I got my first migraine when I was about nine years old. We’d finished the fourteen hour drive from Chicago to Tulsa the night before. I spent the day running around with my cousins, and my little body didn’t know how to handle the mixture of exhaustion and excitement and the Oklahoma sun. My head started pounding. Rather, it felt like was someone pounding on my skull with a hammer and nail, making so many hairline fractures on my skull. We tried to fight back with bottles of water and air conditioning,  but the pain remained. Relief didn’t come until, finally, I threw up. And then I slept deeper than I had in a while.

That wasn’t my last migraine, but it was my first lesson in taking care of myself. Even as a young girl, I learned that my body doesn’t tolerate heat well. I need an abundance of water and sleep once the weather exceeds 90 degrees.  So I slow down. I pack one less activity into my day. I relish in the slightest of breezes.

I test my body’s limits like a toddler who is just starting to conceive of rules. Can I do a little more? Check one more item off my list? Maybe for a day or even a week. Then the migraines come. And when they do, a part of me is thankful. My body keeps me in check. It asserts itself and makes its voice heard. Always acting in my best interest. Always patient enough to teach me a lesson yet another time.

Maybe this is self-love. Not the absence of judgement when I look in the mirror but trust in my body’s ability to show me a better way. Every migraine is a love letter.