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When Migraines Age Us

Chronic migraine has a way of aging us early such that young people are living like senior citizens. How do we handle feeling as if we are decades older than we actually are? Are there any unexpected gifts within this challenging experience?

Early retirement

I was disabled by chronic migraine when I was 39, sidelined from my career before the age of 40. That was six years ago. At the time, I had great hope of returning to the workforce in my lifetime. I thought taking a break might give me time to find relief, catch my breath, and regain the strength that I believed my stressful full-time job had caused me to lose.

In my final days at work, I could barely make it up a flight of stairs without losing my breath. I felt weak and looked pale. I was worn down and a shell of my former self. I was confident that my demanding job was likely causing my migraines to worsen. A healthy work/life balance was impossible to attain given the frequency of my pain. I gave every ounce of my well-time to work (which had dwindled down to a few hours a week) and the rest of my life was spent in bed. My fantasy was that I would use my time “off” from working to get better. I would use the time to reset. I would rest, exercise, eat well and restore myself.  I thought surely I only needed a brief window of time to find my footing, focus on myself and my health before getting back to work.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It quickly became clear that my migraines were a daily reality, regardless of where I was or what I was doing during the day. They had not appeared due to my stressful job, but rather because of my biology. Like many women, my migraines transitioned from episodic to chronic as I entered my forties. Regardless of whether or not I was sitting on the couch at home, being totally still, I was in just as much pain as if I was at work, consumed by a full day of meetings. The only difference was that I didn’t have the added stress of being around people while I was sick. I didn’t have to deal with the guilt of not meeting my professional obligations. I didn’t have to run, embarrassed, to the office bathroom to vomit. While letting go of these pressures was an enormous relief, it was not a panacea for my near daily migraine attacks.

The old lady in the neighborhood

Even with no job to go to every day, the pain remains just as severe and omnipresent. There is no escaping it. My reality outside of the workforce reminds me of an elderly shut-in, shuffling around my home, tending to housework, and receiving visitors when people have the time to stop over.  A trip to the grocery store may be my only outing of the day. Energy is finite and therefore greatly appreciated and guarded. Noises are bothersome. I have to ask my neighbor to quiet her barking dog. Yes, I’ve become THAT person.

The comprehensive full-body pain and stiffness that can follow a multi-day migraine leaves me feeling frail and creaky. The nausea makes me eat like a bird. Wrap-around sunglasses give me the appearance of an elderly woman, too.  I live a quiet and regimented life, reminding me of my grandparents. Indeed, a 45-year-old trapped in the body of a 90-year-old.

I know I’m not alone in feeling as if migraines fast-forwarded me through some of the best years of my life and landed me in a nursing home. I’ve heard other people say they feel the same. When many of our peers are vacationing with their families, being adventurous, exploring their passions, or climbing the corporate ladder, we lay in bed, waiting for pain to subside.

Looking to ancestors for wisdom

I can get ridiculously tangled up in the injustice of it all. But ultimately, that anger and rage only leaves me with another migraine. So, rather than fighting it, I strive to embrace and this idea and look for the lessons instead.

I think back on my grandmothers, who were both amazing women. In their quieter years, with bodies slowing down, they found ways to stay engaged with the world through volunteer work, appreciation of wildlife, and crafts. They taught me how to love and laugh. And even though they are no longer here, I know I still have much to learn from them. Their examples give me strength and teach me about aging with intelligence, humility, humor and grace.

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

  • reelfoot
    12 months ago

    I understand completely. Migraines had made themselves known in my early 20s and then I had a car accident. They took over my life. I led a full life with a full time job and was active in the community and life stopped on a dime. I ended up disabled at 30. I had worked in mental health and didn’t recognize my own symptoms until the depression was black. The link between migraines and depression wasn’t made yet. Amazing that it took so long! I waited on my life to get back to normal and had to accept I now had a new normal. The person who went down the rabbit hole isn’t the one here now, but this one streamlined alot of things in life and I eventually learned to control my environment as best I could and when one came for more than a few days, know there was light at the end of the tunnel. It was a good story. Thank you for submitting it.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    12 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your really moving story. I especially appreciate how you recognize that despite a very difficult turn, your journey has resulted in your evolution. Instead of thinking of it as a loss, you’ve chosen to focus on what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown as a result. It’s inspiring to read. If you ever feel moved to expand on your tale, we’d love to invite you to submit your story so that more of the migraine.com community can read it here: https://migraine.com/stories/ Thanks for considering.

  • deadeyes
    1 year ago

    Thank you for sharing. I feel so blessed to find this community. My daughter is going off to college and I feel like I losing my caregiver and the only person who understands my condition. My family and friends regard me as standoffish because I don’t know when I will get a good day and I don’t want to make plans. I also can not do as much as I used to. I blamed myself for not functioning like others my age. Just to hear that this could be a “normal” progression of living with migraines, has helped me. Thanks

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @deadeyes – I’m glad this article and the comments below resonated with you and am so glad you shared some of your journey because I think you’ll find many have connections to what you’re facing. I also have a child going to college in the fall- such a huge transition as I think we migraineurs count on our core family in such key ways. I also fear that family and friends misread my need to be tentative with plans simply because I don’t want to let others down through constant cancellations. https://migraine.com/?s=constant+cancellations . It is tough to let ourselves off the hook and remember that we are not at fault for any aspect of this incredibly challenging disease. Being a part of this community can help immensely. Very glad you are here!

