christmas gift wrapped in light brown paper next to christmas tree branches and acorns

The Best Gifts to Give a College Student With Migraines

When you have a chronic illness, going away to college can be a stressful event. I had dreamed for years of going to a university far outside my home state, hoping to explore a new corner of the U.S. I hadn’t yet ventured to. But midway through high school I was diagnosed with daily chronic migraines as well as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), an autonomic dysfunction. Let’s just say that was not the best year of my life… However, by some miracle I was able to work through that difficult time and get to the point where my illnesses were manageable enough that I could consider going to a school far from my home and my doctors. Being at a school that’s nearly a 15-hour car ride away from those who know and understand my conditions was a scary thought at first, but once I got accustomed to the healthcare staff at my school and let a few trusted people know my story, things haven’t been so bad. Although, the college environment presents its own set of challenges: loud neighbors, long studying hours and the lure of the never-ending social events about every night of the week. When you have chronic migraines, you never know the next time one could strike you. Here’s a list of some of the things the migraine-afflicted college student in your life might appreciate receiving this holiday season:

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Migraines tend to leave me overly sensitive to noise, and quiet can be hard to come by, especially in a dormitory. Whether I’m having a migraine on a loud Friday night or want to shut it all out to try preventing one from coming on, noise-canceling headphones are a great commodity to have.

Best Buy has some good suggestions here from various price ranges.

Eye Mask

We like our holidays merry, but not too bright. Eye masks are a good idea for anyone with light sensitivity when trying to rest or sleep, but a dark space is especially important for someone experiencing a migraine. Eye masks are great because they can be used essentially wherever: in the dorm room, on public transportation or even if a bad one hits you in the library while studying.

There are some awesome options on Amazon if you simply search: “blackout eye mask for sleeping.”

Light-Blocking Curtains

In the same vein as the eye mask, light-blocking curtains could be a big help if your loved one is having a migraine during the day. Whether it’s sunlight or fluorescent light, neither helps ease the pain of a migraine. Darkness, however, does. Most dorms come with blinds which only do so much. Double check first on the school’s policies for hanging things like curtains in the dorm rooms, though.

You can find lots of options in department stores like Kohl’s, Target or places like Pottery Barn.

Wearable Ice Packs

Ice is one of the easiest remedies for headaches, and though it’s not a cure-all, it definitely helps. And what’s better than a hands-free ice pack that doesn’t keep sliding off your head whenever you move?

Check out some great examples here. And if one of these options are not easily accessible, the old-fashioned version (the kind you fill with ice) works well, too. Maybe add in an ice cube tray as well that they can put in their mini fridge’s freezer to have easy access to whenever they need it.

Magnesium-Filled Snacks

Research suggests that snacks that are high in magnesium may have some good effects on those afflicted by migraines. A college kid will always accept food, so it’s an easy and appreciated gift. You could also consider finding them some microwave-friendly recipes that involve any of the following foods: nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, bananas, dried fruit, whole grains or low-fat dairy.

Coffee or Tea

Staying on the trend of edible gifts, caffeine is something that can help some people recover from or prevent a migraine. For me personally, caffeine doesn’t seem to do much, but ask your migraineur their preference. Chances are the gift of a gift card to a local coffee shop near their campus, caffeinated tea bags, a Keurig and cups or a homemade mug would certainly be welcome.

“Do Not Disturb” Sign

If you’re a big DIYer, a cute homemade “Do Not Disturb” sign would be a thoughtful way to ease the anxiety of having a migraine while away at college. A sign would help to notify their roommate that they are having a migraine and need some peace and quiet, without having to explicitly tell the roommate themselves.


And finally, just showing them that you care about them and are at least trying to understand their struggle will go a long way. Whether that means giving them a pass when they say they can’t go out to that amazing, fun thing on a Saturday night or shooing some noisy people away when you see them having a hard time, just showing them how much you care about them in all the little things will mean the world.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.


medicine doctor hands hold jar of pills and type something on laptop computer keyboard

To the Pharmacist Who Judged Me While I Was Having a Migraine

Today, I went to the pharmacy. I often go to the pharmacy, so often, in fact, they know me by name. But this was not my pharmacy. This was a branch of the same pharmacy in a different location.

I showed up and I requested my three days of emergency refills for two psychotropic medications I take, one of which is a controlled substance.

