I first began experiencing migraine attacks when I was 8 years old. Today, at age 27, I remember my first migraine attack clear as day. I was in grade school and I just could not describe the extent of the head pain I was experiencing. The school nurse proceeded to take my temperature and when she discovered I did not have a fever, she called my mom and I went home for the day. I remember feeling so grateful, because there was no way I would have survived the remainder of the school day. Little did I know that my migraine journey had just begun and I would suffer with chronic migraine for nearly two more decades of my life, and face debilitation as a result in my day-to-day life.
Migraine disease has taken so much away from my quality of life. For example, living with migraine has taken away the pleasure of spending time with friends and family, attending important events, and making it inevitable to have to deal with mood swings and depression. It saddens me that I, and millions of other individuals do not have access to the treatments of today’s rapidly-advancing scientific-based society certainly has the potential to provide. The most important benefit of a better treatment would be to increase my functional ability to perform daily tasks, thereby improving my quality of life.
Due to migraine, I am unable to always keep plans with friends and family and fully commit to long-term goals, such as my educational pursuits. I oftentimes feel guilty when I cannot keep plans that I have made with friends or family members due to a sudden migraine attack. The need to cancel plans or being unable to attend an important event or milestone makes me feel defeated. As a result of missing out on so many fun and cherished events, I often ask myself, “How would life be different if I was not plagued by this disease?”I have also had to restart graduate school twice, change my major and school, and alter the format of my in-person graduate program to an online program, as a means to accommodate for my medical needs as a person with migraine.
As a 20-something-year-old, living with migraine made my college years a challenge at West Chester University. Completing weekly assignments, studying, and maintaining a GPA that would prove me to be a good candidate for graduate school, all on top of the social pressures associated with being in college, was challenging. On a figurative level, in college I sometimes felt as though I was always walking on an emotional tightrope, which, if struck by a migraine attack, would start to become weaker until it could no longer support me. Luckily for me, I was able to receive academic and medical accommodations which allowed me to test with extended time (the typical testing time plus 100%) and a distraction-free environment. In addition, my neurologist suggested that I should not test when I was experiencing a migraine attack. My professors were sympathetic of my migraine disorder and made every effort to accommodate me so that I could be a successful undergraduate student.
Unlike my undergraduate experience with receiving academic and medical accommodations to be successful, graduate school was much more difficult. I had to drop out of a rigorous speech-language pathology graduate program due to my migraine disorder making it almost impossible for me to keep up with the heavy clinical and academic workload. Although I was disappointed and frustrated in this decision, I realize that my health and overall well-being comes first.
Now, I am much happier, and will be pursuing my master’s of science in human nutrition, another field that I am very passionate about. The best part about this program, for me as a person living with migraine, is that this degree is offered 100 percent online, so that I can work on it with a flexible schedule and at my own pace. My journey has been challenging and circuitous, resulting in a jump in careers; however, I did not allow my migraine disorder to discourage me or allow me to give up on reaching my goals in life.
“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt