The Migraine: A Look at How They Stump Us.

Madison Siwak

Imagine that one day, you wake up to discover someone is drilling a hole into your skull. Imagine that your right eye (and only the right) wants to fall out of your head. Imagine a dull ache runs from the top of your head, behind your face, down your jaw, and all the way to your neck.

Then, imagine on top of this pain , you’re seasick. No toast or water or even medicine stays in you. Your head is pounding. The light is blinding. Your stomach is turning and your throat is burning.

And it’s only 8:30 in the morning.

Such is the agony of living with migraines. If you are also a victim to them, then you understand. They affect everyone differently, but the pain is always awful. If you don’t get migraines, then good for you. You’ve won the lottery. (You may think I’m being dramatic, but...I’m not.)

So what’s the point of this article? Is this just an excuse for me to rant and rave about how much I loathe my migraines?

Yes. Pretty much.

However, I also want to talk about how migraines cut into productivity and how we can be more forgiving to ourselves, when they eat away our precious time.

Think about them this way. You’re Pac-Man. And the migraines are those creepy little ghosts you can’t escape. Maybe you can make it a few levels without getting captured, but you’ll never master the game.

Anyway. Let’s break down the migraine.


Migraines are headaches, but to the extreme. They are excruciating pain, they have dizziness and nausea and exhaustion connected to them. You can’t function with a proper migraine. Doctors aren’t even quite sure about the science behind them. It’s a miserable mystery.

If you’re having a migraine and someone says “it’s just a headache”, punch them right in the face. It’s such a stupid thing to say. A migraine (if you have them, you know) is much more than a headache. It’s really, really painful and debilitating and cruel.

Migraines can be triggered by a great number of things. It’s different for everyone. Mine, personally, are related to stress and hormones. Sunlight and loud noises also are triggers. My migraines always seem to happen on the brightest, sunniest days. I feel like if I ever went to a tropical island, I would just die.

I get a few migraines a month. Some people have it much worse. Some people only get them once or twice a year. No matter how often you get them, though, it’s always at the most inconvenient time. I’ve gotten them:

  • At a graduation ceremony.

  • At school.

  • At work.

  • On vacation.

  • When people were doing construction on my house.

  • When I finally got to see Hamilton. (I was pissed about this one.)

The list goes on and on. It cuts into everything. It completely takes over the day. All you can do is crawl back into bed. But don’t think about sleeping. Sleep will woefully evade you when your head is exploding.

I remember last November, I was participating in NaNoWriMo. It was a few weeks in, and I was going beyond my goals everyday. I was on a roll. And then, a migraine hit. Even though I was vomiting and aching and a little bit delirious, I tried to push myself to write. I had to get those thousand words down.

That was a terrible decision. It made the migraine worse. I fell into bed, feeling like a failure. It was such a little thing, but I felt like my migraine had ruined something. That I was always going to be at the mercy of them. I’m scared for important dates, knowing that a migraine might show up and medicine does nothing. I’m terrified of planning things and not getting ahead, knowing that a migraine will set me back.

And it’s time to stop thinking like that.


There’s no cure for migraines. Although there are over-the-counter medications (and birth control, for the ladies) that can help, nothing will get rid of them forever. They’ll always linger in your life, poking their nasty noses where they don’t belong.

I often chastise myself when I get a migraine, even though I know it’s not my fault. My body is dealing with something I don’t understand. I try to work through them, but it always makes it worse. I feel like if I don’t get things done, even while very sick, I’m failing and falling behind. This kind of thinking needs to stop.

Here are some things I’ve tried telling myself lately:

  • Your book can wait.

  • Your homework can wait.

  • Your article can wait.

  • Sit your ass down and get some rest.

As with any sickness, it’s important to not push yourself. As someone who always stresses herself out, and is in a big hurry to do this and that, I need to relax a lot more. I need to not let the migraines upset and rattle me. They are a part of me, albeit a part I don’t like very much, and I have to make peace with it.

So next time I get a migraine, I’m just closing my shades and letting everything go.

It’s not the end of the world. (It only feels like it.)

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