  • Macbeck
    1 year ago

    At 55 I should still be working toward retirement where I wanted to travel to visit my family (we are spread from coast to coast) or take nature hikes. Instead I finally gave in two years ago and applied for & received disability. I was blessed (with my final tax refund) to visit my older granddaughters in Virginia last year (I live in Oregon). I’m no longer able to fly due to migraines, so it’s train travel for me, and I rely on friends for trips to the grocery store, library or post office as it’s no longer safe for me to drive. It takes me a half hour or more to wake up enough to get out of bed most days. On my good days I have enough energy to wash my few dishes, and maybe even a little flower gardening. Vegetable garden? Nope, not enough consistent energy for that anymore either.

    So do I spend my time moping? Let me just say that about 20 years ago I decided that I could let the migraines run my life, or I could take each day as it comes & live life the fullest that I’m able (I’ve even been called a terminal optimist, which means one of these days a pessimist or grumpy person will likely kill me someday… haha). Looking positively doesn’t take away the migraines, does nothing for the daily visual migraines or the multiple vestibular migraines each week, nor does it increase my energy on the bad days. Rather, for me at least, it helps make the bad days easier to handle, because I’ve seen positively on my good days.
    Just don’t ask me how old I feel…

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @macbeck– Thank you for this wonderful post. I hope others see and are inspired, as I am, by your philosophy and approach to handling migraine. It is not an easy road, but I also believe that willing oneself to find positivity can help: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/looking-for-the-bright-side-of/ . I’d love to hear more about your flower garden! Thanks so much, again, for sharing.

  • bluesjr
    1 year ago

    Like so many others here, I’ve had the same experience, except from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFIDS), which I contracted at 44, 19 years ago. I had a life, career, relationships, all of which quickly went by the wayside, and was a single father with a small child to raise. And yes, I too was closer to a grandparent in energy, as my mom clearly had more energy than me. I am also very familiar with the feeling that accomplishing one small task a day was significant, and an errand out the house was major.

    So, fast forward 15 years and migraines struck bringing a new level of disability, new symptoms/struggles to deal with and a further separation from what’s “normal” in the general population. The only bonus is that many more people have at least heard of “migraine” and have some sense that’s it’s severe, than with CFIDS. But for the most part, they only see it as a very bad headache with maybe some light sensitivity and have very little appreciation of the range of disabling symptoms. And before getting to this point, even I had no idea that migraines could become chronic.

    I do have at least one friend that says it’s OK with her to schedule something and cancel at the last minute, but you know how hard that is, especially when every day there is some level of impairment. So, when to pull the ripcord and bail?

    Anyway, thx for the article. I can relate!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @bluesjr – So glad this article resonated with you. Having the double whammy of CFIDS and then chronic migraine sounds like the perfect storm in terms of taking a hit on your energy. “A new level of disability, ” indeed! That is a lot to manage. I’m so glad you’re here and a part of our community so that you can feel more ‘normal’ and see that you are a part of a huge part of the population. There are over 36 million of us migraineurs- so you are in good company here. As to finding that one friend who is OK with the last minute cancellations – it is so rare, but when you find that – it can be a blessing: https://migraine.com/blog/constant-cancellations-the-rare-friend-who-can-navigate/ I thought you might find this piece relevant as well: https://migraine.com/video/secret-stay-or-go/ . Please stay in touch!

  • nettie
    1 year ago

    Hi
    I am so glad to know there are people who feel the same as me. I mean my cousin has the same health problem but I don’t see or talk to her much. The one person I was close enough to talk to that wasn’t my mother was also one of my cousins. We talked about everything and supported each other because we were both disabled. She was a brittle diabetic and I have multiple health problems. Well my point to this is that she passed and now I don’t really feel like I have anyone who fully understands what I am going through with my multiple health problems, so this right here is nice and very helpful. I’ve had migraines since I was around 5 (earliest I remember), but they became constant 24/7 in 2002 when I was I believe 22 yrs old. That lead to my firing at my job, and then we went after disability and I got it on the second try thank goodness. Both my parents are now disabled, my dad is a disabled veteran, and I live with them, but I just don’t think they understand some of the extent of my health problems. I don’t really go anywhere but doc app and family things. Sorry for the long comment I could probably keep going but I think that’s enough for now. Thanks to everyone for understanding, it means a lot. Thanks Nettie

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @nettie – Please feel free to keep going with your story anytime! That’s what we’re here for and we’re so glad you are a part of our community. If you haven’t already, please check out our facebook which provides another lively place to connect with, provide and gain the support of others who are navigating the complex challenges of migraine. Again, glad you’re here and stay in touch.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi @danadibs1979 – no worries- it’s fine to ‘go off the rails!’ This is a safe place to do so. I almost sent you the link to the article about whether or not migraines make you mad or sad, but remembered you’ve already read it! I love your take on things and appreciate the way you share your journey. You are so good to point out the very different way it’s possible to reach 90. I remember my 90 year old grandmother still had her hair done every week too, just like yours. The other day, I shuffled passed my husband after a 13-day run of an intractable intense attack and said, “on my way to the nursing home…” Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Dana
    1 year ago

    Went off the rails a little bit there . I just remember my grandmother, who passed away when she was in her early 90’s….she still dressed to the 9’s, wore pumps everyday, went out to lunch with her friend (yes, just one left), they got their hair done every week. I feel like I’m 90 and not her kind of 90.