Of course, like any other public place, there were fluorescent lights, which immediately sent me into a migraine. I was standing too long in line and despite the support of my service dog, I started to sway on the spot. I kept almost falling over just while waiting to talk to you for the first time. Then when I got to the window, I was slurring and stuttering.

Several things happened here at once.

I looked like someone who was under the influence. I sounded like someone under the influence. I was requesting a refill of a controlled substance. I told you that my medication was 45 minutes away and even though I got it filled six days ago, I didn’t have access to it because it was 45 minutes away. That sounds a little strange, right?

So, the first person I spoke with asked me to step to the side and speak to the pharmacist. She asked if I was waiting to speak to her, and in a garbled language known as aphasia, I tried to say yes. She gave me a concerning look and told the guy I had first talked to that I wanted to talk to him. He referred me back to her. She directly me if I needed to talk to her. I tried to say yes, but the words just weren’t working. She looked at me and said, “Just say yes.”

My heart dropped. The tears started to well in my eyes. If it was as easy as a simple, “yes,” do you think all of that would have just happened?

She finally came over and I tried to explain the best I could while stuttering and slurring. Yes, I know my medication was just filled. No, I can’t go get it. Yes, I know it’s only 45 minutes away.

I was crashing. It was all I could do to hold on to the counter to not fall. My legs started going numb and weak because that’s what happens when I get a really bad migraine.

After deciding she would fill one medication but not the controlled medicine, she walked away to her throne where she could see everyone. Then she looked at me and said, “Go have a seat.”

Well, the thing about the seats is they are about 20 feet away. And right now I’m holding on for dear life to this counter and I know that my body is not going to make it 20 feet over there.

Once again, sounding like someone under the influence, I tried to talk. I somehow managed to get out “someone else pick up.” Or at least that’s what I was trying to say. I’m not sure if they understood.

I steadied myself on the counter, had my service dog get up and hobbled out of the store before it got so bad I lost the ability to walk.

After I left the pharmacy, I cried tears of embarrassment. It has literally been weeks since I’ve left the house, and even longer then I’ve gone somewhere by myself. And this is what happens the first time I go out.

Congratulations, Ms. Pharmacist. You have successfully demoralized me.

I stay away from the public because of people like you. I stay away from most people actually, because of people like you.

I fear an encounter with a law enforcement official when I am having an episode because I think they will come to the same conclusion you did: under the influence. I fear hospital admissions and discharge reports with labels like “drug-seeking behaviors.”

It is already humiliating enough to be like this around the people I love. And people like you, the way you made me feel today, is why I have started having anxiety attacks before leaving the house.

I understand you don’t know me. I understand what it looked and seemed like.

Looks can be deceiving, though.

I was not under the influence. I am not a drug-seeker.

I can’t make the 45-minute drive to my medication because of my migraines, which you just witnessed in front of you and yet didn’t understand. You interpreted my appearance and how I presented myself and judged me, instead of having empathy for me and asking me if I was OK.

I left without any of my medication. I’m still out of medication. On the weekend we will have time to go pick it up.

It’s never really simple with me. I’m not a horse. I am a zebra, but I’m more than a zebra — I’m a zebra unicorn.

It’s never as simple as just saying “yes.”

Follow this journey on When Mental and Chronic Illness Collide.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

When Your Migraine Triggers Worsen During the Holidays

Migraines are a b*tch any time of the year. But this time of year, when you throw in weather changes and holiday madness, you just add to the intensity and frequency of these horrible life-robbers.

When it comes to migraines, rarely do two people share the same triggers. These triggers, also called precipitating factors, can vary depending upon the time of year.

I tend to have them more frequently this time of year. And I blame the following:

Weather Changes

Unfortunately, this is something we don’t have control over. But we can choose whether we travel in it or not. So, if you don’t handle warm weather well because of the dryness, or cold weather because of the wetness, then don’t travel to those destinations.


This is my biggest trigger. When I am overwhelmed or am being pulled in various directions, that’s when my migraine sets in. Sometimes it comes with an aura. Mine is the faint sighting of black birds flying by. I don’t see actual birds, but I do see something flickering as it flies by.


We tend to cook more this time of year. Those delicious smells wafting through the air, as enticing as they may be, can also bring on a migraine and its counterpart, nausea. Scented candles are also something we can do without. Even those that smell like apple pie and sugar cookies.


