How My Migraine Journey Unfolded
Have your migraines changed as you’ve grown older? Mine, too. My migraine story is nothing special. I have arrived in my postmenopausal years with my migraine disease having evolved alongside the rest of my body in what I describe as a textbook example of life with migraines.
In the late 60s, all the 70s, and most of the 80s, I didn’t know my headache problem was anything more than bad headaches. My illness struck only a few times during the year and played out the same each time. The typical order of things was as follows:
I squinted at household lights and winced at the sound of a neighbor ringing the doorbell or music blaring from the television.
Head pain set in around one eye.
Nausea rolled through my stomach in waves and built into the need to vomit.
I retreated to a dark, quiet room for a couple of hours of rest, which was my standard way of resetting my body back to normal.
The infrequency of my attacks coupled with an early childhood misdiagnosis of “some kind of allergy,” and my desire to return to living my life as quickly as possible, lured my attention away from further questioning the underlying source of my pain. I accepted migraines as part of me without any thought toward the idea of fighting back. I didn’t know any better. I only knew how life had always been for me.
By the late ’80s, my migraine frequency increased. I suspect hormonal and environmental changes caused the evolution of my episodes. Entering the adult world of a workplace changed everything, in miraculous and textbook ways. That first notion of having the power to alter the course of my headache issue stemmed from a co-worker shedding light on the name of my illness. This knowledge nugget led me back to the doctor and onto the path of treatment.
Along with the discovery of my adversary’s name, the workplace also played a role in the increased frequency of my episodes. Exposure to more people meant exposure to more triggers such as perfumes and other scented products. Fluorescent lighting, well known to be a migraine trigger, was commonplace in office buildings. Work also meant obligations conflicting with my earliest known episode trigger, regularly scheduled meal times.
The psychological impact of migraine disease hit me hard during my early days in the workforce. People can be judgmental when they lack important information. Those uneducated in the ways of migraine misinterpreted my episodes as weakness, lies, or lack of character. Such labels restricted my freedom to heal. I worked through pain many times, longing for the quiet, darkness I knew I needed.
Educating myself and others about my illness came next. Over the years, I’ve gathered migraine information from doctors, seminars, websites like WebMD, and connections with other migraine warriors. My illness continues to evolve alongside the rest of my body, and I continue to hone my migraine management skills and share information with the people around me.
Whether migraine dominates the scenes of my life with an episode or waits quietly in the background for the next triggered attack, my illness plays a major role in the story of my life. A big part of where my story goes from here depends on my understanding of what I can do to fight back.
How do you want your migraine story to unfold in your future?
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Originally published at WebMD.com on 11-20-23.