  • Dana
    1 year ago

    I don’t know how to react when I read these stories. Jealous because someone got approved for disability and I didn’t, sad because I know what it feels like to become old and broken, angry because I was working towards my dream when I got cut down 4 years ago at 34. But the truth is, we all have the same feelings, maybe directed differently, but they’re there. I was a teen mom, so my career started a little later than most ( I was lucky to be able to stay home when my kids were small) (and I bet that made someone angry or jealous), but I was working 12-16 hours in a pediatric hospital and going to school for nursing. I had two active kids….I made it to all the sporting events, I was involved with their school, I had “mom” friends and “work” friends and slowly things just started getting harder, I couldn’t do 16 hour shifts, I could barely do 12, then I had to take break from school, then I couldn’t work at all. I knew I wasn’t going back to school, I was barely getting out of bed. My involvement in school stopped, I became the mom who sent in plates and cups. The friends stopped calling because you can only be told no so many times before you just stop trying. Now I leave the house for doctors appointments and if I’m lucky an occasional soccer game. I’m on Medicaid and food stamps and the Appeals Council denied my request to have the Judges decision overturned. Right now, I have a lawyer looking at my case to see if I can take it to Federal Court. I’m 38. How did I get here? I pray to God everyday that my daughters NEVER have to go through this. Migraines are evil, they are a silent killer.

  • montanaday
    1 year ago

    Too crazy. My husband and I were just discussing how much I’ve aged the last couple years due to migraines. I used to have one “lightning bolt” going through my right eyebrow, now I have one on each side with a deep furrow in the middle and that is with Botox. My hair is much grayer and I have zero muscle tone, I used to coach a girls team and play on both a women’s and mixed league team, working full time and getting home most nights after games at 9 or 10. I partied with friends regardless if it was a work night and my house and rigs were always clean. No more. I love getting together with friends but either I’m fighting a migraine or too exhausted to want to go out. I have tremendous guilt from missing events and more so, when my husband doesn’t go to them without me. I felt like I was 100 years old before I finally quit work, I can remember seriously thinking about getting one of those ride around carts when I was only 57, that was when I knew I couldn’t keep working and fighting this disease. Thankfully I’m not feeling like I need that cart quite yet now that I went on disability but I can’t believe the person I am with this disease, I don’t recognize her. I wish my grand kids could have known the old me. I am lucky though, I was able to work 30 years and have a retirement along with disability and I have a great husband. It helps to relate to others and know you’re not crazy and have your feelings validated. I wish everyone a good week ahead.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @montanaday– thank you so much for sharing some of your story with us. Glad to hear this article resonated with you- though somewhat sorry to hear that, too, as the subject is a tough one to relate upon. I can relate to so much of what you described as well! I’m just emerging from a 11-day relentless attack and my body is so sore and depleted, I told my husband (as I shuffled passed him) I feel like a ninety year old. Awful stuff. Having a great husband does help- and relating to others who share the same struggle lifts some of the burden. Glad to know you’re out there and that you’re a part of our community. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • HemipeligicHead
    1 year ago

    YES! This is so similar to my story over the past six years! The episodes became so frequent and lengthy that I left my profession, a career that I spent twelve years building. I finally decided that I would rather be broke, than sleeping on the filthy floor of my high school classroom. I rest when my body needs it now, rather than suffering eight hours through those fluorescent lit rooms. I was an avid contra dancer, yogini, skier & backpacker. Now I struggle on the yoga mat after every attack having to build up strength on my left side and learn how to adjust my poses to my “old lady” body. Contra dancing only happens when I have someone to drive me home (about once every couple of years.) Backpacking turned into a slow hike on flat trails. I spend hours knitting or watching shows. I do what I can when I can around the house. I thought I was going crazy! I mean who sleeps at workshops and during meetings? I know many have it way worse and I’m grateful that I have weeks out of bed. I have made peace with my new life, for the most part. The isolation is tough though.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @hemipeligichead – thank you so much for sharing your story. It is rich with wisdom and perspective from which others can learn. Getting to that place of acceptance can be a journey- and it’s an ever moving target (never completely achieved, in my experience). It’s wonderful that you still strive to do yoga, hiking and contra dancing, even if not as often, or differently, as before. A new life, that is a good way of putting it- making peace with that new life- it’s a big important (and challenging) process. The isolation is indeed a challenge because migraine by its very nature is isolating. It is for this reason that I find our community all the more important. So glad you are a part of it. Thanks again for sharing. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • kimmersutphin
    1 year ago

    I had to retire at 57 with two Master degrees and working my dream job as about bio terrorism senior epidemiologist with my daughter office right next to mine and my best friend of 30 years down the hall. But because of my migraines I couldn’t make it to work and eventually had to go on disability. It has aged me more than I even realize. I see my mama looking back at me in the mirror these days. But I have hope with each new treatment I’m going to get better

