Discovering I have migraine after 16 years of symptoms

By: Julia Tinsley-Kent, who lives with migraine

18th October 2022

I’m 26 and have had what I thought were headaches since I was about 10. I would sometimes get headaches that painkillers would not help and I could never understand why. I didn’t think too much of it as it would only happen about once a month so, I brushed them off. Then, when I was 14, I was off school for six months with sinus pain. I had various tests like a camera inserted into my nose but no one could figure out what was wrong. The only relief I found was acupuncture which enabled me to go back to school.


As time went on, I realised that the pain would always be on one side. The pain I get tends to start around my eye and spread down one side of my face. I found being sick or going to sleep would ease the pain.

My family and migraine

This year, my aunt was telling me that she has lived with migraine her whole life and I finally put two and two together. Not long after I was with a friend who suffers from migraines. We were getting ready to go to a party when I had a migraine attack. I said I was only going to be able to go if I was sick because my head hurt so much. She said to me, ‘you know that sounds like migraine, that’s not just a headache?’

My cousin has also started to have migraine attacks. In fact, it turns out that my grandpa used to have them too but never spoke about them, and my uncle has them as well. I realised that migraine must run in the family. We all seem to have different combinations of four main symptoms – pain, aura, vomiting and having them either once a month or more frequently.

I never get the aura but my grandpa and my cousin would see flashing lights while my uncle sees lights and lots of floaters in his field of vision. My aunt and I are prone to vomiting.

A better understanding of migraine

At the moment I don’t take any medication, I just find being sick or sleeping helpful as my attacks seem to come on very suddenly. My aunt takes sumatriptan so I might give that a go.

My attacks are incredibly painful so I can’t do anything when they hit. During my last attack, the pain felt much sharper than usual around my eye. I almost called an ambulance because the pain was so bad. I had to make myself sick so that I could go to sleep. After the pain subsides, I feel groggy and disorientated for a day afterwards.

The thing that is so stark to me is that I had no idea I had migraine for 16 years. I think there is not enough education and awareness around migraine – I had no idea that sinus pain could be migraine or that what I was experiencing was not a normal headache. Looking at resources on The Migraine Trust’s website has also helped me as I realised the symptoms of migraine match up to what I’ve been experiencing.

I think we need much more education around the symptoms of migraine so that people can be diagnosed and get the help they need much quicker.

Learn more about migraine and genetics here. Learn more about the symptoms of migraine here