I grew up being the faker. I constantly was making trips to the nurses’ office complaining of a fever. The nurse would take my temperature, and send me back to my class with an eye roll, and this became a routine. I would go to bed early, crying in pain and praying that I didn't die in my sleep from whatever was causing this pain. For years I was convinced I had a brain tumor or something horrible out of a Grey's Anatomy episode. My parents never really took my complaints seriously and often accused me of faking sick to stay home from school. In high school I saw a neurologist and got all the appropriate scans and tests. Migraines continued to be a regular part of my life, but definitely were more of an annoyance than a disability at this point in my life. I began noticing my right eye drooping in pictures on my 20th birthday. I went to my eye doctor and was sent to an emergency appointment an eye clinic and then to the emergency room. I was in my second semester of my sophomore year at Mizzou. My mom and cousin rushed from Chicago to be with me in the hospital.
Migraines became daily for me, I started getting nauseous on the bus ride home and experiencing flare-ups throughout my afternoon classes and meetings. I became more sensitive to foods I had eaten before without a problem and I became extremely sensitive to alcohol. I started coming home sick and going strait to a dark shower or to my bed with ice. I began to experience an uncontrollable shaking and vomiting with my migraines; there were several occasions my roommates wanted to take me to the emergency room. I fell really behind in my studies, and started missing work frequently because more often than not I was too sick to get out of bed. It felt like I had a swift kick to my ass and had lost any life I had going for me.
My doctors were concerned, and I started my migraine journey with my first attempts of controlling the migraines with preventative prescriptions. I went through a series of tests and medications before my primary care physician referred me to see a neurologist. My boyfriends' family helped me search and find qualified neurologists in Kansas City where they live. I took a semester off of school and I quit my jobs. It's not an ideal life style popping abortive medications but the preventatives added a whole new set of side effects making life even more challenging without decreasing the frequency or intensity of my migraines.
I take supplements daily and do Botox every three months. To break some bad cycles I have tried Nerve Block and Lidocaine injections, with little luck. I work with a massage therapist, acupuncturist, and a chiropractor to get me through the week, as well as meditation classes. Two neurologists have told me that I am their most severe patient with highly intractable chronic migraine; I have about 25-30 migraine days a month and it's stayed that way through the different medications and treatments I've tried. After I graduate this spring I plan to focus primarily on my health, going to specialists, staying in a migraine clinic, and working on my diet and exercise lifestyle. I'm very open to trying new things and have learned to be cautiously optimistic. I still maintain hope that I will regain control of my life and be able to live a life out of the shadows that are my migraines.
Being a student with daily chronic migraine has been challenging to say the least. I filed with the disability office upon my return to classes and that has helped open the door of communication with my professors and has allowed some flexibility. Advocating and raising awareness by simply putting my migraines out there has been an extremely rewarding experience. As a psychology major helping people has always been natural to me, nothing makes you feel more helpless than a migraine. Turning my condition into an opportunity to inform others of what we migraineurs suffer through as well as connecting with fellow sufferers has taught me that advocacy is a true passion of mine, that I hope to pursue it years after I beat my migraines.
Have a Migraine-free day!
Olivia Rehberger (LivDelReh)