hot summer sun. (My head pain forced to me play tag, at dusk, while wearing dark sunglasses.) I expected less love as my little baby grew into a little boy, but that’s when the unexpected happened.

A tiny voice filled with love

“Mom, I’ve got you,” my 4-year-old whispered in the darkness.

My son and his father had come to check on me during an attack. While my husband replaced my cold washcloth, my son’s tiny voice echoed in my ear. I could feel the love behind his statement and my heart melted. I thanked him for his kind words and reassured him my head would feel better soon. He smiled and left with his dad.

In that magic moment, I knew I was never going to be loved less. After years of feeling guilt-ridden as a migraine sufferer, my son’s sincere words of support changed me. His acceptance was a healing spell that passed between his heart and mine. I understood that learning how to support myself unconditionally would free my guilt. The love of my little son had shown me a better way.

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.


  • mudiblues
    1 week ago

    I have tears right now. The guilt is crushing for me. I feel guilt in EVERY aspect of my life as I cancel plans and let people down.

    When I was supposed first meet the man who is now my husband I had to cancel because of a migraine. I later found out, the night before my niece had told him that he’d be lucky if I “showed up” because I’d probably have a migraine, making it sound like I was just using it as an excuse. Thank God he has a sister who also suffers from migraines so he understood and gave me a second chance.

  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    1 week ago

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I can completely relate to that feeling of guilt. While my little guy has helped me immensely in this area–it still creeps in. Thank you for sharing the story of meeting your husband! I’m so happy that you found someone who understands that suffering a migraine is a pain all its own. Best to you!

  • glassmind
    2 weeks ago

    What a beautiful story. I am glad your family is so supportive! Keep following their lead and keep that guilt at bay!


  • Tonilyn Hornung author
    1 week ago

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I’m doing what I can, but you’re right–my little guy makes it much easier to do so. Best to you!

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