Woman sits distressed in doctor's office while snowball of stress compiles behind her

The Snowball Effect of Migraine After Migraine

The physician's assistant tells me to take a deep breath in and then breathe out. She leads me through a meditation/visualization where I picture different parts of my brain calming down. She and the doc did some sort of study, and this is supposed to help migraine patients feel better. We have thrown everything we can at my attacks for the time being, so I've asked to learn meditation. It was advertised on their website, and I figure it can't hurt.

Overwhelmed by the impact of migraine

I take deep breaths and follow the PA's deadpan voice. Her calmness translates to a lack of emotion. Maybe this is because my own world is swelled up with a bubble of feelings. The more I meditate, the more I realize I feel like I might burst. I have a disease no one can cure, and not many people seem to care. I leave home every day worried that my head will rob me of my buoyancy and the life I've taken for granted.

Triggers are everywhere in a big city

Every stimulus in New York City became a source of stress. Will the subway lights set one off? Will the crowds of people trap me? Will my confused brain cause me to end up lost? My previous life of art school, gallery openings, and restaurant trips became small: home - subway - studio - subway - home, repeat. If I could skate by a day, or even half a day, with no migraine, I was victorious.

My stress snowballs into another attack

So in the doctor's office, while breathing in and out, I question if my life will ever go back to normal. Emotions expand beyond my control, and the migraine is released.

I start to sob, and she asks me what I'm feeling.

"My lips are numb," I say, through hiccupping syllables.

"Are you getting a migraine?"

I nod.

My migraine types

I have two types of migraines: ones that come on slowly and ramp up towards dinner time, and ones that hit the side of my head like a ton of bricks. I've just been knocked to the floor.

The PA keeps her same steady demeanor and offers me a shot for the pain. She has me sit up on a table so she can do the shot in my thigh. When the torture is over I am led to a dark room where I can rest.

Stuck at the doctor’s office

Alone, I feel the dancing pain in my temples and label it as a 7 out of 10. It pins me to my seat but does not make me want to bang my head against a wall. It brings disorientation and tears in about 90 percent of my awareness, but there's this 10 percent — a small but powerful part of me — that can logically survey the situation:

  • I don’t know how long I can stay in this spare exam room. My goal should be to leave and go to school, which is only two blocks away, and rest in my art studio.
  • I wonder if the raisins I had in my oatmeal that morning had sulfites in them. Guess I'll scratch raisins off my list.
  • I wore my favorite jacket today - the one with the silver buttons on the black waterproof fabric. This isn't relevant to my migraine but somehow enters my consciousness as a way to acknowledge something outside my situation.

Pushing through

The door opens, and the sound makes me flinch. Her monotone voice approaches me again. It's been two hours, and I can try another dose of medicine — this time a pill, which I accept with a paper cup of lukewarm water. A different (stronger) injection is offered, but I refuse it. Why? I don't know.

I say that I'll get up to use the bathroom, and if I find I'm able to walk, I'll leave. The plan works. I exit the building, and muscle memory takes me to my school.

Desperate for pain relief

After a few hours of trying to sleep through the noises of a busy art school, I gather my things and head back to the doctor's office. My head hasn't gotten any better, and I wonder if they'll still be able to give me that shot. But the receptionist is like a bouncer at a nightclub, and I'm not on the guest list. All appointments are booked, and no amount of pleading that I was just there a few hours ago and offered a shot gets me through.

My chiropractor is in the same office, though, and he will see me.

Finding someone who cares

He takes one look at me and knows it's best to leave well enough alone. He lets me cry and offers a tissue when I’m done. Instead of a spinal adjustment, he performs a healing ritual of sorts. I want to chuckle through the humming and chanting, but I also feel that someone cared. My pain wasn't better, but I didn't feel so small anymore.

The attacks didn't let up

This pretty much sums up my final year in grad school leading to graduation. I still somehow managed to create a thesis and walk with my classmates.

That summer, my migraines didn’t go away with the stress of school like many people in my life suggested. Life after school was filled with doctor's appointments and uneven progress, but I'll have to write about that next time.

Did you miss the first half of Lisa's migraine story? Don't worry! You can read "Part 1 of My Migraine Story: Did I Cause My Chronic Migraines?" here!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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