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Memorable Migraine 3: Florida, 2004

It was the spring of 2004, and I’d driven from my parents’ house in Central Florida south to the Literacy*AmeriCorps headquarters in a lovely beachside town called Delray Beach.

I was going to meet up with my close friend and former boss at L*AC, A.; we’d catch up and perhaps grab dinner together. In 2003 I’d completed a year-long stint serving as an AmeriCorps tutor/instructor at a charter high school in Palm Beach County, and the principal of the school had asked me to come back for a month for a short-term gig. In need of money and sorely missing the students at the school, I said yes.

The year before this drive, I had gone into an eyewear chain and signed up for one of those deals that allowed me to get new frames each year. Unfortunately, the chain had no locations near my home, so I would have to drop by there first before continuing south to meet with A. at her office.

I tried on many pairs of glasses, my migraine pain getting ever stronger by the moment. I eventually settled on a couple of pairs, muddled my way through a frustrating argument over the particulars of the “free frames” agreement (I’m stubborn—I won), and got back in the car to head to A.’s office.

The moment I walked in, she gave me a huge hug and then immediately pulled back, her hands on my arms. “You look terrible. Do you have a migraine?”

And here I thought I’d covered it well. I’d walked in with a big smile, genuinely happy to see her. I’d used my hands to steady myself in the doorway, and I’d kept my eyes low so that I wouldn’t have to wince at the overhead lighting.

We sat in her office. I tried to be a good sport, playing catch-up and asking if she wanted to go out to dinner.

Ever the good friend and parent/teacher figure, A. told me that I needed to get some food stat and go to bed. I was supposed to crash at a former coworker’s house, a place I’d never been. I imagined I’d be sleeping on a couch in the living room and knew I wouldn’t get very good sleep, but I didn’t want to pay for a hotel.

In the midst of this conversation, I excused myself to run to the public bathroom and get sick a few times.

Maybe A. was right. Maybe I needed to cast off what I perceived as others’ expectations. Maybe I needed to put myself, and only myself, FIRST. Nothing else could be taken care of if I didn’t get better.

“You need to get something to eat, go to a hotel and go to bed,” A. said. (I paraphrase.) She helped me call a local hotel and book a room. I then called my host and told her I’d be meeting her at school the next day—big surprise: she was concerned about my health but didn’t mind at all that I wasn’t staying with her that first night. I went to the hotel (after snacking, I’m sure), drew the curtains, ignored the beach (sad!), and went to bed. I woke up feeling alive again.

I’m better at recognizing my own limitations and health needs than I used to be, but I still need someone like A. once in awhile to say, “Stop everything. The world will not fall apart if you rest and get better.” Usually Jim plays this role, but my mom is pretty good at it too. She lives a good nine hours away but will sometimes email me and say, “I have a feeling you’re sick—I hope you’re not.” Unfortunately, she’s usually right.

So ends my description of yet another memorable migraine. Do you have any episodes that you think you’ll never forget?

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.


  • Louise M. Houle
    8 years ago

    The worst ones are those that last at least 36 hours and end me up in the ER. Had one last year that even at the ER would not let up. They gave me 7 different IV meds before the pain subsided – everything from anti-nausea’s like Maxeran & Stemetil, to DHE and even Morphine. It took me days just to recover from all the meds – had the shakes like you couldn’t believe. Ugh!

  • Patty Kennedy
    8 years ago

    My worst migraine- woke up in such pain, I realized the true definition of “seeing stars”. My husband was able to get me up and into the doctor, where they gave me a shot of pain killer in the hip- did not help. They sent me to the ER, where the doctor there examined me, said he could give me an injection where my migraine started ( usually at the base of my skull and behind my ear), but it would hurt like hell to numb it first. I said, bring it on, or I’ll do it myself. Thank the Lord I’m not a needle-phobe, my poor husband went pale went he saw the size of the needles.
    Hopefully I will never have one that bad again, but I will definitley go straight to the ER, as much as I hate hospitals. Within 30 minutes, I was human again.

  • Maureen Baxter Douglas
    8 years ago

    My worst migraine ever. I should have gone to the hospital but really thought it was because of my drinking the night before(it was but still) It hurt so bad my kids breathing was hurting it. I wanted to physically harm everyone in my home because there heartbeats hurt my head(I could hear their heartbeats over the top of mine) It was like listening to a drum corp in my head. My friend at the time got migraines so severe that her head changed shape slightly so she had some sort of pain pill I took( I know bad idea) Now mind you I didn’t even know for sure this was a migraine because I had never talked to a dr about it. She ended up giving me two of her pills because the first one didn’t work. I have never been in that much pain before or since and would definitely go to the hospital with one now. I was 27 at the time and had no insurance and you only went to the hospital when someone was bleeding.

  • Christine O'Connor
    8 years ago

    I can definitely relate to your story. I commute to work via train Monday through Friday and it takes, on average an hour and a half. There have been many times when I wake up with a migraine but think that I can make it on the train and into work anyway. The sounds, smells, and movement on the train always make me sick but I tough it out anyway; afterall, I only get 6 sick days a year. “I MUST try to make it to work.” Well, needless to say, by the time I get to my office, I’m pale, my eyes are practically shut, and I can barely speak because talking just increases the pain. Now I’m stuck at work until lunch time when I can attempt to make my way back home again on the early train. It’s exhausting but yet I still keep trying to get to work!

  • Lois Pagel Clauss
    8 years ago

    Is it part of being a woman that makes us feel we need to just go on and ignore the symptoms. I feel I have gotten very good at hiding a migraine but only up to a certain point when it does definitely want to over take me but I can’t give in to it. I feel like I can’t let it and just keep pushing on. In the beginning, I would lay down but after awhile I felt like all I did was spend time in bed and I needed to have a life. Once finding out my triggers which unfortunately fluorescent lighting is a big one, I just do my best to avoid them.

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