The madness of migraine

One afternoon while a 16-year-old was on summer vacation with her family, she found herself lying on a bed crying with a headache more severe than she could ever have imagined. She felt weak and nauseous, and her mother guessed she had a virus or the flu. She slept through the night and felt better the next day.

The young woman had more of these severe headache attacks occasionally throughout the rest of her teens, and into her 20s they became more frequent and more intense. She spent about one half of each month either in pain trying to function through college courses and workdays or in bed for 24 to 72 hours violently ill, vomiting and barely able to raise her head from the pillow.

Mercifully, during her first pregnancy and breastfeeding months, these attacks all but ceased. Sometime after her son was born, the woman finally was diagnosed with migraines. There weren’t too many medication options at that time — the early 80s — but she was given something for the pain, which unfortunately, usually didn’t stay down long enough to help.

Her second pregnancy and breastfeeding months provided another respite from the horrendous attacks, and during those years, the woman did as much research and reading about migraine as possible. In the early 90s along came Imitrex, which thankfully, although not an absolute remedy, worked to abort some attacks and helped make life a little more livable.

Fast forward to 2006 — after several years of trying many preventive meds, lifestyle changes, alternative treatments — when the onset of menopause changed the migraine routine for the woman; attacks came more frequently but were less intense. She still had most symptoms including head pain, light-sound-smell sensitivity, nausea and diarrhea, but no more vomiting, and usually relief in a couple of hours with medication. Now, it’s rare for her to have to be in bed or sleep longer than a couple of hours to mitigate an attack.

And now, although we know what migraine is, we have numerous medications and treatments to try, and the rest of the world is finally starting to get it, migraine madness still exists, and the woman still reads and researches and writes. She even published Migraine Expressions, a collection of migraine art and writing to help others understand our experience.

Of course the woman is me, and while I grieve for the time and activities I’ve missed and how my life might have been different, I celebrate the life, love, family and friends I do have, and I hope unceasingly for better treatments and relief in the near future — and for an eventual cure for migraine disease.

Not The End and Not Happily Ever After, just To Be Continued…

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