Memorable Migraines, Episode 1: My first migraine?

I have started writing spottily recollected stories of particularly important migraine episodes in my life. I realized that, like much of what I write on this blog, my stories are quite personal but maybe you'll be able to relate.

Here goes--post 1.

Pittsburgh, PA. Early 90s. At my grandparents' home in Wilkinsburg.

It’s been nearly eighteen years since I was extremely sick one summer day at my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh, yet I remember it clearly. Only in retrospect do I believe that I was not suffering from some strange one day flu (which I’d thought at the time) but from what may have been my first migraine attack.

It was a hot, hot summer day in 1993. My sister, my dad, and I were in Pittsburgh during our yearly pilgrimage to the North to visit family. I was staying on the un-air-conditioned third floor of my grandparents’ house; it was daytime, yet I lay on the bed by myself, hungry but not able to stomach anything.

I remember hearing my grandmother slowly ascend the flights of stairs to get to me. She’d brought something bland for me to eat, I think, and she had a cool washcloth to put on my brow. After she went downstairs again, I could feel myself being hyperaware of all the sights and sounds. I could hear kids playing (maybe my cousins in the backyard?) and could smell the delicious meal my grandma was making in the kitchen. The room seemed bright, bright, bright, and my stomach rumbled with hunger.

And then I started thinking about what I wanted to eat. I started to imagine a hot dog and a cheeseburger from my favorite diner in all the land, a 1950s joint on Lake Erie, where I’d been just a few days before. This I remember clearly: simply imagining the food was enough to make me sick to my stomach.

A few hours later, it was nighttime and I fell asleep. The next day I woke up feeling fine.

Migraine runs in both my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family; chances are my grandmother knew what I was dealing with. I cannot recall if she made mention of the word “headache” or “migraine” or if she said much to me at all apart from soothing me. I do recall feeling uncomfortably hot, lonely, and wishing more than anything to be home with my mom.


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