“It’s in my nature to push through, but after 18 years I am questioning how sustainable pushing through is”

Haider tells us about the sacrifices he made to progress his career, and the impact those sacrifices had on his migraine

23rd April 2024

For around 18 years now, I have been living with migraine. Starting when I was leaving college and going off to university, I’d experience a lot of pain along the left side of my head and sometimes it would be on the right side too. My father also lived with migraine for about 20 years, and recognised some of the symptoms. So, I eventually went to the doctor as they were becoming more frequent, and they suggested it was migraine.

It affects my eyes, my balance, impacts my daily life and can sometimes cause me to vomit. There have been times when symptoms have been so severe that I have had to go to hospital. Migraine means constant medical appointments and I’ve seen so many doctors over the years. Lots of medications I have been prescribed have come with side effects that are hard to deal with. Basic over-the- counter painkillers are a staple of my weekly grocery shop now!

Some of the triggers I’ve identified are travel, weather, routine changes, crowded and noisy environments, driving for long hours, hunger and pressure at work. I also sometimes wake up with bad migraines and a heavy head and sometimes in middle of the night; it happens a few nights in a month which is a very tough situation to deal with and it gets me into my deep thoughts, why at this time?!

“I try to make my own timetable. Migraine, however, has no timetable!”

It can strike at any time, and the length of attacks can vary. Sometimes, I get migraine attacks continuously 3 to 4 days in a row or 10 to 12 times in the month. I used to feel so frustrated, any little sound around me and light would add more pain, thinking ‘what have I done to cause this attack?’; and why is it happening to me?! I eat well, walk, don’t drink alcohol or smoke and generally live a healthy and balanced life, yet still migraine attacks would come. Now that I’ve come to realise that I can’t control and manage when the migraine strikes, I still live as healthily as I can but try not to critique myself as much.

Work is an important aspect of life for me, and I’ve always approached it with an ‘if anyone can do it, I can do it’ attitude. I really enjoy helping people, and I think it’s in my nature to push through, it’s like I have no concept of failure.

“I worked hard and long hours, and I often didn’t have the money to buy lunch so I would go without”

When I was just starting out in my career, I was so eager to work and to progress. To gain experience, I took on an 8-month unpaid internship. During that time, I worked hard and long hours, and I often didn’t have the money to buy lunch so I would go without. When I wasn’t working, I would spend time in the library, studying. I was just so determined to get into work, and it’s led to a successful career in software engineering and now I am working at one of the world’s top tech organizations. It came with sacrifices though and during those years I was often in so much pain.

Although my workplace is understanding, especially my manager, and colleagues are supportive, I still don’t share the full extent of how migraine impacts me. There are a few reasons for this: it is a fast-paced and sometimes challenging environment, and it’s simply not always practical to take a break or sometimes when I’m on call after hours, there aren’t any other colleagues to take over from me. The other aspect is my own mindset – I don’t want to be seen as ‘weak’ in any way, or as less reliable. I really do push through to the point of near-collapse, sometimes falling down on the bed with a head that feels as though it has a 3kg weight on it.

In more recent months, I’ve felt the impact of migraine more strongly; attacks have become more regular, and I’m not getting any younger. It has made me question how sustainable my approach of pushing through is. It has been around 18 years of living with migraines now and I’m tired, there are times when it is hard to maintain hope. It definitely has worn away at my mental health, little by little.

I do believe strongly in living well, having a positive mindset and helping others. It’s why I decided to share my story; if it helps another person, it will be worth it.

If you need support or have questions about living with migraine, you can call us on our free Helpline: 0808 802 0066.