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Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: The Big Event Migraine

Completely Unofficial, Made-Up Migraine Types: The Big Event Migraine

I have this particular brand of migraine discomfort that pops up during major events for me where I have to speak or even just be “on” and working with large groups of people.  One time years ago I made it through one conference without a migraine, but that amazing feat has gone unmatched in the four-plus years since. The conference migraine feels just like the Huge Bookshop Event Migraine or Have to Speak in Front of People Migraine.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s just call it The Big Event Migraine.

The Big Event Migraine can be a slow builder, or it can appear seemingly out of nowhere once you’ve finally reached the point where you think to yourself, “Phew! I’m in the clear! No migraine for me today.”

For me, the seeds are sown starting at least a few hours before whatever the big event start time is. Even if I’m not physically running around like a wind-up toy, my brain sure is. This event is something I’ve been thinking about for days (if not weeks or, in the case of my wedding, years!). Chances are, I am more than a little concerned about getting a migraine during the event given my batting average over the last many years of my life. I have written about this many times before here on—this 2008 entry called “I can’t make it—I have a migraine” probably hits home the most for me, as it’s sad to read and sad to see that nothing much has changed in the last seven years since I wrote it.

The Big Event Migraine seems to lie in wait, eager for just the right time to emerge from a seemingly innocuous corner, cackling all the way. “You actually thought you’d get through this one without a migraine, didn’t you?” it laughs. “You were wrong! Here I am!”

The day before my wedding in Joshua Tree National Park, we did a rehearsal in the park at the ceremony site.  I felt great.  “The sun is right in your eyes, there,” our photographer (and friend) said to me. “Is that bothering you?” “Nope! I’m great,” I said, willfully ignoring the fact that this could be a migraine trigger for me.  “Can we try moving you to where you’re both in the shade so the light is even in the photographs?” he asked.  We moved and I immediately felt relief.  Oops.  Guess that sun in my eye wasn’t as innocent as I thought.

After the rehearsal, Jim and I went off with our photographer to do a photo shoot at various desert spots. Fast forward about an hour later. We’d been driving to various picturesque spots (which are plentiful in Joshua Tree), and I was in the backseat feeling pretty rough with a migraine that had attacked me rather swiftly. We had one more spot on our list to visit for really killer photos, and suddenly I just couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t pose and smile for photos when I had this migraine, and I was worried about the BBQ party we were supposed to show up for any minute.  All these friends and family members from all over the country would be there, some of whom had just gotten into town that day. I’d have to be social and friendly and didn’t want to miss out on the shenanigans.

I told Jim and the photographer I wasn’t feeling good and needed to call it a day, even if that meant missing out on some really gorgeous photos.  They were understanding, of course, and the photographer even talked about how the light was waning anyway so we probably weren’t missing out on good opportunities (this despite the fact that I know he really wanted those shots—he’s a nice guy). I popped my naratriptan pill and drank two bottles of water and even slept for about twenty minutes as we made our way out of the park and to the party.

Once at the party, I started to feel better, though I did call it a night pretty early. If I had told my dear friends and family I wasn’t feeling well, they would’ve been understanding and supportive and sweet. But migraine had already invited itself to my wedding weekend—I didn’t want to speak its name when there were so many other things to talk about, so much love to feel from these generous people who had come out to show their support for Jim and me.

For me, the Big Event Migraine is perhaps the one that makes me saddest in the most profound ways. I already hate that migraine whisks me out of my life from time to time when I want to be a relatively normal, healthy, and productive person.  But when it dampens my mood or distracts me from what I’m hoping will be a wonderful, memorable, life event, I just get so heartbroken and frustrated.  I usually make peace with my illness, but sometimes I just want to yell, “This is just not fair!”

