Nancy


I began having headaches in high school. I remember vividly those that began in the spring, just as the weather began to change, and school was almost over for the year. I endured the afternoon, longing for the time when I would get home and could place my head on the pillow. My sister played the piano which was against a shared wall with my bedroom. My pleas for the noise to stop were not taken seriously, and my parents failed to intervene. Even though I missed dinner with the family and stayed in my room trying to sleep it off, no one realized the agony I was suffering. No one took me to the doctor, as no one went to the doctor for a headache! My pessimistic grandmother murmured that I was going to die young. To her credit, she was the only one who seemed to know the gravity of my suffering.

I married at 19 and began taking birth control pills. The headaches increased to at least three times a week. The headaches would start at work in the afternoon, and by the time I arrived at home, sometimes driving in the heat with no air conditioning in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I had a full-blown headache with vomiting. I did not have any medication to take. The only thing that helped was to go to sleep. Somehow, while asleep, the pain left, and my brain could rest.

Finally, an OB/GYN told me that birth control pills worsen migraines. He referred me to a neurologist. Fearing a brain tumor or worse, I was concerned about numbness on one side of my face which preceded a headache. He told me that I was having a migraine. He tried to encourage me by telling me that highly intelligent people have migraines, and that we are perfectionists. There were no medications at that time (1967) for migraine relief.

Cigarette smoke sent me straight to bed with the worst of the headaches. At that time, everyone seemed to smoke. I was required to go to after-hour office functions. There was lots of drinking and smoking, neither of which I did. It seemed those who partook of the drinks and cigarettes were fine, but I would miss the next day of work with a super migraine.

I had never seen a list of foods to avoid, but over time, I found that onions, cheese, peanut butter, and doughnuts gave me a headache. I had my own little remedies: Vick’s Salve, Cheetos, Ginger Ale and an ice bag. Later, I found that other sufferers had their own lists of discovered remedies: tea with lemon, heating pad, nasal spray, etc. But when the vomiting started, nothing helped. I have stopped on the side of the road and vomited in the gutter, had to stop at a friend’s house because I could drive no further, thrown up in the trash can at my desk, and thrown up in a bag in my car on the way to church. I have visited with family holding an ice bag on my head and worn sunglasses at my desk. [Tweet this.] The next day I might feel a little washed out, but I survived.

My children have had to stay in the house and take care of me. While in elementary school, each of my children already knew what to do for Mama: prepare an ice bag, keep the blinds drawn, answer the phone, watch TV quietly in another room, tell friends they cannot come over, and make their own lunch.

So, for years, I missed days of my life, family get-togethers, parts of vacations, and days from work. [Tweet this.] Co-workers did not understand. Many would make a point, and still do, of telling me they have a headache, so as to say “see, I am at work, suffering with my headache.” For a Christmas present, I once received a “pill box” for my headache medication. This was supposed to be funny. I lost one job after 5 months because I was out with a headache, vomiting, etc. The boss called my house to check up on me. My son answered the phone, not knowing who was calling, but told him that I was sleeping. I had finally stopped vomiting, and my son was not about to wake me up. The next day, my boss accused me, and thus my son, of lying. He said he called my house, and my son told him I was sleeping, but that I really must not have been home. So he fired me.

My current job of 20 years is very demanding, but my boss has migraines and has been sympathetic for the most part. One of his friends is now my neurologist, who specializes in migraines and suffers himself. He has helped me more than anyone.

I am 61 years old and still have migraines. Completing menopause has helped me, as well as learning what not to do, or what to do, and how to take medications properly. I still have memories of migraines, and how much of my life I missed while suffering.

Now, my granddaughter, age 8, has frequent headaches. I have given her parents all of the information I have concerning children’s headaches. God forbid that she has migraines, but if she does, I want her to get proper treatment and avoid the misery that her Mimi has suffered.

The best part of a migraine is when it leaves you. [Tweet this.] The next day I might feel a little washed out, but I survived.