I have been experiencing quite a few migraines lately, and felt prompted to write a post about this life-long struggle.
They started when I was pretty young, I’m not sure what age but I believe my mother claims I was about nine when I first started complaining about headaches. That may be a bit young, but I do remember experiencing them before I even hit high school so it can’t be too far off. Regardless, at that age there was no one to understand what I was going through. Most of my friends thought I was lying, or faking them just to get attention. My mom tried to get answers from doctors, but most of the doctors we went to said I was too stressed out and that she was just being needlessly hysterical. None of the doctors she dragged me to were very helpful, and so this pattern continued on through high school.
By my early twenties I pretty much had a headache every single day, and a migraine maybe once or twice a month. Anything would cause them. Going to the movies (something I always loved but ended up avoiding), sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, not eating the right foods, alcohol, chocolate, bad lighting, computer screens that are too bright, any loud noises (to this day I detest the sound of balloons popping for this very reason), being out in the sun, being out in the heat, high-impact exercises, stress and anxiety. Just about all of these factors are almost part of daily life as a college student, and I had to avoid all of them – or most of them – as best I could. By this point, people were more understanding to my constant illness, but it was beginning to take over my life.
Finally, I found a doctor who believed me and who referred me to a Neurologist. She said, in a nutshell, I was highly sensative to my environment and so she put me on some preventative medication to lessen this sensitivity. I actually remember the first day I woke up and realized I felt no pain whatsoever. My friends and I were hanging out in the hallway between classes and I was so aware of the fact that there was not even the tiniest little bit of pain in my head that I jumped up and ran up and down the hallway a few times, something that would have had me doubled over from the intense throbbing in my temples just a few days earlier.
Now I find myself with headaches on an almost daily basis. It probably doesn’t help that I tend to stare at many flashing screens throughout my day and sit in some pretty bad lighting, but what can you do? For most of my headaches, I can ignore them and continue to function without anyone noticing that I’m in pain. Sometimes these headaches become more painful, and consequently more noticable to others. I’m usually still able to function in my daily life, but it’s a struggle. During these days, the pain comes in waves, at one point I’m fine and I’m laughing with someone, then suddenly I’m rubbing my temples as if that simple gestures will ease the tension.
Then of course there are the days like I had yesterday. I woke up with a migraine, not just a dull throbbing behind my eyes, but a full-blown migraine. I was highly sensative to light, especially indoor lighting, every step I took as I walked to the train station that morning sent a shockwave through my head, the sounds of the train as it stopped at the platform were excruciating, and yet, I somehow made it to work. For the first hour I was alright, in pain but alright. Then, in that second hour, I found myself utterly nauseated and every time I turned my head I got incredibly dizzy. The light was hurting my eyes so much that in desperation, I put on my sunglasses right there at work, and surprisingly enough they made a huge difference. The problem came when I took them off for a moment and found myself nearly bursting into tears from the pain. Believe me, I don’t normally feel the need to cry suddenly just because of a migraine, but when it does happen, I know I’ve got to call it quits and let the migraine win. So that’s what I did, I gave in and went home after only two hours at work. I felt horrible, but I knew I was no good to anyone in that state. And even worse, I knew that if I didn’t go home immediately I was putting my health in further jeopardy.
People have often asked me what it’s like to have a migraine. The only thing I can say in response is that you have to experience one to truly understand. The pain is unique and can’t really be described in words. When I’m experiencing a major one, the pain is a sharp one right behind one of my eyes and I have this incredible desire to pop my eye out with a spoon as if removing the eye would also remove the pain. During these times, the only thing I can do is crawl into the darkest and quietest place I can find, burrow my fingers into my temple, and hope that sleep will take over. The worst part about them is that there really is nothing much you can do about it. You feel desperate and hopeless, and I know a few of my friends and relatives have felt the same thing when seeing how bad these things can affect me. There’s no need to feel hopeless, you just have to learn how to deal with them as a daily part of your life. Like it or not, they’re here to stay.
Unfortunately, even as I write this now I have a slight shadow over my left eye and a growing awareness of a dull throbbing behind it. It’s a sign to get away from the computer and retreat back into the sanctuary of the dark and quiet. Hopefully when I wake up in the morning it’ll be a new day without the pain.