The memory of my first migraine is like the memory of starting my first job or getting my driver’s license. Not that I am nostalgic about it, but that day created a pre and post period of my life.
I was 17. It was my junior year of high school. The first part of my day was totally uneventful, a normal day. When I went to my English class after lunch we had a substitute teacher I was familiar with. She was always intense and bordering on angry, but I think that was just her resting demeanor. I have no idea what the lesson was that day because I sat on the far side of the classroom with my head in my hands not being able to see straight and felt sick at my stomach the entire hour. I felt like I couldn’t make it through class but also that there was no way I could get up to leave.
When class finally ended I made my way to a little trash can by the door. I thought I was the last one to leave and was glad because getting up disorientated me. I stood over that little trash can swaying back and forth thinking I was getting ready to throw up. Then that crazy sub popped up from out of nowhere and grabbed my elbow. She started dragging me out of the room. She was so rushed and abrupt that I couldn’t tell if she was scared for me or annoyed by me. She didn’t even say anything. I honestly think I might have turned off the lights and curled up in the corner of the classroom if she hadn’t of been there though.
I woke up later on a bed in a room I had never seen, and the last thing I remembered was the sub yanking me down the hall. I learned from one our guidance counselors that we didn’t have a school nurse. So they laid me down in a room behind their offices, and it was the end of the school day. He asked if I felt okay. I was able to get up, and even though my head still hurt, it was a manageable pain.
I drove to my mom’s work and tried to explain to her what had happened. I could convey the logistics of it, like when and where, but I did not do a good job of explaining the what. It wasn’t just about the searing, unfamiliar and discombobulating pain. I felt so weird that I needed help getting out of the classroom and that I had unknowingly slept an entire afternoon away in an unfamiliar place.
Unfortunately after that day I started to get migraines pretty frequently. I went through rounds and rounds of tests that didn’t show anything. Then there was a period of trying different medications to attempt to control the headaches. After lots of unsuccessful trials we landed on a pill that sometimes helped reduce the symptoms if the stars were aligned just right, and I hopped up and down on one foot chanting while stroking the hair of a unicorn. If that didn’t work I also had a pill I would take that simply knocked me out so I could hope to feel better by the time I woke up. That lasted through the rest of high school and into college.
I was always told to look for cues and triggers, but I was never able to find anything consistent. Because my migraines always effected my vision and were light sensitive, it was very hard to function normally when I had one. It hurt to drive. It hurt to look at a computer. It hurt to just be. The best thing to do would be to put on sunglasses, take my medicine, lay down and hope for the best. I usually had what I call the migraine hangover too. It’s the day after the migraine where I felt wiped out. The visual symptoms and the nausea are gone, but the after effects of a dull and consistent pain deep inside my head and face lingered.
I got really into running toward the end of college, but after a while running onset migraines. The running migraines were different than my regular ones because part of my field of vision would go away. After graduation when I got my first grown up job with my own insurance my doctor referred me to a neurologist to try to find out why that was happening. I had already been down that road but was willing to try again. Maybe a different doctor would be able to help.
The appointment was a bust. I sat in my car crying afterwards because he had a simple solution for me. Stop running. I was concerned with why an otherwise healthy person in their early twenties wasn’t able to work out without getting a migraine and losing vision. I never got an answer. Just from sheer dumb luck the migraines gradually started occurring less frequently until I finally had a good five year migraine free span. I have no idea what changed, but it was amazing to not feel like a was a prisoner to them.
Those pesky things must have missed me though because they are starting to come back around again. I was so mad after church last Sunday when I walked out of my kids’ bedroom. I looked into the living room and without warning the light began to bend. I couldn’t see straight. I immediately took medicine and laid down. My husband took care of the kids. We were able to head it off before it got full blown. I was down for a few hours, and felt like garbage into the next day though.
Those migraine free years spoiled me. I am mad and frustrated that any of my time or energy is taken away from my life without any notice. There’s no happy ending or positive spin to end on at this time. I have an appointment with another specialist next week though. So maybe there will be soon.