Did I Cause My Chronic Migraines?

The sun is in my eyes, and a dull ache is making itself known on the right side of my head and neck. My family and I are starting a bus tour of Boston. I have 7 Imitrex pills in my purse that remain from a prescription I’ve only used twice so far. Do I take one? Is this a migraine?

I don't take my Imitrex pill

We pile on the bus and I choose a window seat despite the sun that’s throwing spears into my eyes. I am used to dulling pain with distraction.

We learn about all the movie scenes that were filmed in Boston, and by the time we finish and get back to my parents’ house to watch one of the flicks, the ache has asserted itself aggressively. I still don’t take an Imitrex.

Feeling regret for not taking an abortive

For years, I regretted this choice. The aforementioned migraine started Christmas Eve 2011 and lasted a week, oscillating between intense pain and disorienting symptoms. I believed this attack changed me somehow because after that the attacks came almost-daily. What if I had taken that pill? Would the single tablet of Imitrex at the right moment help net the web of pain that was spreading in my brain?

I wondered if I caused my own chronic migraines

I do know that the regret I held is best left behind. Can one action change the course of my migraine disease? Probably not. The signs were already there; my frequency was ramping up, and the attacks were harder to treat.

I was diagnosed with migraine not too long before

I had finally received a migraine diagnosis a few weeks prior to that Christmas Eve attack. A few years of youthful international travel and then the art-student life (AKA no insurance) had led me to neglect some primary care visits, and when I did have an appointment I was told to take ibuprofen.

Migraines throughout my childhood

Even though my migraines were missed throughout most of my 20’s, it’s a mystery why no doctor had figured out that I suffered from this common illness during my childhood. I got them frequently enough to bring up to various adults and doctors. There were the migraines after school, where I remember pinching the skin between my thumb and pointy finger because the TV told me that was a pressure point. There were the weekends when an altered sleep schedule and family day-trips left a lifelong memory of an aching head in the backseat of the car. I remember taking my glasses off and pulling down my hair, and then putting my hair back up and glasses back on, because neither was comfortable.

I thought my migraine experiences were normal

I thought my experience was normal and needed a doctor to point out that it was not. If 12% of Americans experience migraine, almost double the percentage of people with major depressive disorder, why is this not screened for at physical exams?1,2

Migraines in my adulthood

So my migraines grew and expanded to fill my entire head, and I was left with regret about not taking a pill. I could have thrown a rock on the tracks to try to stop the oncoming train, but I didn’t. Over time I learned that it was really the doctors and the medical system who could have changed the trajectory, or at least given me a map.

Though the path was ingrained by Christmas 2011, my journey would still take many turns. I’ll have to talk about them next time.

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