I created this post as part of a campaign by Teva Pharmaceuticals. I received an American Express gift card for participating.
It was 15 years ago, the first time I had a migraine, I remember it well. The pain, nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and more. I was at the annual SeaFair Hydroplane Races taking pictures for one of the limited boats. I was on top of a motorhome with my lens trained on the water for hours. I suppose it was the sun glinting on the lake that caused it.
I lay down on the top of the motorhome as the headache hit. I thought a little water and some food would make me feel better, but it didn’t. I had to leave before their race, not very professional on my part, and ride the shuttle bus back to the parking lot. I sat in the seat behind the driver with my head against the cold pole between us, willing myself not to puke. I couldn’t lift my head, and I rocked back and forth as the bus moved along the busy roadway.
After about 10 minutes on the unairconditioned bus on that hot August day, I stood up and told the driver to let me off. He objected because we were mid-block and this bus wasn’t scheduled to stop anywhere but the event parking lot. He finally looked up, saw my profusely sweating face and ghastly looking pale skin, and he stopped and let me out, I suppose because he feared I’d vomit on the bus and he’d have to clean it up.
I had no idea where I was or how to get to my car. This happened before cell phones were commonplace, I was in a dangerous area of town, barely able to function, and vomiting into a dumpster. Yes, people thought I was drunk. A street person. They sniggered as I got off the bus about how’d I’d enjoyed the races with too much beer and people walking by clucked with their disapproval of me heaving my guts out. But none of that was true. It was my first migraine.
That first migraine headache started my fifteen-year journey with this very misunderstood medical condition. I started experiencing migraines increasingly more often, first monthly for a few years, then weekly, and now several times a week. I suffered for five years before I asked my doctor for help because peer pressure at work made me think I wasn’t as pain tolerant as others. They complained when I missed work because of a headache and were openly rude inquiring as to whether or not I really needed to take a day off “just for a headache.”
Since those days, they’ve become a part of my life and something I deal with 10 to 12 times a month. I left my job and became self-employed. The number of lost work days were taking their toll on me. At least by working for myself, I no longer had to deal with the repercussions of taking a sick day. But it’s not just my professional life that’s suffered. I’ve become a bit of a recluse because I never know when they’re going to happen.
I’ve missed so many important moments in my family’s lives because of the pain. I’ve missed weddings, baby showers, birthday celebrations, concerts, funerals and more. Plus I’ve attended more than my fair share of events with, or recently after a migraine which left me feeling ill and usually looking disheveled. When absolutely everything hurts, I don’t care if my hair is combed, or I have makeup on. I’m just trying to remember that the pain will end, hoping it comes soon, and wondering if life is worth living. When I’m right in the middle of it, I can’t think or eat, I don’t want to talk or be talked to, or touched, and I need complete darkness and absolute quiet. It’s no way to live.
While migraines and their symptoms can vary from person to person and even from headache to headache. Most of my migraines last for less than 8 hours if I catch them early enough, but others can go on for days. In the last week, I’ve had the strongest and longest migraine headache to date.
It turns out I’m not alone when it comes to dealing with the chronic condition. It’s said that nearly 36 million Americans suffer from migraines and of those, about 18% are women, and 6% are men. What’s a bit shocking is that migraines rank in the top 3 most prevalent medical conditions worldwide.
Not all sufferers can find their trigger. For me, it appears to be hormonal, fatigue, and/or stress. For others, it can be flashing or bright lights, skipping a meal or certain foods or drinks, medications, or even a loud or sudden noise. While some triggers can be avoided, others cannot. Learning to live within those boundaries is difficult.
I wish I could get back all of the hours I’ve spent with my head under a pillow in so much pain that I’m nearly delirious. But just when I think that life with migraines is too much to bear, it goes away, and I remember why it is I’m glad to be alive.
Do you or someone you love suffer from migraine headaches? Visit MoreToMigraine.com for help.