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My Story: Chronic Migraines & A New Life

My name is Diana Lee, and I’m a 30-something married to a wonderful guy. We have adorable furbabies, Maisy and Felix, and a very happy life together. Oh, and I have chronic migraines.

I have had chronic migraines for about seven years. They have nearly taken over my life. I started having migraines when I was six years old, but until 2003 I had them only periodically and found it fairly easy to manage my life with them. My sure fire triggers were overheating and sun exposure, which ruined many a field trip and family vacation. I also began to notice that anytime something really exciting was going on in my life I usually got a migraine. Talk about a downer. Yes, I missed out on some really fun times in my childhood as a result of migraine attacks, but they never changed the overall course of my life. Until they did.

In 2003 I was a newlywed in my final semester of law school. I was preparing to graduate and spend the summer studying for and taking the bar, and, of course, looking for a job. I started having intense, unrelenting pain in my neck and more frequent and intense migraine attacks. At the time I assumed it was due to the stress and pressure of law school finals, graduation, studying for the bar exam and furiously hunting for the right job. I started avoiding things I’d always done, such as social drinking, hanging out with friends and reading for pleasure, because I felt bad almost all of the time and didn’t want to do anything that might make things

In the fall of 2003 I started my first real job working as a lawyer in state government. It was my dream job, and I was thrilled to be doing what I’d dreamed of from the time I learned about that type of work. I felt certain I would begin to feel better since the stress of the bar exam and finding a job were behind me. As I worked hard to learn the ropes at my new job my migraines began to get worse and more frequent rather than improving. Eventually I found myself burning through my sick leave and napping in my office to make it through the day. I was so desperate for rest that I would shut my door, turn off the light and lie down on the floor using a jacket as a pillow to get some shut eye. Once my cell phone alarm went off I’d get up and try to pull myself together enough to function in the meetings I attended as the most visible part of my job.

After trying desperately to hang on to my job, it finally became clear it was impossible. While I have retained my law license, my life has completely changed. I am on Social Security Disability and Medicare. I write my blog and do other health advocacy work and a little pro bono lawyering. I don’t go to an office or interact with coworkers. My pets are my only daily companions. Even though my life isn’t what I thought it would be, I am a very happy person. I don’t take anything for granted any more.

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.


  • Leigh
    7 years ago

    How did your employer deal with your migraines? I have ADA accommodations and FMLA intermittent absences, however my new supervisor documents every absence and lateness and reads me the riot act in person and in earshot of these I supervise every time i m absent about how my absences are causing her so much stress and affecting the office badly. I am her second in charge, yet she criticizes me in staff meetings at which my direct reports are in attendance, has my direct reports tattle to her on anything such as taking on a last minute project to help someone out,. She chides me if I am lying down in the restroom after vomiting for an hour. She ignores my ADA accommodations, but has eased up a little the last couple weeks on the screaming and door slamming after I told her she was contributing to the migraine I have had since mid July. Botox usually helps but the weather patterns and office stress have not allowed any relief. I cannot quit as I am head of my household. I have had migraine illness over 40 years. The last five have been rough with several family deaths, including loss of dad and brother and near loss of mom who still lives with cancer, husband’s job loss only a year after we had to take on a large new mortgage when our home was seized in a government project, multiple health issues from work and home environments. I had a career. I was working on a master’s. Enjoying family. Now I am a lifeless drone. And I am so, so exhausted . I too have napped on my floor with a cell phone alarm and an ice pack.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Oh Leigh, sounds like you have a rough one to work for. Is there any chance of talking with her privately about the things that are upsetting you and the fact that she is not following the law? Is it time to chat with HER supervisor or would that make the entire scene just too awful?

  • Wendy Atlas
    8 years ago

    botox did not work for me- hope you get some relief from it.

  • Wendy Atlas
    8 years ago

    have you tried a 3 day IV push- it curied me after stuffing chronic headaches for over 40 years thanks to Mayo Clinic.

  • Sara Borders
    8 years ago

    Reading this blip was like looking at the past year of my life. Suffering from migraines for over 20 years, they become chronic last year. I just had my Social Security hearing and have been out of work the past year. Learning to live with chronic migraines [with two toddlers none the less] has been an adventure. Lots of love to all of us dealing with it!

  • Lisa Jurcich Kovach
    8 years ago

    Just wanted to let ya’ll know that I told my Neurolgist about this site today, and he said he would check it out. I told him to refer it to his patients! 🙂 Diane Lee, I so love my furry kids & on days when I have it bad, they snuggle next to me.

