I’ve taken on many identities in my life, various activities or occupations that I affiliated myself with. In middle school, I was a dancer and swimmer. In high school, I was a musician and sailor. In college, I was an aspiring architect and photographer. Now, in my post-college life, I’m just… sick.
It’s natural to affiliate myself with groups I participate in. Shared interests and all that. As a kid, this affiliation made it easy to meet people with whom I had something in common. It gave us something to talk about, a shared point between our different lives. Even now, like most adults, I seek people who share my same interests: those who knit, or read, or sail, or speak French. As a kid, a big part of my identity was what I spent my time doing. You are what you do.
Now that my chronic illness (chronic Migraines) defines my life and overshadows everything I do, it’s hard not to define myself by my illness. I am a Migraineur. I Migraine. This self-definition drives me to seek others who also suffer from Migraines (whether chronic or episodic), and others suffering under the label of “invisible illness”. I’ve joined a thriving online community of Migraine and invisible illness sufferers, all who can empathize with my daily struggles.
I worry that by defining myself as a chronic illness sufferer – and no other definition – I lose the essence of who I am. Migraines, after all, have taken over my life, giving me not a moment of my day when my head doesn’t hurt, I feel nauseous and dizzy, and I can’t stand to look at any sort of light. When Migraines define everything I do, it’s hard to stop them from also defining my existence.
But I am not Migraines, and Migraines are not me.
So who am I?
I’m a young woman, a girlfriend, an aspiring architect. I’m a knitter, photographer, musician, sailor. I read, watch tv, do puzzles, pet my cat. I draw, I think, I write. And I happen to suffer from Migraines.
It’s a delicate balance between my Migraines and my identity. But I’ve found that some of my self-definitions – knitter, reader, writer – are what help me cope with the chronic pain, because they help me to connect with myself and with other, healthier people in the world outside my Migraines.
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is an excellent way to raise awareness of invisible disease, and bring together those from all walks of life who suffer invisibly, if not silently.
MJ is a 25-year-old chronic Migraine and chronic daily headache sufferer. In her healthier life, she works in the architecture field, with the dreams of designing urban architecture around the world. In her Migraine life, she blogs (
) and participates in a number of online health communities, including MyMigraineConnection. Her goal is to promote awareness and understanding of Migraine, a genetic neurological disease. In her spare time, she knits, crochets, sews and reads. She also enjoys traveling and black and white photography, and hopes to continue both despite her illnesses.