Six community members share their experiences about the first time they had a migraine attack.

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As anyone who has experienced migraine would be able to tell you, a migraine attack is far from just a headache. Living with migraine, especially when it is chronic, can be debilitating.

Migraine is a neurological condition that can be:

  • episodic, when symptoms occur for fewer than 14 days per month
  • chronic, when symptoms occur for more than 15 days a month for over 3 months in a row

The most commonly reported symptom of migraine is an intense headache. However, other symptoms are common as well, including nausea, vomiting, numbness or tingling, sensitivity to light, sound, or smell, and difficulty speaking.

If you have never had a migraine attack before, it can be scary or confusing when you first experience symptoms.

Because different people experience symptoms of migraine differently, it can be hard to recognize that you are having a migraine attack.

If you are currently experiencing or have recently experienced your first migraine, you are not alone. Members of the Migraine Healthline community shared their stories about the first time they had a migraine episode.

“My first experience with a classic migraine with pain was when I was 20 years old and on a long international flight from England to Malaysia.

“I had no medication other than Tylenol. It became a full-blown migraine and I had to sleep in the crew seats until we landed. I felt so sick.

“It was scary because it was so painful and I had no medication. I did know what was happening because my mother also had migraine, but I was traveling alone.

“Once I landed, I met my friend and I slept it off. Luckily, I felt fine the next day. After that, they were episodic for a long time before turning chronic.” — Lexi

“My first migraine happened about a week after my daughter was born in 1997. I saw flashing lights when my eyes were closed and then got a massive, painful headache.

This lasted about 7 weeks and then finally went away.” — Dizzy Dane

“My first ‘migraine’ was when I was 12. I woke up one day with pain in my head and it never left.

“Over the years, the pain would change and become worse or more tolerable.

“I assumed since I wasn’t nauseous anymore that they weren’t migraine attacks, so I just treated the pain with over-the-counter medications every single day. I wish I had been given proper education back then.

“Fast forward to 2019, I had my first ever neurologist appointment. He diagnosed me with chronic migraine and started treatment right away. I think it was too little too late because now I have chronic intractable migraine.” — Courtney Lynn

“I don’t actually remember my first migraine, but I was around 8 years old.

“I do remember that when I had migraine attacks around that age I would put a butter knife in the freezer for a while, then place it over my left eye, where my pain was. I would go to bed and make everything as dark as possible.

“My mom had migraine too, so we knew what they were.” — Claudann

“The first time I had a migraine was when I was about 14. I was in the car with my mom and I had a very typical visual aura and then the head pain.

“Both my parents have migraine so I was familiar with some symptoms. It was painful and frustrating, but I think my biggest concern was worrying about finishing my homework!

“I did realize recently that they probably started years before that, very intermittently, but I didn’t recognize the symptoms as migraine until later on.” — LeahBee

“I was fine and cooking supper when suddenly my balance and perception were way off. Then the headache hit, and I lost feeling on the left side of my body.

“My friend tried to help and rubbed my neck because my head felt too heavy for my body. The pain was so bad I couldn’t even stand to touch my hair. It was terrible!” — Debbye002

The first time you have a migraine attack can be scary, confusing, and stressful.

While there isn’t currently a cure for migraine, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and reduce the frequency of your migraine attacks.

Speaking to a primary care doctor or a neurologist is a great first step as they can help you come up with a treatment plan.

Whether you have only recently experienced your first migraine, or have had chronic migraine for many years, talking to others who know what it’s like can help.

If you are looking for advice about navigating life with migraine or a place to share your migraine frustrations with people who get it, the Migraine Healthline community is here for you.


Elinor Hills is an associate editor at Healthline. She’s passionate about the intersection of emotional well-being and physical health as well as how individuals form connections through shared medical experiences. Outside work, she enjoys yoga, photography, drawing, and spending way too much of her time running.