Anna Cowley-Ford has always gotten migraines, ever since she was a little girl. But a month before she turned 20, the migraines began spiraling out of control, to the point where she was getting one every day. Along with her pain came doubt — from friends who thought she was making it up to professors at Grinnell College in Iowa, where she studied studio art, who didn’t understand how severe this invisible pain could be.
In 2012, Ford decided to make her typically unseen symptoms visible by covering her body with henna tattoos to represent exactly where she feels pain.
“It made sense for my artwork to start reflecting my pain because migraines took over my life,” Ford, now 28, told The Mighty. “How do I communicate my pain to others? As soon as it’s not visible, there’s some sort of barrier and people have a harder time understanding what’s going on.”