Long lines equal lots of people. Lots of people equal lots of voices. Mix that with whiffs of perfume and cigarette smoke, and you have the recipe for a migraine.


The biggest thing I love about Christmas is all the twinkling lights. However, I recently had to retire an angel because watching her move her arms while holding candle lights was too much for me. It induced dizziness and nausea.


Though I love my parents, I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. For one, the drive mixed with the difference in altitude induces a headache, which leads to a migraine. And sometimes I get a double whammy and have one on the return trip. So, decide if it’s worth putting yourself through that trip to visit friends and family. Because a migraine is not just a headache.


Sleep is a must-have for those with migraines. But too much or too little can also be a trigger. And as hard as it may be, you have to find a happy balance.


I guess you can say I’ve been lucky not to have any food or beverage triggers. But I do crave salty potato chips and chocolate right before a migraine. When my family notice me reach for these, they let out a collective, “Oh no.” They know it’s only hours before I’m in bed with the curtains drawn and the lights out.

Dry Eyes

This past year I had more migraines than usual. I chalked it up to stress and computer strain. Then I went to the eye doctor and found out I had such dry eyes that my corneas have begun to get scratched. Now I use drops four or more times a day, which has led to a decrease in the migraines.

Here’s a little helpful hint in your attack against migraines: keep a migraine journal nearby. Mine is beside the bed. Note the date and time of your migraine. Any warning signs. Location, intensity, and type of pain. If you have any accompanying symptoms. What medications you take and their effect. Note any important or stressful events that occurred leading up to the migraine.

As you head out to tackle your holiday and your migraine, I’d like to wish my fellow migraineurs a wonderful holiday season that is as pain-free as possible.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Woman with headache

17 Gifts People With Migraines Would Love to Receive for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes loved ones’ requests to tell them what gifts you’d like to receive. The wish list of a person with migraine may look a bit different than the average person’s — while a migraineur might not ask for things like concert tickets or treats, which can be triggering, they may appreciate things that help them deal with the migraine pain, like pillows, eye masks and premade meals.

We partnered with The Daily Migraine to ask people with migraine what they’d love to receive for the holidays this year. Share this “migraine wish list” with your loved ones and add to it in the comments. And if you’re reading this because you have someone with migraine in your life, we hope this offers some some gift inspiration.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Something that distracts me from the migraine cycle… books, music, crafty stuff. Stuff not necessarily directly related to my migraines but stuff that reminds me I’m still a person with hobbies and interests. And definitely no candles, wine, cheese of the month clubs or tickets to events (because I’ll probably have a migraine).”

2. “Large eye-covering sunglasses, nice pillows, quiet maid service [and] a dog walking service.”

3. “A daith piercing and some peppermint oil.”

4. “Family and friends coming to visit even though it may just be to sit in the dark with me for a while. This life can get lonely, especially around the holidays.”

5. “Quick and easy meals for times when you have an appetite but no energy to cook anything.”

6.Cefaly and migraine glasses would be nice!”

7. “Audiobooks on CD, so I can distract myself during an attack.”

8. “A service dog! I have hemiplegic migraines, and mobility has been a big issue for me.”

9. “Memory foam with cooling gel pillow.”

10. “Blackout curtains and a quiet fan to move the air around.”

11. “It would be nice to get a ‘designer basket’ with things in it such as gel eye mask you can put in freezer, something like an essential oil, sachet, or candle that was lightly scented with one of the soothing, calming, stress relieving scents, wireless ear buds you can block out the noise with, slipper socks with aloe, and a gift certificate for a spa visit or massage, facial, manicure, pedi.”

12. “Ice pouches and herbal rice packs to heat up in microwave.”

13. “New pillows, a Migraine Hat, blackout curtains and maybe nice new coloring pencils for when I feel OK and not swamped with homework.”

14. “A year of unlimited massages.”

15. “A Labradoodle puppy. OK, [that] one has nothing to do with migraines you may think. Ah, but it would make me really happy and stress/anxiety levels would go way down, therefore it would help.”

16.I’m hoping for a Himalayan salt lamp and a back massager!”

17. “Love, compassion and understanding from those who are fortunate enough to not have this debilitating condition.”

Editor’s note: This list was curated by our community. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

What gifts would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.

