The Horrible Unending Cycle of Migraines

At This Point, Tylenol Should Mail Me a Lifetime Supply

  • Opinions Editor Olivier Cadotte, caught in his natural habitat mid-migraine. Photo Elisa Barbier

Headaches are terrible.

No matter how bad the headache is, they take over your day, often preventing you from doing anything other than taking a couple of extra strength headache pills and hoping it goes away on its own.

And usually they do, at least after a few minutes. Headaches can be caused by a lot of reasons: dehydration, lack of sleep, hunger, eye strain, neck strain, loud sounds, lights, the crushing weight of existence, and basically any other reason you can think of.

But what if your headache is just happening because it’s part of a cycle? What if that cycle was basically never ending until the day you die? And what if those headaches lasted hours or even days at a time?

If that sounds familiar to you, welcome to the migraine club!

Migraines, contrary to regular everyday headaches, are actually classified as a ‘’primary headache disorder,’’ which is a technical way of saying that something’s not right with your head without calling it an outright disease. Basically, migraines are headaches that usually only affects one side of the head, and they produce a terrible, pulsating pain that takes all the attention away from anything else you’re doing by directing it to your head instead.
Two-thirds of people have migraines because they run in their family (thanks, mom), but they tend to affect women more than men (19 per cent versus 11 per cent).

The kicker, and what makes migraines particularly vicious, is that they reoccur for the rest of your life, but not necessarily on a strict schedule. For example, my migraines are pretty unpredictable: I can go two to three months without any, only to have some a few weeks apart after that, followed by another longer period without any.

Headaches are bad enough, and I’d almost be thankful if the pain was the only thing that came with it. But no, there’s more than that to contribute to the perfect storm of terribleness; nausea, sensitivity to light, sound, and even smell, and the fact that all of those symptoms get much worse if you try to do anything physical (including something as benign as walking!) I get all of those symptoms except for the sensitivity to smell (which I honestly did not know was a thing before writing this article. Imagine how much it must suck to have one of your migraine triggers be the sweet smell of fresh baked bread, or flowers. Life sucks).

Working as a student journalist requires me to basically always subject myself to migraine triggers, you can imagine how bad things can get. Even just thinking about writing is often too much.

Unfortunately for me and 15 per cent of the planet, there isn’t anything else we can do other than take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Advil and Tylenol are the most common of those respective drugs), avoid triggers, and just generally “take it easy,” whatever that means.

There are no existing permanent cures for migraines, but you can get diagnosed medication if they are really bad or if they happen often, but that’s typically only in rare cases. And since that’s not the case for me, there’s not much to do besides wait until they pass or embracing all of the usual ‘’lifestyle changes’’ preached by medical websites (actually sleeping, reducing stress, etc), but we all know that’s not going to happen.

So for now, I guess I’ll keep my bottle of Tylenol handy and hope for the best, or at least that the next migraine won’t be too bad this time.

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