Friday, April 6, 2012

Hope for Headaches

This post was written for the Headache Blog Carnival. Thanks to Diana Lee at for providing the prompt: how to keep hope in the face of migraine headaches. The link provides a list of other participating bloggers. 

It’s almost always there, the feeling of dread.

I have plans for the day, may have been looking forward to visiting a museum, shopping, a road trip to a nearby historic town. After all, it’s a holiday, and I have much to do. I’ll spend the day with loved ones, have a pleasant meal, maybe end the day watching a new comedy film.

Or maybe not.

As I drift out of sleep each morning, I’m already accessing my health. Do I feel a headache coming on? Even though I went to sleep feeling fine, did I let myself get too tired over the past several days, inadvertently eat a food with MSG, or change my daily routine in some small way, triggering an incipient migraine attack?

Or did I do none of the dozen things that I’ve identified as possible migraine triggers, and yet still feel that beginning of a throb, slight but deepening nausea, the morning sun blinding me with harsh light sensitivity instead of being the welcome portent of a pleasant, sunny day?

As a migraine sufferer, I have learned to de-emphasize to others the daily attention I give to the brain disease. There’s a stigma attached to being a migraine sufferer, and I go along by pretending that the possibility of a migraine doesn’t color many of my daily thoughts, plans and activities.

It’s just a headache, after all, right? And who wants to be known as the weakling who stays in bed in a darkened room for days, just because she has a headache? What kind of drama queen does that?

I wonder how it looks to others. Although I suffer much less than many migraineurs, I may spend four to five days in a row in bed several times a year, trying to sleep off a migraine. I know some people wonder what’s up, why I don’t just take a magic pill, or learn a meditation technique like their cousin did, and shake the headache off? I’ve tried to spread some knowledge about migraines to those who know me, but even specialists in the field admit that the migraine brain is incompletely understood.

Truly, when in the midst of an attack, people’s opinions matter little to me. But once I’m back on my feet, I am embarrassed at the thought that I had to call in sick to work, forgo plans, and ignore my family. The headache was in control, another four days of my life are gone, and can’t be replaced.

If I dwell on the attack that I just emerged from, I fear I’ll only bring on another attack. So I brush off concerns of my co-workers, friends, and family. I assure them that I’m fine. I’m ready to take on the world again, to venture out into the sun for a long walk, to tackle the project at work, to pretend that the dread is not always there in some degree, as hard as I work to repress it.

Sometimes if the days between migraines stretch into weeks, I dare to hope I’ve turned a corner. I get bolder yet, and hope that maybe this is the year researchers will come up with a solution that works for me and so many other migraineurs that are waiting. An effective preventative, a reliable, safe treatment, maybe even a cure.

We’re waiting for our tiny, budding hope to grow into full flower—a sunflower, one that doesn’t have to hide in a darkened room until the pain is gone.


  1. I sympathize completely. I don't get migraines, but I have periods of time when I have nearly constant headaches that are relieved only by taking prescription meds that make me very tired. Some is hormonal, some is just tension. It's incredibly frustrating and sort of embarrassing sometimes when I have to bow out of things because I have a headache - it sounds so lame but it can be really horrible.

  2. My mother suffered terrible migraines till she was in her mid-60s. I don't think they went away, I think she's on so many different medications now that one of them (or the combination, possibly) is preventing their occurrence. Or maybe it was hormonal all along...

    I wouldn't know how it would look like to someone who is completely unaware, but for me, it was painful to watch her suffer without any relief in sight. My heart goes out to you.

  3. I have had migraines before but much more often I live with a low grade headache - an almost constant throb at work, especially. Most days I start my day with excedrin and sometimes take a second dose at lunchtime. Sleep helps as does a glass of wine at night. I VEVER think less of a person who is dealing with migraines or any kind of headache. I, too, do my best to NOT mention the headache at work (though a couple of people with whom I work can tell when I am covering it up).

  4. My migraines are pretty few and far between--often only one or two a year and I've never had one last longer than 24 hours. But I know how overwhelming they can be and how they render a person completely non-functional. As JT said, I would never think less of person suffering from migraines and doing whatever it takes (including nothing) to make it through.

    The people who know what works for someone else can sometimes be the worst because they don't accept that the same things don't work for everyone--and that fact is not the fault of the sufferer even a tiny bit.

  5. Ladies, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your kind and understanding comments. Headache sufferers are in most everyone's family or circle of friends. We know that migraine headaches, and in fact most headaches, are not going to be fatal. But the many of us who have them regularly (some of us since puberty) do still hope for a way to take the headache component out of our lives. As MM notes, the fact that no single treatment seems to work for everyone makes migraines especially difficult for others to understand-- the "just get over it" sentiment can prevail.

    Recently read a review of a new book by a Dr. Rizzoli, so I'd like to check his book out and write a follow-up post at some point.

  6. I lived with migraines all of my life, Melanie, so I can totally understand. My headaches (including horrible nausea) could last from 24 hours to 5 days. It is exhausting! And I know that many people thought I was just making it up. It is a HORRIBLE way to live.

    The wonderful thing now, since I stopped having periods I have not had those same type of headaches anymore. Mild little headaches once in a while, but nothing like what it was before. I guess everyone is different.

    So you have my compassion, Amiga!

    Love, hugs and blessings,

  7. Migraines are no laughing matter and nothing to shrug off.

    You should never be embarrassed for your suffering.

  8. I used to suffer from terrible headaches, some migraines, until I had kids, curiously.
    Melanie, I had no idea there was stigma surrounding migraines!

  9. Hi Laine,
    I take that as a hopeful sign, that you don't see a stigma associated with headaches. My perception is that some people see the number of our sick days from work adding up and sometimes may wonder if we can be counted on... if we are just slackers, etc. It varies, but some folks just don't know what happens with chronic migraine.
    But I'm glad that your children seemed to have helped you kiss your headaches goodbye-- yet another sweet benefit to your little ones.:)

  10. Suffering from a long term disease and can't find a real solution for the disease by using pills or medicines just try some Home Remedies for that disease. Home remedies are the best way to get rid of any disease. Becausue home remedies have no side effects and you can take them regularly and treat the disease permanently.