Teen woman with headache holding her hand to the head

To Those Who Think Migraines 'Can't Be That Bad'

Migraines, believe it or not, are a chronic illness, and are the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide. I write a lot about my depression and anxiety, but have never written about my migraines and headaches. They go hand in hand.

October 27, 2014 I was involved in a rollover car accident. I was left hanging upside down in my vehicle until emergency personnel could extricate me. I was then taken by ambulance to the ER. No scans were done, despite my continuous complaint of head pain and hematoma on my forehead. My parents were told to watch me and that I would be fine in a few days.

I wasn’t fine. I’m still not fine.

Every day since October 27, 2014 I have had a headache. My neurologist diagnosed me with chronic tension headaches. My only way of explaining how this feels is, “Go put your head in a vice and crank it until you can’t bear it anymore, then leave it at that pressure.” On top of this, I was diagnosed with chronic migraines, which are debilitating. They can last days on end and usually result in me sleeping a great length of time before I feel “well” again. When I tell people I truly have had a headache since that day in October, I don’t think they believe me, that I must have had some relief, because I go out, I work, I go to school. But I haven’t. I truly have not had relief from the vice grip around my head in over two years, except for when I am sleeping, and maybe that is why I have come to love sleep so much.

A doctor once told me, “You are working, so they obviously can’t be that bad.” (Needless to say, I don’t see this doctor any longer, and see a fabulous neurologist at Mayo Clinic.)

Wrong. I am working because I have goals. I am working and going to school because I have dreams and I don’t believe I was put on this earth to have migraines and pain and die. I believe I have migraines so when I treat my patients, I can show them empathy towards their pain. I can believe their pain when no one else has, or will. I am working because I have no choice. I don’t want sympathy. I just want people to be aware that migraines are real. Although they are invisible, they impact me and others every single day. They qualify people for disability every single day. So next time you think they “can’t be that bad,” think again.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Female doctor with stethoscope holding piggy bank

When Health Care Is a Luxury You Can't Afford

Many people would deny this, but health care is a luxury.

Ask the legions of chronically ill and disabled, who fall in between being unable to work but not considered disabled “enough” to qualify for disability.

Ask the ones who have to depend on someone to support them and for whom that single income isn’t enough to cover doctor visits, much less treatment and meditation to manage their disease/disorder.

Ask those with a life-threatening illness who can’t afford care… even with insurance.

Ask the single parents who provide for their kids but don’t have enough to provide for themselves.

Many people would say health care is a necessity. Obviously, many people don’t consider it one, though. People like me are supposed to suffer in silence or have the decency to die quietly so they aren’t a drain on the system.

Health care is a luxury. Pain relief is too dangerous to trust us with. Consistent treatment is non-existent to many of us.

I’m tired of suffering in silence and I’m not going to die quietly. I’m going to point out the uncomfortable truths about life with chronic illness until I’m six feet under.

For two years, I was on state medical assistance. In October of this year, I was informed during a renewal interview that I didn’t qualify. Even better — the fact that I’d been receiving assistance at all was due to an agency error.

A two-year agency error. Thousands of dollars in treatment and medication I’d never been entitled to. The supervisor I spoke to was quick to reassure me that because I wasn’t at fault, “at least you won’t have to pay it back and you didn’t defraud the government.”

Honestly, those were pluses, but also were and are the least of my concerns. High on my list of concerns was the fact that “the treatment that has been giving me marginal improvement is no longer an option for me.”

Because even marginal improvement is a big deal when you live with chronic illness. Marginal improvement meant a few days a month that I could play with grandspawn, visit family, cook dinner for my family… those few days were days I hadn’t had in over a year.

I am still receiving mental health care through a different government program (MHMR), thankfully. Antidepressants are not something it is safe to stop suddenly, but more than that, they literally keep me alive. My antidepressant is currently the only medication I’m on.

I’ve applied for disability and SSI (I did so the day after my devastating news that my Medicaid coverage was a two-year error), but waiting to hear a verdict can be a long process — as long as five months, occasionally as short as three. That isn’t counting the appeal process if I’m denied disability, and chronic migraine is often very hard to qualify for. In Texas, only about 33 percent of applications for disability are approved. The number of disability applications approved for chronic migraine is much lower.

So I wait. And while I wait… I suffer.

But not in silence. Not any more, not ever. Both for myself and the others who are weathering the same storm, I raise my voice.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.