Over time, I’ve developed a confidence that has allowed me to not take on the shame of things that aren’t true.

The day after Father’s Day in 2018, I woke up with a brutal migraine attack. If it was a musical genre, it would have been death metal.

I was experiencing extreme dizziness, nausea, head pain, visual sensitivity, and visual disturbance.

I remained calm and told myself that my symptoms would go away if I slept them off. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. And while my symptoms would fluctuate in severity, they were always with me to varying degrees.

I had no idea what was happening to my body and I felt like I had been dropped into someone else’s.

Finally, 10 months, 15 doctors, and $10,000 later, I received a diagnosis — chronic vestibular migraine.

Chronic migraine is a condition that disproportionately affects women, occurring in 3 times as many women as men.

And while dealing with a chronic condition like migraine isn’t any harder for men, it does have unique challenges when it comes to the way our society expects us to deal with pain.

I’ve lived life at 100 miles per hour for as long as I can remember. In both my personal and professional lives, I felt like nothing could ever stop me.

Sure, tough times were inevitable, but I always seemed to muster up the grit and tenacity I needed to overcome whatever situation I faced. After all, that’s what men are supposed to do… right?

At least that’s what I’d been conditioned to believe my whole life.

Needless to say, the months leading up to my diagnosis were some of the hardest of my life. The pace I’d lived my life at was no longer doable. This meant that I could no longer participate in many activities that I loved and were an integral part of my life before my illness.

I felt like a shell of the man I was just months before.

When I tell others about my condition, I inevitably feel shame and a sense of not being strong enough. Rationally, I know this is ridiculous, but a lot of the time I can’t help feeling this way.

It’s been made clear that people hold this belief about me, too.

For a couple of years before my diagnosis, I enjoyed annual family snowboarding trips with some of the men in my family, in places like Canada and Colorado. We had been talking about planning our next trip to Japan.

However, as I got farther away from the onset of my symptoms and wasn’t getting any better, I knew I was going to have to sit this one out — and that telling the group wasn’t going to be easy.

While I knew they were going to be kind about it, I also knew, from earlier conversations, that some didn’t understand. And if that wasn’t hard enough, I knew that others didn’t accept my reason for not going as a valid one. Instead, they viewed it as a weakness.

It’s my experience that because men have less experience with this condition, most aren’t able to understand what it’s like to deal with on a regular basis.

In other words, they’re less likely to feel empathy for other men who are truly suffering from the devastation that a chronic illness like this one brings with it.

I’ve experienced this shame in my professional life as well.

I’m a musician by trade and started a music school with my wife 6 years ago. When we started it, we had 15 students and one instructor. Now, we have 250 students, 13 teachers, and 3 administrative staff members.

I worked hard to grow my business and I am proud of that. This has allowed me to connect with many other entrepreneurs and business people who are far more successful than I am. When I tell them I haven’t been able to put the same amount of energy and time into growing my business as before, that shame creeps in, telling me again that I am weak.

This shame and stigma has also shown up in my family life.

While my wife of the last 7 years has been incredibly encouraging throughout this entire experience, I often wonder what others think when I’m not at church or at my children’s friends’ birthday parties.

Inevitably, some have assumed I am a hypochondriac, or, even worse, uninterested. And more importantly, I worry about what my sons, who are 2 and 5, may think when I can’t show up.

Find a community that understands

There’s no reason to go through migraine alone. With the free Migraine Healthline app, you can join a group and participate in live discussions, get matched with community members for a chance to make new friends, and stay up to date on the latest migraine news and research.

The app is available on the App Store and Google Play. Download here.

Healthline

Over time, I’ve developed a confidence that has allowed me to not take on the shame of things that aren’t true.

I am not weak.

I’m a great dad and husband and I always try to give my family my best. And when I can’t, I extend myself grace.

The stigma is still hard to deal with and feels heavy from time to time, but I’ve gotten better at identifying these unhelpful thoughts and letting them pass through my brain space without following them down the rabbit hole.

For all the men out there who are also living with migraine: Our cultural conditioning may make you feel like less of a man, but you have what it takes to rise above the stigma.


Adam Reid Wilson lives in Cornelius, NC with his wife, their two sons, a miniature boxer named Ember, and six chickens. Between being a musician, owning and operating one of the Charlotte area’s largest music schools, and being an active life and business coach, he stays pretty busy. When he’s not working you can catch him playing music, hanging at the local coffee shop, or going on walks to find the best hot chocolate with his family. You can also catch him on Instagram.