Do You Remember Your First Migraine?

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Originally published on The Mighty. Follow my contributions there!

‘Do you remember your first migraine?’ it 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. Hooray for being youngest children! 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 twelve. 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 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 keeping 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 migraines? . . . 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. . .” hoping that his summer next year is as good as his summer this year, and praying that he will never have to go through any of what I have gone through, and 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-3 headache, instead of a level-5, or level-7. Anyone who has gotten asked that terrifying question ‘what is you pain, on a scale of 1 to 10’ more than once–or maybe more than twenty times–knows what I’m talking about. Level-3 pain days are great days. Even 4 and 5 are still pretty good.

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After years of answering people’s questions, trying to explain that no, the headache 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 where 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, that it would be harder for me to handle, because I would actually know what I’m missing. It’s a hard truth, and one 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 sombre? On level-3 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-5. Days I would rather lay in bed all day, but I push myself to do things–and sometimes I don’t push myself enough, and 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 had a beginning that I could remember, so surely it would have an end. Or maybe it would mean simply 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?

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One comment on “Do You Remember Your First Migraine?

  1. Great post–really eye opening. I do remember my first migraine. I was in ninth grade and it was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced! My whole body hurt. It was awful. Fortunately, I’ve only had under 10 migraines in my whole life. And days that I have headaches that are hard to get rid of are frustrating to say the least. To think that this is a daily reality for you makes me think how incredibly strong you are, how much you persevere, and you seem to have a positive attitude through so much of it.

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