Sister to Sister: Migraines

Did you know that migraines affect 28 million women in the US, and women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men? I didn’t because I just googled it, but chances are most of you have at least heard of migraines, had a family member experience them, or even had them yourself. Even so, there’s still a lot of mystery around migraines, even for those who get them often. So I’m going to go through my experience to explain a bit of what migraines are and how I’ve dealt with mine.

Migraines are defined as moderate/severe pain on one side of the head, accompanied by nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. For some, the migraine can also have or start with an “aura”, such as visual flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision. Migraines can last for hours or even for days, and generally start gradually building the day before. Migraines vary exactly how they effect person to person, and there is no known cause for migraines other than certain things that can increase their likelihood. They tend to remain a mystery in this aspect, but nevertheless can be very debilitating. EDIT: My neurolgist informed me that migraines aren't always one sided. I've experienced one that was all around my head before, so basically a headache with nausea and sensitivity to light/sound is a more accurate definition. 

I got my first migraine January 2016, when I was 15 1/2. I had just started taking a doctor prescribed contraceptive pill a couple months prior to manage my horrendous periods, which I now know can be a trigger for migraines (oops). Not to mention I was stressed, band class was loud, and when I got home I didn’t get much done before the tell tale symptoms of a migraine showed up at my door. My mom had gotten migraines previously (funny enough when she was pregnant with me), and knew exactly what I had. I basically stayed in the darkness of my bedroom for the rest of the evening.

Most times, I’m pretty lucky with my migraines. The throbbing pain usually doesn’t keep me reeling once I’m in the dark, and I can technically function. But the minute I turn on the light or look at my phone or computer, the pain/nausea combo is back. So, basically I sit in a dark room, bored out of my mind, because I can’t do anything without being pain and feeling sick. Luckily, mine only last hours and I feel better after sleeping. I’ve had worse ones, but generally mine are on the milder side. Still, they throw a total wrench in my plans and really get in the way of school and basically anything I aimed to do.

Thing with migraines is they are hard to treat. If you can spot the signs of a migraine starting the day before, you can take preventative medication. If you’re like me and have no idea what signs those are, you take treatment meds the minute you feel a migraine is starting (for me its dull pain starting to congregate on one side, slight nausea/off feeling looking at bright things, sensitivity to sound). If you get it fast enough, it can go away and you dodged a bullet. But sometimes migraines don’t have the same tell tale signs and it can be confusing to decipher a migraine from a normal headache that’ll pass. While it’s better to be safe than sorry, when you have prescription meds you have to take sparingly, it can be a hard dice game to catch the migraine early enough.

So, what do you do when you can’t avoid a migraine? Depending on your symptoms, the best is to go into the darkest room possible, no lights or anything (or block out the lights from your eyes with a loose blind fold or something). Lay down however is most comfortable, generally my migraines feel better laying down on my side (the one that isn’t throbbing). Make sure you have plenty of water nearby to drink and if you can, get a cold pack or ice pack to put over your head. It can even be a frozen bag of vegetables with a cloth over it (that’s what I use). And just relax. Pushing through the migraine can easily intensify it and leave you worse off than resting. And if your migraines are severe and/or chronic, it might be a good idea to your doctor or a neurologist to get you the meds you need to manage them better.

Have any of you guys experienced migraines, or know someone who does? Feel free to talk about it in the comments below and share any advice you have at tackling migraines, because man these headaches are just so weird we need all the tips we can get.

(Also see- Skin Hunger)

Writing and Drawings done by Katharine

While I post a lot of art, I'm also a writer deep in my soul :'D I used to be writing books but I've moved more into the webcomic realm as of now.

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  • yess i feel like everyone has something in common, oh, and you all welcomed me, and i couldn't write back??
  • I sometimes get migraines and they are miserable. Usually I start getting blurry vision, kind of like I just looked at the sun, and it looks like pieces of things are missing. Then I start getting a headache, and I try to take a nap. Then when my vision clears about 30 mins later I have a reeeeally bad headache and pain meds don't help. I usually have the headache the rest of the day and the next day if I go upside down I can still feel it. It tends to happen when I haven't gotten enough to eat and I'm really tired. I got my first one when I was 7. I'm often nervous to go somewhere without my mom cause I'm worried I'll get one.
  • I'm so glad someone wrote this! I get terrible migraines with an aura and sometimes need medication.
  • Ugh I have a horrible migraine right now. It started as a meh headache this morning, and I just drank water. It got progressively worse and pain meds didn’t help once it was overpowering, which usually means it’s a migraine in my experience -__-

    I actually find heat pads really helpful too, thought being hot anywhere else makes it worse, extreme heat on the point of pain helps me. The way I’ve experienced migraines has always been on both sides, and I often get nausea too (I have it right now XP.) I came back specifically to look for this board today, and see if there was anything else I could do. This is old, but thanks for the advice, friend.
  • I get migraines sometimes, I had a pretty close brush with getting one on Tuesday. One time I had to go to the ER for a awful migraine with an aura. It was kinda scary. I'm on a "as needed" medication for it now but I find that benodryll (however you spell it) or ibuprofen work better. When I'm on my devices too much that triggers it sometimes or when a really loud noise goes off right next to me- like the time the microwave made a big banging sound while I was right next to it. That didn't go well for the headaches...
    • Oh man I've never had one with an aura before, I can image that was pretty freaky- especially going to the ER for it D: I've only been to urgent care for one once and that was enough of an adventure. Mine are also triggered in similar ways! Makes sense since migraines are essentially the nerves in your brain misfiring and causing pain in an overreaction to something- therefore too much light/sound makes our nerves feel like they're dying and thus migraines happen. I'm on as needed meds too- though it took a couple tries to find some that wouldn't cause side effects almost as bad as the migraine itself xD got some that do the trick thankfully. Glad you found meds that work and figured out some of your triggers though ! Definitely helps with managing migraines in the long term. Regardless I hope you don't get them too often </3
  • I get headaches constantly, and migraines pretty often too. My mom has the migrain gene in the family--she gets such bad ones that she sometimes needs to go to the hospital.
    I find that cold (but not frozen--they give me brain freezes and just increase my headache), damp wash cloths work moderately well for me. If I have someone to rub my head, that is also ideal. xD Being in heat will instantly make my migraines rocket, so I usually turn the fan on, open the window, and get a cold spray bottle to have at hand.
    Thank you for making this Katharine! I'll try some of your tips. <3
    • Ugh yeah my mom has the migraine gene too- both of us have been to the hospital once for a really bad migraine. Luckily it's never been that bad since, but I'm always super cautious now xP
      Gotcha!! Yeah I think heat makes mine worse too, cold is just super soothing when it comes to migraines for some reason. The cold damp cloth is a good idea actually- as well as a cold spray bottle :D
      I'm glad you like it!! I'll try some of your tips too! <3
  • Ugh, I get migraines too. I typically don't have "day-before" signs, but then again I didn't even know that was a thing until now. I'll look harder for those now that I know about it - thanks! Something I find helpful is to listen to music through earbuds - I find the sound going directly into your head can help distract from the pain/discomfort ^.^
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