I was unknowingly suffering from migraine attacks for years before a diagnosis. My episodes started in my early teens, and I would be better in about an hour after some ibuprofen. As I got older, that began to change.
My migraine episodes escalated in high school, both in pain and frequency. As an extraordinarily extroverted, self-proclaimed "life of the party" person, this was a huge no-no. I felt like a walking time bomb, and since I was (for some unknown reason) shamefully hiding the extent of my pain from my family, my progression down a path of anger and frustration intensified. My episodes were sporadic and unpredictable, aside from those that consistently coincided with my menstrual cycle.
I felt like I was the only one going through this experience, but it's not easy to tell people you have an invisible disease. However, it simply became too difficult to try and hide in my room or back out of events because I was under the weather. Like all good parents, mine doubled as investigative journalists and wanted to get to the "why" I was increasingly not feeling well. So I caved and let them in on my little secret, which led to a trip to the eye doctor to see if maybe my head was hurting because I needed glasses. The result: I have better than 20/20 vision.
Our next move was to see if my allergies were triggering my attacks. It would be easier to list what I'm not allergic to. So let's just put it this way -- I never leave home without my EpiPen. Fortunately, a family friend suggested a fantastic neurologist, which led to a life-changing breakthrough. I'm not going to lie. It can be terrifying when you are first diagnosed with a neurological disorder, especially since treatment is a process of trial and error.
Like many high schoolers, my diet and sleep schedule were a mess. And I can assure you that my youthful passion for salty foods, caffeinated drinks, candy with red dye, and energy drinks was not helping my situation. Cue some friendly advice: Be honest with your doctor about what you consume and their questions during your initial diagnosis. Your honesty will help them help you.
I know we each have our own stories about the right treatment plan, but thankfully, after an MRI and more tests than I care to count, my neurologist came up with a treatment plan. Even better, the prescribed medication worked for me quickly, which I know isn't the case for everyone. Over time, my symptoms were drastically reduced, making my episodes much easier to manage.
I'm so accustomed to hiding pain and fatigue that I'm still learning to cope with my migraine episodes after all this time. It is a prolonged process, but you need to be patient with yourself and your doctors. Treatment is often a marathon, not a sprint. Advocate for yourself, never give up, and remember you are not alone.
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