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    @kimmersutphin – Thank you so much for sharing. I can deeply relate to your story. As I mentioned in the article, I medically retired before the age of 40. At the time, I was working a fascinating job with my sister in the same organization down the hall. It was a job that allowed me to travel to other countries and one I’d been working toward for years. The heaviness of being forced to leave the workforce is doubled when it’s something about which one is passionate. Living through severe pain and experiencing the shock of having life upended will undoubtedly have an impact on our bodies and outward appearance. Interestingly, a stranger told me that they could tell I had a migraine the other day. I was conflicted about how to take it. In some ways I think the fact that migraine is an invisible disease makes it very hard to make others believe that it is a real condition. On the other hand, if people could really see what migraine looks like, it would be terrifying to behold: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/what-if-migraines-were-visible/. The truth lies somewhere in the middle – when we’re in the midst of an attack, many of us show a sign or two (especially visible to those who know us well), but the cumulative effect of a lifetime of attacks (wincing pain, furrowed brows, tight necks and shoulders, and on and on) has got to take its toll and show itself eventually here or there. When I see wrinkles and gray hairs coming in early, I try to remember that I have earned every single one. These are signs of survival and ultimately of resilience and strength. And yes, let’s maintain hope that the new treatments coming ’round the corner will hold efficacy for us all. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • cindyd
    1 year ago

    This is a GREAT article. I think you captured the feelings of so many with chronic migraine. I spend every weekend worrying about the upcoming week and wondering how I will ever make it through the upcoming five days…I don’t. I have FMLA that protects my job and bosses who understand but the guilt is still there. I don’t know how much more I can stand…have been working for over 30 years and raised my boys by working at home as a medical transcriptionist until they were older. I’m so very tired…sigh.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi cindyd- My goodness you hit the nail on the head just with your last sentence. I think so many of us are walking around exhausted. Not only because of the postdrome flu-like experience that can follow each attack, https://migraine.com/living-migraine/chronic-bodys-slow-leak/?r=, and because of the potential side effects of medications we are taking, but because of trying to juggle all of our roles atop being in constant pain. Having constant severe pain is like carrying around a 200 pound weight while roller skating at the same time as doing all the normal everyday tasks. Or it’s like listening to blasting loud heavy metal music while trying to read a detailed book. It’s taxing on so many levels. I’m glad the article resonated with you and please remember you are not alone in this. I’m so glad you are a part of our community. Stay in touch. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Wendy
    1 year ago

    I just left my job yesterday because of migraine and all that goes along with it. I feel like I am dying most days but am so sad to be leaving a job that I love. I do feel like a shut in. Migraine has stolen my life and I keep trying to get it back but keep getting worse instead.
    Thank you for sharing so we don’t feel so alone.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Wendy, I’m so sorry to hear that you had to part ways with a job you loved. It’s a heartbreak when that occurs. And while the transition from working to not working can be tough, it can sometimes lead to seeing things differently. https://migraine.com/living-migraine/not-a-human-doing-a-human-being/ You are not alone, Wendy. It’s so normal to feel sad and angry. This is all part of the emotional soup that is migraine. Please stay in touch and let us know how you are as you make this transition. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • King of Pain
    1 year ago

    I had to take disability retirement at only 47 years old. I have more health problems in addition to migraine. I can relate to so many things stated in the article! I have an additional struggle. I’m perceived as being about 10-20 yrs older than I actually am. It’s embarrassing and awkward and makes me feel bad about myself. Sometimes, I’m automatically given, “the senior discount” even though I am 53. You might think, Hey, great!”. But it isn’t. Usually only a matter of this year cents or so and you’re once again reminded how awful you look.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi King of Pain, it really can add to the pain of migraine to feel the way it’s aging us. I was thinking the other day about the way that migraine is an invisible disease, but the long term toll it takes on our bodies seems to leaves a visible mark. I hope you can at least remember and be reassured that you aren’t alone. Very warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • litoria76
    1 year ago

    I am 41, the chronic daily migraine started when I was 38 and cost me my job. Luckily my 75 year old mother provides a home and supports me. (I constantly feel like a burden and wonder what will happen to me when she passes.) I’m trying to get disability so at least I’ll eventually be able to qualify for low income housing and be able to support myself. I’ve been denied twice for SSDI and my appeal was denied. Now I’m waiting for a hearing with my disability lawyer and a judge (an 18-22 month wait!). I too spend most of my time in bed, wearing dark sunglasses, waiting for the pain to stop. Not because I want to but because it’s all I can do. I’m sorry you’re going through this but I understand completely!

  • Deb
    1 year ago

    I relate to your experience and so many others here. Chronic migraine and other disabling physical impairments have prematurely aged me and totally changed the transjectory of my life. I understand your frustration with the SSDI process. There are a million cases backlogged for a hearing. I am glad you are being helped by a disability lawyer. That is so important to win your case. I want to encourage you with something a SSDI support company told me. 80% of the cases won are won at the hearing level. The process is long, grueling, and extremely stressful. Hang in there. Wishing you all the best.
    Gubs

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    litoria76- I’m so glad you shared your story. You are not alone in going through the many chapters involved in applying for disability. I was also turned down twice and had to go to the hearing stage. For me, that’s what it took. I hope this will work out for you. There are so many of us who are spending the day in bed and waiting for the pain to pass. Although I would never wish this pain on anyone else, it helps me to know that I’m not alone. I hope it helps you too. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Shaggy78
    2 years ago

