From a young age, around 5 or 6 years old, I began experiencing my first headaches. I vividly remember lying huddled on the bathroom floor, my mother beside me stroking my hair as I cried in agonizing pain. My forehead was throbbing, a dull stabbing pain wrenching behind my eyes, I was too dizzy and nauseous to stand up. The only time I would sit up straight would be to vomit. These headache episodes occurred about once or twice every month.
Obviously, my parents were thoroughly concerned to witness their young child experience so much pain and on such a frequent basis. I remember that during one of my first painful episodes, my parents rushed me to the emergency room. The doctors could not offer any explanations and instructed my folks to give me Ibuprofen to deal with the pain, in upwards of four pills at a time!
Through his own research, my father uncovered that I was, in fact, suffering from migraines. As we were unaware of the causes, we adopted methods to address the symptoms. My mother hung up black-out curtains in my room to deal with the extreme light-sensitivity that plague migraine sufferers. The pantry was always stocked with a jumbo-sized bottle of Ibuprofen. And, if my migraines were very severe, a bucket would be placed beside my bed so that I wouldn’t have to spend the night next to the toilet.
As it was the beginning of the Internet age, my father’s novice medical research skills were put to the test. He advised me to begin tracking any triggers so we could start pinpointing causes. I was given a small notebook to use as a “migraine diary”. Through this method, we were able to uncover a bit of a pattern. I usually felt a headache creeping in while at school, usually after lunch. Often, I would arrive home from school after riding the school bus and begin sensing a migraine develop.
My father theorized that perhaps my eyesight was the culprit, perhaps from straining to read the chalkboard in class, and took me to see several optometrists. After a few eye tests, I was deemed to have perfect vision and well-functioning eye muscles. Back to the drawing board.
Jacksonville, Florida, our city of residence at the time, is known for it’s hot, humid weather. Despite the moniker of the “Sunshine State,” thunderstorms and rain showers are frequent. As I began tracking my triggers, a correlation between weather and my migraines began to become evident. Low pressure from storm systems can affect those susceptible to migraines. The medical community has now begun to recognize this alignment and has aptly named it the Barometric Pressure Migraine.
However, this medical discovery was not made nor discussed in the early 1990’s, and I still experienced excruciating pain before a thunderstorm. My parents continued to be my biggest advocates, taking me to see brain specialists and allergists. Following a CT scan, it was revealed that my sinus cavities were a bit large for someone my age. Despite this discovery, the doctors informed us that there was nothing they could do and that perhaps, as I grew older, I would “grow into my sinuses.” The Ibuprofen would remain a staple good in our household throughout my childhood.
Fast forward to adulthood ———————-> I am in my early 20’s and still deal with migraines on a monthly basis. Living in Houston, Texas, the weather is very similar to Jacksonville. Hot temperatures and high humidity create the perfect environment for frequent thunderstorms. In anticipation for the hours of upcoming pain, I was always prepared by having cold bottles of water in the fridge, blackout curtains hanging in the bedroom, and an aromatherapy eye mask at the ready. Suffering in pain (as the years of taking OTC headache medication negated any pain relieving effect), I would pray for the migraine to subside. The pain was crippling, debilitating. After years of anguish, I began to accept my fate. Migraines would be an inevitable part of my life. No drug could alleviate the pain.