When I was diagnosed with migraine more than 20 years ago, I had no idea what to expect. If you’re just starting on this journey, I understand how you’re feeling — finding out you have migraine can be overwhelming. But I want to tell you that you will learn to manage the condition, and become stronger for it.

Migraines are no joke, but unfortunately, they’re not taken as seriously as they should be. There’s a stigma surrounding the condition. A lot of people don’t realize how much pain you’re in because you look healthy on the outside. They don’t know your head is throbbing so much that you wish someone would just remove it for a while.

My migraines have taken up a lot of my time. They’ve stolen precious moments with my family and friends. This past year, I missed my son’s seventh birthday because of my condition. And the hardest part is that most people assume we’re skipping out on these events by choice. It’s very frustrating. Why would anyone want to miss their son’s birthday?

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about living with an invisible illness. I’ve gained new skills and learned how to stay optimistic, even when it seems impossible.

The following are things I’ve learned about how to manage life with migraine. Hopefully, after reading what I have to say, you will feel more prepared for the journey ahead and realize you’re not alone.

It’s understandable to feel angry, defeated, or lost. But negativity will only make the road ahead harder to navigate.

It’s not easy, but training yourself to think positively will help give you the strength you need to manage your condition and enjoy a good quality of life. Rather than being hard on yourself or dwelling on what you can’t change, see each obstacle as a chance to prove yourself and your capabilities. You’ve got this!

At the end of the day, though, you are human — if you feel sad at times, that’s OK! As long as you don’t let the negative feelings, or your condition, define you.

In time, you will learn how to listen to your body and know when it’s best to spend the day at home.

Taking time out to hide in a dark room for a few days or weeks doesn’t mean you’re weak or a quitter. Everyone needs time to rest. Taking time to yourself is the only way for you to recharge and come back stronger.

Feeling guilty or blaming yourself for your migraine will not make the pain go away.

It’s normal to feel guilty, but you have to learn that your health comes first. You are not a burden to others, and it’s not selfish to put your health first.

It is OK to have to skip out on events when your migraine symptoms flare up. You have to take care of yourself!

Just because someone is close to you or has known you for a long time, doesn’t mean they know what you’re going through. You may be surprised to learn that even your closest friends don’t understand what living with migraine is actually like, and that’s not their fault.

There is currently a lack of information about migraine. By speaking up and educating those around you about your illness, you’re helping to spread awareness and doing your part to squash stigma.

Don’t be ashamed of your migraine, be an advocate!

For me, one of the hardest things to accept is that living with migraine takes a toll on your relationships. However, I’ve learned through the years that people come and people go. Those who truly care will stick around, no matter what. And sometimes, you just have to learn to let people go.

If anyone in your life makes you doubt yourself or your worth, you might want to reconsider keeping them in your life. You deserve to have people around who lift you up and add value to your life.

In today’s world, we’re quite used to instant gratification. But still, good things take time.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they are. Learning to adjust to life with migraine isn’t easy, and any progress you make is a big deal.

For instance, if you’ve recently tried a new medication only to find out that it didn’t work for you, that’s not a step backward. On the contrary, now you can cross that treatment off your list and try something else!

Last month, I was finally able to take the time to move all my medicine from my nightstand drawer, so I celebrated it! It may not seem like a big deal, but I haven’t seen that drawer clean and organized in decades. It was huge deal for me.

Everyone is different. Don’t compare yourself or your progress to others, and understand that this will take time. One day, you will look back and realize all the progress you’ve made, and you will feel unstoppable.

You are strong and capable, but you can’t do everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Asking help from others is a brave thing to do. Also, you never know what you may learn from them in the process.

You can — and will — do amazing things. Believe in yourself, and good things will start to happen.

Rather than take pity on yourself or your circumstances, think of all you’ve accomplished in life so far, and realize how far you’ll go in the future. I used to think that my migraines would never go away. It was only once I started to believe in myself that I learned how to navigate life with this condition and find my path to healing.

If you feel stuck or scared, that’s understandable. But I promise you, there is a way out. Trust yourself, listen to your body, lean on others, and know that you can live a happy, healthy life.

Andrea Pesate was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. In 2001, she moved to Miami to attend the School of Communication and Journalism at Florida International University. After graduating, she moved back to Caracas and found work at an advertising agency. A few years later, she realized her true passion is writing. When her migraines became chronic, she decided to stop working full-time and started her own commercial business. She moved back to Miami with her family in 2015 and in 2018 she created the Instagram page @mymigrainestory to raise awareness and end stigma about the invisible illness she lives with. Her most important role, however, is being a mother to her two kids.