I suffer from frequent migraines. This has been an ongoing problem since I was about seven years old and it has definitely aged with me. I have learned over the years that not many people actually know or understand what a migraine is and therefore wave it off as a glorified headache. After what I dealt with this weekend, I would like to explain what a migraine is and why they should be taken seriously through my own experiences.
— Possible “Too Much Information” Beyond This Point —
When I was five years old, I refused to poop. I wish I could say this was a short-lived phase, but this serious, embarrassing, and harmful refusal went on till I was about fourteen. I don’t know why I decided to stop pooping, but it was a decision that would gradually impact my entire life. At first, I was able to keep it a secret. It was easy, because no one really monitors how often you go to the bathroom once you stop potty training as long as you don’t say you don’t need to go and you go into a stall and pretend (you know by going through the motions and flushing perfectly good water). So because of these reasons, I don’t blame anyone, but me.
Eventually, my mother found out. It was inevitable, because no one – especially a young child – should have that much “build up” in their body. I started getting cramps in my lower stomach and back, I started needing to violently throw up, I began to eat less and less, and of course I was exhausted. Fun Fact: It isn’t as easy as it may sound to hold in your poop, especially for a little girl like me. She took me the doctor to talk about it (awkward!) and to hopefully get something that would help me want to go and/or make it easier when I had to go. They had me try all sorts of things from stool-softeners to laxatives to muscle relaxers, but I was a persistent little girl and wouldn’t give up.
Once you deal with this for a couple months, your insides get messed up, so you can’t even imagine what dealing with this for nine years did to my bowels. There were so many times that I would end up sobbing in the bathroom floor wishing I could just be normal again, but it is a habit like any other and just as hard to break.
I endured my first migraine when I was in the first grade and I remember it vividly. The strain I had been putting on my body had finally reached its limit, so my brain found a way to get the rest it needed. It was morning, sometime before lunch, that the initial signs began. I started to see “stars” and became extremely cold, then my stomach started to hurt. I complained to the teacher, but she waved me off initially. I complained another time and she sent me to the nurse. The nurse told me I just needed to eat something and then I would feel better, so I went to lunch and ate everything my mom had packed me. Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, I threw it all back up. By this point, I was so pale, I was almost translucent, so they finally called my mom to come get me.
By the time we made it home, I was so cold and so pale and my head was throbbing so hard. My mom had never dealt with anything like this before, so it was pretty scary. She buried me underneath blankets and got my room as dark as possible. She laid beside me rubbing my head while encouraging me to try and sleep. That was difficult, because every hour or so I had to throw up. She pumped me full of water and pain meds, but nothing seemed to work. Being so little, I didn’t know how to handle such pain, so I was crying a lot and my mom was doing everything she could to calm me down, because the crying was putting a lot of pressure on my head making the throbbing worse. After about five hours of torture, I finally had to go to the bathroom. I was in there for what felt like ever with my mom rubbing my back and soothing me, I eventually pooped. After that I was literally spent. My mom carried me back to my room and put me under the covers and laid with me. I fell right to sleep and slept through the night. The next day, I woke up groggy, but back to my normal color and temperature.
That is how and why my frequent migraines began. I finally got my bathroom habits under control in junior high. I hoped that my migraines would stop when the constipation stopped, but they have stayed with me. I remember having a couple a year in high school, but they began full force again when I started college. These post-constipation migraines were a little different. They still hurt like hell, but focused more on light and sound sensitivity. Over time, I learned that my new migraines are caused by stress and lack of sleep. I deal with severe pain behind my right eye as well as getting dramatic “auras” which is the “seeing stars” I referred to earlier, it is the onset of a migraine that impairs your vision. The pain has not lessened, but luckily I know how to combat it a bit better. I have learned that ice packs work miracles for numbing the throbbing, heating pads are wonderful for relaxing the lower stomach and back muscles, creating a no sound/no light atmosphere is ideal for falling asleep, and Excedrin is ibuprofen addict’s dream.
The college atmosphere has contributed to my migraines, because of extensive stress that such a busy schedule puts on a person. Between work and school, I am gone all day which forces me to stay up later at night to work on papers and projects for class which in turn affects how much sleep I get. It is really forcing me to learn how to prioritize my time better than my peers who can pull all-nighters or take drugs to help them stay alert.
This past weekend, I had three migraines. Two on Friday alone and then another on Saturday night. Migraines are brutal and should not be taken lightly. Having all of these migraines was my body’s way of telling me it needs to slow down and rest. From Friday till Monday I was literally a mess. Because I was sleeping constantly, I wasn’t eating as much as I should which therefore led to some major stomach problems I had to deal with on Monday. It is a domino effect.
Please respect people when they tell you they were sick with a migraine. My professors did not take me seriously and now I am behind in my work. I know some claim migraine when they just have a minor headache, but for those of us who really do have a problem, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I am very passionate about migraine education, so stay tuned for more information… and don’t worry, it will not be nearly as gross!