When I had my first migraine, I was 9 years old. I went to raise my hand to answer a question in class and I couldn’t move my arm. I was in such a panic and the teacher thought I was lying which was even more frustrating. They told me ‘it’s just because you’ve been swimming and it’s cold’ – yeah… I couldn’t figure that one out either.
When I got home I was attacked with a horrendous headache that made me throw up all night. This was then a regular occurrence for nearly 6 years.
Migraines with aura means I get migraines, which are a neurological disorder, with visual disturbance and numbing sensations – they can be absolutely terrifying.
Usually it starts with a pins and needles sensation in my little and ring finger on my left hand. The tingle will turn into numbness which will then run up my whole arm and start to tingle in the left side of my face and it feels as though my throat is closing up. It feels like a stroke. It’s difficult to communicate by this point which is frightening if I’m hit with an attack and nobody who knows my situation is there.
In terms of visual disturbances, I see flashing lights. You know the patterns you see in your eyelids when you close your eyes? It’s similar to that, only brighter and disorientating. They flash and move and it’s scary. I usually notice them when I try to read something and the words seem to be disappearing on the page before my eyes. It makes me feel like I’m going insane. Bright light hurts so I have to be kept in a dark room.
Once my left side is numb and I can’t see, that’s when the headache strikes and I become completely debilitated. It all comes on quite quickly. I become floppy and unable to move and the pain is excruciating. Mum has to undress me and put my pyjamas on for me. Meanwhile you can see the vein in my temple throbbing.
I have to take co-codamol and go to sleep. If I haven’t caught it in time, I’ll throw up, but if I have I can just sleep it off.
It got to a point where I couldn’t go a day without an attack. These were not just headaches; they were vicious cycles that were ruining my life. i was unable to take co-codamol every day as the codeine is addictive and it’s only intended for three day use. I was hospitalised, had tests run and was put on a drug that I would have to take daily. This drug helped break the cycle so that my migraines were no longer every day, but slowed to perhaps once a week, to once a fortnight, to once a month. It didn’t ease the symptoms any, it just stopped the neurological disorder from attacking so frequently. I also had to figure out what was triggering the attacks, and we believe it was down to eating chocolate, cheese and caffeine in excess late at night or early in the morning.
When I was 16, I had my daith pierced. This piercing replicates acupuncture and can reduce migraines. They cleared up and I never had a migraine since, until today. I noticed the tingle in my hand and the numbness in my face. I managed to take some co-codamol in time. 500/30mg, the strong stuff that knocks you out. It didn’t do much, but it stopped it getting worse.
Migraines with aura can also cause other issues. As an acne sufferer, I read a lot about the contraceptive pill helping clear up spots, and I wanted to try it out. Due to having migraines with aura, I am unable to take the pill. Instead, I am on the depo, however with this form of contraception, I can’t take the lymecycline that I was taking for my acne. It’s such a pain.
So when someone tells you they suffer with migraines, or that they’re having one… don’t insult them with ‘just a bad headache isn’t it?’ because it’s not. They dominated my teenage years and prevented me from doing a lot. I’m lucky to have grown out of them mostly, but my god, today made me realise how lucky I am to not have them every day like I used to.