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Do You Remember Your First Migraine?

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“Do you remember your first migraine?” the post read.

What a question. I thought about it. There are a lot of things I don’t remember. The majority of my friendships: I don’t remember meeting them because we’ve been friends literally our entire lives. I don’t remember having chicken pox — the first time I had it, anyway. I don’t remember living in our first house as a child. And I don’t remember my first migraine or my first headache. Was there a first? I’m sure there was. There must have been.

There was a first, and there will be a last, eventually. But will I remember them — either of them?

I’ve already forgotten my first migraine, thanks to dealing with the multitudes that came after. I think my first migraine was when I was 12. That’s when this all started. I don’t remember that summer as anything more than a blur. My mom tells me that I spent most of the summer laying on a couch we had moved into the hall so that I could be closer to the living room, and to people, rather than in my room alone down in the empty part of the house.

That’s funny to me now, laying in my room, alone, in an empty part of our house. Then it was a choice not to be laying in the dark room, unless absolutely necessary. Now it’s a choice to keep the windows covered, the music lowered, the coffee coming, all to prevent a worse attack. I gauge what I can do every day. Yesterday Mom asked, “Can you hang out the laundry?” I thought for a minute, checked the window, and replied that I couldn’t hang it out — the sun was too bright, and it would probably trigger a migraine. But I could fold it inside, away from the sun, and keep the lights turned off.

But I stray from the point.

“Do you remember your first migraine?”

That post prompted more questions on my part. Do I remember my first migraine? No. Do I remember my first headache? No. Do I remember a time without headaches and migraine? …No.

I’m sure there was a time. I’m watching my 11-year-old brother right now, thinking, “At that age, I had one year left. I didn’t know it, but I must have had just one year left…” I hope that his summer next year is as good as his summer this year, and pray that he will never have to go through any of what I am going through right now.

Do I remember what it’s like not to have this constant pressure and pain? No. It never goes away. The only breaks I get are days where I have a level three migraine, instead of a level five, or level seven. Anyone who has been asked that terrifying question, “What is your pain, on a scale of one to 10?” more than once — or maybe more than 20 times — knows what I’m talking about. Level three pain days are great days. Even four and five are still pretty good.

Years of answering people’s questions, trying to explain that no, the migraine pain never goes away. Yes, I wake up with it every morning. No, it’s not such-and-such. Yes, I’ve tried this-and-that. Yes, it’s terrible that I have to go through all this “at such a young age,” and on and on.

I’ve come to believe that it’s a good thing that I don’t have breaks. Even on the days when I’m crying and wishing I could have even just one day without pain, I remind myself that if I did have an occasional, but still not frequent, day free from this, it would be harder for me to handle, because I would actually know what I’m missing. It’s a hard truth, and no one likes to hear it (least of all me), but I know myself too well. If I had one day every year that was without pain, how would I handle all the others in constant pain?

Speaking of which, I’ve also started wondering how people without this constant pain can still be so serious, or somber. On level three days (which is as low as it ever gets), you can tell that I’m feeling good. I’m bouncing off the walls, dancing around the kitchen, and talking non-stop. I’m just so happy to feel good. What must it be like to have that all the time, to feel good the majority of your life, instead of as a rarity?

I can make myself do things when I don’t feel good. I have to, otherwise I wouldn’t have a life. I would say most of my days are spent around a level five. Days I would rather lay in bed all day, but I push myself to do things — and sometimes I don’t push myself enough.  I could get more done, but sometimes I push too far and trigger a migraine. It’s a delicate balance, one that is constantly changing, and one I have to adapt to and learn to live with. A balance that, I’m very sorry to say, I am horrible at attaining.

“Do you remember your first migraine?”

No. I almost wish I did, because maybe it would mean something then. Maybe it would mean that this pain just didn’t sneak into my life and stay forever — it would have had a beginning that I could remember, so surely it would have an end. Or maybe it would simply mean that the first migraine wasn’t that long ago, instead of half my life ago. Wouldn’t that be nice.

“Do you remember your first migraine?”


Do you?

Originally published: August 9, 2017
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