Perhaps you know of the 70’s classic rock band Foreigner and their song “Feels Like The First Time.” If you’re not familiar with it, the refrain goes a little something like this:
And it feels like the first time / Like it never did before
Feels like the first time / Like we've opened up the door
(via Google Play)
Aside from the obvious oldies jokes I could make, I cite this particular song to bring attention to a distressing and fearful scenario for individuals with migraine: the very first time they experienced an attack. What did it feel like? Did they know what it was? How did they respond or react? What were the corresponding emotions that they felt? In their own words, here is a compilation of just a few experiences from migraineurs across the internet.
I could never forget my first migraine. I was sixteen or so and had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. Laying face-down on the couch in my parents’ living room with the lights out, I remember stuffing my throbbing head between the cushions. Nothing could kill the pain. I was half convinced that my brain and my heart had temporarily switched locations. My newly-transplanted heart, I imagined, had gotten cozy behind my right eye and it stabbed my optic nerve with each beat.
(Source: Psych Central, When Migraine Symptoms and Panic Triggers Overlap: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2011/07/when-migraine-symptoms-and-panic-triggers-overlap)
I was in the grocery store shopping, I was reading a package and all of a sudden I couldn't focus on what I was reading because I couldn't see it. I got that visual distortion in my field of vision that feels like you have been staring at a light bulb for too long, and you look away and you still have that afterimage in front of your eyes. Do you know what I mean? It looked exactly like that and I thought to myself: "Huh. That's weird, I don't remember staring at a light bulb...I guess must have." And I just kept on shopping and drove myself home. On the drive home my vision did not improve - in fact, the visual distortion got bigger and bigger and eventually formed a ring that expanded out to the sides of my field of vision. I was worried I wouldn't be able to see well enough to drive.
When I got home I had this full blown overwhelming sick feeling. Like I was seasick. My head just had a slight pain and did not hurt much at first, just overwhelming nausea and everything was way too loud and too bright. I went into my room, shut the blinds, turned the lights out and curled up under the pillows thinking I had food poisoning.
(Source: Quora, What does it feel like to have a migraine: https://www.quora.com/What-does-it-feel-like-to-have-a-migraine)
I was 21 years old when I had my first migraine, and I will never forget how confused I was. I thought that I just had a very strong headache but after hours of constant pain and taking strong medication I was feeling better but I had no idea that this was going to be just the beginning of painful journey.
(Source: Migraine Prevention, My First Migraine: http://www.migrainepreventer.com/?p=10)
I had my first ever migraine last night. It started like a regular headache caused by computer monitor eye strain. It wasn't even a headache, really. More like the dry eyeball feeling you get when you're tired.
I work the night shift, and my job is primarily emergency response. I was writing an incident report when I gradually started feeling a funny tickle in my stomach. It was the tiniest little hint of nausea, but barely enough to even register as "discomfort" on a pain scale.
After awhile I started noticing that the lights were just too goddamn bright. I felt an urgent need to get out of the room where turning off the light switch only shuts half the lights down. I felt a strange vertigo sensation, where everything looked like it should be in a slightly different position than where it was. Wow, the pain! It came from a place deep within the bowels of hell, ripping a portal to earth through my skull. I was walking quickly away, anywhere but here, only seeing the floor around my shoelaces because my vision had narrowed to tiny little slits.
(Source: The Straight Dope, I had my first ever migraine last night: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=607342)
One memory that is absolutely seared into my mind, rooted so deeply that I can never forget, is the first time I ever had a migraine. Although migraines typically lend to a general fuzziness, I remember it so clearly—the fear, the nausea, the confusion about what was happening. My family had taken a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii (a quick island hop from my hometown on the island of Oahu), and were on our way to see the famed Black Sands beach (which you should totally Google) when my vision blurred, and I thought my head was going to explode. While my family walked out to the beach, I was overcome by a wave of physical symptoms I couldn’t articulate and stayed in the car, crouched in the fetal position, praying for it all to end. I was eleven.
(Source: Hello Giggles, What I wish I knew when I got my first migraine: http://hellogiggles.com/wiwikw-i-got-my-first-migraine/)
This past Saturday I was out running some errands when all of a sudden I had a blind spot in my right eye, and I couldn't see anything in focus. I sort of had a feeling that I might be getting a visual aura since I know what those are and have read up about them / saw videos about them. After a few minutes I was getting small C-shaped zig-zaggy colorful lines with a huge blind spot within that "C" area. It looked exactly like all of the "artists" renditions of auras that you find online. It continued to grow and spread over a huge chunk of my vision.
That lasted about 30 minutes, during which I somehow managed to drive home - although in retrospect I have no idea how I did that. After the visual aura ended my migraine started. The pain was so intense that basically everything is foggy in my memory. I went to sleep and woke up 4 hours later. I was still in pain but it was manageable. I felt weak and stayed in bed the entire weekend.
(Source: Ask MetaFilter, Do I need to go see my doctor about this migraine?: http://ask.metafilter.com/203688/Do-I-need-to-go-see-my-doctor-about-this-migraine)
The first migraine I ever had was at age 40 in June 2005. I was driving home and started experiencing something like light flashing in my peripheral vision. It got worse to the point I couldn’t really see. Half my face and my fingers started going numb. Of course, I thought I was having a stroke. As I got home, the pain started in my head. I called my sister, who is a paramedic and lived across the street from me. She checked all the signs of a stroke and sent me to the hospital. They ran tests, including a brain scan, and found nothing. The diagnosis was migraine! What, I went to the hospital for a migraine? They gave me pain killers and sent me home. I was embarrassed, but I had never had a migraine and did not realize how painful they really are. My first migraine lasted four days.
(Source: Migraine Research Foundation, Rhonda: https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/our-community/migraine-stories/rhonda/)
Clearly, although the physiological effects are mostly unique to each individual, the tumultuous undercurrent of fear and confusion is spread throughout each of these narratives. Most felt a different intensity or type of pain than anything previously but could not easily pinpoint the cause or underlying condition. This obviously made for a very scary experience.