College and Chronic Migraines: From Here to Anywhere

chronic migraine journeyEven though it was a “few” years ago, I can still remember the buzz and excitement when I was driving away from home to embark upon my college journey. I was leaving my hometown of Houston, TX and moving 12 hours away to Nashville, TN.

Of course my parents were sad that I was going to be so far away, but I could not wait! I was excited to branch out on my own, see new things, meet new people, and truly embrace the college experience.  

My Migraine Fears

These things all sound fine and dandy until you add chronic migraines into the mix. It was around the time that I turned 18 and left for college that my migraines became chronic, lasting 15 or more days a month. Being diagnosed at the age of five, I was no stranger to missing school or having my mom come pick me up early. But college is so different from elementary, middle, and high school. I was worried and anxious, and for valid reasons.

So this left me with two options: (1) miss class and run the risk of having my overall grade reduced for too many absences, thus opening the door for some pretty ticked off parents, or (2) suck it up and deal with it.  I chose option number two.For one, my parents were paying (A LOT) for me to be there. Secondly, I was an adult and thus had to act like one. This means fulfilling my responsibilities, completing all assignments, and, of course, attending all classes. On top of these, I had no one to blame but myself if I were to neglect something by missing a class, like important information for a test. I did not have the luxury of missing a day just because I had a headache or a migraine. And the college level absence policies were much more strict than before: depending on the professor and their personal policies, you may be allowed to miss up to two to three classes before they start docking your grade (sometimes by an entire letter!) for each additional absence beyond the allowed amount.  

How I Coped With Chronic Migraines 

chronic migraine journeytried to help myself as much as possible so that I did not succumb to option number one. For example, at the beginning of each term I spoke privately with each of my professors. I told them that I suffered from chronic migraines, explained about my symptoms and their frequency, migraine triggers and the different medications that I took and the possible side effects of those medications.

I stressed to my professors that I would be in each and every class to the best of my ability but that I may not visually look 100% attentive or alert. This could be due to a variety of factors, such as the fluorescent lighting in the classrooms or the side effects from my medications. I also tried my best not to take certain types of medication that I knew would hinder my ability to pay attention until after my classes were completed for the day and I was able to go back to my dorm room or apartment and lay down. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but our professors are human too, so the majority of them were understanding of my migraines and occasional hang ups.  

The Payoff of Determination And Strength

I am a very goal-oriented and driven person, so I did not allow my migraines to hold me back in any way when it came to completing my degree. I eventually received my Bachelor of Arts in Music Business Marketing and then went on to complete my Master of Business Administration. There were many days that I just wanted to stay in my dark cave, but I stuck to option number two and was able to achieve my educational goals despite any complications from my migraines and medications.

My Advice

For those of us in the chronic migraine community, we truly understand how debilitating our migraines can be.  But don’t let your migraines hold you back from achieving your goals no matter what they may be. Fight hard to overcome the pain and achieve success. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your friends, family, and professors. 

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