‘Ah would you get over yourself, it’s only a headache!’
This is probably what the majority of people who have never experienced the blinding pain from a migraine think. But trust me they are more than just a headache!
I got my first migraine when I was living in France. It was the morning after a big night out and I thought I had been given the mother of all hangovers! My head felt like it was about to explode. I found myself wishing it would explode just so the pain would stop. Thinking some fresh air would help I went and opened the curtains. Sweet baby Jesus! Close the curtains! I was hit with this unbearably painful beam of light from outside. Imagine a vampire being hit with sun light and that pretty much sums up my reaction.
So lights were a no-go, listening to music or watching telly were 100% a no-go. I sat all day in my dark room, eating painkillers, trying to fall back asleep to get some ease from the pain. You can’t do anything; eat, drink, sleep. You’re entirely consumed with this pain and can’t focus on anything. Another beauty with migraines is that it makes you both feel sick and sometimes get sick, yay…
The next day the pain was gone but replaced with a standard every day headache. I welcomed this headache with open arms.
According to The Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI); ‘migraines are the most common neurological condition in the world, affecting about 12 – 15% of people. It is three times more common in women than it is in men and is usually inherited. It is a very individual condition. Some people experience only one or two attacks per year while others suffer on a weekly basis. An attack can last from 4 to 72 hours.’
So what makes it different to a headache then?
The MAI say a ‘migraine generally features a one-sided throbbing headache which is episodic and lasts hours or even days with total freedom between attacks. The headache is normally worsened by movement or routine physical activity. Migraine has been likened to a power cut, as the whole body seems to shut down until the attack is over.
An attack of migraine can be very frightening. The onset of classical Migraine (Migraine with Aura) may be signalled by visual disturbances in what is called the “aura” stage.
Common Migraine (or Migraine without aura) and classical migraine may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion and, in rare cases, temporary paralysis and loss of speech. Sensitivity to light, noise and strong smells is also frequently reported.’
I think it’s safe to say the severity of the pain is what makes it different to a headache! But no matter how you describe it to a person who has never experienced the ‘joy’ of a migraine they won’t ever truly understand. You don’t look sick, so how could you be? Right?
Migraines are seriously debilitating and can affect your daily life. I describe mine as missing college, missing days I’ve things planned, they interfere in everything. Most girls have a make-up drawer; mine looks more like a pharmacy.
I have yet to find my trigger which kinda sucks as I never know what causes them or when one could raise its ugly head and strike. For some people food allergens are triggers and the worst one is chocolate! (Noooo!) I have found a few things that have helped and lessened the attacks:
Some of my tips for newbie sufferers:
- Cut back on coffee and tea.
Caffeine and migraines are not besties.
Cut back on gluten. Migraines are associated to gluten intolerance so ask your doctor if you’re concerned.
- Drink more water
Keep hydrated. Dehydration leads to headaches which can lead to migraines if like me you’re prone to them.
More info from The Migraine Association of Ireland can be found at: http://www.migraine.ie/