16 Aug, 2016
A Real Migraine Story: My History and My Options
I’ll never forget my first night. I was in my college dorm cramming for a science final—like one does—with my best friend, Sylvia. We knew we had hours ahead of us and we planned to put in the work. I wasn’t someone who stayed on top of her studies, typically choosing instead to hustle last minute and finish every task by the skin of my teeth. Cramming was my slow jam.
(1994 – high school)
(1996 – college)But this night was different. This night didn’t feel right. In fact, the further and further we got into our studies, the less I could focus on what was happening. Suddenly, the only thing I could concentrate on was the light and how bright the fluorescent bulbs were in our dorm room. Without any other options, I grabbed a handful of ibuprofen and attempted to muscle through… but it was as if I was trying to run in muddy water. My mind remained unfocused and unsteady. Eventually, I crawled under my comforter, placed my closed textbook on top of my head and wrapped my pillow around the front of my skull. I pressed down. No light. All pressure. I begged my friend to just read to me. It was the only way I was going to get through our study session. My eyes were no longer of use to me. And so, like the best friend she was, she took a deep breath and read dozens of pages out loud to us both. As she recited each word, I clenched my textbook to my forehead and tried to retain as much as I could, all while my first migraine exploded inside my mind. It only got worse from there. I’ve learned over the years that crying doesn’t help. Reacting to a migraine is not like reacting to a wound. If I were to trip, fall, and hurt myself, I’d allow myself to cry because crying acts as a form of release to me. It in some way soothes me. However, when I first started getting migraines, I would cry from the pain and that would just exacerbate it. It would be as if I had added fuel to the fire. All the fuel to the fire. After crying, you would actually be able to see my temples pulse and my veins lift out through my skin. The pain would turn into both a sinus pressure headache and a migraine—all in one. I had sheer terror just thinking about it because, once you get to that point, there is no instant relief a pill can provide. To live through 90 minutes of that pulsation is horrific. No matter how much I want to, I cannot react to a migraine. I must remember to remain calm. So, what are my triggers? Unfortunately, I have all of them. Not all migraine sufferers will check off each and every one of these, but I’m an overachiever:
- Weather-Related (think rain / snow / extreme climate shifts) – I live in NY where we have all seasons. So, YEAH…
- Barometric Pressure Changes – Traveling on planes (the day I arrive and the day I return)
- Certain Food and Drink – Sulfites (soy sauce, wine) / Preservatives (have to stick with natural) / Aspartame (I can’t drink anything that is diet)
- The First Day Of My Period – and I’m like clockwork!
- Dehydration – tend to get a migraine whenever I am at the pool or the beach
- A Good Cry – I seriously think this is why I only watch horror movies
- Too Much Bright Light – think of all the photo shoots I do with lights in my face. After every single one – I get a migraine
- Stress – need I say more?