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woman trapped inside of hour glass waiting for next migraine attack

What If You Can’t Escape?

Many of us who suffer from migraines know just how inconvenient they can be. Whether it is interrupting a work day, limiting a favorite activity, preventing a scheduled get together with a friend, or halting quality family time, migraine can cause huge inconveniences. Sometimes we have to cancel out on plans, or say no to something we would rather not have to say no to because our bodies just can’t commit to what our mind wants.

Having a good plan for when migraine hits unexpectedly is oftentimes a must for navigating day to day commitments, especially for those of us who are chronic. Keeping abortive medication on hand, or making alternate plans in the event that certain known triggers are likely to be present when we are out and about, for instance, can keep the inconvenience of a miserable migraine manageable. But what happens when it isn’t really possible to alter plans, or change our environments, when dealing with an expected migraine?

A nauseating occurrence

While riding in the car with my caretaker recently, I began to feel really, really sick. We were about thirty minutes into a two-hour car ride, returning back from a show my caretaker played at a festival. Since the morning, I had been feeling uneasy, and a little throbbing had begun in the side of my head. Nothing unusual for me, I took Excedrin, drank water, covered my eyes and laid in a cool room until it was time to go. I started to feel a little better as the morning went on, and soon we were on our way.

Everything was going alright at first. I still felt a bit sick, but it was not escalating. After awhile though, the AC stopped blowing as cold as it had been in the car, and it was 91 degrees outside. My head began to pound as the minutes went on, and eventually intense nausea joined in. I needed to stop and use the restroom, as well as stop moving altogether because I started to feel like I would just throw up if we went any further.

We got to a gas station, and it was even more nightmarish. The closest gas station was an older station with flickering lights in the bathroom and an awful smell. As soon as I walked in, the lights sent me into a dizzying, nauseating spiral. Everything I had eaten before came right up, and I had to sit on a really gross bathroom floor, unable to get up. I fumbled around for my cell phone and called my caretaker to come into the restroom to help. I was grossed out, embarrassed, sad, exhausted, and in pain.

Unfamiliar places

I am a huge proponent of packing my purse full of medications and tools I might need in the event that I get sick from any of my illnesses. I had nausea medication and a change of clothing, luckily. My caretaker got a cup of ice and made a makeshift cold compress for me, and my caretaker also helped me get cleaned up and standing. I literally felt like a small, helpless baby…and began to cry because I felt so embarrassed and tired. There was also no way I could get into a moving car again. I felt as though I had no way to escape.

We sat in an attached Krystal’s next to the gas station, while I rested my head on the cool table /paper towel cold compress we’d made for what seemed like ages. I couldn’t move and I felt overwhelmed to be so helpless in such a public and strange place—even with my preparedness bag and my knowledge of what helps me when the migraines hit, I was stuck. My caretaker acted so patiently and caring, and I wished I could do more to get us moving forward.

Not being able to control migraine’s impact

After awhile, I began to feel well enough to make it back to the car, but I felt very queasy and the rest of the ride was extremely painful. I put multiple layers over my head to make it as dark as possible, but the car ride was still a little too warm even with the AC blasting, the throbbing in my head continued, and my nausea came back in bouts throughout the ride.

As soon as we got home, I felt so sick and exhausted that I couldn’t get out of the car for a few minutes, even though I knew my bed was just a few feet away if I could just get up. Migraine is extremely debilitating and can shape our experiences in ways that we don’t expect, and that we sometimes can’t control. At times I feel as though I literally have to bend to the will of my migraines, and when there is nausea or vertigo accompanying the head pain, it can get out of control. I am lucky my caretaker was there to help me, but I still felt so small and awful.

Have you been in situations where migraine left you feeling helpless and out of control in an unfamiliar environment? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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


  • carla-fisher
    5 months ago

    I have had a few times like that where I was trapped and continue my duties at the same time.
    I was on a mountain fly training one time when a 9/10 migraine hit me. Since I was the only search scanner/observer between El Paso and Abilene, I had to catch every flight I could. I was having to plot, grid and navigate 10 search flights a day. I had to endure nausea and heat, I’m not very tall and airplane visors are short so the sun was right in my eyes. When you fly a small plane 1000’ from the ground in mountainous terrain air currents are constantly picking you up and throwing the plane around. I think that was my worst uncontrollable environment migraine encounter ever.
    My second was on a support operation I commanded on an airfield. It was during an air show. I had a 9/10 hit me Thursday and the operation would start Friday. My head was throbbing and I couldn’t think. It was extremely hot, windy, and dusty. World War II re-enactments we’re so loud. I was able to get in our tent a chill a little bit with ear plugs. I was nauseated Saturday morning I woke up with broken veins in my eyes from puking so hard from the migraine. That attack lasted 9 days.

  • sarahblankenship
    6 months ago

    This happens to me frequently, especially when I travel alone. I go to a city 2 hours away for work a few times a month and sometimes get stranded on the way home. It’s happened at a lot of my kids’ activities, ball games and such, and I end up out in the car waiting and hoping to get away before I can’t drive home. It’s better now that 3 of my 4 daughters drive, but still difficult, especially with work.

  • Kyky Knight moderator author
    5 months ago


    I understand! It can be scary and so frustrating to be halted in the middle of some of the important moments in our lives because of migraine. I fear traveling alone for the very reasons you described. So sorry you have to deal with these awful things. Thank you for sharing and take good care.

  • dvnmzr
    6 months ago

    That happened to me once. I was shopping about an hour away from home, with my sister and her visiting Japanese pen pal. All of a sudden, my head began to pound, my stomach started to sour and I felt dizzy. I knew I had to get home and fast. I drove home in complete terror, having left my friends at the mall. It was rush hour and it took twice as long to get home as it should have. I don’t know how I managed it, to this day! It was the worst experience I have ever had! I don’t drive downtown without another driver or I bus it. Busing sucks but at least I don’t have to worry, I can wait it out without wondering how I am going to get the car home. Or paying the huge cost of parking overnight.

  • glassmind
    6 months ago

    All to often, I set out to do something with “just a little headache” only to end up terriblly ill with a migraine and away from home. It is an awful experience. You have my empathy.

    My life is completely hijacked by migraine.

    I have stopped doing anything if I have a “faint headache”. Because for me personally there is no such thing as a “headache”. They all become migraines if I fail to treat them as migraines.

    I also experience aura and have adapted my life to cancelling plans at the first glimmer of aura. I’ve left many an activity or place in the middle of whatever I was doing. Life’s uturns at the mercy of migraines.

    I get some sudden onset migraines without aura in response to specific triggers and have learned to be hypervigilant about avoiding those triggers. Still, I get sidelined–forgeting to read an ingredients label or suddenly coming across a strong chemical odor.

    It’s all torture.

    Forgive the long response. It’s all to say, “Yes, I’ve been there”.

    At my last Dr visit we completed a Migrain Action Plan

    Availible as pdf file

    There is another for children and schools also pdf

    Additional to filling out the Migraine Action Plan, I have multiple copies. One at home, one given to my “migraine buddy” (since I often cannot think well enough to follow the plan) and used a copier to shrink the plan down to carry on my person. This one can be shared with anyone (especially emergency personel) and I have it saved on my smartphone.

    This way wherever I am, I have at least this tiny bit of control.

    May we all be free from being helpless due to migraine. Even better, I always hope to be migraine free. It may be a false hope, but the fear and anxiety of worrying about the next migraine is harmful to my sanity.

    So, I arm myself with M.A.P. and hope and continue.

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