June has been earmarked as ‘Migraine Awareness Month’, and this is a cause which is close to my heart. To read more about my personal migraine story, you can read A Hole in the Head. Anybody who suffers from the disease will understand the frustrations, and the importance of the unofficial strap line “It’s more than just a headache”.
In this post I want to introduce you to a young woman who I never met, yet who broke my heart a little. Her name is Melissa Dwyer and, despite the fact that migraines are not a ‘life threatening’ illness, she lost her battle in June last year aged just 22. Melissa suffered from chronic migraines (defined as 15 or more episodes of migraine every month) for a number of years before deciding that she just couldn’t take the pain any more. I was really quite upset when I heard about this, because I may have never known her when she was alive but her story is one which I have lived myself. It’s a story which so many people of all ages from all over the world are living right now.
The reason that I wanted to bring Melissa’s story to your attention is that I feel it highlights one of the aspects of the disease which is often ignored or overlooked. Everybody knows about the headache side of migraine, and a lot of awareness campaigns are aimed changing this misunderstanding through educating people about the other physical symptoms of migraine: nausea, sensitivity, aura, etc. People are still blind to the emotional impacts to migraine sufferers, especially chronic migraneurs. You may be well aware of all the symptoms, but have you ever considered the feelings of fear, isolation and depression? The dread that you may have to cancel plans which yourself and others are really looking forward to. Constantly letting down your friends and family, and the guilt which ensues. The shame, and sometimes embarrassment, of a sudden attack. The anger of the accusations. The confusion and the hopelessness…
…and all of this on top of brain fog, paresthesia, nausea, heightened sensitivity and impairment of vision, speech and/or general function. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the infamous ‘headache’, i.e. pain. Lots of pain.
In college a guy once shared with us that he didn’t understand what could drive somebody to suicide. Ignorant? Perhaps. Lucky? Definitely.
I choose to publicly battle with migraines in an attempt to end stigma and to raise awareness. I, like so many others, fight on in the hope that one day there may be a cure so that we don’t need to fight anymore.
RIP Melissa Dwyer ; 13/7/1990-7/6/2013