    I just turned 39 and went on disability 4 years ago so we are in very similar situations. I suffer from chronic migraines and occipital neuralgia which is somehow all rooted in the constant, severe clenching of my jaw from which only stops when I manage to sleep.
    I can no longer relate to anyone close to my age. I move at the pace of my parents and their friends who are all in their 60’s and feel so much older than I am.
    My pet peeve is when people exclaim to anyone that can hear how wonderful life is and that they feel so much younger than they are. I’ve seen so many people in their 60’s boast that they still feel like they’re in their 30’s or 40’s. It’s like rubbing salt in a wound. I’d give ANYTHING just to simply feel my age and to look forward to the future.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi JA1978- We are peas in a pod, indeed! If it weren’t for the chronic migraines that make it so I can’t be counted on regularly, I’ve often thought I’d like to volunteer at a senior center as I would really enjoy the company of people in that age bracket with whom I wouldn’t feel I was having to be compared, compete or keep up. Thanks for your comment! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Newdancerco
    2 years ago

    This is me! I’m in the process if filing for disability, as I can no longer function. Most days I can barely get to the kitchen, much less do anything useful.
    I feel so alone and useless, despite my partner’s emphatic focus on being here for me and happiness that I just accepted his marriage proposal. I mean, who is be bound by headaches?

    Me.

    Thank you for demonstrating that I’m not the only one who has walked this road.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Newdancerco- Congratulations on your recent engagement. It’s great to have a partner who wants to be there for you. Regardless of those wonderful loved ones, it’s important to stay connected with others who are navigating migraines to get that unique kind of support and to remember that you are indeed not alone in this. Remember to try to let yourself off the hook sometimes. When you talk about being ‘useless” or not getting anything “useful” accomplished- remind yourself that just by getting through a day of severe pain is a huge accomplishment! https://migraine.com/living-migraine/the-accomplishment-of-making-it-through-a-day-with-a-migraine/ So glad you are a part of our community! Please check in to our articles and our lively facebook page regularly! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • RBarker
    2 years ago

    I’m almost to this point at 24…
    I have been chronic since high school and even had a bout of intractable migraines before beginning the botox injections. Now I have foregone my career as a teacher to work on an ambulance just doing basic transports and trying to hold on until my husband can finish school. I fight every day to keep my thoughts straight (I have terrible short-term memory) and my partner has to remind me of something simple at least once a day (she’s fantastic & so understanding).
    I hope I don’t end up living in solidarity, but I worry that I may be heading that way. 🙁

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Amarande, you are not alone in these feelings or fears. It is startling how many ways migraine can impact us and alter our lives. When I have moments of wellness, I try to do some yard work, and lately have been trying to pull up some ivy. When I pull a vine from the dirt, and see how many tendrils are spreading from that one vine in countless directions, wrapping around rocks and trees- I’ve thought about how it is symbolically similar to the ways that migraine spreads into our lives- leaving no part untouched. It sounds like you are doing all you can to keep it from overtaking you — working despite the pain- finding a job that you can manage – working toward a goal with your husband – maintaining a healthy relationship with your coworker who you so clearly appreciate. By staying in motion, and continuing to pursue treatment options that help to decrease your pain pattern (so glad the botox is helping) you are keeping those migraine tendrils from wrapping around so tightly that you are paralyzed. You are doing the best you can despite this condition – and that’s truly all you can do. That, and to surround yourself with a loving support system and to keep remembering: you are not alone! There are more than 36 million people just like you who are trying to navigate these challenges right alongside you every day. Stay in touch with us. Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Evolutionary
    2 years ago

    Like many other here, I feel your feels. I became chronic at 46 and now 12 years later I often feel old, so much older than my friends who are hiking, vacationing, active. I work a very limited schedule at home, take walks like you, enjoy my cats, and live quietly. Despite the love of many, I do feel isolated, as I feel like I am living a slowed down tempo, just walking across a crosswalk can make me anxious (again there I am feeling elderly prematurely). On the other hand, I do love being around older people and their simple wisdom. I have learned to meditate, enjoy my flowers (even if I can’t do the gardening). I also look so much older, and I know it’s from pain. So bye bye vanity. I had the time to be with my parents in their last days and that was a blessing. You never know what life will bring and I never ever thought I would be here. I was very very active, also a dancer when young, but things change. I appreciate your honesty and it will help me as I live my quiet circumscribed life.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for ringing in, Evolutionary. I feel a whole article could be written about the topic of vanity. How migraine takes so much from us and then, a top all else, steals our beauty too. The final blow. It’s such a shallow thing (in the face of losing things like marriages and friendships and careers), but also a very personal thing; to look in the mirror everyday and see change brought on by disease. Recently, a medication I take caused me to lose handfuls of hair for months on end. An ego-crushing experience. How many lessons are there to learn? I guess they must be endless. Good to know I’m not the only one who experiences a raised heartbeat while crossing the sidewalk. It really does help to know we’re not alone. Thanks again for sharing. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • aks868
    2 years ago

    I think we live parallel lives–Migraines stole my forties! I thought I would be back to work since my children are now teenagers or in college, but I am still struggling to get through a week, still feel like I am treading water, and still hearing doctors say, “well I have nothing else to offer you!” I am definitely trying to hold on to the positives and welcome the good moments and days, though.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi again Aks2868! yes- we do seem to be two peas in a pod! So important to try to look for the positives but definitely hard to do in the face of chronic migraine. The condition makes a constant wreck of our plans. I’m still trying to hold out hope for new developments on the horizon. Have you heard of CGRP?https://migraine.com/news/updates-on-promising-new-drugs/ Hopefully, one day soon our doctors will say they actually have something to offer us!. Thanks as always for sharing. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • DinaMay
    2 years ago

    I know what you mean, and thanks for sharing. I had planned on having a career once my kiddoes were in school. I did get some part time work but eventually had to quit. More episodes of working followed with more episodes of not. At 62 I’ve given up on episodes. So I don’t qualify for disability — didn’t work long enough at a stretch and took too long at home before working more.

