Edit Desk: Living with migraines


Wascar Ramirez

Not so fun fact: I will fail every drug test I take for the foreseeable future.

And that’s not to say I’m out here doing cocaine or heroin on Friday nights.

The real reason I’ll fail is because one of the medications I take for my terrible migraines contains codeine, a narcotic. The drug, fioricet, is actually only a Schedule III controlled substance.

For reference, Schedule I substances, such as LSD or heroin, are illegal and highly addictive. There are five categorizations with decreasing level for potential of abuse moving from I to V.

I remember getting the result of my first drug test when I had to take it for my nursing assistant class. My teacher was sifting through all the results she had received before class started. She called me over.

“Wascar, step into my office.” she said, directing me to the hallway. “I know you’re not a bad kid, so what’s going on here,” she asked peering over her glasses like a curious grandmother.

I started getting worse-than-normal headaches when I was 10 years old. Since then, they have become progressively more intense and have lasted for longer periods of time.

My pediatrician told me to take some over-the-counter medication, like Tylenol or Advil. I love my pediatrician, but that was probably some of the worst medical advice I had ever received. Those medications did practically nothing to ease my pain and often made me even more nauseous.

It wasn’t until I went to a neurologist that I received any actual relief. I went in for an MRI scan, which should show tiny, bright spots all over the film if a person has migraines. My scan showed quite a few. That is when I was prescribed the medicine I still use today.

I take preventative medicine every night in order to lessen how often I get headaches. And if I have to, I also take fioricet during the migraine itself in attempt to ease it.

In the Global Burden of Disease study, which was last updated in 2013, migraines are the sixth most disabling disease in the world.

If you have ever had a migraine, I’m sure you can relate to the nausea or vomiting that came along with it. These are some of the most common symptoms. It can be a horrible experience to be fine in the morning only to release your guts into the toilet in the afternoon. I don’t know if others do the same, but I’ll skip meals or stick to liquids for fear of throwing up.

It can also become difficult to enjoy the outdoors. Light sensitivity can occur during or after a migraine. Bright light can trigger physical pain, making living in Las Vegas, a place that hardly sees clouds, difficult for me.

There have been a few times when I’ve gotten ready for class, stepped outside and immediately had to go back into my dark room because I can feel surges of electricity running through my head. It can be hard to enjoy family outings or dates with my partner.

But the worst part about migraines is wanting to lie in a dark, quiet room.

You can become completely removed from everything around you depending on how long the episode lasts. Once, I was in bed for three days and had no idea of anything occurring beyond the confines of my room except that my siblings were being too loud. Lately, I’ve been struggling to study effectively because of pain and lack of food.

Imagine cycling between being fine and experiencing any mix of symptoms — life can become difficult.

That’s what about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population experiences, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. There is no cure for migraines yet, considering its pathology isn’t entirely understood.

We’re subject to an enormous amount of stress as college students, especially here at Lehigh.

Stress can easily trigger headaches, as I’m sure most students are experiencing right now due to 4 o’clocks. However, if you notice headaches getting worse, or any of the symptoms I mentioned, you might want to see a doctor. Migraines, while quite intrusive, are relatively easy to treat.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Wascar Ramirez, ’19, is an associate lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. He can be reached at [email protected].

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