Shelley’s Story of Resilience
My migraine story began a decade ago when I was in university. I was studying for an exam one day when suddenly I began vomiting without warning. I did not realize that this was my first migraine until much later when I began having more frequent attacks featuring other symptoms as well. I am now all too familiar with the various expressions of my migraines, ranging from a simple dull ache above a drooping eye, to a throbbing ice pick in the back of my head accompanied by nausea, vomiting, numbness, shaking, fatigue, nasal congestion, and neck pain. My migraines have changed so much over time in terms of presentation and frequency. More recently, I spent two years with chronic migraine with up to 30 headache days per month and several visits to the ER for dehydration and status migrainosus. Although the physical pain was very difficult, the emotional toll of dealing with migraine every single day was exceptionally challenging. I was doing everything I could to hang out and keep up with my old life as best I could, but eventually, it caught up with me.
Migraine turned my life upside down and affected everything from my ability to pursue my career, to my finances, to my relationships, and to my capacity to engage in my favorite sports. I have dealt with the frustration of juggling multiple medical appointments without finding much relief from any of the prescribed preventative medications. Worse, I have dealt with a myriad of side effects that have made life even harder for me. Despite all this, living with migraine has had silver linings. I have learned to truly listen to my body and slow down my pace of life. I have had to make tough choices in prioritizing my own wellbeing and allowing myself the time and space to heal.
I have truly appreciated how lucky I am to be surrounded by supportive friends, family, and coworkers while recognizing the struggle of having an invisible illness in our society. I have made huge and healthy changes in my lifestyle that I would not have otherwise considered. I have learned to appreciate the smaller things in life that I used to take for granted. I have been paying much closer attention to the link between my physical and mental health too. For anyone out there who feels hopeless right now, like they will be stuck with their pain forever, please know that it can and will evolve. Even though I still have migraines nowadays, and my life is far from how I imagined it, I have shown myself that I am resilient and that I can still have a good life, just a different life than I expected.
The Migraine Monster & Me
The Migraine Monster is an unwelcome little buddy who is tethered to me throughout my life as I battle chronic migraine. This animated film is my submission to the American Migraine Foundation 5th Annual Migraine Moment Short Film Contest. This story portrays my reality living with this debilitating neurological disorder that is too often misunderstood. It shows the pain, the loneliness and the challenges she faces regularly, while also highlighting the triumphs and the value of her community of supporters.