The first time I had a migraine I thought I was going blind
It was late on a Friday afternoon and I was working as an Employment Counsellor. I had to read and edit a stack of resumes before the end of the day. As I was reading the last resume, half the page went missing. I could only see the print on the left-hand side.
In a panic, I called my eye-doctor who happened to work down the street. I explained my situation and he advised me to come right away. When I arrived, he did a few tests on my eyes, asked if I had a headache and when I answered with a yes, he said, “Go home now!”
He knew that I had a 45-minute highway drive to get home and told me that my vision impairment was the beginning stages of a migraine.
But it actually wasn’t my first migraine
My first migraine occurred many years beforehand as a child delivering newspapers door-to-door.
It was a Wednesday — a particularly cold wintry day — that I lugged the heavy bag of newspapers with the strap across my forehead. I marched up the steep hill, begrudging the icy wind and my growing headache. By the end of my neighbourhood delivery, I was steeped deep in a migraine. I didn’t realize that it had a name — I just thought it was the worst headache I’d ever had brought on by my heavy load. I quit delivering newspapers the next day.
Since then I can remember having one other migraine as a teenager
I travelled with my cousin to go shopping at the discount stores on the other side of the Canadian/US border. We stayed in a seedy motel for the evening but I couldn’t enjoy the outing because of the pain in my head that would not recede even with lots of medication.
I didn’t have a name for the extreme pain at the time. But now, as an adult looking back, I recognize them as the migraines they were.
As the years went on, after I had children, I experienced more and more of these painful aberrations.
One most inconvenient migraine occurred as I was snowmobiling with my husband. I experienced a floating aura in my eye that actually blocked my vision. It was a challenge to drive the sled all the way back to our home while trying to stay on the trail!
After a migraine, I have what I call a “migraine hangover”. I feel fatigued and have difficulty concentrating.
But one of the most annoying things about experiencing a migraine is the lack of empathy from those who have never had one
They don’t understand — can’t understand — the debilitating pain.
They may relate it to a “bad headache”. But it’s so much more than that.
Some people even expect someone with a migraine to continue to work. Seriously? I can hardly sit up let alone focus my eyes on a computer screen. The fluorescent lights and noise in the office would drive me under the desk.
Migraines are serious business.
Fortunately, I now have medication that if taken in the aura stage the pain is somewhat manageable. Not that I can concentrate on anything, and sound and light is still painful, but I’m not writhing in pain as I have seen others.
When it comes to a migraine, recognition is the first step
If your eyesight gets wonky, and you feel a headache coming on you may be suffering from an oncoming migraine. Don’t put up with it as I did as a child, but rather see your doctor to confirm that it is a migraine and get proper medication.
And if you know someone who suffers from migraines, try to show some sympathy if you’re unable to muster any empathy. Offering to turn off lights, keep the house/workplace quiet, and giving them some space can go a long way.
P.S. Mary Gallagher has written an exceptional article on migraines that I highly recommend you read.