Where it All Began

“The minute that you understand that you can poke life and make your mark upon it, once you learn that, you will never be the same again.” ~ Steve Jobs

In December 1996 in my junior year in college at the University of Kansas (KU), I was diagnosed with mono. Sure, I was tired and I recall sleeping a lot as you do with mono. But in addition, I had a relentless headache. And that is where it all began. I recovered from mono during winter break, but I never fully recovered from the headaches. I went to a primary care doctor, and he believed from the symptoms I was describing: stabbing, sharp pain and nausea, that I had tension headaches, or possibly migraines. He prescribed narcotic pain medication, and sent me on my way.

In the beginning, the “migraines” were intermittent and tolerable for the most part. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that the “migraines” started to become more persistent. I was officially diagnosed with migraines a couple years later and I would soon discover what this diagnosis really meant and how life altering it would become. Within a couple of years, I started to experience daily migraines.

And over the months and years, the pain progressively got worse. I finally sought the help of a Neurologist. In the beginning, I remember being very focused on the “why”. Why me? Why do I have migraines? They are not hereditary; thankfully no one else in my family suffers. I had a car crash (or 2 or 3 or 4…but who’s counting, right?) So it must be head trauma. I had meningitis when I was 3, so one theory is that with that traumatic illness, the migraines lay dormant, and with the mono, another traumatic illness, that was the onset. But after a while, I let it go and realized instead of focusing on the why, because truthfully there is no definitive answer, I needed to focus on HOW. How can I overcome this pain and regain control of my life?

The Official Diagnosis: Chronic Daily Migraines

The difficulty with treating migraines is that there are varying types, definitions and symptoms, and until properly diagnosed, they are even more challenging to treat. I was diagnosed with Chronic Daily Migraines with the first Neurologist that I saw. By definition, Chronic Daily Migraines are headaches that occur 15 or more days a month with headaches lasting 4 hours or longer for at least 3 consecutive days. In other words, you spend more than half of your days/life with debilitating pain. People with Chronic Migraine are more likely than those with episodic migraine to miss 5 or more days of: work or school, household work, and family activities. Over time I blew these statistics out of the water as the years progressed.

Dear Migraine


One response to “Where it All Began

  1. Lynn K Hall says:

    It always frustrates me to read these stories and notice one glaring similarity – the immediate narcotic prescription! Some day I hope to pull together some research on narcotics and the pain cycle, but until then I will just say that I wish doctors didn’t always make that initial step, even as tempting as it is.

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