    This has left me spending much of my time with other stay-at-homes who are mostly my mother’s generation. At first this was tough for me to negotiate since I was shy and self conscious to start with and unsure what to talk about. But after playing bridge with many a lovely older lady, I’ve decided this is the upside to staying home so much. I’ll never really get good at bridge because this challenging game catches me when I’m starting a migraine and memory is out to lunch, or during a migraine so I need to call a substitute, or just after a migraine when I can’t put 2 and 2 together, much less bid a winning game. But I found people who have their own troubles, who tolerate my uneven mastery of the game, and I have truly been blessed.

    I have also been blessed with a husband who has filled in, in a pinch, with seeing to supper or walking the dog. So too are my grown children blessings and the grandchildren I see more often in photos than in person.

    Every day that I can drag myself out for a walk, no matter how short, is a blessing because I see beauty almost everywhere — in the clouds, in the flowers blossoming in other people’s gardens, in the feel and sound of gentle rain (on those rare occasions when the rain lets me get out of bed), in the sheen of ice and snow which makes me put on sunglasses. These are blessings because they lift my soul from the depths of despair.

    I’m not explaining this well, I realize. But it has to do with a clever saying that had to do with lemons. I hope this helps.

  • Marcus
    2 years ago

    You explained yourself wonderfully! Thanks so much for your input.
    I’ve had migraines since childhood, but in July of 1994 they became transformed chronic daily migraines. I was in the third year of a major new career (operating a personal financial advisory two-state practice. 2 years later I had a breakdown and a seven-month medical leave of absence. Then in 2001 I got a divorce and sold off 3/4th of my practice, in hopes to improve my ongoing chronic daily migraines. A little over a year ago I sold the rest of my practice because I was deep in burnout.
    Even though I was 63 at the time, it was a good seven years earlier than I had planned to retire.
    I still live with chronic daily migraines, having become Intractable or refractory since about 2009. My cocktail of meds, which I take three times a day, on average, keep me mostly OK. Not working, just as slowing down, have not changed my migraines. It’s just that it doesn’t matter as much.
    I too see my grandkids mostly via photos and FaceTime. I’m still adjusting. I’m still learning to accept what is.
    And reading your experience today has been like water in the middle of a desert!!!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    DinaMay- I love your message. It’s really a mini-article in itself- a beautiful and real story that I hope many will read. Grateful that you shared such a real part of yourself for the rest of us because we can all relate and it helps to remind us that we’re not alone.

    I can relate to so much of your story – sidelined from work and finding myself in the company of stay at home moms. A different world than that to which I was accustomed. All the ways we identify ourselves, relate to others, and try to fit in, over the course of our lifetimes. You might find some connection to this article on the topic of defining ourselves:https://migraine.com/living-migraine/not-a-human-doing-a-human-being/

    My grandmother was a huge bridge player. She tried to teach me over and over again. My migraine brain could never follow its intricacies. Though I tried and felt I was holding on for dear life when I played along once or twice. I like that you talk about the simple but important challenge of finding someone to stand in for you for any commitment. There is such weight in that reality. And there can be such guilt in it as well.

    I’m with you on your walks as well – seeing the beauty in everything and wishing we could be out there more. I’m also with you in being grateful for a husband who is helpful and understanding. And I raise a glass of lemonade to honor you (and the rest of us) for doing our best to enjoy all we can in this life.

    So grateful you are a part of our community! A kindred spirit. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • Anne
    2 years ago

    yes to all that. I am finally turning around from three or more migraines a week to one a week thanks to the right preventative. I had to take a job that I could do with a migraine as most of my days were with migraines and now I’m finally coming up for air. I’m taking a class in a subject I’m interested in and looking at going to graduate school. My brain is working much better without continuous migraines. But, I thought one was coming on yesterday on the day of a test – luckily, it didn’t but the threat of a migraine hijacking my brain always looms. I’ve started to go back to exercising, but the years of chronic and near chronic migraine have ravaged my body. I have no muscle strength anymore which is so frustrating as I was always someone in tip top shape. I’m having to relearn a social life, as most of my weekends were spent in bed in the dark. I’m forcing myself to make plans while still afraid that migraine is going to kick in when I’m out and about. Migraine sucks the life out of you, no wonder you feel like you’re prematurely aging.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Anne- Bravo and thank you for taking the time to gift us with an illustration of hope. It’s unfortunately a bit rare to hear from someone who is returning from chronic into episodic. It gives us all hope to envision such a thing. And yes, just to think of climbing out of years of muck, sloughing off the traces of pain and all its necessary habits to embrace a more healthy future. Keep going and report back! So wonderful to hear this. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • Bean
    2 years ago

