I’ve been a migraine sufferer for ages. But it’s taken me a long time to realise how different that makes my life from other peoples. It’s been the norm for so long I actually can’t remember not having them. I also didn’t realise the huge impact it has on my life till recently.
I didn’t suffer from migraines at first. I actually suffered from stomach migraines (yep they are a thing). Children with stomach migraines are more likely to suffer from traditional migraines as an adult (because you know, we haven’t suffered enough). As an adult I have learnt more about my childhood condition than I did when I was in and out of hospital. I remember being accused of faking it or being an attention seeker and hearing the ever dreaded “you are always ill ” from people. That ones the worst. Shut up Barbra you would “always be ill” as well if your head felt like it was going to explode on a daily basis. (Full disclosure I don’t know a Barbra, names have been changed).
First things first; migraine sufferers don’t always experience the same symptoms, they don’t have the same triggers: so shut up Barbra I’ll eat the chocolate because although it gave your aunty Lou migraines, it just makes me fat and I’m okay with that. Some people have to sit in a dark room, some have to go to sleep. Some people become so use to the pain that they can manage to maintain a level of normality. Just because someone can function doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain or that they aren’t suffering.
I can function during about 70% of my migraines, I can manage to hold them at bay till I collapse on the sofa and nap. But some of the really bad ones can last anything between 24 and 72 hours. Some stop me sleeping they are so painful and some make me sleep for hours. I can have 3/4 migraines a week at the moment (yay) and that isn’t including the silent ones! Oh yes silent migraines are a thing. They are all the other yucky symptoms but without the headache. For me this means vomiting, issues with my vision, fatigue, being overly emotional, aching body, trouble getting my words out of my mouth and a feeling that can only be likened to a hang over. The vomiting is the worst bit because, well yuck! I once spent 5 months throwing up multiple times a day… which actually started in a cinema and stopped me from being able to watch a film in a theatre for well over a year! Every migraine sufferer is different. Everyone has different symptoms and tiggers. For people who don’t suffer migraines this fact is easily forgotten. People too often compare suffers and forget everyone is unique. I suppose it’s easily done.
Well meaning people love to ask if I’ve been drinking enough water, want some fresh air or need some ibuprofen… none of these things are going to help me. As they make these suggestions my eyes are already on fire and the unmistakable rush of pain has set in, my brain feels like it’s going to explode out of my skull and all I can think is : where is my bed! In order to hold down a full time job and some semblance of a social life I’ve learnt to manage it most of the time. Taking painkillers as early as I can ( which means watching my alcohol consumption so I can ), lots of exercise, keeping an eye on early symptoms, spending as much time as I can outside, paying carefully attention to my stress levels and of course napping can help, all this combined with the right meds ( although I always seem to be trailing different ones) is the only thing that helps, when it does actually help(well me anyway!). The meds have a whole list of side effects which we won’t bother with today.
It’s difficult, without sounding too sorry for myself, I constantly feel embarrassed about my migraines. I’m embarrassed to admit the frequency, that they are why I’m tiered, that they make me not only sleepy but suck my energy away. I’m not sure why they make me so embarrassed I suppose it’s a big beacon showing my biggest weakness. I don’t even tell my husband every migraine, and he is the most supportive person in the world. I feel worried to admit to every symptom that pops up worried people will think I can’t cope with life when I know I can! It’s a silly thing I know but that’s just the way I am.
The weird thing about a migraine is that in the throws of your pain people want to interrogate you “what’s caused that”, “why is that then” “well you’ve had two already this week”. It’s an especially strange thing because you wouldn’t ask an asthma suffer “well why are you having an asthma attack?” It just wouldn’t be done. It’s actually my least favourite thing in the world. If I had one wish (other than not having migraines,) It would be that people stopped with this one.
I maintain a pretty normal life, I am however tiered most of the time. I’m pretty active, I have a full time job, I’m otherwise pretty healthy and fit, I try to look after my health as much as possible but my brain just hates me and rebels sometimes. Recently my doctors classified me as being disabled because of the frequency and duration of my migraines. It’s funny because I would have said that I don’t really feel “disabled”. That’s a word I would associate with people who have it much worse than me, but, it did make me realise the impact migraines have on me. From what I understand I will probably never be any different. So I’ll spend the rest of my life being asked why I’m always tiered and if I need some ibuprofen.