What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?

Last updated: November 2012

I've always been prone to headaches. One of my first memories is of having a headache when I was little and my mum telling me to go and lie down. In primary school I often felt nauseous and threw up for no apparent reason... I now wonder if it had anything to do with migraine.

All the headaches I had before 2011 were quite mild and didn't bother me much. But that all changed in March 2011.

I'd been busy all day rehearsing for a music competition and at some point in the day I got a headache. It wasn't that bad so I thought nothing of it. It was still there weeks later and eventually I talked my mum into taking me to the doctor. She was very dismissive. I was starting to have more and more trouble with school and had very few completely pain-free days, but also only a few days a month with symptoms that were very obviously migraine. I went through two more doctors and learnt how to respond to their suggestion that I was just stressed by clearly pointing out that I was in pain in days with lots of stress and otherwise carefree days.

I got referred to a neurologist and then later for a MRI. By that point I was in pain all the time and my preformance in school had slipped a few grades down. Got prescribed Inderal as a preventative which worked well enough to give me pain-free days again, just in time for exams.

After exams, my mum wanted me to stop taking the medicine because she was worried about long-term side effects. I argued against it but she won, being just as stubborn as I am and with the advantage of not being in pain. By January 2012 any progress was gone and things were worse than ever. I had some sort of head pain all the time, was always at least a bit nauseous and a bit sound sensitive. Just in time for my last year of high school. I decided that, like it or not, my mum was going to have to deal with me taking Inderal because this was my life and she wasn't the one that had to be in pain all the time.

School wasn't going well at all. The Inderal didn't seem to be doing anything. I didn't feel like doing anything any of the time and had no idea if it was just me being lazy or if it was because of the pain. I kept comparing myself to everyone else who was doing so much more work and study than me. I suppose I was doing quite well considering the little study I was doing, but I was used to being an A student, and hated the change.

Somewhere in the middle of June the Inderal started doing something. It was like waking up and realising that I had been walking through a dream for the last few months. Although maybe a murky, icky dream. I suddenly felt more alive and realised that I had been going through the beginning of the year quite zombie-like. Now I got occasional days where I felt like studying and I felt like I could think again. That was around five months ago.

Which brings me to now. Now, everything is pretty much the same. I've been prescribed a new medicine to take as well as the Inderal, called Endep, and will see how that goes. I'm sitting my final exams in a week which is likely to be a tiring and painful ordeal. At least they allowed me rest breaks. I'm trying to stay positive and balance my study with rest. Hopefully I'll do ok.

Now for the more positive bit: having migraines and being in pain has given me a new perspective in life. I know that every day feeling ok is precious because I have so few of them. I know that I should be grateful for the life I have now, because it can all change very quickly, like it did in 2011. I am not afraid to stand up to myself to anyone. Standing up to my mum was quite hard but I managed to do it anyway. I have a small tiny shread of acceptance that allows me to have more inner peace than I've had since I was in early secondary school. I've learnt that the world can be scary and unfair, and that doctors and parents don't always know what's best. I'm proud that I've been able to take responsibility for my health and now have a strange sort of independence because of that. I'm starting to be more open about how I'm doing to family and friends. Despite the pain, things seem to be going up.

About a year ago, when I was venting (using vage terms) about the pain a friend said "I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" I replied that I wasn't entirely sure about that, but looking back, that quote does have some truth in it. I see my weaknesses and accept them (more or less), and in a way that strengthens me. The obstacles in my life strengthen me, and migraine just happens to be the biggest one yet.

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