“The idea that I could still be helping someone while feeling so helpless at the same time was really important to me.”
In a recent Facebook Live, we introduced members of the migraine community to Michelle Tracy, moderator for the American Migraine Foundation’s Move Against Migraine support group and the writer behind The Migraine Warrior blog. If you missed our Facebook Live, watch the video below or read on to learn more about Tracy’s experience with this disabling disease and why she got involved with migraine advocacy.
A Difficult Journey
Tracy, 33, had her first migraine attack at 19 when she was a sophomore in college. She was experiencing severe pain, nausea and vomiting. Her parents were concerned, so they took her to the emergency room.
“A lot of us in the back of our minds, when we first have that severe migraine pain, we think it’s going to be some kind of brain aneurysm because it’s such an intense pain,” she said.
The ER doctor diagnosed Tracy with migraine.
“After that, I seemed to be getting migraine attacks several times a week, which eventually went to several times a day,” she said. “I arrived at a point where my diagnosis was chronic, intractable daily migraine, which means I had a migraine all day, every day, and it was very difficult to treat.”
The game-changer for Tracy came when she finally decided to see a headache specialist. In 2015, a decade after her diagnosis, Tracy found a certified headache specialist in her area who helped her determine an effective treatment plan.
Finding a Dream Team
People in the migraine community often ask Tracy how they can create their own “dream team” of providers. Tracy’s team consists of her certified headache specialist (who is also a pain management doctor), her primary care physician, her psychiatrist, her therapist and her massage therapist.
“What we work to do together, the five of them and me, is increase my quality of life — increase the hours that I’m able to do things—and try to get me to a point where I’m living and not just surviving—where I’m thriving and not just living,” Tracy said.
Tracy concluded her Facebook Live with a significant discussion about the various migraine treatment options that are available, as well as what has worked for her in the past.
Advocating For Others
Tracy knew she wanted to be an advocate for the migraine community in college—just as her migraine attacks were becoming more severe. When my attacks started to get really bad, I knew I wanted to find a way to make my pain mean something,” she said. She began writing about her experience on The Migraine Warrior and getting involved in education, fundraising and migraine advocacy.
“I felt like if I wrote something, and then I had to spend the next week in bed… that my writing and my thoughts would still be out there on the internet somewhere, and somebody could be helped by what I said,” she said.
Community plays a huge role in living with migraine. Tracy tells viewers she has met countless people also living with migraine who have been an incredible support system. Many people with migraine lose people in their lives because some people don’t understand the condition. For these people, Tracy recommends finding others through the Move Against Migraine Facebook group who can make them feel supported and understood.
“It’s a really fulfilling way to process the kind of pain, and quite frankly trauma, that some of us go through with these chronic invisible illnesses,” she said.
Join the American Migraine Foundation’s Move Against Migraine Facebook support group for professional advice, information on new treatments and other helpful initiatives. Then visit our library of Facebook Live recaps with patient advocates and some of the leading headache specialists in the country. Additionally, our doctor-verified resource library has more information on how you can determine a migraine treatment plan with the help of a headache specialist and how you can better advocate for yourself and the migraine community.