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Travel, one of my favorite things, may be one of my worst triggers

My dear friend SB married her boyfriend of eleven years this weekend, and it was awesome.  You know those weddings where you can really see the couple’s personalities shine through, and the whole ceremony and subsequent party are a true testament to their particular style of adorable and quirky love? This was one of those weddings. I was so honored and grateful to have been there.

I was not so grateful for the journey it took to arrive at the wedding, though I’m trying to see the good in my obnoxious struggles and am attempting to do the best I can to learn from my lesson.

You see, the wedding was about an hour outside of Los Angeles, California. You may recall that I live on the opposite coast in a little city called Athens, Georgia.  Athens is home to not just my husband, my sister, and my parents, but also to my successful small business: Avid Bookshop. Jim, the husband, is in the midst of midterms. My sister’s about to have a big birthday on Tuesday. My parents are about to hit the road for a family wedding in Pittsburgh (I’ll join them in a few days), and my bookshop is insanely busy with some incredibly huge author events and our fourth (!) anniversary party coming up.  You know what Athens is not home to? An airport that has direct flights to the vast majority of the country.

All these factors set the stage for a pretty hectic travel time. The Atlanta airport is about 75 minutes by car on a good day, but on Thursday morning it took my dad and me nearly two hours to get there. My period arrived several days ahead of schedule, and I had a typical and predictable migraine setting in en route to the airport—my period will do that on its own, but add in the traffic jams and I’m a goner.

I’ve been flying since I was a wee kid and have a lot of experience regarding when to get to the airport, how to navigate the lines, and all that jazz.  Imagine my surprise to have arrived at the airport, already checked in and with 55 minutes before takeoff, only to find out soon after that I and seventeen other people had missed our flight by minutes.  To make a very long and very stressful story short, my bag got on the plane to L.A. but my body did not—the airline took off early.  I can’t even tell you how mad I and the other would-be passengers were. Let’s just sum things up by saying I’ll never fly a certain airline ever, ever again and that the migraine I was trying to keep at bay with the medication I’d taken in the car was set to come roaring back with all the stress I was trying to cope with.

One of my best friends in Atlanta picked me up at the airport and hosted me for the night ’til I could get on the next L.A. flight the following day. I took a second Amerge (naratriptan) once at her house, and I took a really deep nap for over an hour, the kind of nap that seems particular to my menstrual-related migraine attacks. In the evening, I got to spend some much-needed quality time with her and another dear friend, and I was so thankful to be with them.  I reminded myself of the good of the situation.

Unfortunately, I had a migraine the next day. And the next, and then the next (which is today, Sunday—I’m writing from my flight back to Georgia). Amid these attacks (or perhaps one viciously recurring attack), I got to see another best friend who lives in California. We relaxed poolside together, having a nice lunch with her awesome husband and alternating between reading and chatting. We went to the wedding yesterday evening and it was just lovely, and I could feel that my migraine was threatening to return a little after dark, so I grabbed the first shuttle back to the hotel despite my fear of missing out on more of the fun.  Somehow I started feeling a little better before I fell asleep and avoided taking any more meds.

I’m a pretty light sleeper as it is, but during a migraine I am notoriously easy to wake up.  For the first time ever, I was awakened by the sound of the hotel staff slipping the hotel bill under the door.  Yes, a slight swoosh of paper woke me up—but the second I opened my eyes I realized I was in pain again.  I fumbled for my Zomig without getting out of bed and was able to give myself the nasal dose easily and then fall back asleep.  At 7:00, the hotel wake-up call came and I was drowsy but the migraine pain was gone, thankfully.

Every day of this trip was marred by migraine.

On the one hand, I am thankful I still was able to socialize and see loved ones and see my beloved California. I will be forever grateful to have been present for my friends’ wedding vows and subsequent party.

On the other hand, however, I am beyond p.o.’ed. It’s not useful to think about the concept of being “deserving” when it comes to illness, but I keep wanting to shake my fist and yell, “I don’t deserve this! This isn’t fair!”  Why can’t I just go on a trip and not spend hours of time, not to mention tons of money on pharmaceuticals, to try to feel somewhat healthy? Why can’t I drive in traffic or fly across time zones without knowing a migraine will come slap me down? Why must every period come with its own special and stubborn migraine?

Every day with illness is different. In fact, for me it seems like every minute is different. I sway among acceptance, denial, anger, and frustration within the space of a half an hour.  Right now I look across the aisle and see gorgeous blue skies. I see a couple hundred drowsy heads lolling, and I think about all these people with their stories and their own journeys.  I am grateful to be here, to be alive. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to travel, and I’m so thankful for wonderful friends and family who enrich my life.

But, dammit: having migraines all the time just sucks. And I’m really, really sick of it right now.

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.


  • BethBlue
    4 years ago

    I’m surprised that you didn’t discuss the problems involved in air travel itself. Cabin pressure, annoying passengers (screaming babies, seat kickers), and turbulence are just a few of the triggers that make air travel a miserable experience for me. I used to enjoy it; now, it’s horrifying and ruins virtually every trip I have to make. These days, I simply plan to spend every day of an upcoming trip having to take double doses of medication, and I pack accordingly. And no, that’s not fair at all.

  • Luna
    4 years ago

    I have a relative that would call what you say over and over in your posts… “but I keep wanting to shake my fist and yell, “I don’t deserve this! This isn’t fair!” ….a pity party.
    And do you feel better after saying this?
    I find I can’t go the pity, anger or depression route of thinking. They only make matters worse so I use distraction to discontinue those feelings. But then I am much older and don’t have the energy to waste. Just be happy that you are able to travel and socialize. Some of us can not do those things at all or very limited. Courage and enjoy what you can.

  • t8he2i
    4 years ago

    I can so relate to your stories. I feel the same way, as I have migraines, or at least some form of a migraine, nearly every day. My migraine specialist is in the process of switching to a new hospital and I currently have no one to work with. I was taken off all forms of preventatives (including Botox) because they no longer worked. The doctor had some ideas regarding preventatives, but nothing was finalized before she left her practice. The acute treatments that I have to take for when my migraine is bad only work some of the time. Since I’ve had MOH before, I’m very careful about how often I take medicine, but I fear sometimes I wait too long and it just becomes one long, 10+ day event.
    Just wanted you to know that I totally relate to your stories and I’m grateful for them – I know i’m not alone!

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