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Accepting Disability

Several of my friends and family members have disabilities. Since I was old enough to understand what “disabled” meant, I’ve always been very careful with the word and its synonyms so as to only apply them when appropriate and merited. When my migraines turned chronic two years ago, it never even crossed my mind that I might have a disability.

When I started missing a day or two of my full-time internship every couple of weeks, and stopping meeting deadlines because I couldn’t focus at work with a raging migraine pounding against my forehead, I began to think about what would happen when I returned to classes next semester (not to mention the deadlines I had already missed at my internship!).

I went to a neurologist for the first time in October. She was the first medical professional I’d ever met in my life who believed me when I told her that I had migraines – I described the headache, the aura, the nausea, the family history, and she agreed, that yes – I do have migraines, and yeah, it’s about time I used modern medicine to address them.

It took me four more months to register with my university’s Disability Resource Center. I felt out of place in the office, which was outfitted with overstuffed chairs and non-fluorescent lights and a “no-cellphone” rule, so as not to trigger or alarm other students. I felt like this office catered to those who were, well, disabled, and I certainly didn’t fit that category.

When I met my disability specialist, things changed. She told me how she worked on the Americans with Disabilities Act, to ensure that individuals with all types of impairments – physical, like the one she had, mental, behavioral… they would be covered. She discussed how my neurological disease could be a physical impairment, speaking to the limitations I already lamented. And she helped me develop reasonable accommodations for my classes, understanding that my disease is not predictable and so I would need a little extra help along the way.

Above all, she helped me see that my disease can be a disability, and that having a disability allows me to access a vocabulary to speak about my migraines with my teachers, my employers, my co-workers, and my loved ones. It gives me a more nuanced understanding of the challenges I face, and helps me put my life into perspective against the lives of so many others – those living with disabilities, and those living without them.

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.


  • Tbald
    3 years ago

    Once diagnosed at 13 with chronic migraines I was still expected to do well in school (honor roll, national honor society, and triple major in 4 years of college). Somehow I lived up to all those expectations. Fast forward to last year… I was in a bad car accident. I was a passenger in a car that was hit head on by another car that crossed the center line. I’ve lost the use of my right hand due to a crushed nerve and always where a brace to keep from hurting it worse as well as a severe concussion. I am seeing a neurologist for my daily migraines and have had one or two ‘good’ days since the accident. My family is supportive (as they can be) about my hand, but choose to ignore the larger issue of the chronic migraines. I think its just because its not visible, it can be ignored. Unfortunately, the migraines have been more disabling than my hand! Has anyone else had a similar experience? What can I do to make them understand? I have not been able to work since the accident and my roommate IS very supportive about it all, but the holidays have been really hard.

  • Tbald
    3 years ago

    I’ve always suffered with migraines since I was about 12. At that time they did an MRI to rule out other issues and I was sent to a neurologist. My mother is ‘anti-medication’ to a degree and so whenever I had a migraine I sometimes was given a couple of Tylenol and sent to school.

  • lindiesue
    3 years ago

    I became disabled from my migraines 2 years ago, had to leave work, had 3 neck surgeries in hopes that they’d help with the migraines. I have gone from uncontrollable migraines 3-4 times a week to controllable ones 2-3 times a week, meaning I can take my meds at the onset and lay down and get back to somewhat normal activity within 3-4 hours. Had to jump through the proverbial paperwork hoops with social security but finally got things all approved. It’s hard to handle the fact that I am disabled by these headaches, but I am finally coming to terms with it.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi lindiesue,

    This is wonderful to hear that you have slowly been able to come to terms with this condition. I know this must & is an enormous obstacle to overcome. It sounds like you have a very good self-care routine now that you have stepped away from work & that you are able go about somewhat of a “normal” routine. Thanks for taking the time to join in on this important topic. Take good care, Joanna ( Team)

  • Douglas
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It never occurred to me that I could potentially access disability related resources for migraines without being unable to work. I will have take a look at what resources I can utilizes to keep me working as long as possible.
    Again, thank you for sharing.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi katbriboe, thanks for sharing your very encouraging story. I’m truly impressed by the progressive attitude of your university. It would be so lovely if that attitude could carry to at least all of our medical community, and even better if it translated to society at large.

    We’re glad that you’re part of the community! -All Best, Donna ( team)

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