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Coping With Raging Migraines

By

Nicole Bernier

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I have had issues with headaches as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I started high school that I got my first migraine. It was the worst thing I’ve felt in my entire life thus far. Like most of my migraines since then, it was completely debilitating. My head felt like it could explode at any moment. I had trouble opening my eyes, and I felt really nauseous. Any light and any sound made me feel dizzy. The only thing I could do was lie down in a dark, silent room with a cold compress on my head, praying that it would go away.

The first time it happened, I was freaked out, but I wasn’t surprised. My mom gets migraines, too, and I knew the signs. But that didn’t make it any easier to deal with. Her migraines are triggered by food—specifically, red food dye #40. That’s easy enough for her to avoid (although not as easy as it might be, because I’m a pastry chef and it’s hard to say no to my red velvet cake!).

Finding Ways to Cope

I’m not sure what brings on my migraines, but when they start, I’m prepared. Over the years, I’ve developed several strategies for getting through the pain.

First, I try to go home as soon as I can. If I catch it early enough, I can drive myself home, but sometimes, my vision will turn blurry and I need to get a ride. My migraines are aggravated by smells, light, and sound, so heading home is the best advice I can give—when you feel a migraine coming on, get yourself out of a stimulating environment as quickly as possible. Don’t try to work through it—it will just get worse.

Once I get home, I’ve got a system: I cover the windows with towels to make the room as dark as possible, and turn off anything that could possibly emit any sound. I set the temperature cooler, too, because I tend to overheat during a migraine and the colder air helps relax my body.

Once my room is set up, I’ll take an over-the-counter migraine pain reliever. Then, the magic final touch is applying a cold compress on the base of my neck. The ice numbs my pain and cools me down. Once I’m in bed, I try my hardest to go to sleep. My migraine is usually over when I wake up, but there have been a couple of times where I’ve woken up and it was still raging in my head.

After my migraines are over, I feel like I’m coming out of a dream. I don’t feel nauseous anymore, but I’m always afraid to eat or drink anything other than water. I stick to the simple stuff, like crackers, to be careful.

My migraines are really frustrating and interrupt my life, but I’ve learned to be grateful that I don’t get them more often, like my mom does. And I’m definitely grateful that I can still have red velvet cake!

Figuring out these coping mechanisms was a big step towards managing my migraine pain. These tools work for me, but everyone experiences migraines differently. Talk to your doctor and find out what’s best for you.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jun 8, 2016

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