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A woman shown in three different positions, one as a survivor, one as a victim, and one as a warrior.

Are you a Migraine Victim, Warrior, or Survivor?

Let’s clarify some definitions* before we move forward. For the purposes of this article, we are using these terms in the following ways:

Victim: when we focus on how migraine negatively impacts us. Synonyms are instructive: “sufferer, injured party, wounded person.”

Warrior: when we focus on responding to the challenge of migraine. Digging deep to find answers, triggers, solutions. “A brave or experienced soldier or fighter.”

Survivor: when we focus on how to live with migraine. Incorporating past and present lessons, looking at life with migraine from a 30,000 foot view, striving for the big picture. A person “who copes well with difficulties in his/her life.”

Migraine disease can evolve over time

For those of us who have been living with migraine for a substantial period of our lives, we may notice that our relationship to the disease evolves over time. This evolution isn’t always linear as we may cycle through familiar emotions, patterns and responses. Migraine can impact our lives in such a comprehensive manner and the journey is deeply demanding. Proactively thinking through how we respond to life with migraine can help us learn and grow from the challenge.

Victim of migraine disease

For me, and I imagine for many of us, especially early on in the life of migraine disease, there can be a natural and very understandable sense of victimization. Why me? We often know no one else who is dealing with such severe and relentless pain, so it’s easy to feel singled out. We are often unable to participate in the joy of life. We are constantly forced to cancel plans. We miss vacations with family and nights out with friends. Our social circles may shrink in response to our inability to cultivate our relationships.

Our career growth may be slowed by absences or an inability to pursue promotions. Indeed, some of us may be sidelined entirely from our careers and are disabled by migraine.

Feeling, literally, under attack

Migraine attacks can hit hard and without warning. When that happens, it’s hard not to feel well, literally, under attack. As we wait for the other shoe to drop, looking over our shoulders, we may find ourselves living in fear. We are angry because of all that’s been taken from us due to the disease and we are sad because of all we’ve lost. And when we are hit with a migraine attack, we are left feeling physically and emotionally depleted, weakened, and as if we’ve been brought to our knees.

Migraine warrior

After some experience of living with the disease, or for those of us who have it chronically, our relationship to migraine may begin to shift. We’ve been through so many attacks that we begin to search for patterns; for cause and effect. It’s only natural to become obsessed with finding any rhyme or reason. If we can identify triggers, we begin to hope we can disarm them, in order to quiet the disease.

The feeling of being victimized and out of control and being hit again and again so randomly becomes too tiring to sustain. We want and need to find some answers. We need to assert some control.

Through this process, we may observe a return of our sense of self. Of course, the random attacks continue, but for many of us, as our awareness and education about the disease increases, the sense of feeling attacked may decrease. As we begin to know and understand the disease, we lessen its ability to terrorize us.

We may recognize that energy is lost from being angry. Or we may decide that making peace with the disease allows us to expend our energy in more positive ways.

Feeling resilient living with migraine

After some time, we may begin to have the refreshing perspective that we are resilient rather than weak. Indeed, that we are strong. This doesn’t mean we’re happy to have the disease, but we understand that we’ve grown from it in a powerful way. In fact, we might even see that the disease has called forth in us a strength that we wouldn’t otherwise have found. We might even develop a sense of gratitude for what migraine unearthed deep within us. Migraine requires us to be resourceful, stubborn, patient, and demanding as patients, and we can’t help but become compassionate in the process.

Becoming a migraine survivor

As mentioned previously, there is no linear process when it comes to responding to migraine emotionally. We may feel in touch with a healthy sense of gratitude one day, and then, after a particularly tough week of migraine, we are back to feeling victimized and angry all over again. We focus more on what we’ve lost than anything we could’ve possibly gained from this horrific disease.

It is only with significant time and thoughtful reflection, might we begin to see ourselves as survivors. To me, a survivor in this context is someone who owns all aspects of the disease. The good, the bad, and everything in between. Someone who recognizes the disease for the journey it is and who is grateful for and seeks out the lessons that lie within the challenge. Those who embrace the scars that this life has brought because they are signs of lessons learned and embodiments of experiences.

