[This is a repost for the June Migraine Blog Event: National Migraine Awareness Month (#NMAM).] Ellen Schnakenberg of Migraine.com posted an interesting migraine fact the other day: Most migraineurs have vivid memories of our first migraine. "It's a shocking occurrance. Our lives change in an instant," she says. For me it was the same. And when I saw her comment, the flood of memories swallowed me whole.
It was 1987 and my parents had taken us on a historical tour of half a dozen southern U.S. states, following a carefully mapped trail my father had made to show us Civil War landmarks along the way. Part of out vacation was a weekend in New Orleans. I remember it was the night my Dad wanted to see the blues bands play. Everyone was excited. Unfortunately, my father insisted on going into the clubs, even though the music was so loud on the street you had to shout to hear.
It wasn't even ten minutes of standing in that noise that I couldn't bear it anymore. My head was pounding. I wasn't surprised. I didn't think it unusual. But we migraineurs don't tend to think well when we have a migraine, and this was no exception for me either. What I didn't realize was I was a teenager complaining to my parents that their music was too loud. Yeah... that should have been my first clue.
On the way back to our hotel, lights got too bright for me even though it was night on the street. I closed my eyes and had my parents lead my by the arm. When they would tell me of an obstacle, I'd open my eyes briefly to move over or around it, then back to voluntary blindness.
When we made it back to the hotel room, my mother, unfortunately decided to put on perfume. The smell doubled me over in nausea. They opened the windows to air the room out, but it permeated everywhere. I wanted to hide under the covers from the smell and the light, but the heat of the blankets made the nausea worse and everything was off balance. She washed it off, but it was no help.
By that point, I also had a pillow wrapped around my head because normal conversation-level talking sounded like cannon blasts. Thankfully, it wasn't much later I was able to pass out.
I was 15.