Journal

Migraine: My Personal Journey

by | Jun 2, 2014 | Editorial

June is Migraine Awareness Month. For me, migraine awareness is not a month; it has been a lifelong journey. Throughout the month, I’ll share parts of my journey and some things I’ve learned along the way.
In my youth I simply tried to cope. I wore the hammer-crushed ice compresses my father made for me out of his white handkerchiefs. Night after night I did my homework with a bandana around my forehead and the melting ice dripping on my papers. I was a determined student and I never missed a day of school or failed to study for a test because of migraines. I did not heed my father’s well-meaning injunction, “Go to bed. You’ll be a professor a year later.” (In fact, finishing college in three years, I became a “professor” a year earlier.)

No one talked about migraine triggers in those days. No one – least of all I – would have associated the secondhand smoke from my mother’s then-habit, or the delicious cakes and cookies she baked, or my morning bagel, or the school bus ride, or the glaring lights in the school building, or the oppressive New York humidity with migraine. I learned all this later. Much later.

In my late teens, in college and married to a medical student – then physician – I had access to cutting edge medical care. For the next decade or so I tried every new treatment conventional medicine had to offer. Nothing worked and I found the side effects unbearable. The “devil you know” was always preferable. The migraines got worse but pregnancy was a wonderful reprieve. I was always migraine-free in the second and third trimesters; I have four children.

In my thirties, much to the chagrin of my gastroenterologist husband, I began to explore the world of alternative medicine. I tried just about everything Southern California had to offer. (This was the 80’s – you can just imagine.) Some of the bodywork could temporarily lessen the severity of the pain, but nothing healed me. I tried talking cures. I read everything I could find about migraine. I learned that it was genetic and neurological – perhaps some misfiring of the brain – and found out belatedly that my grandmother had walked around with dripping compresses throughout my father’s childhood. I learned about the hundreds of potential triggers and how they are different for each person. I learned that I have what is called chronic continuous migraine.

My wonderful nutritionist, the late Eileen Poole, finally told me that I was the only client she’d ever had who actually followed her diet without cheating and yet continued to have migraines.

That was when I realized that, for me, this was not so much an issue of the mind or the body, but of the soul. Yes, it was biological, neurological, and genetic. But it was also spiritual and there were lessons to learn. That realization was the beginning of my healing. That is not to say I don’t have migraines anymore. I do. But they are not as severe and I’ve learned to prevent or stop many of them. Most of all I do not regard them as the enemy anymore. I have made peace with them…

In my youth I simply tried to cope. I wore the hammer-crushed ice compresses my father made for me out of his white handkerchiefs. Night after night I did my homework with a bandana around my forehead and the melting ice dripping on my papers. I was a determined student and I never missed a day of school or failed to study for a test because of migraines. I did not heed my father’s well-meaning injunction, “Go to bed. You’ll be a professor a year later.” (In fact, finishing college in three years, I became a “professor” a year earlier.)

No one talked about migraine triggers in those days. No one – least of all I – would have associated the secondhand smoke from my mother’s then-habit, or the delicious cakes and cookies she baked, or my morning bagel, or the school bus ride, or the glaring lights in the school building, or the oppressive New York humidity with migraine. I learned all this later. Much later.

In my late teens, in college and married to a medical student – then physician – I had access to cutting edge medical care. For the next decade or so I tried every new treatment conventional medicine had to offer. Nothing worked and I found the side effects unbearable. The “devil you know” was always preferable. The migraines got worse but pregnancy was a wonderful reprieve. I was always migraine-free in the second and third trimesters; I have four children.

In my thirties, much to the chagrin of my gastroenterologist husband, I began to explore the world of alternative medicine. I tried just about everything Southern California had to offer. (This was the 80’s – you can just imagine.) Some of the bodywork could temporarily lessen the severity of the pain, but nothing healed me. I tried talking cures. I read everything I could find about migraine. I learned that it was genetic and neurological – perhaps some misfiring of the brain – and found out belatedly that my grandmother had walked around with dripping compresses throughout my father’s childhood. I learned about the hundreds of potential triggers and how they are different for each person. I learned that I have what is called chronic continuous migraine.

My wonderful nutritionist, the late Eileen Poole, finally told me that I was the only client she’d ever had who actually followed her diet without cheating and yet continued to have migraines.

That was when I realized that, for me, this was not so much an issue of the mind or the body, but of the soul. Yes, it was biological, neurological, and genetic. But it was also spiritual and there were lessons to learn. That realization was the beginning of my healing. That is not to say I don’t have migraines anymore. I do. But they are not as severe and I’ve learned to prevent or stop many of them. Most of all I do not regard them as the enemy anymore. I have made peace with them…

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