What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

Sad Saga

Debilitating Symptoms

Sinead McElvaney*, of Carlsbad, NM, has been suffering from migraines since her late 30's. Her symptoms were so debilitating that she found herself forced to give up her job as a restaurant hostess—it was just too hard to put on a smiling face when she felt so lousy. Her long-term boyfriend discovered he wasn't up to the task of keeping the relationship together through Sinead's once a month migraine condition. Soon, Sinead found herself without the warmth of supportive companionship and without a job.

A Caring Physician

As the months went on, Sinead sank into the depths of a depression serious enough to warrant anti-depressant medication. A caring doctor, a woman, tried to direct Sinead to a place where she might receive the supportive environment she needed to get back on her feet. So it was that Sinead first heard from her doctor about the migraine support group that was held once a week in a church basement.

"I can't begin to describe how it helped me to know there were others like me. Most of us were women. That's something to do with estrogen levels, from what I've learned in group. In any case, I made deep friendships with the members of this group and that's what helped me pull myself up by the bootstraps and get back into the workplace and, well, back into life itself."

"More than the meetings themselves, I found the "coffee after" private meetings to be the most helpful in terms of building a feeling that I wasn't alone. And I learned something: nine out of every ten women I met had been abused as children. Some more and some less, but they were definite victims of abuse, all of them."

"It was so unbelievable that I dared to speak up about this topic in group. We brought it to the attention of our doctors and we're pressuring them to try to get the attention of medical researchers to write us up."

"There's not much I can do about the fact that I have migraines, but it helps to know that I have supportive friendships and also that my experiences with migraines may just help someone else, if even in a small way. That's most definitely a comfort."

Margaret Wilcox* of Cleveland, OH, has found that most of the women she knows who have migraines had a sibling or a parent who abused them as children. "Sometimes the abuse was physical, and sometimes sexual, but a lot of the women I know who suffer from migraine had very sad childhoods. I wish this meant that sitting down with a therapist and resolving old issues would get rid of the headaches, but so far, I haven't found this to be true."

*Names have been changed