Getting off the migraine blame train

They started four springs ago– a hammering in my head that overtook me on especially rainy or hot days.

Curled into a sit on the bathroom linoleum, I rocked until I tipped over. I would stay there for hours until, by some grace, I fell asleep.

The headaches were intermittent when they started. A day here, a day there, a series of warning shots.

In truth, I have always had migraines. I spent many pitch-dark childhood evenings splayed across my parents’ bed with an ice bag on my head while my family tip-toed around the house. But those were infrequent, and my mother had quickly and correctly determined lack of sleep to be the culprit. A migraine once a month was manageable, even for a kid, and I learned to prevent those by staying well-rested.

I got good at sleeping. There were missteps– middle school sleepovers when no one slept, high school homework binges and then messy college nights. But eventually, I learned that fatigue brought on migraines, and I allowed fewer and fewer slip ups.

So four years ago, when the migraines started up again, I re-evaluated my lifestyle and started to make changes.

Still, over time, the migraines became more frequent and less forgiving until I was living in a constant state of headache. A trip to the ER one winter morning finally led me to treatment.

Like many migraineurs, my daily medication has only slightly eased the severity and frequency of my headaches, and each month I count and recount the nine abortive pills I have, deciding every day which migraines deserve treatment and which don’t.

My doctor’s solution to the prescription shortage is to offer the occasional sample. If I run out of pills, I can always call and ask for more samples, she says. She would rather I take triptans than ibuprofen. But the few times I have called, her nurse has questioned me at length. Why do I need more medication? What did I do with the sample I was given two months ago? Am I aware that the prescription comes with just nine pills for a reason?

Some people without migraines, and even those who get the occasional migraine, are quick to offer solutions. I have tried many. I need to give up gluten, they say. Have I tried acupuncture? What about ceasing dairy intake? So-and-so found that her migraines changed based on her menstrual cycles. What’s-her-name also had migraines but hers are even worse than mine; I should probably be grateful.

The funny thing is that the more advice I get, the more guilty and ashamed I feel about having migraines in the first place. Suggestions make me feel like I am failing in some way.

As a child, I was able to head off migraines by sleeping. Now, I have been told so many times that I can prevent my migraines that when I have them, I assume responsibility.

If I get a rebound headache, I feel it is because I shouldn’t have aborted the previous day’s headache. If I have too many migraines in a month, I convince myself that it is all in my mind. The random migraine I have absent of any discernible triggers? Probably due to my failure to cut down on stress.

I often feel that I haven’t worked hard enough to find a solution, that I have failed to prioritize my health and well-being.

For the most part, my migraines afflict me alone. The physical pain and social consequences are punishment enough. Those that offer unsolicited “solutions” are often the same people who roll their eyes when I turn down a drink because I’ve taken a migraine aborter. They’re the same who assume my inability to stay out late or enter loud clubs is a sign of my premature descent into geezer-dom, rather than disability.

In truth, there are probably a million things I could do differently that may or may not ease my migraines. But while I work towards a stricter lifestyle for my own comfort, I also recognize that I need to work on acceptance. The migraines just are. My failure to prevent them is not due to personal fault or shortcoming.

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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