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Migraine Is Not 'Just a Headache'

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I’ve experienced headaches since I was a child. Often, my teachers would send me home from school because of it. There were instances when I would faint during a headache, and I did not understand why. I knew that many people experience headaches, and at first, I thought it’s merely what I had. When I became an adult, I heard the word migraine, and like many others, I believed migraine was just a worse kind of headache until I experienced other symptoms along with it.

One day, out of nowhere, the left side of my body became numb and heavy. My vision became blurry; my speech was erratic, confusion set in and my face drooped. I thought I was having a stroke. I couldn’t be, I thought; I was too young! I was brought to the emergency room and had an MRI; thank goodness it wasn’t a stroke. However, after seeing a neurologist, I was diagnosed with a complex migraine called hemiplegic migraine, where symptoms mimic stroke.

Apparently, I’ve had migraines since I was a child, and my family didn’t know about them. When migraine was introduced to me later in life, I’ve always correlated it with headaches and pain. Little did I know that migraines are more than just a headache! I’ve even experienced silent migraines where all the other debilitating symptoms were present except for the pain itself; it was hard for me to wrap my head around it. I had so much to learn about the condition, so I’ve decided to get educated and start spreading awareness. I had no idea there were several forms of migraines, including stomach migraines which my daughter now experiences from time to time.

Migraines, especially chronic and complex types, are debilitating and can be very disorienting. We, migraineurs, experience various enervating migraine symptoms, including and not limited to nausea, sensitivity to light, sounds, and scent, partial paralysis, temporary blindness, fainting, and of course, excruciating pain. Some get one or two symptoms; some experience most of it like I do. From what I’ve learned, not everyone experiences migraines the same way; migraine is a very complex condition and can also be dangerous where coma could potentially happen — not just a headache!

Many do not understand how migraine affects people’s lives. Often people would correlate a severe headache with migraine, like I once did, without understanding the word, the symptoms, and other things that describe the condition. Many do not even have the proper diagnosis, “My headache is terrible; therefore, I have a migraine.”

People who have friends and family who experience any type of migraine need to research and educate themselves about the condition. Maybe then, they will have a little knowledge of what migraine is all about and realize that people who experience any form of chronic illness need understanding and compassion, not pity.

As complex and challenging as it was for me to understand what migraine indeed was, there is one thing I now know for sure; migraine is not just a headache!

Originally published: March 3, 2021
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