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Counting the Blessings: The Complete Picture of Life with Migraine

I was recently talking to someone about the myriad ways in which migraines have affected my life. Most of it she’d heard before: the not being able to be around bright lights or loud noises during an attack, the trying to avoid strong smells, the need to keep to a consistent schedule. When I started talking about other, bigger picture things, however, I could tell I was saying things she hadn’t considered before.

Living with chronic migraines has affected me in more ways than I can count, especially when it comes to my long-term goals.

Missing out on graduate school

Going to graduate school to finish my forensic neuropsychology degree is doable, but the post-grad, entry-level jobs are not. With my migraines, there is no way I could survive day after day in a hospital setting; the fluorescent lights would have me in bed within the third hour of the first day.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever go to law school, though that was once a dream of mine. The level of study, when combined with my family obligations, would simply be too much. I’d almost certainly find myself back in daily-migraine hell within six months.

Deciding not to have another baby

Having another baby is also something migraine disease makes difficult, if not impossible. My toddler son would love a sibling, I’m sure, but the pain and disability I experienced during my pregnancy with him would be completely untenable with a toddler on my heels. Especially considering that most medicines are off limits during the first couple of trimesters.

Positive changes

Despite these significant limitations, however, I don’t view life with migraine as a prison sentence.

Migraine disease has brought almost as many positive changes into my life as it has limitations.

I take better care of myself then I did pre-diagnosis. I eat better, exercise more frequently, and put a higher value on regular sleep – all things that are key to healthy living. I also give myself more room to relax than I did before (though certainly not as much as I could).

The greatest positive changes, however, have come in my career. Yes, I probably won’t go to grad school for neuroscience. I almost certainly won’t go to law school, and I gave up my career as a managerial accountant/controller when the disease was at its worst. Those limitations are gifts though, when I look at what has come in their place.

Migraine gave me permission to do the thing I always wanted to do: write. I wanted to live and work as a writer from the time I could wrap my small fist around one of those fat Crayola crayons. I was told, however, as are many aspiring writers, that writing wasn’t a viable career option, even after I began getting published in high school. I was told to do something more realistic, something that would pay the bills, and that I could always write in my “off” time.

Sadly, there’s never enough “off” time to do anything you’re truly passionate about. My writing languished for years. I wrote, of course, whenever I could, but I didn’t have enough time to polish anything, so I rarely sent it off for publication.

When I got really sick, all that changed. My “safe” career options were no longer applicable. I was too sick to do them. Suddenly, my dream job became my back-up plan. Writing was the “safe” choice, and I quickly built my life around a job and lifestyle I’ve loved since I was a child. The blessing in that can’t be denied, and it’s something I always try to remember when I talk about how migraines have changed my life.

How about you? What gifts or positive changes has migraine brought into your life?

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.


  • Nina Rose
    5 years ago

    Most of the things related to migraine have been negative for me but, since I’m at home all the time, I learned to play guitar because I couldn’t play piano loudly & guitar is easier to play softly. I’m not the type to play for anyone though so I don’t know how much benefit it will ever be to me, but at least it makes me happy. That’s the only good thing I can think of to be honest. I was doing my dream subject in college which is music but I had to drop out but I haven’t given up hopes of going back yet 🙂

  • Anonymom
    5 years ago

    I completely relate to your message, in so many ways.

    When you talked about having another baby, I was fortunate to be blessed with pregnancies that were nearly migraine-free. However, raising a toddler and baby while my self-employed (yet supportive) husband was definitely a challenge in the early years.

    Now my 14-year-old daughter is showing signs of migraines, including auras, and I’m so sad that I passed this on to her. However, I believe I can give her the gift of less suffering due to what I’ve learned over the years. She’s already on the radar of my headache specialist and I anticipate that we can help her avoid many of the migraines – and recover quickly from those that do hit.

    While I’m not migraine-free (and am fighting one today), I feel like my medical team and I are FINALLY making some progress. Praise God!

    Here’s my story – as I shared it a few weeks ago. Best wishes to you!

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    I’m glad to hear you’re making progress. What a great way to start 2015! I hear you about your daughter. My 12-year-old daughter gets abdominal migraines. I feel bad for passing that on to her, too, but I’m trying to help her see the value in taking time to rest and take care of yourself. I feel that will serve her well in many ways in the future. Warm regards, Sarah

  • Sandy
    5 years ago

    thank for giving me hope. having daily migraines for months now, i am forced to leave the only career and “dream career” i have ever known for 19 yrs. i know it is the right thing for me to do to take care of myself. I know that things will work out. just not sure how or when. articles like yours makes it easier to approach my husband who is finding this a difficult transition.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Change is always scary at first. I will keep my fingers crossed for you that your changes turns out as beneficial as mine did. Here’s wishing you a much improved 2015. Warm regards, Sarah

  • Wimidwife
    5 years ago

    Hey Sarah, I’m a chronic migraine sufferer, a mom, and a midwife. Before I had kids I really didn’t think I’d even be able to raise them because of how bad my migraines were. Then, when I was pregnant, they were the worst of my life. I did use narcotics, it just wasn’t an option not to. My next two pregnancies were equally as bad. Friends babysat, my husband took care of me. The first Triptan drug came out after my children were born. Anyhow, I just want to encourage you to stay open to the possibility of more children. Those months of misery were more than worth it. I’m writing this as I am sharing the Christmas season with my three grown children, my son-in-law and my two grandchildren. I had to travel 1000 miles to see them and the travel, stress, storms, strange beds etc. gave me four straight days of miserable migraines. My family is worth it all. I would absolutely do it again.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for your warm words and for sharing your story. The kids certainly make nearly everything worth it. 🙂 Warm regards, Sarah

  • body
    5 years ago

    I’m with you, Sarah.
    I had to give up my position on my nursing faculty and my dreams of a doctoral degree.
    However, because of changes in my lifestyle, adoption of stress management techniques like biofeedback and meditation, along with acupuncture, I am the healthiest I have ever been.
    Migraine will always be with me but I have learned to “rock steady down the line” and “ride the waves.” 🙂

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    I’m so glad you’re finding the positive in it all, Sharron. Here’s wishing you an amazing 2015!

  • MigraineSal
    5 years ago

    What a lovely positive article and how strange that the career which was seen as not viable is now the perfect career to fit with your debilitating migraines.

    I have to say ( and have done previously on ) that I have become much more positive since practicing mindfulness and learning to cope with migraines and have gone from only a splash in the glass type of girl to a glass most definitely half full ! It has been a bumpy ride and I would never have thought that I would be saying it a year ago but my migraines have made me appreciate life more and look at it differently . . . probably because, like you I look after myself more and make time for me, which really does help with neck pain / migraine management. I meditate daily and this has become my guilty pleasure on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon as it turns into a decadent snooze which helps me catch up on the sleep I lose because of my neck condition that triggers migraines. So thank you migraines for making me appreciate the good things in life when I have them !

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    I’m so glad you’ve experienced some good in all of this, too. Here’s wishing you a wonderful and decadent 2015!

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