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Personal Account: Juggling chronic health conditions, Autistic parenthood and University

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Trying to dodge hurtling bricks

by Esther Whitney (artist name: Dr Doom)

I have chronic and debilitating migraines; I have suffered from migraine attacks since childhood. As I have gotten older, they have become more regular and debilitating. My sensory sensitives definitely contribute to my migraine attacks and I recognise the importance of being home-based as then I can control the sensory input throughout the day.

Each week feels like I am having to dodge hurtling bricks raining down on me. I know at some point I am going to get knocked out by a hurtling brick (migraine) and this will happen multiple times throughout the week which means I can’t function. I have no choice but to lie in a dark room and recover, however long that might take. Having my routines abruptly interrupted aggravates my autism and causes anxiety.

For many years I have tried to ignore my condition, hoping it will go away, however this is not helpful. Over the years I have learned to accept and embrace my condition which helps with the anxiety and means I can adapt to meet my Autistic needs. I know that I will have multiple migraine attacks throughout the week. I don’t know when, or how long they will last, but they will happen so my routines are structured with a lot of flexibility. I try not to plan too many time-constrained things, and this is why I chose to do a research Master’s degree as it is home-based and very flexible.

As a parent, my migraines impact family life which is very frustrating. After years of resentment and feeling sorry for myself I recognise that this is not helpful. I have a really good support network who support me and my daughter when I am not well. When I am not having a migraine attack I make every moment with my daughter count; we spend quality time together, treasuring the little things as well as the big things.

Being Autistic means I am resilient; I keep going forward. I keep achieving despite dodging raining bricks each day. It takes me longer than most people but regardless of this I keep my focus on achieving what I can when I can.

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