“I started getting migraines when I was 10, but it took me a long time to realize what they were.

had really bad stomach problems when I was younger. They lasted a day or two and then didn’t come back for months. The pain came back when I was 14, but I didn’t think much of it.

Then at 18 when I was doing my certificate of leaving I got really very sick. I had problems with my stomach, my head – in general, it was just all bad. It was attributed to stress, just as it did when it happened again in college.

When the symptoms became more regular and my vision was impaired, I was referred to the Migraine Clinic at Beaumont Hospital. You asked me if I had problems reading in the car and looking out the window in the car – things that you don’t necessarily call migraine-related.

Then they asked if I had stomach problems as a child. It seems very common for children to get stomach migraines because their nervous system is not fully developed.

At this point, I cannot remember my life without migraines. I have had pain or symptoms every single day since October 2013. And sometimes, if that’s your norm, you forget that people aren’t in pain every day.

There was a time when I had up to 150 migraine-related “non-epileptic seizure-like events” day and night. They even happened when I was sleeping. My eyes rolled back and flickered in my head and my arms flapped around. Sometimes I lost control of my legs and my balance, but I was always conscious.

Doctors weren’t entirely sure why this was happening, but they assumed it was because my body was in such intense pain for so long, almost like it was trying to restart itself.

There were times when I completely lost my eyesight. It first happened during a college lecture, first on a Monday morning. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat there until it was over

I was lucky enough to always tell the teachers that I had migraines. I would say, ‘If I ever wear sunglasses in your class, or just don’t look like I’m there or falling asleep, it has nothing to do with you.’

My migraines are caused by the air pressure. September and April were the worst for a long time. I think there must be changes in the weather at this point. Many of my friends [who suffer with migraine] experience the same.

They are also triggered by sensory inputs: smell, different textures, loud noises, bright lights … There are certain restaurants that I simply cannot go to because of their echo. I love driving, but the fumes are really hard. And when I want to go for a walk, I avoid the main road, especially in rush hour.

I know a migraine occurs when I’m overstimulated by things that normally wouldn’t bother me. I also get little eye floaters: if they’re clear, that’s perfectly fine. But when they’re black I know I’ll have a tougher day. A lot of yawning or hiccups is another sign that I’m getting a bad attack.

I’ve learned different coping strategies over the years. I never leave my house without pain relievers, sunglasses, and something to control odors – eucalyptus and mint are incredible scents to me. And I always have a snack and a large bottle of water with me because when I get hungry I feel sick and that can get me really upset.

I’m lucky enough to be taking a drug that is really good for me. I am also a great believer in mindfulness and work hard to control my breath.

There were times when I was really scared of the next attack and because I was in an anxious state my body was really stressed and that would send me into another attack. It was a thick cycle of anxiety attacks and migraines.

Much of where I am now comes from mindfulness. I also learned about the mindset of growth and how to rephrase my thoughts. I say to myself: ‘You woke up this morning, you could breathe on your own, you could speak on your own …’

Shut down

Beth Freeman says it was difficult as a young woman to even be taken seriously by doctors

Beth Freeman says it was difficult as a young woman to even be taken seriously by doctors

I believe that all pain is relative. And I find it really hard when people say, ‘I can’t complain to you because you’re so bad’. What you go through may not be as bad as what I go through, but it still has a negative impact on your life. And I’m more than happy to listen to people and be an ear for someone to ventilate with.

I was very upset for a while. It can be really depressing to be talked down all the time. As a young woman, it was particularly difficult to be taken seriously even by doctors. I used to have to let my parents call my doctors because they were answering their calls, not mine.

And most of the time, especially when I was younger, people were like, “Sure, everyone has a headache” and it was like, OK, but I didn’t. I remember telling an older woman that I had migraines and she said, ‘Come back to me when you know what real pain is, darling. You are too young to know pain. ‘

When I was at rock bottom and in a lot of pain, I turned to my friend and said, ‘You know what? This is not a must-have life. If you want to leave, that option is on the table and there wouldn’t be any hard feelings. ‘

But it was never an option for him. He said, ‘Why should I leave you for something that you cannot control?’

I always held onto this idea that one day the pain would go away and my life would be perfect. I’ve held on to it for a while – and I see a lot of people sticking to this idea on Instagram – but in reality, the more I held on to it, the angrier I got because it didn’t go away.

When I accepted that this was my life, it got so much better. I lived alone for eight months this year, which I would never have thought possible.

I couldn’t walk alone for a long time because my migraines were so bad I didn’t know if I would be able to make it home.

Now every walk I take is a reminder of how strong I really am.

People are much stronger than they think they can be. And once you’ve dealt with something like this – and found a drug that works well – it can really be life-changing. “