I’ve experienced aura migraines since I was 6. At different points in my life, my world would revolve around when, or if, a migraine would happen at inopportune times.
Migraines are, for the most part, uncontrollable. You can go months (or even years) without having one, and then all of the sudden you’ll notice a slight change in your vision, hearing, sense of smell, or pressure in your head. You just know one’s coming on.
Migraine symptoms and severity differ from person to person. For me, the world stops the moment I know a migraine is coming. Within 20 to 30 minutes, I’ll be in excruciating pain.
Here are nine things you’ll understand all too well if you get migraines, too.
1. Light is the enemy
Have you ever looked at the sun and then quickly looked away because you felt blinded? For several minutes afterward, you probably noticed a big dot the size of the sun in your vision.
That’s exactly what it’s like when an aura migraine starts, except it’s not just one big dot. It’s a series of little black dots and squiggly lines that fill your vision.
Please understand that anything resembling lingering dots in our eyesight freaks us out. We’ll do anything in our power to avoid even the slightest sensation that a migraine is about to begin.
2. My sunglasses are everything
Even if it’s cloudy outside, forgetting my sunglasses is pretty much the end of the world.
Why? See point No. 1 above. Those of us with migraines will truly do anything to avoid sunlight.
Thank you, Mr. Maui Jim, for my double polarized shades!
3. Do you see dots?
I’ve been known to walk around with a white piece of paper in front of my face in an attempt to determine if there were dots in my vision.
If a friend who gets migraines asks you if you see dots on something, humor them and give them a truthful answer.
4. Um, what’s that smell?
Migraines make ordinary smells hideous. Have you ever had a whiff of a fragrance that instantly made you feel sick? Welcome to our world.
5. Migraine nausea is no joke
I spent the first 17 weeks of my pregnancy hunched over the toilet. I can still confidently say that nothing beats nausea that sneaks up on you when a migraine starts.
6. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you
Earlier this year, I attended a conference I was looking forward to for months. I’d be meeting a ton of potential new clients, so making a good first impression was super important.
Within five minutes of my arrival at the event in sunny San Diego, I felt the beginning of a migraine. Of course, I left my sunglasses at home, so I was hoping that it was just a reflection and not truly an aura.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Pretty soon, my vision became blurry. Sounds became distant. The pressure building in my head cut off my ability to communicate. People started introducing themselves (we had name tags) and I had to lean in uncomfortably close and loudly explain I couldn’t see or hear them that well.
Please understand, we didn’t suddenly decide this so we didn’t have to talk to you. We honestly cannot see or hear you very well.
7. A dark room doesn’t always help
When I was a kid, the school nurse would always tell my mom to take me home and put me in a dark room. Every time, I’d groan in protest. I know it’s counterintuitive, but for me, sitting in a dark, silent room only makes the pain magnify 1,000 percent.
8. It’s a good thing our eyeballs are attached
If you experience aura migraines, you know that once your vision and hearing have returned, you’ve only scratched the surface. If our eyeballs weren’t attached, we’d be afraid they’d pop out of our heads from the pressure.
9. No, I can’t walk in a straight line right now
Migraines not only mess with your eyesight, hearing, and smell, they also throw off your equilibrium. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I can’t see or hear very well, how do you expect me to walk in a straight line?
The next time you find yourself around someone with a migraine, be kind. Offer to find their medication if they take any, give them a glass of water, or help them sit down until they can regain their equilibrium again.
Monica Froese is a mom, wife, and business strategist for mom entrepreneurs. She has an MBA degree in finance and marketing and blogs at Redefining Mom, a site for helping moms build thriving online businesses. In 2015, she traveled to the White House to discuss family-friendly workplace policies with President Obama’s senior advisors and has been featured on several media outlets, including Fox News, Scary Mommy, Healthline, and Mom Talk Radio. With her tactical approach to balancing family and online business, she helps moms build successful businesses and change their lives at the same time.