Fortunately, figuring out what my painful headache was was a relatively straightforward process for me. Like many people with migraines, I had a number of family members who had them. My grandmother, great aunt, and even my mother had had one or two. When my first migraine hit when I was 13, my mom was pretty clear what was going on. Nevertheless we went to the doctor
When I was growing up, I had a great family doctor who had a very special way of treating her. She was one of the best listeners I have ever met. When I tearfully explained to her what had happened to me, she quickly understood what it was. The excruciating pain that wouldn’t go away, the sensitivity to light and noise, and the uncontrolled vomiting – it was a pretty classic presentation for migraines.
She quickly gave me a plan: At the first sign of a migraine, take a large dose of OTC pain reliever. If my pain was still there after 30 minutes, I would take my new prescription drug to stop the migraines. This plan got me through the rest of middle and high school pretty well. I learned to always have my medication with me, overnight in camp, overnight – I even took it with me to school. I’ve learned to always be ready.
As I got older things got more complicated. My prescription drugs would work for a while and then stop. It became clear that I would need more support. My doctor then referred me to a neurologist who can help me. After a few conversations with him, I was able to start preventive medication and get physiotherapy.
Those things really changed my trajectory. After living with migraines for about 10 years, my preventive medications cut my migraine days significantly, which allowed me to do whatever I wanted and had to do. Most importantly, it saved me from being derailed by the medical assistant (PA) school.
I was lucky enough to have a plan and a clear map of my migraines pretty quickly. But not all people are as lucky as I am. Often times, multiple visits to a family doctor or an emergency room, or even emergency rooms, are required before they can figure out what is really going on. Even then, they may still need to see a specialist before trying certain medications.
I am so grateful every day that my GP was able to help me as quickly as she can. Without their help, there would undoubtedly have been countless more hours of pain and many more missed school days before I could begin figuring out what was working for me.
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