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What It’s Really Like to Live With Chronic Migraines

This is a guest post written by John Martinez from Axon Optics. Axon Optics develops photophobia glasses that help migraineurs alleviate their migraine pain and frequency.

I have to thank my family and friends for dealing with my migraines. All of my fellow migraineurs understand when I say time is of the essence at the first inkling of a migraine. Often times this results in demanding a family member or partner or friend to help me out. “Do you have any ibuprofen?!” “Can we stop for coffee immediately?!” “Please turn off the lights and don’t make a sound or move!” I’ve uttered all of those things in my distressed state of realizing I have another migraine. It’s a frantic time where I go through stages.

Stage one is denial. Nope, this cannot be happening right now!

Stage two is acceptance which lasts about three seconds and involves me closing and opening my eyes to make sure the strobe light is still having a party in my eye. Yes, it is.

This immediately passed over to stage three of action. That’s where the demands come in. After I’ve medicated with whatever seems to be working for me that month/season/year. Since getting my first migraine over 20 years ago, the symptoms they exhibit have changed and what works to subside the pain and duration has changed, too.

Stage four is riding it out which can take anywhere from one-hour to three days.

Stage five is elation that the migraine is gone and soon stage six is complete where I restock my pockets, glove box and purse with medication so I’m prepared for the next one.

I got my first migraine when I was 12 years old. I was walking home from my last day of sixth grade. I didn’t have a clue what the visual disturbance was. When I got home, I asked my sister why the music video on MTV had weird squiggles and flashing lights in the middle. She looked at me how she always did when we were young teenagers – like I was nuts, and just asked the dumbest question in history. She was of no help.

When my mom got home from work and found me in nauseating pain in bed, she knew I had a migraine. She fed me ibuprofen and Coca Cola mixed with milk to wash down the pills. The Coke and milk cocktail was my neighbor’s recommendation who also suffered from migraines. It was a strange beverage, but not as weird as I thought it was that my brain had showed me irregular shapes and patterns that were flashing in my vision. I wished it had just been a weird music video.

I think we can all relate to the concept that migraines love to occur during the most inopportune times. I’ve never thought, “Oh yeah, this is a fine time for a migraine that will leave me completely useless for the next one hour to three days.” So we do everything in the book to avoid getting one. As a teenager, I read every piece of migraine relief research I could get my hands on and realized that I was just never going to eat anything again or go outside to avoid any potential triggers. Seemed like a simple solution. But then I really wanted that slice of pizza which contained cheese, processed meats and gluten – all potential triggers.  I ate it and didn’t get a migraine. I was in better shape then knowing I could tolerate pizza. Of course I ended up eating other foods that are immediate triggers for some. I also went outside again. But the list of potential triggers is horrifying, especially as a young adult. Twenty years later, I’m able to put my migraines into much better perspective, and I’m aware of my small list of triggers.

To my fellow migraineurs and families and friends of those who suffer, I feel for you. And I thank you for helping us when we need it most. Bring on the Coke with milk, please! And then be completely silent.

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