    Wow, it’s as if I wrote this and all the comments.  Grocery store as big outing for the week, check. Stepping away from my career in my late 30s, check. And yes, the woman at the pharmacy counter knows my name after only having moved to the area a few months ago (so I could be closer my family to help me). You joke about an old person home, but if there was as community for young and middle-aged chronic migraine sufferers (I hate that word), I’d be there! Wishing some good days to all of us! Thanks for writing this!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hey Bean! So glad you found this article and connected here. Very happy you are a part of our community. You are not alone and I’m glad you shared a bit of your story to remind me I’m not alone either. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • Holly H.
    2 years ago

    Holly B… Let me comment on your last paragraph first… such a loving picture of your grandmothers. I am soon to be 65, and aging gracefully as you described sees value in that. Lovely.

    However, aging way before time and accelerated aging due to chronic illness just steals away what “should be.” As you see others in your age group going and doing, you think about what “could be.” But absolutely nothing takes the pain and systemic effects away; it’s just a matter of degrees of migraine-related suffering throughout the day.

    A while back, the words “get creative” became etched into my thinking. I’d think to myself, “Come on, get creative, what CAN I do?” Well, not much at all this past two or three weeks. But over in the corner of my little apartment are some items for beading, coloring, painting on a little glass vase… simple, basic, colorful things to do that makes me get creative in order to make something prettier, fun, or more appealing than it was before. And it occupies me while doing it. Just a little bit of coloring occupies my creativity and time for a while. Even if not touched for awhile, there is stuff ready for a bit of creativity; not “have-to” stuff where I will feel guilty for not accomplishing, but “get-to” stuff to look forward to.

  • PaJeane
    10 months ago

    Holly H., I agree with “get creative”. I also have set up my “art studio” in a corner of my apartment. I’ve chosen painting, acrylic pours specifically, and greeting cards for my projects. It does help to feel as though you can still create something beautiful when life feels full of pain most of the time. I’m 65 and have had chronic migraines from the time I was 12. Darn you, puberty! Like every other migraine sufferer I’ve been through the hoops, doctors, tests, drugs etc. After all these years I’m aware of what works, what my triggers are and have just accepted this is the way things are. If a person seems willing to listen I do try to educate them. I tell them migraine is not just a headache. It’s a full body experience. Headache is one symptom of the migraine syndrome. Anyway, good luck with your creative endeavors. It always feels good to throw some color around!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Holly H. – my goodness we have a lot in common! Besides the fact that I used to be a Holly H., your perspective, and your writing, reminds me of my own. I am grateful that you shared here, thank you. I really relate to what you said about watching your peers continuing on their merry way as you wrestle with varying degrees of pain each day, never really free of it. They do and do and go and go- and we have to find a new way to define ourselves. I wanted to share with you a recent article I wrote on this very topic that might be of interest to you:https://migraine.com/living-migraine/not-a-human-doing-a-human-being/

    Lastly- I wanted to thank you for sharing this piece about creativity. I completely relate and do the same thing! I have taken up collage in the last few years. It is something I can pick up and put down depending on the severity of my pain, and sometimes even do while in pain. It is a peaceful creative activity that leads to a concrete result i can hold in my hand. Something I can show for my day. I used to write music but can no longer complete that process due to my pain and the creative process that music writing demands. But collaging is something I can manage. Cooking is another. Point is, looking for little ways that delight and lift the spirit are important- and spirit-nourishers.

    More power to us all! Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team)

  • officechik
    2 years ago

    At one point I had my migraines “under control” to where I had less than 1 or 2 per month. That was before the: Divorce, Layoff from job of 24 years, Menopause, bouncing between contract jobs and unemployment, several bouts of other health issues. So back to Chronic Migraine at age 45 (now age 49). Probably stress and anxiety of the above listed items, plus weather related triggers and seasonal allergies.

    At age 49 what happened to me? I ask myself all the time. When did I fall apart? How did life end up like this. I don’t have a choice regarding working…I have to work to support myself for at least the next 17 years until I am eligible for social security, if it is even there!! I have no where else to live. And I still have to find a permanent full time job, not these “contract” jobs that say “contract to hire” but don’t really mean it and don’t pay any benefits or vacation / sick pay / holiday pay.

    I have a few on-line friends who also have chronic migraines, but most people don’t.

    Michelle

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Michelle- thanks so much for joining in to the conversation. You are not alone in this! That sense of turning around and wondering “what happened to me?” is one I think many women wrestle with as they age. Period. But you add migraines to the mix (medications, lack of sleep, frequent or constant pain, stress, challenges with work and money)- and the volume is turned up on every front.

    Sorry to hear of your struggle to find a full time situation that works for you. I thought you might find this recent article on the topic of full time work and migraines of interest: https://migraine.com/living-migraine/i-have-a-job-but-i-also-have-a-migraine/

    Lastly- you’re certainly not alone on the issue of FEELING alone in having chronic migraines. Very few of us know people in our real lives who have migraines as often as we do. That’s why migraine.com can be such a relief. I know for me, I come to the facebook page and the website to remind myself that I’m not the only one wrestling with this level and frequency of pain. We are here for you to provide support anytime.

