Star Trek: Migraine Generations
What role do Migraine/Headache Disorders play in your family history? Do others live with it? Does this make a difference in how you talk about it?
Family is a really difficult thing for me to talk about. You see – for me there is a catch…
My father has no family history. He was adopted as an infant. This means half my pedigree is…. Gone.
We know a little about my dad’s ancestors, if we can believe what the Children’s Home Society told my grandparents on the day they went to court to formally make him theirs. What they were told tells us virtually nothing about family health issues. At least not directly.
In 1937 birth records were sealed. Although sometimes there was some information given to adopting families, it was considered “non-identifiable information”. This means the information was made as vague as possible, so that it would be impossible for the child or anyone else to tie the baby directly to his/her birth family, yet enough that the baby had at least some information about where he/she came from.
But what we know is interesting, and we can make a few assumptions based upon what little we know:
- My father is related to Edith Wharton. Not only was Ms Wharton one of the most famous women of her day, but she apparently suffered severe and debilitating Migraines. She also married a man who suffered such debilitating and severe headaches (cluster headaches?) that it destroyed their relationship. They had no children of their own, so although it’s possible we are linked to them somehow by blood, without a release of records from the Children’s Home, we cannot as yet link our family directly to theirs on paper. An important notation is that Edith Wharton died of a stroke.
- My father has suffered headaches nearly all his life. While in the Air Force in his early 20’s, he was diagnosed with *sinus headaches* – a diagnosis he will not question or discuss. We now know that *sinus headaches* are the most frequent misdiagnosis for Migraine yet rarely happen without the presence of infection. He assumes they can’t be Migraine because I suffer more than he does.
- Both my kids are Migraineurs. My son was diagnosed before he was walking and was chronic by age four. My daughter began having attacks as a young child.
- My brother suffered his very first Migraine during our last trip to Oregon where he lives. He woke up in the morning with “a headache like I’ve never felt before in my life”. Vomiting and several other symptoms ensued, and he was out for a good portion of the day. Whether or not he will ever have another attack remains to be seen. He sucked it up and was an excellent host, and has never talked about it again. He has a beautiful little girl though. I pray she will never have to live with Migraine.
Migraine is a normal part of my immediate family’s life because every day revolves around my chronic condition. It isn’t often discussed by my other blood relatives. In fact, it played a significant role in an estrangement between me and a much beloved relative. It’s a loss I will always mourn.
I am lucky because many of my family members have seen me in pain. They know about my struggle to get better. Unfortunately many still believe the stigma and misinformation so prevalent in our society. I must be allowing myself to be over-stressed or choosing to have a bad day. I’m a hysterical female that just needs to relax. My hysterectomy should have cured the problem. I am looking for attention.
When asked to sign the petition for Congress to look more carefully at Migraine and other disabling headache disorders, one of my closest relatives answered “no”.
I don’t mind admitting, that’s pretty tough to get past when I talk to this person or see them for a visit. It feels like they didn’t care enough about me as a person to take 30 seconds out of their day and write their name. It invalidated everything I’ve fought so hard for, and it invalidated my kids and their struggles, and the struggles of every patient I know and love. It sucked the air out of me. It still does.
Sometimes these issues are my own fault. I don’t like to discuss my Migraines and other health problems with family. They know about them, and for me, that is enough. However, I’ll never forget one holiday when I was verbally attacked, accused and beaten down in a most awful way – the result of a long-standing Migraine misunderstanding. You’d think this would have made it easier for me to talk about my Migraines, but it didn’t.
Things like that just shouldn’t happen.
I wish I was a better person. I wish family didn’t get *that look* when an issue about my health arises. I wish my health conditions were taken as seriously as they affect my life.
So what about the next generation?
Someday I hope I will be lucky enough to become a grandma. I didn’t know when I had my kids that I wouldn’t be giving them an inheritance of money, jewels or property, but a disease. My kids do know this however, and it is their decision whether children are in their future. Or mine. At least I know if I have a grandchild with Migraine, they won’t have to endure the emotional toll I’ve had to live with.
I know of families who have made this gut-wrenching decision, and decided not to have children. It’s a choice I can’t imagine being faced with.
Isn’t it an awful thought that Migraine has taken so much from us, that it could potentially even rob us of our family’s future?
Have you made the conscious decision to have children despite your Migraine or other health problems? Can you share with us your thought processes so others may be helped too?
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June, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is issued by FightingHeadacheDisorders.com
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