How many of you suffer from The Big Event Migraine? Please tell me there are some tips and tricks you’ve learned or invented over the years to help you get through these (or avoid them all together). I know a lot of us in Migraine Land need to hear from you.  If you don’t have a way to avoid the Big Event Migraine, I want to hear from you, too.  This is a safe space where you can vent and tell your story to a community of people who really know where you’re coming from.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Heath AK
    4 years ago

    One of the biggest factors behind this, I believe, is the stress of your impending event and the way you are focusing on it. What I have noticed in myself and others is it is more comparable to obsession, rather than focus. I learned to take it on as an act of spontaneity and only focus on individual tasks. Delegate when you can. Essentially just do it and don’t worry so much about the details. years ago I decided that I wanted to me more spontaneous in my life and found I can throw together a bbq, party, camping trip, or other social event on a whim nearly as well as if I planned it for 2 weeks, and better yet, not be bothered with the stress of a deadline or commitment. So, I figured how to apply the same attitude to planned things. Only think about what is important when needed, and not when it does no good or has no effect on the outcome. Periodically distract yourself with something else, especially when ramping up stress or concern. Besides, problem solving skills increase with a clearer mindset. I’m not saying I found the cure, but it sure helps with stress for me. Another tool I use is actively restrain from work and worry at set times…. I do the Sunday no work thing and half way through, keeping myself from work just makes me want to do it more. Monday I have remedied ambition, more focus and less stress.

  • mollyb612
    4 years ago

    I get these too. Usually related to a big work deadline. I am amazingly migraine-free until I complete the project, but the next day I almost always have a bad migraine – at the very time I want to be relaxing/celebrating. Earlier in my career I used to get a headache every Saturday, without fail.

  • mikie
    4 years ago

    This one is my nemesis… Job interviews, consulting with a new client, workshops/training presentations… Except for conferences/all-day meetings where I get the migraine before the first break, the other ones hit me “after”… sometimes as soon as the door closes behind me. Always armed with naratriptan, but it’s tricky to dry-swallow one without attracting someone’s attention…

  • 1headcase
    4 years ago

    I call them “Happy Hostess from Hell Headaches”
    Ended up in tears projectile vomiting at my brother’s wedding reception-spent the blessing, toasts and parent dances in the bathroom in bare feet trying to keep barf off of my clothes after setting up and overseeing food and decor.
    Have had a migraine- usually 8+ or better every time I’ve tried to host an event from toy party to slumber party to dinner to garage sale to barbecue in the last 15 years or better.
    Getting pretty fed up with it.

  • Piglet
    4 years ago

    Due to the ability to work at home 75% of the time, I have been able to keep my excellent full-time job despite chronic migraine. Not easy, but I am doing it so far. Now, in order to get on a list for the promotion of a lifetime in my field, I have to fly to a major city and sit through a full day of testing and another high-pressure panel interview the following day. This is THE BIG EVENT for me. I must do it, when and as scheduled. I usually get a migraine from flying anyway but it’s too far to drive. I will be armed with an injectable triptan even though the oral ones stopped working for me years ago. Even when they did work, they took away the pain but not the brain fog. Have my Cephaly and lavendar scented neck pillow. Husband along for support. So thrilled for the opportunity/terrified of migraine. Even if I could reschedule, it could be the same on that other day. Many of you can relate, I’m sure. All help and suggestions welcome.

    4 years ago

    The big event migraine is called….I am having 20 people to dinner and I am tired of standing up cooking migraine. I have been cleaning bathrooms all day and getting rid of the clutter in my house migraine and I am slowly feeling really bad. I am hiding it from everyone and trying to be jovial and the superhostess…are they gone yet….now I am ready to throw up migraine. The food tastes awful and I just dropped the leftovers on the floor….or the worst ever….people are coming over in 20 minutes and I just caught my hair on fire……Honestly the last one did happen and I almost scared my 2 year old with uncontrolled crying and had handfuls of burned hair, no eyelashes or eyebrows for 6 weeks. No fun, no fun, no fun and a really awful headache that took me out for 24 hours. You should see how I scrapbooked it. Because if you can’t laugh at yourself, who else can you laugh at…I think that working so hard that you don’t drink enough and you scurry around and don’t sit down for 12 hours straight and don’t eat triggers all these big migraines. I think that you forget that all those cortisol hormones probably trigger some of these migraines. Or not.

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