Migraine is the third most prevalent illness and the sixth most disabling illness in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. As of this year (2020), there are 37 million of us (men, women, and children) affected in the United States, says the American Migraine Foundation. I became one of these statistics when my life took an unexpected turn six years ago.
I felt helpless and alone when I found out what a migraine headache really was. The force of the pain slammed into me like a runaway freight train. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for quite some time. I felt like I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who had experienced this.
Doctors will tell you that migraines can be caused by a long list of things, some of which are stress, allergies, certain foods, lack of sleep, illness, hormonal fluctuations, and much more.
Until six years ago, my lifestyle could be summed up in one phrase, “On the go.” I’ve always been high energy, strong, healthy, and positive. I would take on more and more projects at work. Every day I would run out the door to fitness classes and pack my calendar full of fun times with friends and family. The more activity and people, the merrier things were. That was my motto.
One night, in the fall of 2014, an excruciating headache hit me literally out of nowhere. I curled up in my bed, hoping it would quickly pass. The bedroom lights were sending shards of pain into my sensitive head and the city noises outside were making me feel worse. The pain was unbearable and making me horribly nauseous. It was the first time in my life that I ever experienced these symptoms. I was helplessly ill. Internally I knew something was very wrong. These were grave symptoms, not those of a simple head cold or flu.
I managed to get to my car and proceeded to drive myself to a hospital emergency room, although the pain was steadily beating through my head. I struggled to stay focused. I was counting the remaining miles in my mind. I was determined to make it under my own power. I remember how hard it was to make this drive. The eye pain I was experiencing along with the headache was overwhelming. It seemed like the drive took forever.
When I got to the hospital, one of the doctors asked me if I had a history of migraine headaches. The answer was simple: “never.” I was in my 20s then; I didn’t even have minor headaches. It is obvious that the physician would ask me this question as every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain, equating to 1.2 million visits each year for acute migraine attacks, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
The physician immediately decided to start treating me for a migraine, giving me fluids and painkillers through an IV. I was exhausted and fell asleep once the pain started to subside. The next morning I was released from the hospital and given prescriptions to fill “just in case” the headache came back. I was completely exhausted and extremely weak after being discharged from the hospital. I filled the prescriptions and went back home to rest.
I was only home three or four hours when the headache struck again. This time it was even worse than the night before. I took the medications they had sent home with me and laid back down in my bed. My headache steadily overpowered the medications. The pain was overwhelming and brutal; out of control.
I am a strong and independent person, but at the time I was so weak and scared. I felt like there were many unknowns. What was wrong with me? The only thing that I was certain of was that I was having a serious medical crisis and needed to get back to the emergency room. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.
Coming next: I was helpless and critically ill