I remember the first time that I experienced a migraine was when I was 15. I was in the middle of an art lesson when I began to lose sense of feeling in my fingers and started to feel nauseous. Within ten minutes I had thrown up in a pen pot (classy child, poor pen pot) and had been sent to the school nurse. However, by the time I had stumbled into the nurse’s office, I had lost all control over speech and whilst I knew what I wanted to say and I fully understood what she was asking me, all I could say back to her was “I need some choc-o-late”.
Three years later, the doctors were still rather puzzled at my encounters. I had fainted in exams, burst into tears outside exam halls as I couldn’t ‘see or feel’ and randomly fallen over mid-matches as I lost my vision. It was only when I was 18 that the doctors found a diagnosis…migraines with aura. According to the NHS website, a migraine is “usually a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head” and 1 in 5 women/1 in 15 men suffer from it.
Here are some of my top tips for those who suffer from migraine attacks:
- Medication: If you’re experiencing any problems with your migraines that cannot be solved via the paracetamol-and-sleep method then you should really try and see your GP. By the end of GCSE and half way into Sixth Form I was experiencing a migraine attack once or twice a week. My doctor prescribed me Nortryptaline and I’ve been on it since, which has really helped reduce the number of migraines.
- Potential triggers: Easier said than done but try and find potential triggers for your migraines and then try avoiding them! Sometimes, migraines just pop up out of the blue but for the majority of the time, there will be certain habits that trigger them. For some people it’s eating cheese or chocolate, or a lack of food in general. For others, migraines can be stress related or a lack of sleep.
- Routine: Many people who suffer from migraines find it helps to have more of a routine in their daily lifestyle. Whilst it’s understandably difficult with life at uni, even small things like sleeping at midnight and getting up at 8am with three regular meals per day can make all the difference.
- Emergency Pouch: I carry Zomig with me wherever I go which I take as soon as I begin experiencing symptoms of aura. I also carry around sugar and often a bottle of water as low sugar and not drinking enough water can also bring about my migraines.
- Emergency text: If you find it difficult to communicate once a migraine attack begins then it might be a good idea to set up an automatic message on your phone to let others know when you’re having a migraine and why you might be unable to attend previously arranged meetings etc. On my iPhone, I’ve set it up so that each time I type “MMM” it automatically turns into a message explaining the situation and apologising that I won’t be able to make meetings etc.
- Emergency note: I also normally carry around an emergency note explaining my migraines and with my address on within the case of my phone, with enough money for a taxi home. As I lose my sense of speech, touch and vision, it sometimes gets difficult to navigate home but with an emergency note I can normally hail a taxi, wave my note at them to explain and collapse into bed.
- The best cure? Unfortunately every single person is different and I am yet to find a miraculous cure – please do let me know if you find one! The one thing that most of the people which I have spoken to have said in common is drinking water and sleeping in a dark room in silence!
For me, a migraine is debilitating. It can happen at any moment and in all honesty, it’s scary. From being a fully functioning and independent student, I lose control over my speech, vision and touch within half an hour. This summer, I had a migraine attack in the middle of Houston airport, USA, and whilst I was stumbling around with slurred speech I was fortunate enough to avoid being tested for drugs as a policeman took me to the correct terminal after reading my emergency note. On the plane back to the UK, I was sat between a window and a woman from Costa Rica who was more than alarmed when I attempted to say to her in broken and migraine-confused Spanish that I felt sick and that there was no sick bag in my chair. If anything, the only positive I’ve found from suffering from migraine attacks is that it provides retrospectively interesting small talk.
(Disclaimer: I’m just a Law student who suffers from frequent migraines and the above are just some of the things that help me to cope. If you’re suffering from migraines and are unsure of what to do then please do see a medical professional!)