Written by Yadira Ramos for Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc.
Once I turned 30, my migraine attacks became worse. There was a period when I would get them every single day. Back then, I was only working night shifts at the hospital. Little did I know that sleep deprivation was a trigger. I was going through a rough patch at the time as well. I remember my coworkers’ faces every time I would go to work with a migraine. Some were compassionate and understood, others not so much. The majority would suggest that I didn’t want to work, that I was exaggerating, it was all in my head, that I needed to do something about it quick. But I was doing something; I had cut the major triggers such as alcohol and dairy, was seeing my acupuncturist, doing yoga, taking supplements, you name it, plus prescribed medications.
One night at work, I had a stabbing headache. I could barely open my eyes. I remember signing a prescription when suddenly the pen fell off my hand. I stood up, went to one of the nurses, she checked my blood pressure and it was high. She tells me “you’re slurring your words”. She assisted me on a stretcher and while I was trying to situate myself I noticed my left leg was not moving and my left arm was weak.
As an ER physician I thought of the worst! I was either stroking out or an aneurysm had burst. I had an aunt who passed away around the same age due to a brain aneurysm. I can say that was the worst headache of my life! Turns out it was a complex migraine. After that experience, some of my coworkers, came to me apologizing because they haven’t experienced similar headaches and had no idea how bad they are.
On a personal level, my previous partners were 50-50 on compassion and understanding what migraine disease is and isn’t. Some would get upset because I was having a crisis and couldn’t go out. Another one, who was a physician, didn’t understand why I needed to be inside a dark, quiet room during an attack. He even suggested I liked being sick. Who in the world likes having a hammer/clamp pounding on your head, unable to open one eye, feeling like you are in another galaxy cause all looks and feels surreal is just insane. Another would spray a strong perfume on purpose because he didn’t believe strong smells can be triggers. I was making it up.
People who do not live with migraine disease would never understand what a migraine attack feels like. You try to educate and explain and still they can’t understand it. Sometimes the doctors don’t understand it because they don’t have it.
There was a moment that I felt so isolated and desperate that I became depressed. After having the severe attack I mentioned above, I was sent to see a therapist. Believe it or not, it helped. Stress was another trigger that I hadn’t identified.
Several years passed until I found my current neurologist. His approach was different than the others I’ve seen, and I started monthly injections for migraine prevention. Those have been a life changer for me. I can make plans ahead of time without the fear of canceling at the last minute due to a migraine attack.
For all people living with migraine disease, I know how it feels and how isolating it can be. What I can say is grab the day you are migraine free and enjoy it, because you don’t know when another migraine attack might come.