I was diagnosed with migraines when I was 16. This is how I’ve been managing

Sarwat Pawar is a 30-years-old management professional from Delhi who has been suffering migraine episodes since the tender age of 12. This is how she’s coping
“Living with migraines has taught me that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” says Sarwat.
Reader Submission Updated: 30 Oct 2023, 16:26 pm IST
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I was in school, I remember when I first had a pulsating headache. It was so strong that I had to leave school early and ended up sleeping for 12 hours straight. Considering it was a one-off event and not something that had happened before, my parents didn’t panic and simply asked me to rest. 

It was only two years later when I suffered from a similar attack. This time the headache was complimented with nausea. I decided against informing my parents, to avoid unnecessary worry, and quietly popped in a Disprin. 

A couple of years later, around my 16th or 17th birthday, I was travelling to Saharanpur with my mother and sister. It was en-route that an uneasy feeling crept in and grew into a strong, throbbing pain in my right eye. I began to sweat a lot and felt as my stomach was turning. I was nauseous once again, much like that one time, two years ago. Only this time it was repulsive. We ended up returning from midway and went to visit a doctor immediately. I was diagnosed with migraines at the age of 16.

My migraines were a repercussion of dealing with a personal loss: my father
The worst part about these persistent headaches was that none of us could pinpoint a root cause for their occurrence.

Having lost my father just a year ago had put undue stress on me, something none of us had realised. I was grieving, it was only natural; but I had no idea about the health implications of that stress. It was a warning bell that my doctor rang when he asked me to manage my stress. The fear of the migraine attacks becoming more intense was prominent.

Finding my coping mechanism
There isn’t a recovery period from migraines. And there isn’t a cure either. Every time you suffer from an attack, you recover from it. 

Every time my episode happened, it meant a prescribed medicine had failed and I had to visit a doctor or a neurosurgeon and change my medication. Alongside, I still had to manage my work and responsibilities. So the recovery or treatment period is more mentally exhausting than being physically draining. While medicines do provide temporary relief, one can never know if and when an episode will return.

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Also, read: Do you often suffer from migraines? These 4 yoga asanas can help!

One day, I was working late at the office, when the pain started and I didn’t have my medication on me. By the time it was 3:30 pm, the pain had become so intense that I had to call a cab and rush home. I was halfway back from my office in Gurgaon when I had to stop the cab to vomit. It was one of the most intense bouts I have suffered from.

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Seeking help, without a cure in the vicinity
In the beginning of my episodes, I was prescribed a medicine called vasograin. I instead chose to consume the milder forms such as disprin and combiflam, for I was told by some people that long-term usage of vasograin could cause damage to the nervous system. The medicines did help. The episodes became less frequent and strong.

It was only in 2018 that I started taking medicines for nausea too. The migraines were evolving—now I had to deal with a headache and the desperation to vomit.

Along with medicines, there are other ways that I eventually tried my hand at to ease my migraines. At that time, I was doing a short-term creative writing course and a teacher kindly recommended a few remedies that could reduce my attacks. She recommended lavender oil, which I always carry now and some soothing music. Additionally, whenever I have an attack now, I recede to a dark room and try to avoid all the lights.

Also, listen:

Posture, diet, hydration, and sleep
As someone who was diagnosed with migraines at 16, I have identified three things I must abide by to avoid an attack. I need to stay hydrated, I need to sleep for 7-8 hours, and I need to eat at proper intervals. 

A bad posture is your worst enemy. As a migraine patient, I ensure that I maintain the best posture possible. I love to read and I make sure that I do not bend over while reading. I keep my books and laptops elevated at eye level so that my posture remains straight. 

I hydrate frequently and keep a balanced diet. I have been recommended to consume proteins, carbohydrates, roughage and fat. I consume fruits twice a day and consume 3-4 litres of water daily, along with juice and lemonade. I also ensure I have 6-7 hours of sleep daily.

Even while exercising, I have to be very picky about what I devote my time to. I avoid cardio as it can trigger a migraine and I also avoid exertion to not encourage an attack either. While yoga is quite helpful, I have been forbidden from doing headstands.

Living with migraine should not become a curse
Living with migraine has taught me that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Due to my headaches, I have had and will always have certain limitations. Yet, you learn to make the best of what you got. I am healthier today due to my migraines and in a way, they have allowed me to manage a better lifestyle to manage them better. 

The lesson I have learnt is that no matter what, keep your head held high and carry on. It helps with the posture and the migraines too – at least in my case.

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