Migraine and Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Ashley Stark has risen to the top of her field but not without struggle.
Breaking through the glass ceiling is difficult enough, and for Ashley, experiencing migraine attacks that “were so bad at one point my neck went completely stiff and the pain was unbearable” made it even more challenging.
Mom, entrepreneur, and migraine
Ashley’s days are HECTIC. On a normal day, she’s busy getting her kids ready for school, helping with homework, cooking dinner, and settling them into their nighttime routines all while managing her own design business. When a migraine attack hits, Ashley relies on simple tricks like “drawing a warm bath, meditating, and taking Excedrin Migraine” to help her power through her day.
Ashley and I had a conversation on how she lives her life despite migraine and manages to still be a successful businesswoman, mother, and wife. It's important to show that even though we live with this debilitating disease, there are still ways to have a happy life.
First migraine attack
Jaime: Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for speaking with me today. I know firsthand how difficult it is to raise a family and manage a career while living with migraine. When was your first migraine attack and did you know it was migraine at the time?
Ashley: I was 13 or 14 years old and on vacation with my family when I experienced my first migraine attack. It came on hormonally. I remember having to go to sleep at 4 pm and sleeping all day until the following day. My parents took me to the doctor and were told the migraine attacks were hormonal and were given Tylenol. From that time on, they were not consistent until after my pregnancies.
Being a caregiver with migraine
Jaime: It was important to recognize that although migraine interferes so much in my life, how and when I showed up for my kids and family was what is most important. How has migraine played a role in how you are as a caregiver?
Ashley: There are moments when they were babies that I didn’t know I was having a migraine and I powered through. Now that I know that I am experiencing a migraine attack, I utilize my support system and tools to help me cope and get through it. I don't have to power through anymore because I know how to better take care of myself.
Managing life and business with migraine
Jaime: When you are in the middle of an attack, what impact does that have on how you manage daily tasks?
Ashley:Light sensitivity throws a huge wrench into my day as well as noise sensitivity. A lot of stimulation are triggers – our family business has textures all over the place which can be huge triggers. Taking Excedrin, warm baths, and using a lavender roller all help to minimize my pain and symptoms.
Jaime: You manage your own design business. Tell me about that and what challenges you face having a business while living with migraine.
Ashley: My family owns their own business that manufacture carpets and textiles. I do my best to use all the tools I can to get through the day. When the environment gets more stressed, the migraine comes on. Sometimes it’s okay to let things go and that's something I have learned to be okay with.
Jaime: What are your go-to remedies to help alleviate an attack?
What migraine feels like
Jaime: If you had to explain what migraine is to someone who has never had one, what would you say?
Ashley: Migraine feels like the worst hangover you ever had in your life coupled by children screaming in your ears all day mixed with blurriness. My physical symptoms include pounding pain, tension, and the left-side of my neck seizes up.
Words of encouragement
Jaime: Finally, what words of encouragement can you give to other women, like yourself, who are doing it all while managing such a debilitating disease like migraine?
Ashley: Learning to not beat yourself up about it is very important and learning to take time for yourself. You are going to survive. The kids will be okay, the world will not end. It could be frustrating, but you have to find your way through it.
When was your last migraine check-up?