Every person in my immediate family lives with migraine. And those migraines seem to be getting worse with each generation.
Growing up it was just a fact of life and I never realized that everyone didn’t experience migraines. I remember many Sunday afternoons when my mom or my brother would lay in the dark trying to fight a migraine.
When I began having migraines around puberty, there was never any doubt what I was experiencing. I’m not alone. According to Migraine.com, 70 percent of those who experience migraines have a family history of migraine.
Age affects our experience
My mom experienced her worst migraines in her thirties. She was able to treat even the worst migraines with a combination of Excedrin and a Coke. She rarely experiences migraine attacks since she went through menopause. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that change works equally well for me.
Both my brother and I have experienced worsened migraines as we’ve gotten older. For both of us, migraine attacks peaked in our thirties, resulting in chronic migraines (migraine attacks 15 days or more each month).
I’m now in my early forties and my brother is in his early fifties. While my migraine attacks have decreased in the last year as a result of decreased stress and improved sleep, they haven’t gone away, and I don’t expect them to. I’m just hoping that the chronic migraine experience is behind me.
Similar migraine triggers
Weather and stress seem to be the worst triggers for all of us.
Weather was the most common trigger for my mom. Even now that my mom rarely has a migraine attack, when she does it’s a result of weather.
Weather has been an issue for myself and my brother as well. We can both track barometric change and predict when a migraine attack will occur.
Stress is our second major trigger. When we allow the stresses of life to get out of control and don’t take time to rest migraine frequency and intensity increases.
The next generation
Unfortunately, migraine hasn’t stopped with me and my brother. Just as my brother and I have endured worse migraines than our mom, so it continues. My brother has two children who have experienced migraine at a level beyond what either of us have endured.
I’ve watched my nephew and niece endure migraines that go beyond anything I can imagine. My nephew once had a migraine attack that caused him to completely black out and wonder off. He left his keys and wallet in his car and just disappeared. Thankfully, he “came to” a couple of hours later walking down a highway.
That episode caused him, and the rest of us, to begin taking migraine treatment much more seriously. Prior to that we were all much more likely to delay taking medication, hoping that the migraine would just go away without treatment.
That experience taught us all just how bad things can get. Now, we don’t wait. We treat migraine at the first sign because it’s not worth the risk of what could happen.
The upside of familial migraines
The biggest upside to having migraine run in the family is the level of empathy and understanding we all have towards each other. No one feels bad when we need to skip a family function due to a migraine. If bad weather is coming, we just expect a cancellation.
We can also look at each other and see the pain. We know when someone is pushing it and are more likely to offer up what we can to help. This doesn’t just apply to family but to others around us who also suffer from migraine and other pain issues.
I’ve watched friends who don’t experience migraines try to find answers when their children begin having migraine attacks. They are lost and confused and often don’t know what they are dealing with. Or worse, they don’t believe their children because what they are experiencing seems unbelievable. That was never the case in my family. We all knew. There was no question.
If your family has a history of migraine keep watch on the younger generations. Be aware of the signs and help them know that they are not alone as they fight this illness.
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