Migraines – What a Pain! #MondayBlogs

My Son & Husband Atop Mammoth Mountain
My Son & Husband atop Mammoth Mountain

So, it is May – Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m not motivated to write about mental health. Not mine, at least. Instead, I find myself drawn to write about parenting a son who has suffered severe migraines since he was a toddler.

My son’s earliest migraines involved gastrointestinal symptoms, but no headaches. When he was a toddler, he would throw up for three days straight during and following holidays and play dates. At first we thought he got sick with gastroenteritis every holiday, but my sister pointed out the pattern and that he was reacting to being overwhelmed.

According to the Migraine Research Foundation:

Migraine is not just a bad headache. It is a neurological disease, with head pain and associated symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to touch, sound, light, and odors, abdominal pain, and mood changes. While children generally have fewer and shorter migraine attacks than adult sufferers, childhood migraine can be just as disabling, and it can seriously affect the child’s quality of life.

via Migraine Research Foundation.

So, this post has nothing to do with bipolar disorder. I write about myself, but it is my son to whom I devote most of my time and energy. I hope and pray that our recent visit to his pediatric neurologist who recommended increasing his preventive medication will result in fewer and less severe headaches. It breaks my heart to see my son suffer.

Now that my son is old enough to take a more active role in managing his migraines, now that he can articulate what works, what doesn’t work, and what he needs, I finally can admit that mothering him has been hard. I’ve felt like a failure as I’ve sought help for him.

PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ME ADVICE ON WHAT HAS WORKED FOR YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW. We are getting VERY HIGH QUALITY HELP. But migraines do not magically disappear when you stop eating gluten or go to a chiropractor. Believe me. We’ve tried (and he’s going to an acupuncturist this time round).

Medication works. Hydration and eating protein helps. Not overdoing it helps. Avoiding loud noises helps. Avoiding overstimulation helps. Learning how to cope with stressors, how to know and heed his own limits… well, I hope he develops those skills in therapy. That is his job. He is an adolescent. Some things he must learn to do on his own now.

My Kid Gets Migraines

My Son driving a Lego car at Legoland

My son has suffered migraines since he was at least two years old. I would regularly get phone calls from daycare to pick him up because he was sick again. We did not know what was happening. We thought that he was getting gastroenteritis, aka “the stomach flu.” Then my sister observed that when we celebrated holidays with extended family or friends – every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every Easter, every birthday party – he would get sick, that he was over-stimulated and overwhelmed.

He still struggles. He still gets debilitating migraine headaches that land him in bed. Now, though, as a teenager, he can tell us whether his illness is gastroenteritis or migraines. He can tell the difference. He knows what he needs to recuperate from a migraine – usually sleep in a dark air-conditioned room, with a cool damp cloth over his eyes, sometimes ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Migraines are still much of a mystery. We have much to learn.

Migraine Resources