Paying it forward in the next generation
I recently had a frank conversation with my 23 year-old daughter about life with migraine. As many of you know, she was diagnosed with Abdominal Migraine at two years old. Before her third birthday, Migraine without Aura had appeared, too.
You might be thinking, “How awful!”
Yet early intervention and good migraine education paid off. Thanks to a good treatment plan and even better lifestyle management, she has never experienced Chronic Migraine, Medication Overuse Headache, or Status Migrainosus. She has never been hospitalized or even had an ER visit due to migraine.
Watching my struggle has motivated her to take charge of migraine before it can take control of her life. She has taken an active role in managing her own disease. She understands the risks and knows exactly what to do at every turn.
Here are just a few pearls of migraine wisdom she had to share:
- Be careful who you tell about migraine. Most people just won’t get it, so save yourself the drama.
- Don’t ever leave home without your medicines AND comfort measures.
- Treat attacks early and don’t skip your preventives.
- Create a migraine-friendly living environment.
- Do what you must to protect yourself from migraine attacks and don’t stress about it.
- Choose your career carefully. Think about the potential triggers before you commit.
- Choose your friends and intimate partners very carefully. They will see you at your weakest, so make sure they get it and support you.
- Become an expert on migraine. Expect to know more than your doctors.
- If a doctor tells you something that sounds fishy, double-check with Mom.
At age 23, I’d been living with migraine almost as long as she has. Yet I was deep in the throes of Medication Overuse Headache without any idea about triggers or lifestyle management. No one ever explained that all those strange symptoms were part of migraine. I honestly believed that migraine was simply a “bad headache". I had no idea that migraine was an incurable neurological disease. If I could stop an attack without missing work, then I was satisfied. It never occurred to me that getting a headache every day might be a problem.
As I listened to her talk about her life with migraine, I felt a deep sense of relief. She doesn’t carry the emotional scars of widespread stigma. Even though there were many people who minimized her pain, she never internalized that message. Somehow, she never questioned her own experience with migraine. I am so grateful that her experience with migraine has not been the living nightmare she saw in me.
I have felt a deep sense of guilt over all the special occasions I missed and the many times she needed me when I was too sick to respond. Although I wasn’t able to always be the mom she needed, she paid attention. She learned from my experience and resolved to keep migraine from taking over her life.
Thankfully, my granddaughter has a mom whose life isn’t controlled by migraine.
That is my legacy.
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