Advice at the Airport
Traveling with migraine
I’m on the bus, headed to a train, to a shuttle, to a plane, to a car that will take me to my mother’s coastal home three giant provinces away.
Traveling with the threat of migraine is never fun, and my muscles have been seizing up since yesterday. No amount of stretching, exercise or sleep has seemed to help. I feel the pain creep up my right shoulder blade, into my neck. Even as it radiates up to my right eye, I try to pretend it’s not happening. I have a huge day ahead of me – even my subconscious should be well aware --- so there’s no way this is the beginning of a full blown migraine.
Except that it is.
Public waterworks (again)
By the time I get on the train I’m already pining for a bathroom stall so I can cry, and that’s a migraine signal I can’t ignore. I pop a triptan, knowing its effects will be stunted by how long I’ve waited to take it.
I arrive at the airport and find a washroom spilling over with fresh perfume. It burns my brain! I turn on my heel and carry on. I ride the dizzyingly steep escalators to security. My suitcase feels like a pile of rocks.
As I climb the escalator to security and I can’t hold the tears back any longer. I collapse on the nearest chair, and cry as discreetly as possible (which is not very) next to some people in expensive looking business suits. They ignore me. Everything hurts.
Feeling desperate, I approach the security staff. Is there a quiet room I can sit in for a few minutes? I have a migraine. No. I am pointed back to another identical group of chairs just down the hall in the same open, noisy, bright atrium.
There, I continue to cry because I can’t not. Mercifully, after a half hour the full-body pain begins to dull, and a full-body exhaustion takes hold. I decide to brave the washroom to clean myself up and brave the security line.
Maybe the most hilarious and poorly timed unsolicited advice of all time
There, one of security staff from before asks if I’m okay. I could kiss her. Thank you. I’ll be okay. I have a migraine.
Oh, I get migraines too. My doctor showed me how to get rid of them. It’s all about pressure. You just put your fingers like this, and rub here, hard, like this, see? Then here, then back here. Then you push on your jaw and the back of your head as hard as you can! It’s all about pressure on the muscles. Two times. It will make the migraine go away.
That works for you? That’s great. Thank you. Goodbye.
Call to action
Maybe that well-meaning security guard really has had migraines. Maybe this seemingly random massage technique does work for her. Who am I to judge? But how on Earth, in 2017 -- in an age of medical revelations and widespread information about disease and disability -- do people even begin to imagine that migraine has one easy, simple fix? Would she say such a thing to someone with have an asthma attack? A seizure? A heart attack?
We must not be quiet. We must not feel shame. We must not shut up, ever, until it is common knowledge that migraine attacks are often seriously debilitating with no easy fix. We must not give up until every staff person dealing with the public who hears migraine knows to offer assistance instead of advice.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?