Student on stage in costume performs before an audience as dark liquid drips over her vision

Middle Schooler Migraine

Last updated: May 2022

As a theatre kid through and through, I grew up to become a middle school drama teacher. I taught English during the day and ran the after-school drama program, putting on musicals with sixty to eighty sixth-to-eighth graders. It was stressful, so fun, and exceptionally rewarding.

A busy tech rehearsal

One time at a tech rehearsal, I was too busy. I had put my clipboard down somewhere and couldn’t find it, a parent had come to rehearsal to yell at me about something, and there were eighty kids dressed as spoons and forks ready to perform “Be Our Guest” with microphones for the first time.

A girl was in the way

A cast member, a girl, was standing in my way. “Excuse me. You need to go to your place,” I told her. She stared at me. Her eyes weren’t focused. She looked scared and pale. I thought maybe she was going to puke, something that had happened at a previous rehearsal with another cast member - causing chaos, stopping the rehearsal, and threatening sympathy pukes.

“I can’t see,” she said.

I was in a rush and getting mad. “I don’t need you to see. If you can see the stage, you’re too close. You need to go backstage.”

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said.

I was getting more and more annoyed, and then I stopped. “What do you mean you can’t see?” I asked.

“It’s like I’m going blind.”

She had an aura.

“Do you have a headache?”

“Not really.”

“Do you feel like you might puke?”

“A little. Am I okay? What’s going on?” She was terrified.

I took her to a quiet dark space

Nearly a hundred people were waiting for me, but I took the girl to my colleague’s classroom next door to the auditorium. He was in a meeting. I texted him what was going on. I had the student sit at a desk, and I turned out all the lights. I brought her some water and an ice pack from my emergency kit.

I think it was her first migraine

“You’re getting a migraine, I think. I’m going to have someone call your mom or dad to come and get you. You’ll be okay. I started to get them when I was your age.”

She was embarrassed by it

I had one of my parent volunteers call the girl’s parents and sit with her until they came. She didn’t say thank you or talk to me about it again, but I didn’t care. If she was anything like me in middle school, she was mortified at being incapacitated during school and didn’t want to call any more attention to herself than she already had.

Migraine and puberty

Many people get their first migraines right around puberty. As a middle school teacher, I dealt with kids having all kinds of changes go through their bodies. I’d held up a deodorant stick and implored my sixth graders to wear it during a particularly warm spring. It’s our job as adults to help our kids destigmatize their health and changes in their bodies. I’m so sorry this kid had to experience her first migraine during a loud, bright tech rehearsal, but hopefully, having someone tell her she wasn’t dying helped her feel a little better.

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