- Migraine Triggers_Migraine Research Foundation, 2019
- National Headache Foundation: What is Aphasia
Family case manager
Chronic migraine with aura
Growing up along the sunny shores of southwest Florida, Nikki and her family looked forward to the arrival of summer and many days spent relaxing at the beach. However, what should have been carefree days of sandcastles and seashells took an unexpected turn, when Nikki began experiencing migraine. What she used to look forward to, now often culminated in throbbing headaches. The picturesque seaside scenes were overshadowed by the persistence of migraine that impacted Nikki's experience for the next 30+ years.
As Nikki transitioned from childhood to adolescence, she began to uncover the threads connecting her migraine attacks. Certain triggers emerged – gym class, chocolate, caffeine, lights, sounds, and even the unmistakable scent of fresh paint.¹ The very allure of the beach was now a potential source of agony. Seeking answers, Nikki consulted her doctor, who diagnosed her with migraine at the age of 15. Nikki felt a mix of relief and determination as she set out on a path of avoidance and management.
Through her late teens and early 20s, migraine persisted, with the frequency increasing from two attacks a month to an alarming 18, accompanied by debilitating symptoms including nausea and aura. The haze of brain fog that preceded and followed these attacks cast a shadow over her ability to communicate effectively, leaving her grappling with sentence formation and articulation.²
As Nikki navigated her 20s, life continued its ebb and flow. She pursued higher education, studying psychology, and welcomed the joys of motherhood. However, the persistence of migraine led her to a difficult decision – stepping away from the workforce and embracing the role of a stay-at-home mother. Amid her children's quiet play, Nikki battled with the intense pain of migraine—a non-visible disease yet an imposing force. Due to the unpredictability of migraine, Nikki found herself withdrawing from social commitments, all the while grappling with a growing sense of depression and feelings of, in her words, “uselessness, helplessness, and hopelessness.”
Nikki's journey took a transformative turn during her late 20s when she visited a neurologist. The revelation that she had never consulted a specialist for her migraine and then actually doing so set the stage for a new phase in her journey. Over the course of three decades, Nikki would cross paths with 10 different neurologists, each contributing to her understanding of her condition. This journey of discovery eventually led to significant progress in the treatment of her migraine over the past five years.
Participation in a clinical trial introduced a new treatment option that helped break the debilitating grip migraine had on her life. Gradually, migraine became more manageable, allowing her to return to resume pursing her degree and, in August 2023, proudly secure her bachelor’s in health and human services. Nikki recently accepted a new job as a case manager working with new mothers to prevent childhood neglect and abuse, rejoining the workforce.
As Nikki begins her new job, along with her medication, she plans to continue her self-care to help manage migraine with her favorite rituals like daily meditation, soothing teas, puzzles, and massages while integrating migraine-friendly workplace best practices like muted sounds, soft natural light, and designated migraine retreat spaces.
“This is my dream job, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity after all of these years.” Nikki
When reflecting upon her journey spanning three decades, Nikki mentions, in her opinion, the profound transformations in migraine care marked by an expanded array of available treatments and decreased stigma surrounding migraine. Nikki's valuable experience boils down to practical advice for anyone living with migraine: "Find a neurologist who listens and works with you. Understand your triggers and keep looking until you find the right treatment for you."
Nikki's journey through the challenging tides of migraine shows how resilience can make a big difference in navigating the disease. Her story provides a sense of hope for others who are held back by migraine.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions or for more information.
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