For as long as I can remember, migraines have been a part of my life.
As a teenager, I didn’t quite know yet what I was experiencing when my head would start pounding so bad that I was unable to move, light hurt my eyes and sleep seemed to be the only cure for the immense pain.
At first, my parents thought it was an excuse to get out of going to school or finishing chores. Once, I unsuccessfully begged them to cancel a student driving session (unheard of for a 15-year-old). That drive around town with the teacher in the passenger seat quickly resulted with me pulling over and getting sick.
That’s when my parents started to take my complaints seriously. But even then, relief didn’t come easy. Several doctor visits ensued and while the diagnosis came back as migraines — a neurological disease that affects more than 39 million Americans — finding the right treatment is something I still struggle with today.
In college, one doctor told me a vitamin B-12 deficiency was the source. After months of weekly vitamin B-12 injections (did I mention I hate needles?) and not much improvement, I stopped.
Over time, I began to figure out my triggers — caffeine, alcohol, lack of sleep, shifts in barometric pressure (when the temperature even slightly changes) and foods like walnuts.
One specialist told me to seriously consider moving somewhere the weather was more consistent and not as humid.
At my worst, I’ve gone to the emergency room because of severe pain and numbness in my face and arms that rendered me unable to speak coherently. Fearful I was having a stroke (thanks to an overzealous college roommate who was studying to be a nurse) I was eventually assured those symptoms would subside.
At my best, I manage my migraines with daily preventive medication and try to avoid my triggers. But it’s not a perfect situation.
While working on this year’s Best Doctors stories, which focus on brain health, I realized I need to be a better advocate for myself. I can eat better, exercise more and speak up at my doctors appointments about what’s not working.
Luckily, I didn’t heed that doctor’s advice to leave Cleveland. There’s an excellent medical community right here that’s full of information and cutting-edge research that can help me tackle this. For whatever ails you, now is the time to take control and use our list of more than 1,300 Best Doctors as that first step to a healthier you.
Click here to read the more articles from Best Doctors: Special Brain Health Report cover package.