In the eighth grade I got my first migraine. It wasn’t just a one-time thing, unfortunately. I had a migraine every day for two weeks. Almost immediately I was seen by a pediatric neurologist, he put me on medicine and instantly my problem was gone. I had one, maybe two migraines a month. Of course some months were worse than others, but one tiny pill everyday had me essentially fixed.
Fast forward four years and I was a senior in High School. My migraines had quietly snuck up on me, like I used to creep down the stairs in the middle of the night, trying not to wake my parents while raiding the fridge. Without even really realizing it I was up to one migraine a week, maybe a few. I was missing school a few times a month for my head, but what seemed to be just a rough patch completely turned my life upside down.
February 8, 2014 was a normal Saturday. I was being the social butterfly that I used to be, but when I came home in time for dinner I felt a horrible migraine coming on. I warned my mom and then dove into the darkness of my teenage bedroom to sleep it off, like I always had before. But the next morning when I woke up the pain was worse than ever before. The light creeping into my room blinded me, my head felt like it was under tons of rubble, and with every movement and every fleeting moment the pain grew worse. I was so confused as to why I couldn’t shake off this horrible feeling! Something was definitely wrong, but I was just at the beginning of what became a long period of denial.
A week passed by and before I knew it I was being admitted into the hospital. After a spinal tap, steroids, sedatives, baby pain medication, and the strong pain medicine, I left the hospital in more pain than I had arrived in. I was sent home in hopes it would “go away with time.” I was told I should take a vacation, that my stress was causing all my pain, and my mom was told she was causing all my stress.
In a whirlwind, I ended up a patient at the Headache Care Center, and then at The Mayo Clinic. I was essentially out of school, and would make the occasional appearance for an hour—once, maybe twice a week.
After months with no relief, horrible sleep, intense pain, constantly laying in the dark, and in isolation, I was diagnosed by both the Headache Care Center and the Mayo Clinic. I had chronic intractable migraines (meaning I have a migraine all day, everyday), insomnia, and severe depression. However, I spent my summer before college trying to be as “normal” as possible. I spent a month living in Minnesota at The Mayo Clinic in a pain rehab program where I was taught and trained how to live in constant pain. I went from rehab, to church camp and straight to college at The University of Tulsa in hopes that this was just a mere blip in my life.
I got away with faking it for awhile. Faking happy, faking stability, faking the pain—thinking that maybe if I didn’t acknowledge it, it would no longer exist. But then came the massive anxiety attacks which made me lose my will to live. I was suffering from even more severe depression than originally diagnosed with. There I was, somehow with the most incredible people surrounding me, and there for me to lean on, but yet I was more suicidal than I would care to ever admit. How I managed to be surviving my suicidal thoughts almost four hours away from home and in college—I give all the credit to the Lord and all the prayers I have received over time.
Today, I am honestly proud to say that I am home in the comfort of my family and close by my team of doctors. I just made the decision to take a medical leave from school to really focus on my recovery and health. After coming to terms with my depression, opening up about what I am going through, and burning it in my brain that I may never have a day where I am not in constant pain, I have decided to seek out every treatment possible, which is why I am home. I have received multiple diagnosis in the past few months and am still having tests run too, but the difference this time is me.
Over the course of the past two years I have faced more loss than I could have predicted—from relationships, friendships, deaths, and losing myself completely in my illness. But through it all, I now see a much bigger picture. I know why God has put me on this earth, I know what I am being called to do with my life, I know that no matter what the diagnosis is, no matter if I have this migraine for ten more days or the rest of my life that I will be okay and that I will be able to help so many other people who are suffering as well.
I’m going to take this much needed time to breathe and recover without any other distractions and in hopes that I can finally be a full time student able to attend class, getting the grades I know I can get, not withdrawing from classes because I am too sick to keep up, not taking in completes because I downplayed how I was feeling and missed the withdraw deadline.
I know my story is nowhere near over and that there is a long road ahead, I just hope that through sharing my story I can help anyone who needs it and that by adding my story to the mix I can help break the stigma that comes along with mental illness and/or chronic pain.