Explaining migraines can be tricky. This comic helps.
A personal account of a migraine attack, plus why they happen and what you should know.
At first, Summer Pierre thought they were just really bad headaches.
"Until one day, I got one of the bad headaches, and Tylenol didn't do anything, and I started throwing up," Pierre told Upworthy in an email. "I mentioned it to my therapist at the time and she said, 'That's not a headache, that's a migraine.'"
Pierre is a comic artist, writer, and teacher. In 2013, she captured a particular experience with a migraine in this comic:
It turns out that Pierre has been experiencing migraines for more than 20 years.
"I'm pretty prone to them, so I can wake up with the symptoms coming on a couple times a week, but they can be curbed with medication for the most part," she said. "The really bad ones that can't be stopped with medication happen about once a month."
If you're one of the about 13% of our population who experiences migraines, you know what Pierre is talking about.
Migraines can be debilitating. They can last for hours, sometimes days. They usually come in distinct phases and can include more than just pain: Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and seeing auras are just some of the symptoms.
They can be so bad that it pretty much keeps you from doing anything but wishing they'd go away, an experience Pierre called "pretty damn frustrating."
There's even a weird migraine hangover phase, where people often feel very tired (although some people, like Pierre, also get a kind of migraine-induced euphoria after).
Some things can help, including medication and avoiding triggers.
Certain things like alcohol or medications might bring on migraines. But the triggers are usually highly variable and unique to each person.
And as a final kick in the teeth, stress can be a trigger, too, because migraines are soooo relaxing already.
Luckily, we're getting closer to figuring out what causes migraines, which could be a game-changer.
Researchers think migraines happen when there's abnormal blood flow to parts of the brain. And while migraines appear to be partly environmental, we're also starting to identify genes that may be responsible too. This is pretty cool because it could lead to more personalized, targeted migraine treatments in the future.
If you're having a migraine, take care of yourself.
And if you know someone who is having one, think of Pierre and summon as much empathy as you can.
"Unless you suffer from migraines or know someone intimately who does, people just don't seem to understand them. Migraines aren't just headaches — they are a full body system that has many parts to it," Pierre said.
"They are not to be ignored, powered through, or taken lightly."