Life with migraine is often punctuated by loss, missed occasions, and personal sacrifice. For Wendy Bohmfalk, a 46-year-old mother of two who has struggled with migraine for nearly 20 years, the disease has been so debilitating that it has affected her ability to enjoy personal moments, made it harder to spend time with her family, and has significantly impacted her career. After many years of feeling like a helpless victim, Wendy began writing down her story as a way to cope with her illness. Through her writing, Wendy discovered hope and newfound purpose: to build understanding and advocate for others who live silently with the disease.
Wendy recalled a particularly severe recent episode that took place during a painting class. “It was about 3:00pm and I started getting completely lightheaded. When the pain set in, I knew this was not my normal migraine. I went home, got in bed, and turned off all the lights. You don’t want to move because you’re afraid any movement could make things so much worse.”
For Wendy, missing a day, a class, or a special occasion happens often. “I was maid of honor in one of my best friend’s weddings,” she recalls. “I was standing in the wedding party and could feel myself swaying the entire time, experiencing excruciating pain. I made it until the ‘I dos’ and then I bolted from the altar. I was sick to my stomach, curled up in a ball, and missed the rest of the wedding.” Over the years, she’s missed many other special events, including birthday parties, holidays, and school programs for her kids.
Migraine has also impacted her life in larger, more fundamental ways. “My husband and I decided five years ago that I should quit my job,” she says. “It became too much.” This loss of her career not only put new financial strain on her family, but also impacted her on a personal level. “I couldn’t work and raise my two boys. It really discouraged me because I felt like I had lost so much control, so much potential.”
Wendy says that despite these ongoing challenges in her life, her relationship with migraine has started changing for the better, in part thanks to newfound public awareness and understanding of the disease. “People are beginning to understand that [migraine] isn’t just a small thing that shuts you down for a couple of hours and then you spring right back to life,” she says. “This is a life-altering illness that deserves just as much attention and research as any other.”
After years of feeling like a victim to her illness, Wendy started writing down her personal migraine story as a way to process her own feelings, as well as to better communicate her experience with those close to her. “I had this desire to put my story down on paper, hoping that someday it might help my boys understand it more,” she says. “In the process, I was able to really communicate what it’s like to live with migraine.” Wendy has sent her writing to friends and family in order to help them better understand her day-to-day struggles.
In the process of sharing her story, Wendy hopes to become an advocate for others who live with the disease. She wants others living with the disease to know that coming to terms with their disease, and accepting it, is often the best way to cope. For those not living with the disease, Wendy hopes to make them understand that migraine is not just headaches — it’s a real neurological disease.
“I finally feel like I have a real opportunity to help others understand how migraine affects your life each and every day,” she says. “I’m no longer ashamed of telling people that I have migraine. I’m learning to accept the disease for what it is, and I feel empowered to be an advocate, rather than a victim.”
For more information about migraine, visit SpeakYourMigraine.com.