I was in school, teaching my kindergarten class, the first time I had a migraine attack. Before then, I thought a “migraine” was a headache, just worse—but for me, the condition presented like a stroke: I lost my speech. My right arm and leg started to shake. Then, I couldn’t move. My administrator took over my class, and I was sent by ambulance to the hospital.
I spent three days in the hospital, with doctors running MRIs, CAT scans, and echocardiograms. The right side of my body was so tight, and my right foot was so restricted that it was basically folded in half and I couldn’t unfold it. And yet, everything was slowly coming back normal, which meant I hadn’t had a stroke. It was so frustrating to have all these tests done and still not know what was wrong with me. Finally, they gave me a medicine that’s used to treat migraines, and my body released.
I use that journal to track what I eat, how I sleep—pretty much everything I do—so when I get a migraine, I can try to pinpoint what caused it. I’m not only a teacher, I’m also a doctoral student, so I’m always doing a million things. If my migraines were only stress-related, I’d have them every day. But my journal shows that there’s more to them than stress. For example, strong emotions can put me over the edge. My journal helps me to see that strong emotion or that one extra thing that was just enough to set off a migraine attack.
At this point, I probably get migraines four or five times a year. They’re very sporadic. I keep my medicine on a chain I wear at work, as well as in my car and in my house, and in the school’s nurses’ office. My migraines usually start with my mouth getting tingly. Then my hand might start twitching. And then my speech starts to go—it’s like I can’t form words correctly.
They’re scary, but I have a plan in place for how to handle them now. My migraines don’t stop anything that I’m doing. I haven’t let them stop my schoolwork for my degree, and they haven’t stopped me from teaching. I’m on a bunch of different committees and groups. My migraines are something I deal with when they happen. I don’t let them control me. I try to control them.
My migraines don’t define me. They’re not who I am. They’re just something that I have.
Learning as much I can about the type of migraines that I have gives me more power. I believe that knowledge is power. When I finally knew that I have hemiplegic migraine, I went online and did research. The more that I read about it and the more I learn about it, the more that I understand it, and the more I can handle it and accept it and just keep doing what I want to do.
Now, when it happens, I’m aware of the symptoms. I’m aware of what’s going on. I’m aware of my body. And I can handle it. It’s not scary anymore.