Ongoing migraine cycle of emotions

The ability to see and appreciate the bigger picture, and how migraine might fit into one’s life is really about developing perspective. Perspective can be hard to come by when one is fending off severe pain, relentless vomiting, and brain fog. And, as previously mentioned, this process is nonlinear. When those worst-of-the-worst attacks come back, I go right back to feeling the victim. And, indeed, no one perspective or role is better or worse than another. All are normal and key parts of living with migraine. I tend to believe that anyone who lives with migraine has cycled through feeling like a victim, a warrior, and a survivor at one time or another. Each perspective has lessons and insights to offer.

Do you relate to the idea of having the perspective of a migraine victim, warrior and/or survivor? Which resonates with you most at the moment?

* Merriam Webster Dictionary

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • deedeevee1
    4 days ago

    Me personally, it depends on my pain levels and other factors going on in my life at the time. I’m all three wrapped up into one flaming hot sizzling disaster.
    Today, pain is thru the roof, and they’re hanging new siding on the townhouse. I’m feeling more like a victim. Meds aren’t working, Neuro is on leave, her PA (that was phenomenal) no longer works there, I’m fighting with my insurance for coverage of meds, I had to cancel an upcoming trip to visit family, so yea today I’m totally feeling the victim part. But tomorrow is a new and different day!! I’ve been all three and I’ll continue to be!! Hopefully more warrior soon!! Thanks for letting me vent. Sorry for the verbal diarrhea. Lol much love to my migraineurs!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    21 hours ago

    @deedeevee1– always so great to hear from you. What a storm you described- a convergence of challenges that would only serve to further trigger migraine attacks (stress, stress and more stress!).

    Despite it all, it’s so impressive that you have the ability to wake up the next day with hope in your heart for a new day. I’m a glass half full kind of gal as well. And as for the venting- that’s exactly one of the purposes this site is meant to serve. It’s a safe space to offload, so have at it!

    And you’re so right about what you said in your other comment – despite this incredibly challenging journey, we are here for each other- we’ve got each other’s back. So grateful for you.

  • mbabi1970
    4 days ago

    Hi Holly. Always appreciate your articles. You write for the community whereas I just journal my feelings and experiences for myself. I have definitely been all 3 over the last 12+ years. And I so agree that even if you’ve gotten yourself to Survivor mode, it takes just one bad attack to bring you right back to victim. I don’t know if that will ever go away. I’m hopeful but I also realize that usually on day 3 of a bad attack all the usual suspects show up. And it’s so easy to feel bad for yourself. Not as easy to pull yourself out of it. I’m still learning as are so many others even decades after suffering chronically. I think what’s hardest sometimes is that my good day is what most others would classify as a bad day for them because I am always in pain. It just depends on the level. I’m so sick of hearing “ I don’t know how you live like that” from people, friends and family alike. I want to be treated normally but then part of me wants to be acknowledged for the pain I endure every day. It’s a rough and bumpy road for sure but I’ll take and keep my Survivor status.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    17 hours ago

    @mbabi1970– I’m so glad to hear from you. You’re so right that the context of what most consider a normal/good/baseline day is very different than what it is for those of us who live in chronic pain.

    The dynamic of being pitied as the person who has migraine definitely does get old. And you’re so right to point out the tug of war between wanting to be treated normally but then again needing to have the challenges be acknowledged.

    These challenges you so eloquently point out are unique to chronic pain/migraine and are more examples of why it’s so helpful to bring them here to let them air out. Hopefully by doing so, your load is lightened and others relate and are relieved to learn they are not alone. I know that I feel relief when I read your words. I hope you feel the same. I’m so grateful for the way you share. Thank you for being in touch. I hope you will be moved to continue doing so. Thinking of you.

  • deedeevee1
    4 days ago

    I’m in the same boat as you. Constant pain everyday it just depends on exactly how bad each day will get. We ARE SURVIVORS. Tho sometimes I WONDER how we can live like this too. That’s what is sooo great about Holly and the rest of the gang here at migraine.com. Is knowing that we’re not alone and that we ALL can be SURVIVORS and WARRIORS!!

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 days ago

    Thank you for SUCH a supportive comment! It is members like yourself that help to make Migraine.com such an amazing group! Love your message…no questions migraine warriors!! Lovely as always hearing from you.

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