Saturday, June 2, 2012

Migraine Awareness Month: Share the story of your first Migraine

I have had headaches for as long as I can remember.  My mother use to call them "sick headaches" and would lead me to my bed in a darkened room where she would put a cold washcloth on my head.  For years, my headaches were attributed to sinuses or my "sensitive" personality.  My mother also experienced sick headaches, but I never remember the word "migraine" being used in relationship to them.  

There are two childhood experiences regarding migraines which stand out in my mind.  When I was in about the third grade, a much beloved aunt came to visit from out of town.  I was excited about all the fun things that we would be able to do with her.  However, apart from my excitement over her visit, the one thing I vividly remember about it was standing in a room with her and my mom and feeling so sick that I thought I was going to throw up or pass out from my headache.  That afternoon mom took me to the doctor as I watched my sister and brother walk with my aunt downtown to get some ice cream.  (Oh, the funny things we remember as children!) Yet, this was the first of many, many things I recall missing as a result of my migraines.)

Fast forward to the summer before tenth grade when I went with my church group to Montreat, North Carolina. I recall having a constant throbbing headache for the majority of the trip.  When my friends asked what was going on, I remember telling them that I had a "mack truck sitting on my brain."  Shortly after returning, a friend was apparently so worried that she called my mom to tell her about my headaches.  

At about this same time, I had an appointment with my optometrist.  My recent bout with severe headaches was mentioned.  Within twenty minutes into the appointment, he looked at my mother and I (a sixteen year old) and told us that he thought I had a brain tumor.  The next thing I knew I was in the hospital having the first of a myriad of tests run to find out why I was having such horrible headaches.  I clearly remember how grim my family and friends were at this time.  In looking back at letters I received, it was clear that many of them felt that it was inevitable that I did indeed have a brain tumor due to the intensity of my headaches as well as some suspicious findings in my eye exam and my MRI.

Everyone let go of a great sigh of relief when the neurologist determined that it was "only" migraines that I was experiencing.  "Only migraines" have followed me for over 45 years, dramatically changing the way I have been able to interact with life and with people.  Although I have many wonderful childhood memories, one of the ones which I can see most clearly in my mind's eye is of me lying in the middle of my bed with a cool wash cloth across my eyes in a dark room too frightened to move because of what it might do to my pain level.  

As I mentioned, I was frequently regarded as an overly sensitive child.  I was overly sensitive to smells, frequently roaming the house with my mother (who had the same problem) looking for the source of the smell of natural gas or fire.  I also complained to my parents about how loud the television was in their bedroom.  They had a hard time believing that I could actually hear a TV that they thought was set so low until I could recite the dialogue from a show they were watching.  My head was extremely sensitive to touch at times, and I disliked having my hair brushed as a result.  I was frequently nauseous without any vomiting (another indication that I was making this up).  I would also have periods when I was ultra sensitive to any movements, light or sounds around me and would become easily irritated.

My greatest hope in writing this is that no child will be viewed as having "only" headaches or migraines.  This is a serious life changing disease.  Although it rarely leads to death, it frequently makes the one who has them wish that death was an option.  I can remember being treated by doctors as if I was exaggerating, malingering or emotionally unstable.  At times, I wondered if they were right - if there was something wrong with my character or my faith because I could not control these horrible headaches and the accompanying symptoms.   Although my parents were generally supportive and loving, there were times when they also wondered if my "headaches" and their symptoms might not be the result of my being "too sensitive."

Statistics indicate that 9 percent of American children between the ages of five and 13 experience migraines ( If you believe that your child might have migraines, please seek the help of a migraine specialist.  There are medications and treatments that can benefit children.  Research indicates that the more frequently one has a migraine the more the brain "learns" the pattern of migraines.  Untreated migraines may over time lead to more frequent and even chronic migraines.  

If you would like more information about children and migraines, please check out these links.  Migraine Research Foundation  Migraines in Children are Frequently Overlooked

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by

1 comment:

  1. Cyndi, we were "migraine twins from afar". Reading your post was like reading a biography of my childhood. I'm not "sensitive", I'm tough as nails to have to put up with this for 42 years!