Migraine and me
Throughout my acting career, I have played many roles, but migraine sufferer has been the hardest.
I first started getting migraines 3 years ago. Since then, I have experienced several migraine attacks while on set — in addition to a throbbing headache, my vision would suddenly become blurry, and I couldn’t focus on my script or even the other actors right in front of me. This was often followed by sensitivity to light, nausea and then total exhaustion.
I am in a business where there is no room for downtime, and I certainly can’t hold up production because of a migraine. As they say, “the show must go on.” Eventually, I had to get help and started seeing a doctor who could help me manage my migraine and better understand the various aspects and triggers. I now have the information I need to have meaningful discussions about my migraine attacks with my doctor and others who may suffer from migraine.
I know firsthand that not all migraines are the same. Many people who suffer from migraine experience head pain as well as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound. I joined the More To Migraine campaign to help inspire confidence in you, my fellow migraine sufferers, and encourage you to tell your healthcare provider how your migraine is more than just a headache.
Take the first step by signing up for the 10 migraine tips that headache specialist Dr. Susan Hutchinson shares with her patients.
Until next time,
On her first migraine attack: “I was actually driving which was what was really scary. If you start to feel like you have blurred vision while you’re driving obviously that’s not a good situation. Luckily I was able to pull over right away and stay pulled over for as long as it was lasting. But then that turns into the pain, which lasts for a long time.”
On dealing with migraines on set: “Usually I’m able to push through but obviously it’s not great when you can’t read your script or you can’t quite focus on the face in front of you. So it takes an extra kind of endurance to push through the symptoms and to try to stay as present as possible at work.”
On knowing as much about migraines as possible: “It’s one of those things that if I had known about that when I first started experiencing some of the symptoms I would have been more aware of what the problem was. When it first started happening, especially because mine started with the blurred vision, I wasn’t sure what it was. So then I was panicking on top of it like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening to me.’ And if I had a resource like MoreToMigraine.com where I could have gone there and looked at the possible symptoms, and look at the possible causes and things I can bring up to my doctor, then I think I would have had at least the comfort of knowing where to start. It’s one thing for me where I’m just dealing with it for my own self and trying to push through on set, but we’re talking about moms with kids, with babies, with toddlers, dealing with migraines that are debilitating. And that would be really hard. You can’t stop being a caretaker even though this is happening. Or people who have really high-pressure situations where they’re in a courtroom and suddenly get a migraine. These are really debilitating circumstances for certain peoples lives, so I think that it impacts everyone’s life a little bit differently.”
On getting through her migraines: “Maybe it’s just partially my personality, but I have a determination to find a way to push through and find a solution that works for me. I’ve never missed a day of work, I’ve never had them have to have an insurance day for me. I find a way to push though. That’s the choice that I’ve made and I guess maybe I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to find a way to push through. The things I want to do creatively are not going to be altered by that.”
On dealing with bright lights as a trigger: “There were definitely times when I had to step aside on a red carpet and recollect myself, knowing there may be a really long journey ahead of me after those bright, flashing lights.”
On pushing through migraines: “Any time you have a migraine, you don’t want to be functioning. You want to step away and be in a dark room. You don’t want to have to push through. In my industry, that really isn’t possible. I had to find a way to push through no matter what, and I came to terms with that.”
On working with your doctor to figure out what triggers your migraines: “Discuss it with your doctor and get into the specific details. Everyone’s migraines are so different, so it’s important that you don’t skip things or leave something out. Don’t feel like that’s bothering your doctor — that’s what they’re there for. Then they can properly diagnose what’s going on and figure out the best way to move forward.”
On worrying about what people will think if you cancel plans because of a migraine: “36 million Americans suffer from migraines, and I think it’s becoming something people are more aware of. Now if someone says they can’t make it out tonight because they have a migraine, it’s being understood as more of a neurological condition instead of an excuse.”