Departments: Pictures of You
Demi, 18, high school senior with chronic migraine.
When were you diagnosed? I've had headaches since before I was 10, but I was officially diagnosed at age 12.
What are the biggest challenges you face? Finding a new normal. I can't keep up with my peers all the time. I used to swim competitively, but I had to stop because an elevated heart rate can lead to a migraine. This was all trial and error, figuring out what I could or couldn't do. I know my limits now. Another challenge, particularly at school, is having a chronic illness that is “invisible”—I don't look sick.
Is there something that you have found particularly helpful in coping with the illness? Yes! Music. I'm a teenager, so I always have my iPod. Music has really helped me deal with migraine. If I'm in my bed at home or in a hospital bed being poked with an IV, I can listen to music and it's something to focus on besides the pain. I especially like One Direction and Ed Sheeran.
What does the future hold? I got accepted to all the colleges I applied to, even though I missed 160 days of high school. I am interested in working in counterterrorism and national security. If that doesn't work out, I want to go into politics. I had a great experience being part of Headache on the Hill, which is sponsored and led by the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. It's a yearly event in Washington, D.C.
Any advice to others with a chronic condition? Remember that while you may have a disease, your disease does not have you. Find something that you can focus on when you have a lot of pain or are just having a bad day, whether that's music, art, or whatever else makes you happy.