Beware of the Migraine Fairy – An LPN’s View

JUNE IS NATIONAL MIGRAINE AWARENESS MONTH.

As a migraineur and a nurse, I finally decided it was time to use my voice and share my story in hopes of shedding some light on this illness and the people who suffer with it. Everyone either knows someone who suffers from migraines or struggles with the illness themselves. However, it is still such a misunderstood neurologic disease with systemic implications. According to the migraine research foundation, migraines are the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world. The disease also tends to run in families, with 80% of migraineurs having a positive family history. I am included in this 80%. My mother presently suffers from chronic daily migraine, as well as my late great-grandmother, who suffered with them her entire life.

The Migraine Fairy has been a part of my life for nearly a decade now, beginning at the peak of my adolescence. It was not that bad starting out. A few missed school days here and there. I could push through cheer practices and football games easily when I was dealing with one since I did not want to miss out on anything. Well, our relationship escalated when I entered the nursing program at Sowela, undoubtedly, due to the stress, mental breakdowns, all-nighters, and the copious amounts of caffeine that was consumed frequently. I could not cry a single tear, even a happy tear, without being shut down within 30 minutes due to a debilitating migraine. Add in an emergency room visit during one of my clinical rotations, and I was at my wits end. I had to be hopeful. Despite my certainty that relief would break through after graduation, the Migraine Fairy never left my side.

Being a nurse and struggling with chronic illness or pain comes with many challenges. You worry about how this affects not only your personal life but your professional life as well. Trial and error is the name of the game when it comes to your career and migraines. You will find little tricks to help you get through a rough day. You will figure out which type of nursing atmosphere works for you and your illness best. You will discover a strength you did not know you possessed. You won't let some disease take over your life or your career that you worked so diligently to achieve.

My time as a certified nursing assistant in the hospital was a huge eye-opener. Twelve-hour shifts did not agree with me, at all. I discovered my emotional, mental, and physical limits quickly. Additionally, I realized being unhappy with your job can have a frightening effect on how you perceive your illness, ESPECIALLY while at work. Typically, if I was suffering during work at the hospital, I would not get the support I needed to stay there happily for 12 hours. It was absolutely miserable. I was blessed to get the job I dreamed of right after graduation and was able to quit the hospital the day I filled out paperwork. With that being said, I believe being a nurse-newbie, along with a ton of major life events triggered some....well, actually quite a bit, of stress at my new job.

Going on three years in my LPN career, I have discovered ways to help myself cope at work when I am being pestered by the Migraine Fairy. My company gave me the chance to move to a smaller location, which allows me to work at a pace I am comfortable with and utilize my skills as a nurse, even with this illness. I thrive in this atmosphere, even on our most challenging and hectic of days. Happiness in my career atmosphere, along with daily preventative medication, has allowed me to be at work a month straight without the need to call-out due to a migraine. I have also discovered the tricks that respond the most to my migraines while I am working. I dim my overhead lights around my desk to ease any light sensitivity I may have. I will rub peppermint oil on my temples and the back of my neck because it soothes the pain and eases any nausea I have. I will wrap ice packs around my head while I am charting at my desk because the cool numbs the pain, at least temporarily. The children actually find the ice pack hat quite hysterical if they catch me with one on. Whatever works, right?

My relationship with the Migraine Fairy is nowhere near an end. I will more than likely be dealing with this for the rest of my life, but I won't let them defeat me. AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU! Don't give up, have a support team, find your tricks and triggers, adjust your atmosphere if necessary, and be the incredible nurse I know you are, with or without your illness.

For more information about migraines check out these interesting facts and figured from the Migraine Research Foundation - https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/