Witnessing Someone Else's Migraine
Last updated: June 2022
The first migraine I remember suffering from was during elementary school. The walls felt like they were closing in on me, and I had to lay down in the nurse's office until my mom could come to pick me up. In the last 30 years, I've had more than my fair share of days like this - completely obliterated by how a migraine disrupts absolutely everything.
A few years ago, I witnessed (for the first time) someone else's migraine.
My husband started getting headaches
My husband is and always has been relatively healthy, having minimal need to see a doctor, no regular medications, and, in general, a pretty good amount of energy. Early in our relationship, I never remember him complaining about something hurting, reaching for Tylenol, or being unwell, minus a few bouts of food poisoning and the common cold. But something seemed to change in the time after our daughter was born in 2019. He began experiencing periodic headaches, requiring over-the-counter medication, an ice pack, and sometimes a nap.
I was worried when they increased
Before our daughter reached her first birthday, COVID-19 had begun to rage, and we were dealing with new and higher stress levels and challenges in daily life. My husband's headaches started coming more frequently, and with that, my concern grew. I asked him repeatedly if he'd talked to his primary care physician about them, and he'd always respond with, "It's no big deal, I'm fine."
Watching from the outside and having lived with migraines my whole life, I knew this unfortunately wasn't true. But I also recognized that he needed to reach that conclusion on his own.
This past year, my husband has had a few ocular migraines.
The beginning of ocular migraine
The first came shortly after we lost our son at 11 weeks of pregnancy. We were walking through the grocery store when he told me he couldn't see out of his right eye. We checked out and headed toward the car when he proceeded to throw up in the parking lot. He spent the next two days in bed, taking Excedrin Migraine, wrapped in an ice pack in the dark.
It happened again two months later, but we were at home this time. He came into the kitchen and said quietly, "it's happening again." I helped him to our room, where the above scenario played out again, nearly exactly the same.
It was eye-opening for me
Watching him suffer from the same symptoms that have plagued me for years has been both eye-opening and challenging. I've been so sad to see what I must look like from the outside during a migraine attack and how helpless my husband must feel when I am suffering.
I've felt so much empathy for him, and in turn, for the version of myself that struggles with migraines too.
It changed how I communicate during an attack
I had never previously thought about what it was like to be the partner or caregiver of a migraine patient, and this first-hand experience changed how I thought about everything. One major thing that has become important to me is communicating with my husband while experiencing a migraine. I feel it's my responsibility to articulate how bad it is (we use a 1-10 scale for personal reference) and what I need - silence, water, ice, etc. By ensuring that I use my words, I know that his caretaking experience can be improved, and less of his energy will need to focus on worrying about me.
As a migraine patient, have you ever cared for another person experiencing a migraine? Did the experience change anything for you? I'd love to hear about it below.
Which are you most sensitive to?