An Open Letter to My Migraines
Last updated: January 2022
It's been almost 30 years of this back and forth, this dance we started so very long ago. When you first showed up, I was too young to name you, I was too afraid to try explaining you, and I wasn't sure that you'd ever go away.
My introduction to migraine
I remember the first doctor who asked how much my head hurt. When I told him that the only thing that made the pain bearable was laying on the cold tile of my bathroom floor, in the dark, in the silence, I remember him sighing.
I remember him asking my parents a million questions - from my environment to my food and drink intake, checking my vision and my neurological responses, and so many other things too.
And I remember sitting on the crinkly paper covering the exam table in his office when he said to my mom, "Well, you should probably expect to get used to these. She might grow out of them, but I can't tell you that for sure."
Migraines - this was your coldhearted introduction. It was the first time I knew we'd have a lifelong relationship.
Changing through the years
There were years in which you frequently visited, leaving me home from school, hiding from the world, blacking out in my bedroom, and desperately hoping the time would pass. There was a time when I understood Tylenol would never be enough - that I needed better resources. That I was probably too young to be offered them.
I have to recognize the times I'm grateful for, too. The seasons in which you came few and far between. The weeks and months in which you allowed me to learn and grow and play - without being the sick kid and without worrying about vomiting from holding in so much excruciating pain.
Finding relief from the attacks
I remember the first time I was prescribed an oral contraceptive to help mitigate the unbearable cramps that came with my period. Well, it was then that I learned how closely my hormones and my migraines were connected. Stabilizing one led to a balance with the other, and you and I found a way to mostly co-exist. I always knew if it was going to storm, or if I was dehydrated, or if I tried too hard for too long to read things that were too far away, we'd meet again, but I tried really really hard to avoid all of those things.
Migraines, it wasn't until college that my doctor offered me stronger medication to manage you when you arrived. And I'll never forget how grateful I felt the first time I took a pill that made you shrink down until you disappeared.
The worst of our relationship
Honestly, I thought that the first decade we were together was the hardest. I didn't have the language to process or understand how you were affecting my body, brain, and life, and there didn't seem to be any great solutions in keeping us apart.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Migraines, the last year between us has been the absolute worst of our relationship.
I understand; I've asked so much of my body. I've tried desperately, time and time again, to become a mother and to grow my family. And that has come with so many consequences, including your inevitable arrival after every major hormonal shift.
A new season of migraine
This last year, you led me to the emergency room, to several medication cocktails running through my veins, you forced me to find a new doctor, not just a neurologist but a migraine specialist, you introduced me to a variety of abortive medications both at home and in-office via IV. You've taught me that I'll never truly be freed from the grasp you keep on me.
This past year, you made me realize that we will forever be linked. My continued goal of having another baby prevents me from taking regular preventative migraine medications, and the frustration over this is endless. But, it's the reality of trying to conceive. Not much is tested on pregnant women, including migraine medications.
Where do we go from here?
So, Migraines, how do we proceed from here? I'd like to ask you to stay the heck away, but unfortunately, I know that's rather unlikely. Today, I'll just ask you this... Could you send up a flare before you launch into terrorizing mode? Can you give me enough warning to grab medication and shelter? Can you realize that I am not, in any way, ever, intentionally trying to bring you out? And maybe, just maybe, sometimes you could shorten your visits?
Your unwilling & ungrateful host,
Have others downplayed your migraine pain?