The first time I remember having a Migraine attack was when I was six-years-old. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was. There were these spots floating around in my vision that I couldn’t see through. Then my head started hurting so badly that I began crying. Crying just made it worse. It was a summer day, and the light coming through the window in my bedroom hurt my eyes, so I closed the curtains and buried my face in my pillow. I couldn’t stay that way long because I needed to vomit. My father brought a large bowl from the kitchen so I didn’t have to get up. Vividly, I remember him wiping my face with a cold cloth and gently rubbing my back until I fell asleep. My mother had these “headaches,” too. At the age of six, I didn’t really understand them, but I knew my mother would sometimes be in bed with her headaches for days. My parents have told me that the pediatrician said I was “high-strung” and had Migraines like my mother. All they could do was try to give me aspirin and hope I’d go to sleep.
There are many things about my childhood that I understand far better now that I know more about Migraine disease. My mother and an aunt who babysat my brother and me would frequently insist that I go outside in the summer to play. Playing outside on hot summer days often gave me “headaches,” so I preferred to stay inside and read. During recess at school, I didn’t want to jump rope or do other physical things in the sun. I wanted to sit quietly in a shady spot. That behavior brought criticism from my family and ridicule from other children. As a result, I was pretty much a lonely child with few friends. I did well academically, and I was far more comfortable with adults than with other children.
Through grade school and junior high school, my Migraines were infrequent. When I did get one at school, some teachers would insist that I stay in class, but allow me to put my head down on my desk. They usually rethought that strategy once I’d vomited in their classrooms. Other teachers would send me to the nurse’s office. Depending on the nurse, I’d either be told to lie down there or my parents would be called to come get me. One junior high school physical education teacher accused me of faking to get out of her class. My father went to school and took care of that problem very quickly.