    Very warmly, Holly (migraine.com team)

  • abipolarpenguin7227
    2 years ago

    I definitely relate. I’m 39 and have lived with chronic migraine for 5 years now. Every day I feel like more of my life is slipping away because I’ve been unable to work, and it’s been so hard to try to stay positive, especially since most of the people I considered friends can’t seem to find a minute just to send a text to say hello anymore.

  • laurahildebrand
    1 year ago

    I have had the same experience. My migraines became chronic at 46, and in the next year I lost my career, my husband, and friends who don’t understand that migraine disease is not a headache. I’m very lonely and isolated and suffer from severe depression and anxiety. I was finally approved for disability last December. Every day is a struggle. I’ve lost just about everything that ever mattered to me. I have a daughter at college, but she’s been shortchanged by migraine too. When she’s home and I am bedridden with migraine I feel even worse. I can’t even be the mother I want to be to my daughter.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    1 year ago

    HI laurahildebrand- I’m so glad you joined this conversation and shared your story. What a relief that you were approved for disability- a process that can prove difficult for so many. Your description of being against the very real challenges related to depression (a well-known comorbid condition that accompanies migraine) is familiar to many of us. And the restrictions that migraine places on us when it comes to fully participating in our lives and the lives of our loved ones is terribly depressing in itself. I”m glad you’re here to be reminded that you are not alone in any of this. It is incredibly important to connect with others who are in the same boat. I hope you’ll spend time in the comment sections of the articles here and the lively migraine.com facebook page community. It can be hard to find others in our real lives who have it as hard as we do, but here, and on facebook, it can be relieving to find others who are navigating the same challenges. Additionally, I’m assuming you’re connected with a migraine specialist with whom you can share openly how you are feeling. Your specialist should be able to connect you with a therapist or support group if there is one in your area. Stay in touch and glad you’re here- Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    abipolarpenguin7227 – thanks so much for your comment. Definitely tough to see the terrain of our friendships changing as migraines take a toll on everyone around us. https://migraine.com/blog/constant-cancellations-the-rare-friend-who-can-navigate/ I have seen my circle of friends shrink, but those who have remained are golden. I hope you have one or two family or friends you can still turn to. If not, be sure to plump up your support system on other fronts. Either a support group – online or in person – or a counselor – and your friends at migraine.com are always here to provide information and support. Our facebook page is always alive with conversation and understanding folks. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team)

  • Tamara
    2 years ago

    Yup feel the same and I’m only 29 ….. I have no idea how I’m going to survive and get any kind of savings going. I can’t even pay monthly bills right now. Just going to pretend it’s not happening and pray something changes. I don’t qualify for any program because I make too much … a whole $20 000 a year.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Tamara- You are not alone in being between a rock and a hard place with the “too much income for benefits” thing. I have heard several people mention this irritating and tough reality on our site and facebook page. I can tell you, as someone who accesses disability, it certainly is not enough to build a savings either! Perhaps we’ll have to team up together with all migraineurs to create an awesome migraine old folks home for all of us to end up in. A place with low lighting, non-triggering foods, quiet, soothing sounds, beds with comfy pillows- that’s somehow free for all! You’re 29… so, I’ll meet you there in 60 years. 🙂 Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • GinaD
    2 years ago

    I can definitely relate – I’m 41 and have had chronic migraine since my mid-twenties. I’m still working full time but find it very, very difficult – not to mention the added weight of the guilt I feel for not being able to give it my all. I can barely get through the work week, never mind other obligations (family, house, etc.) or actual fun stuff. My life revolves around the question “how do I feel today?” I’ve totally turned into my grandmother. And you know it’s a bad sign when you go to the pharmacy and you don’t even have to ask or say anything, and the pharmacist is already reaching for your prescriptions 😉

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    GinaD- I totally forgot to mention the pharmacy thing in my article! Perfect and so true. My pharmacist loves me because I basically fund his small business single-handedly and, like you, he reaches for my bag of scripts when he sees me walking in. Not something I’m proud of. Also love your statement of a life revolving around the question of “How do I feel today?” You really hit the nail on the head there too. You are not alone in any of this. Here’s a great piece by a fellow contributor on the topic of guilt, since you mentioned it. It provides some wonderful guidance about how to let it go: https://migraine.com/blog/letting-go-guilt/ Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team)

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    “A trip to the grocery store may be my only outing of the day.”

    Put in WEEK in place of day for me. Thanks for the article. Courage.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Luna- great to hear from you. Indeed. I actually haven’t made it to the grocery store this week at all. As you well know, some days, and weeks, are better than others. Warmly, Holly (migraine.com team).

  • SouthernUtahGal
    2 years ago

    I want to thank you for this article! I too am recently on disability and in my mid 40’s after years of struggling just to work 10 or 15 hours a week and refusing to not go down without a fight. I sometimes get very depressed and frustrated with my situation. I have two daughters I am trying to raise by myself and wish I could go back to work and be a happier, more involved parent when it comes to school activities and performances. These articles help me realize I am not alone, many other people are struggling with migraine and the stigma of it. I also try to remind myself while I wish things could be better, they could also be much worse.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi SouthernUtahGal,

    Thanks for sharing a little of your story with us. Please know that you are definitely not alone. We here to share support or just to chat when you are feeling isolated. Have you joined the conversation on our Facebook page yet? There’s always lively conversation waiting there as well. – Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

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