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What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

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.

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.


  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your input. I think you are correct on a few points, like the young adult above needs to see a migraine specialist and get an accurate diagnosis. But I have to disagree with you regarding migraine being a “symptom.” Migraine is a neurological genetic disease thought to be caused by overactive neurons in our brain and genetics. Migraine is not just a symptom, but a primary headache disorder and so much more. A headache on the other hand can be a symptom of disease in addition to being a primary headache like cluster headaches and to date, there is no “cure” for migraine.

  • Robert24
    6 years ago

    Firstly, to MUM I think your child is old enough to state quiet clearly what is in his own mind. Worry less about pills and more about an accurate diagnosis. Secondly, migraines are symptom’s not diseases, your child needs to see a specialist, preferably one who knows what Myalgic Encephalomyosis, fibromyalygia fog is, what your child is describing is an illness, of which migraine is one symptom. Secondly, if your a child and can write so eloquently you are capable of googling those two words, you are about to discover 22 million people out there with your symptoms and a cure is on it’s way.

  • Teri-Robert
    6 years ago

    Hi, Robert,

    I have to reinforce what Nancy said. Migraine is a primary headache disorder, which means that it’s not caused by another illness or disorder, and it’s most definitely not a symptom of any other illness or disorder.

    There are in excess of eight million Migraineurs in the U.K. and in excess of 37 million Migraineurs in the U.S. And no, at this time, no amount of Googling will find information on a legitimate cure anywhere on the horizon.


  • Julie
    6 years ago

    Yep, sorry. I do get carried away. sorry.

  • Julie
    6 years ago

    It is kind of ironic but it does ring true that when you can withstand the horrific pain of migraine and all of the other debilitating symptoms that go with it that you can endure just about anything else that life seems to throw at you. Because Migraine Disease is pretty darn debilitating and unless other people in your life have not experienced it for themselves they cannot comprehend the pain and suffering that you are enduring. I was lucky in the fact my father suffered them when he was young but outgrew them when he became a teenager. But back in those times they called them sick headaches. He was born in 1928. My mother developed them as she was going through pre-menopause at the age of about 49-50 so that was the year of 1982-83. I started getting them when I was 25 yrs old so that was about 1987. I had moved out when I got married at age of 20 in 1982 & my daughter was born in 1985. I got a lot of support and empathy from my parents. I remember vividly the 1st migraine I got. I was lying on the bathroom floor in extreme pain and puking my guts out. I could not figure out for the life of me what was wrong. I had moved out prior to my mom’s migraines fully kicking in so I did not fully see the effects I had just heard random bits and pieces that she didn’t want to elaborate on and all my dad would say was she was sicker than all get out. but my baby girl was cradling my head and wiping my face with a cold wet washcloth and brought the phone to me so I could call my mom. She sent my dad over with some Darvocet. That was all they were giving her at the time to treat hers. Mine were random back then, thank God. But when they got more frequent I went to my family MD and that was about the time Imitrex came out. Of course the insurance did not cover it and for 9 pills when I got it filled I about had a heart attack at the drug counter. The woman that rang it up was calling the pharmacist over for help becuase I must have turned so white she tought I was going to pass out. But I had to pay it what else was I going to do. I held off taking a pill due to the expense until I could bear it no longer which in hindsight was a poor decision but man the cost was really sky high and a limit of 9 pills a month. Even back then insurance sucked. We’ve come a long way since the 90’s with abortives but we still have to use hand me downs for preventives but insurance coverage still sucks-they limit what you can get filled monthly and for abortives if they are name brand you get thrown for a loop.
    But that is a shame you had to fight with your mother and stand up to her to get the medical help that you needed. You should not have to do that. She should be the one fighting for you, not against you. I come from a line of over protective parents and my mom or dad would have gotten me the help I needed come hell or high water and let nothing stand in their way. I’m the same for my daughter. If its needed not matter what the cost it’s done. We can do w/o something to make up for it. That’s been that way for a couple of generations. Family 1st.
    The pain is unbearable. It brings you to your knees. It actually makes you curl on the floor and brings your knees to your chest. It humbles you. But in that time of being humble you reflect on the good times and focus on that and that is what pulls me through and keeps me fighting to see another day and keeps me positive. You can’t let the negative rule your life and let the past go because it’s in the past. It’s done and over with-it cannot be done and it’s over. Today you can take and make your own. Tomorrow is not promised and when you wake up you take it as the gift it’s meant to be and your cherish it and you grow and you do good deeds and help out others but most of all you thank God for giving you another day to cherish those that you love and to cherish those that he’s brought into your life and for new friends that you meet. We have been given this disease to make some good of it. To teach others how to cope with it and make some good out of it. Not to let the anger bitterness or resentment take over our lives but to take the good and help others with what we learn from it. I will pray for you that you find some peace, happiness and joy in your life and that you learn to make positive out of the pain and think of better days ahead. And on the days you do feel good go out and do something good for yourself. Go have a 1/2 hr massage, or a manicure or pedicure or have lunch with a friend. Be a friend to yourself and take the time to connect with others. You will be glad you did. And don’t let the pain of the Migraine disease win.

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