Migraine Journey Wednesday (Vol.31 – Annaelle May)
My Migraine History
My name is Annaelle and I believe I started having migraines when I was 11 years of age. I’m not too sure, since I recall having severe headaches when I was younger, often triggered by heat or playing. At the time I was preparing for my Secondary Entrance Assessment exam (SEA) and there was a spike in my headaches. My mother told me that it could be from stress and after the exam day passed, I’d be alright. That did not happen.
Over the August vacation my headaches worsened and persisted for days. After starting secondary school in September, in the months November to December I felt pain consistently. I remember it affected my school work and my ability to make friends in my new class. I felt pressured. In December, I got my first period as a Christmas gift. After that, my mother noticed that I became forgetful, clumsy, couldn’t sleep/slept a-lot, my eyesight was getting bad and my grades were gradually going downhill. Over the next few months, we saw many doctors who could not figure out what was wrong. One doctor said that it could be hormonal, but that was ruled out.
A year later, I got an MRI to see if there was something they were missing. Nothing, clean. After more experience and neurological problems arising, a doctor told me “You have a rare form of migraine”. Simple. No info on preventing or treating them.
When I hit form three, my episodic migraines became chronic. I saw a peak in symptoms. I identified cheese, peanuts, minty things, spices, certain smells and tastes, light and mood changes as triggers. I worked hard to avoid them and adjusted my diet, but that didn’t help. I’d feel nauseous after eating and drinking and whenever a migraine came on.
Anxiety and depression crept into my life, and the panic attacks that happened often, triggered migraines too. A doctor recommended that I start keeping a journal (which I didn’t do). I started to experience blackouts and missed school often because I was sick all the time.
Over the next two years, my auras became more clear so I was able to ready myself for the pain. I began to feel tingling in my arms but didn’t think much of it because I have carpal tunnel syndrome. I’d feel light-headed often and felt like I was on a high because I got ‘happy’ whenever I had a migraine. I liked the pain. The migraines caused extreme mood swings and sometimes I’d throw things, yell or break my things for no reason.
I saw visual auras, especially blurred vision and these small black balls that dance all over the place. There would be large neon blobs that sometimes obstructs my vision and distracts me.
However, when I was in form 5, I experienced something frightening. I felt a sharp pain in my head which I dismissed as another ice-pick headache, or a sign that a migraine was coming on. Suddenly I felt sleepy and slept through the rest of the class. My vision was blurred, despite wearing my glasses. I felt weak and felt the right side of my body drooping. Everything was all over the place and voices were muffled. My right lung felt like it was collapsing and I was having trouble breathing. I felt weak, and drained, but the pain in my head persisted. I dragged myself back to my empty form class after being told that the nurse was not present. I lay on the floor and the world was spinning. I couldn’t really move the right side of my body. Since this was a one time experience I’m not sure what to make of it.
I mix up letters and my words come out jumbled and confusing. Since then I blabber alot and talk ridiculously fast, and stutter. I would be talking and the next minute, I forget what I was talking about, who I’m talking to or where I am. It’s really confusing and hard to deal with.
The People Around Me
So far, only one friend tries to understand what I go through by asking questions. Another, is supportive and is patient when my mind jumbles and my words are crazily mixed up. My father suffers with migraines too, but he isn’t very well educated on it, he just rides the feelings and pain, but he understands when I’m suffering too.
My teachers at school are kinda understanding, but it frustrates me when they limit my activities (participating in sports or anything physical). My mother just dismisses everything with ‘okay’. It’s hard to get other people to understand that my migraines aren’t ‘just a headache’ but much MUCH more.
The Effect of Migraines on my life
I’d say my school life has been affected because my grades are hard to maintain when symptoms appear everyday. I’d fall asleep during exams, mix up the words on the paper, blank out etc. The relationship between my friends and I have been damaged severely, because my outbursts of anger and anxiety (a recent aura) have made things hard because I can’t explain it. I forget their names. I became less productive because my chronic migraines have led me to fall asleep almost every evening after school to rid the pain.
I’d lose contact with my family because I stay holed up in my dark bedroom and not come out for hours. I slept through activities, dinners, lunches and missed breakfasts. Homework just doesn’t happen anymore because the intensity of pain becomes unbearable. I can no longer exercise or be in the sun for long because it triggers pain.
It’s tiring and hard to deal with.
I was never properly prescribed anything too so I just use Panadol Ultra which only works for an hour or two, and causes extreme nausea.
Days things get unbearable
I would try to sleep, but that sometimes makes it worse. I would lie in the dark for hours and listen to the sounds around me as the day goes by. I would read webtoons, scroll through Instagram and look at memes or anything that distracts me from the pain.
I would like to say that no matter how hard things get or how tough migraines make the simplest things, try to fight. Don’t let it drag you down all the time. Try to keep your head above the water and don’t let it drown you.
Thank you, Annaelle, for stepping forward to share your migraine journey with the community.
When you share your stories, it not only helps others but you heal in the process too. If you would like to share your story and let your voice be heard like Annaelle, you may do so here: bit.ly/2rJcpMR
With love, the Migraine Buddy Team