My Kids Don’t Turn On Lights Without Asking—That’s How Crazy My Migraine Is

I started getting migraines in my early teen years. My older sister and my mother also have them, and we have similar symptoms and triggers. When I was 16, I had my first really, really bad, multi-day migraine. I ended up in the hospital a few times back then. They did a spinal tap and pretty much every test there was, because I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t see. It was truly unbearable. That first one went nonstop for almost a week. I started working with a neurologist to figure out triggers and treatments, and over time, they became less intense. Working with them and working around them has gotten easier throughout my life into adulthood, and hormonal changes probably helped as well. But there was a big learning curve.

One thing I learned is that I just can’t do hormonal birth control—that was basically out before it was even in for me. Photosensitivity is another one of my main triggers, as is barometric pressure. If there’s a storm coming, I can feel it. It sounds so woo-woo, I hate even talking about it. It just feels so foreign to people that haven’t had the same experience. I can imagine people being like, “Oh, sure. Sure it does.” But I swear, it actually happens. If there’s a storm system coming, I have to be prepared and have my medication ready. That big barometric-pressure drop can be enough to trigger my migraine. It doesn’t happen every time it rains or snows, but when there’s a major or prolonged shift, like a few days of storms, I’ll start to feel the aura coming on, and if I’m on low sleep or high on stress, it’s enough to trigger a migraine. One thing on its own doesn’t always trigger symptoms, but if it’s that perfect storm of triggers that happen simultaneously, then I’m out.

Both times that I was pregnant I couldn’t take any prescription migraine medication, so that was tricky. It was mostly a “grin and bear it” situation, but I worked through it with help from a lot of acupuncture and massage work. A lot of dealing with my migraines is just accepting that when my symptoms start, I’m going to be down for the count. I need to get into a pitch-black room. There can be no light whatsoever. I take migraine medication right away, and depending on how I feel, I will usually take anti-nausea medication as well. When I get migraines I usually get very nauseous. They can often last one to three days, but other times it can be just an afternoon. If I act early enough with the medication, I can usually get my symptoms down to just an afternoon. Right now, I am so fortunate to be in a good place, where I only get migraines once a month or so. When I was younger, they were much more common. Of course, now I’ve got concerns about the next phase, when I’m premenopausal. Is that hormonal shift going to send me back into that bad place? I’m nervous, because being in a good spot has been so wonderful.

I feel bad about this, but my kids are very aware of my migraines, especially the photosensitivity part. They don’t turn a light on in the house without checking. If we come into the house and it’s dark, they’ll tell me before turning a light on. It’s so crazy, everyone walking on eggshells about something as silly as turning on the lights! But if I’m looking toward that light and not expecting it to suddenly turn on, it’ll send me into a migraine. So everyone in the house knows to just give a heads-up.

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