What’s it really like to live with chronic health problems every day? How do you deal with the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and practical problems? In this interview series, real life ‘spoonies’ share their experiences and tips.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Danielle Newport Fancher. I’m a writer and migraine advocate. I’m sick of the stigma that a migraine is seen as “just a headache.” And, I am on a mission to change that perception.
When did you first get sick?
I’ve been suffering from migraine since the age of 16. I’ve experienced chronic migraine for the past ten years. And on 10/2/2013, a migraine started that never stopped. In result. I’ve been battling constant pain ever since. This means that I haven’t had break (not even for a minute) in over five years.
In what ways does having migraine affect your daily life?
Given that I am in constant pain, I am always catering to my migraine in every decision that I make. I don’t want to make a poor decision (like not drinking enough water or accidentally skipping a meal) to put me over the edge and trigger a new migraine.
How do you handle everyday practical problems?
Coaching. I’m constantly coaching myself through the pain. My self-coaching starts right when I wake up in the morning. Every day, I need to coach myself to lift my head off of my pillow because it feels as if it’s being pulled down by weights. The coaching continues throughout my entire day.
Do you have any tips on coping with symptoms? Is there anything you can do to prevent relapses?
My #1 piece of advice is to connect with other migraine sufferers. It’s been an invaluable lesson for me. Even though I have different experiences from my other friends battling migraine, they all seem to understand me on a level that no one else can.
To help with bringing people together, I have built a network of migraine sufferers on social media @MigraineWriter on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’ve found that connecting with other suffers via social media has been the easiest way to connect.
Having chronic health problems comes with a lot of psychological challenges, like feelings of sadness, anxiety about the future or a lack of support from family and friends. How do you deal with the emotional and social side of having migraine?
I write. Living in constant pain often makes me sad, lonely and angry. It’s hard to experience these extreme emotions, especially when I am stuck at home in my bed. That’s why having an outlet of writing has been helpful for me. I can write at any time of the night about whatever comes to mind. While the process is not always enjoyable, I find that it’s the most practical outlet for me, especially given the constraints of my illness.
How do you keep joy in your life on a day-to-day basis?
I have an incredible support system; I recognize that I am really lucky. Even when I am in a great deal of pain, I make my friends and family a priority. Having these interactions with people who care about me, even if they are by phone, keeps my spirits up.
What would you like to tell others who are diagnosed with migraine?
You are not alone. I understand that this is an isolating illness, but please don’t forget that there are so many of us going through a battle against migraines. The issue is that there isn’t any dialogue around this misunderstood topic.
Danielle Newport Fancher is a writer, migraine advocate and author of 10: A Memoir of Migraine Survival. Fancher attended Skidmore College, where she received her BS degree in Management and Business. She currently lives in Manhattan and, in her spare time, can be found writing at her favorite coffee shop in Gramercy.
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