When I was in primary school, almost every Sunday evening, on our way back from church, I would complain of a headache. I would go to my room, shut off the lights and sleep. My parents started to think I was just using it to avoid my responsibilities; and as the first son and child of my arenas, I had a lot of them.
So, some days, they’d force me out of my room to sweep the floor. And I don’t blame them, because there’s no way they could have known I was really having those headaches every Sunday. It was just too suspicious. I had to have been avoiding work. Bending down with the headache was a nightmare. So, every time I would sweep the floor, the migraines would get worse. Some nights, I’d cry myself to sleep. After a while, they started to realize it was real. I was having these headaches. So the battle began. Paracetamol. It was the first solution I knew. I would take it and go to sleep. Because, if I didn’t sleep, the drug wouldn’t do much for me. It’ll dull the pain for a few hours and I’d be back where I started.
This continued till I got to secondary school. By this time, we had figured out that one of the sure triggers of these migraines was hunger. If I didn’t eat early enough, I’d get a migraine. I think we figured this out when we realized that Sunday mornings were the only mornings I wouldn’t eat before we rushed to church. So they made sure I ate every Sunday morning.
The migraines reduced.
Then, we also figured that fish was a trigger for me. I remember how I would run away from fish on the dining table in primary school and how they’d scold me for being picky and choosy with food and how they would not allow their child to be spoilt. Well, after a while, they realized that another reason I would have migraines on Sundays was because Sundays were our fish days. It was usually the day of the week that they’d fry fish. So, as much as they could, they reduced their fish frying and I stopped eating fish. I seemed to have gotten a handle on the whole equation.
Enter my senior secondary school days, when it seemed like I couldn’t control it anymore. It seemed like I hadn’t found all the triggers. I started to do some researching of my own. Self-diagnosis most would call it. But it resulted in me drafting my problems down to two causes.
Hypoglycemia was the most likely because it explained why I would get migraines on days I didn’t eat early. See, hypoglycemia is a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough sugar. Sugar, in the nutritional sense and not the literal St. Louis sugar. So it seemed like I had hypoglycemia and allergies to fishes. Until a new discovery came up. I realized how much light hurt me. When I had migraines the pain felt like the light rays developed into actual tangible matter and poked into my head. On sunny days, when I didn’t have any migraines yet, they would just spring up. I thought it was normal. Then I had an accident in 2012, my final month in school. It was quite life-threatening. I was hit by a BRT bus. It left me with scars, a mild suture, and an inability to get my ankles to touch my butt like something was bothering my knee. Things got exponentially worse from there.
After full recovery from the accident, my migraines were more violent and more rampant. I seemed to have them every day. Until my dad decided to consult a specialist. Then they realized what I had were migraines. Until then, we had just called them headaches. After that, I got photochromic and anti-reflective glasses for the light, and I started to drink Coke at the start of my day to get my blood sugar up. But still, till date, the migraines persist.
Why did I write this whole article? It’s not like my pains are anything compared to that of children with actual diseases. Well, yes, it would seem so. But I’ve met a couple more friends like myself, with the same migraines. And their stories are not pretty either.
You cannot decide that you know someone’s pains based on the symptoms. You cannot just think that you know the pain a woman with breast cancer is going through just because you had pains in your breast the other day. It’s much more than that. There is the psychological trauma she goes through too, knowing she is always going to face the same pain, every single day.
When I tell some people I have migraines, I hear a lot of them say stuff like “oh, I get those once in a while too”. And it always hurts because they don’t seem to realize that it has held us captive. This migraine has made us captives of our own bodies. I have a friend with this same issue. Hers was worse when she was much younger. Things were tough for her parents. Her regular calls to the doctor’s office were not helping matters. I remember how some days I would find her crying. She would say “I’m tired of being such a burden. I’m tired of draining their money. I’m tired of always being sick, I’m just tired”. And I’ll spend the rest of the day trying to comfort her.
This is our reality. We live with a sickness no one cares about because no one thinks it’s life-threatening enough to continue a search for it. That’s right, there’s no cure for migraines. None. Not even enough solutions to off the pain. But what people don’t realize is how much of our lives this pain takes away from us. The unhappiness it causes is unbearable. I can say for a fact that most people I know with migraines have been through serious and almost clinical depressions at points in their lives, myself included. I can also say for a fact that they would be NSAID experts in their own ways because that’s the only way to dull the pain enough to sleep, so it can disappear.
I just had to voice out the pain we go through that no one ever hears because they don’t care enough to listen.
This story of my friend changed my perception about dealing with people. Everyone is fighting a battle at various stages when we meet them, there definitely is a reason behind the way people act or behave. Never be quick to judge or assume that you understand the position of a person. The fact that you have gone through a thing before does not mean that you understand exactly how a person feels when they are in the same situation. Pay attention to details and never criticize till you understand the motive behind an action. Above all, be empathetic, life is easier when we roll together!