When I was five years old I developed abdominal migraines. Yes, you read that correctly, abdominal. An abdominal migraine is a variant of a migraine but it occurs (you guessed it) in the abdominal area. For years, I suffered from inexplicable stomach pains that would keep me up at night for hours on end vomiting and crying, clueless as to what was wrong with me. Only two percent of children will experience abdominal migraines and unfortunately enough, I landed in that two percent. I had no diagnosis until my migraines came back in a different form almost five years later in the form of chronic migraines.
For those of you who don't know much about migraines or what makes mine chronic, I want to explain the severity and reality of them to you (without boring you with the science).
A migraine is not just a headache. A migraine is a persistent, throbbing pain that is accompanied by nausea, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, and sensitivity to smell. It is a neurological condition. Yet again, I got the lucky trait and I fall into the smaller percent of migraine sufferers who have been diagnosed with chronic migraines.
Chronic means we suffer from migraines more than 15 days out of the month and each one lasts at least four hours (or 72 hours straight, if we're lucky). Each of the symptoms that accompany our migraines are heightened as well. Chronic migraines have changed my life.
I miss class. I cancel plans with friends, family, and loved ones. I sleep in late and stay up all night in pain. Some days I struggle to even get out of bed because the pain seems unbearable. Because of this, those of us who suffer from chronic migraines constantly feel like we are letting people down. It is very easy to feel like a disappointment because you can't follow through with your commitments as your migraines are so debilitating. Those of us who suffer from chronic migraines are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, chronic pain, asthma, chronic fatigue, hypertension, fibromyalgia, and a number of other conditions.
So please, stop trying to comfort us by saying "Oh, that's the worst. I get headaches, too." Stop advising us to stay away from certain foods/sounds/sunlight (we already know all of the things we should avoid) and please, for the love of God, stop telling us to go out and seize the day because "laying in bed won't help." We struggle enough as it is to stay sane while our migraines spike, and the last thing we need is a constant reminder that nothing makes us feel better. All we want is for you to understand.
It is not just a headache. We do not choose to be sick. We feel awful that sometimes we cannot perform in society the way the average person can. For those of you who suffer from migraines (chronic or not), you are not alone. Do not hide your pain. Spread awareness. And for those of you who want to know more, please stay informed.