  • melindas
    8 years ago

    wow…you sound just like me. having migraines since age 5 and now being 35, you’d think we would have suffered enough already. i understand the job problems because i spent many lunch hours sleeping it off in the car just trying to get through the day. i hope you can find a doctor to help you with your treatment. keeping a headache diary has helped me more than i thought it would. i track my food intake and my headaches in it so the doctor will have some idea of what i am dealing with. i read a book that changed my life, but i understand everyone is different. “the migraine brain” by carolyn bernstein MD is my saving grace and maye it could help you too. understanding the migraine brain helped me get to the migraine free life i am living now. talking to others with migraine is also very important because feeling alone is just one more symptom we have to deal with. that’s one symptom we can get rid of very easily right now. good luck with your quest for a migraine free life…i know you deserve it.

  • Elaine Gross
    8 years ago

    You’re an inspiration Diana. To have such a positive attitude after studying and working so hard, and attaining your law license, and then having it all turned upside down. There would be some who would be depressed and bitter, but you’ve turned it around and have become an advocate to all of us who suffer with this disease. Helping us, and helping you too, I’m very grateful to you.

  • Anne-Marie Allen
    8 years ago

    Bless you Diana Lee…and those furry friends. Lord knows what I would do without mine. She is my daily companion and keeps me company and loves me unconditionally. We are also very lucky to have a husband that understands and keeps hanging on with us through this crazy roller coaster of life we have endured so far. Hopefully the best is yet to come! 🙂

  • Taylor Christine
    8 years ago

    I am so sorry, diana, I have had migraines with aura since I was about eight ~horrible during pregnancy and prior to my period, I used to call my neurologist and he would send me to the er this is after five days of in bed and suffering it impacted my job as a nurse I was unable to take sumatriptyphine I should have tried to get on disability as well, but they are improved as of late.
    prayers for u.

  • Joy Stapler
    8 years ago

    Just had my first injections of botox. Holding my breath hoping for some relief. I was diagnoised with chronic migraines in May. I was always told I had complicated migraines but after three months of almost daily mig. I saw another neurologist ( took six months to get appointment) at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama and he diag. me with chronic. I have alot of pins and needles in legs or sometimes feels like electric current running thru them, extreme fatigue, stomache pain, inability to concentrate, nausea, pain in neck and shoulders, slurred speech etc…etc…I also have a chiari malformation of 5mm. I’ve been told the chiari is irrelivent because of the size but with the worsening headaches I’m concerned! I had to take a leave from my job, which was very had to do. The guilt of having the constant mig. along with inability to work has taken its toll on me. I have a wonderful and patient husband but our lives have drastically changed because of my illness.

  • Jessica A. Fetterley
    8 years ago

    Oh my, I completely understand what you are going through. I have had botx injections 4 times now and it works about 50% – at least lightens the load a little – but you have to wait longer to get it redone than it lasts. My migraines are constant and chronic. I have had them pretty much daily with “spikes” for the past 3 years. I survive but some days all I have the energy to do is work and take care of my children.
    I wish you well. I wish all of you well.

  • Tracy Brooks
    8 years ago

    Wow, that sounds so much like my life but in a different field of study and I was able to do my field (cytopathology) for 12 years…..lost a job I love due to missing work and now have just run out of my unemployment and have filed for disability/SSI and got denied, retained a lawyer and trying to find a way to deal with daily life with chronic multicomplex refractory migraines! I have just started a botox therapy and keeping my fingers crossed that it provides some relief. Any tips or info on how to keep these in check; what works for you? Since you are a lawyer any ideas/tips on the disability case? I am trying to collect all the information that I can and any that you can provide would be greatly appreciated..Thanks.

  • Farmer
    9 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. I so enjoyed at the end when you mentioned that even though life isn’t what you thought it would be, you are still happy and take nothing for granted. I’ve just arrived at the point in my life that I’ve accepted I have to give up my great job. It’s not easy but I’ve decided the struggle of hiding my illness and appear normal is more difficult and my health is more important than a career. Now comes the fun part of trying to get on disability! As if I didn’t already have headaches! =)

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    9 years ago


    Thank you for sharing your story here. I always hate to hear when someone’s life is changed so drastically by Migraine, but you really have made your ‘mess’ your ‘message’ by making yourself available to help so many others battling the same disease.

    I wouldn’t wish this disease on anyone, but I am so very glad you’re here to share your insight and knowledge with us. Thank you <3

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