On dark and stormy days with migraine, where do you turn to find a sliver of light? Some may find hope and encouragement in loved ones, books or movies, their faith – while others turn to art.
For many people with chronic illness, tattoos not only serve as a reminder of their inner strength and reasons to keep fighting but as a reclamation of a body gone rogue, causing pain and symptoms you most definitely didn’t ask for.
Migraine is a complex neurological disease with multiple subtypes, each causing a wide range of unique symptoms. Though head pain is common, the condition is not “just a headache,” as migraineurs may experience symptoms such as nausea, sensory sensitivity, cognitive issues, fatigue or aura. The effects of migraine can also extend beyond the physical, making an impact on a person’s mental health, social life and ability to attend work/school and complete everyday tasks.
With all the challenges migraine can bring, some find having a permanent reminder to carry with them day to day an immensely helpful coping tool. We wanted to see how our Mighty community translated their experiences with migraine into body art, so we asked them to share photos of their tattoos and explain the significance. Check out what each of the beautiful designs below represents, and let us know how you would symbolize your migraine experience in the comments!
Here’s what our community shared with us:
1. ‘I can still grow in mucky water.’
“I got this at the end of high school. It’s a lotus flower that has fortitude written inside of it. It signifies that I can still grow in mucky water and that it takes fortitude to continue with the day-to-day struggles and learn from them rather than let them break me down.” – Alex T.
2. ‘Now I always have a spoon left at the end of the day!’
“I got this tattoo just a few weeks ago after struggling with chronic migraines, vertigo, occipital neuralgia and degenerative disc of the cervical spine for the past three plus years. I have pain every day; I am never completely pain-free. The tat represents ‘spoon theory’ and being part of the ‘spoonie’ community. The positive symbolism is that now I always have a spoon left at the end of the day!” – Sarah S.
3. ‘When I was dealing with a particularly bad migraine… I came up with the idea of my awareness butterfly.’
“When I was dealing with a particularly bad migraine, I did what I always do when I get migraines, which is color and draw. I came up with the idea of my awareness butterfly. All of the colors in my butterfly represent an illness I have. The burgundy in the center represents chronic migraines.” – Alyssa J.
4. ‘Every day is a new day to try again.’
“I got this simple sun tattoo to help remind me of my internal strength through the highs and lows of life while dealing with chronic migraines and anxiety. It goes along with one of my favorite quotes: ‘The sun is a daily reminder that we too can rise again from the darkness. That we too can shine our own light.’ Every day is a new day to try again and embrace the beauty of this world, despite chronic illness.” – Alyssa I.
5. ‘My chronic migraines were my first diagnosis.’
“My chronic migraines were my first diagnosis, eventually leading up to a diagnosis of lupus which is obviously the cause of my migraines. I have this for lupus, fibromyalgia and chronic migraines.” – Sydney S.P.
6. ‘Hope is everything.’
“Hope. Hope for the future, hope for a cure, hope for pain-free days. Hope is everything.” – Macie R.
7. ‘This is my chronic pain tattoo.’
“This is my chronic pain tattoo for migraines, fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s, Hashimoto’s, chronic fatigue, microscopic colitis, etc.” – Bobbette D.
8. ‘It gets better.’
“It’s for suicide awareness and the heart for love. The pain from my migraine makes me want to end it sometimes but then I look down and remember that I have people that love me and still need me and that it gets better.” – Kay D.
9. ‘From the ashes I will rise.’
“My Phoenix! I got this on my shoulder this year – she is not done in traditional colors of a phoenix but instead she has many ‘awareness colors’ represented and I love the mythology and mantra of from the ashes I will rise. These conditions may affect me and knock me down, but I will rise. Purple is for migraine awareness as I have chronic migraine. Other colors include pink for breast cancer (my mother is a survivor) and teal for PCOS which I also have. Purple is also for Alzheimer’s awareness (my grandmother has this).” – Megan C.
10. ‘I am stronger than my chronic migraines.’
“I got the tattoo below with ‘Infinite Faith & Strength’ as a daily reminder that I am stronger than my chronic migraines and all of the struggles they bring with them. I was diagnosed with migraines over 20 years ago. My life has been anything but easy for sure. However, I’m thankful for each day that I’m able to get out of bed and live as ‘normal’ a life as possible.” – Maryann V.
11. ‘I am a force of nature.’
“When I was 15, I was poisoned by an antibiotic prescribed to me after a progressive, bacterial ear infection. In its wake, I was left with no vestibular system and was diagnosed with chronic migraine shortly after. I got this tattoo to remind myself I am a force of nature and that I have survived metaphorical disasters. Every time I look at it spiraling out of my PICC line scar, I tell myself how strong I am to keep going. It has been a monumental pillar in my healing and life with chronic pain.” – Kat H.
12. ‘Chronic migraine ribbon in a butterfly.’
“Chronic migraine ribbon in a butterfly.” – Sidney V.
13. ‘I’ve gotten through some of the worst migraines ever and I know I’ll be able to get through the next one.’
“I have ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘I am greater than my highs and lows’ on my bicep. I have a laundry list of medical conditions. ‘I can’t breathe’ is based off of the song by Bea Miller but also since health conditions – especially migraines – can become so suffocating and debilitating. It can control your life. It can feel like you’re drowning and can’t be saved. ‘I am greater than my highs and lows’ reminds me to be strong because I’ve gotten through some of the worst migraines ever and I know I’ll be able to get through the next one.” – Angela C.
14. ‘Hope is essential to living with migraine.’
“Hope is essential to living with migraine. Surviving and living well with migraine disease takes hope, support, perseverance, and constantly learning.” – Teri R.
15. ‘Beauty and pain lie close together.’
“I have a tattoo on my neck that is inspired by my chronic migraine. It’s a rose and a dagger. For me they symbolize that beauty and pain lie close together and do not necessarily exclude each other. There is beauty in my husband holding my hand during an attack and there is pain in all the beautiful things that I’m no longer able to do. I have also met a lot of beautiful people on my way with my illness but there is also the pain of the people I have lost along the way. The placement is also important because my botox treatment is administered among other places in the neck too.” – Kerstin S.
For support, advice and encouragement on facing the ups and downs of life with migraine, connect with our community – we’re here for you 24/7.
To read more about migraine, check out the following stories from our Mighty community:
- 10 Common Symptoms of Migraine – as Told by Memes
- What Is Transient Aphasia, the Migraine Aura Symptom We Don’t Talk About Enough
- 14 Symptoms of Migraine – as Shown in Photos
- Inside a 24-Hour Migraine Attack
- 17 People Describe What Visual Auras From Migraine ‘Look’ Like