My first migraine hit at age 12, in the middle of the night while I was away at a dance convention. Cold and warm compresses were no match for the pounding and throbbing that seemed to have no end in sight. I remember the nausea rushing over me, and the vomiting bringing my body some relief from the pain so I could get back to sleep.
As I got older, when the pain hit, like so many other people with migraine, I would crave a cold, dark, quiet room, often spending my days in my parents' bed where I could be free from the intrusions of the day. And with time, I learned to help bring the vomiting on more quickly rather than allowing it to come naturally, triggering my gag reflex to hopefully bring on some relief. Like everything, these strategies helped and worked for a little while -- until they didn’t anymore.
When I was young, migraine attacks seemed to come out of nowhere as if I had run into a brick wall, but as I got older they started to come on more slowly. The symptoms would build over a few hours, and if I was paying close enough attention, I could catch it and combat the pain with my arsenal of drugs. Eventually, it got to where a migraine would brew for days instead of hours, and very minor headaches I used to not worry about, if they lingered, I soon learned would become my greatest problems.
As I introduced the “triptans” or abortive medications into my regimens, migraine hangovers became more pronounced. Twenty-four-hour periods of daze where my brain didn’t seem to be firing on full circuits as it continued to recover. This was particularly challenging to navigate as a young student through my academic career into graduate school.
These days, I’m pretty good at noticing the “brew” when it’s happening (usually when I’m under stress), and if I’m properly prepared, I am able to avoid the worst. But when I fail or am unable to act, inevitably the nausea and vomiting will come. As I have aged, there have been a few times where I have been unable to break my migraine at home and became so dehydrated that hospital intervention has been needed -- the last time was a 72-hour stay to keep the pain at bay.
One thing is for certain: Through the ebbs and flows migraine has thrown at me through the years, I have become more aware of how to keep the attacks from taking over, and for now at least, they are less frequent than they once were.
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