Living with migraine throughout my teens
By: Millie Hinchcliffe, who lives with migraine
I’m 19 and I’ve had migraine since I was about 10. I find my migraine attacks can be different in terms of the symptoms I experience and how frequent they are. I can always tell I’m having a migraine attack rather than a headache because I get a sick feeling. Sometimes the pain is in my forehead but I also sometimes get really bad pain around my eye. I also can’t look at lights or cope with loud noises or strong smells. How often my attacks come varies but at their worst they can happen two or three times a week for a period of months.
The impact of my migraine
The impact of migraine on my life has been massive. It can be really hard to explain to friends that I just can’t get out of bed when I have an attack. Sometimes I can’t even really look at my phone and then I feel like I’m being a bad friend.
I also moved to university last year and was living by myself. My migraine attacks got worse at university, I think probably due to stress. It was the first time I didn’t have anyone there to look after me when I was having a migraine attack and it’s been hard. Sometimes I’ve been in bed for days at a time and haven’t been able to just get up and get myself a drink because of the pain.
I’ve also missed lots of lectures due to my migraine. I always feel like I have to work late or spend my weekends catching up on missed work. When I was at school I would get anxious in the lead up to exams because I was worried I would have a migraine attack on the day, and then my migraine would get worse because of the stress.
I recently became Miss Yorkshire 2022 and in the run up to the competition I was getting a migraine attack each week. It could have been worse but it was frustrating when I’d sometimes get migraine attacks on days I’d been planning to prepare for the competition. I also feel very lucky that I didn’t have a migraine attack on the day of the competition because if I had, I would never have been crowned Miss Yorkshire. Migraine attacks really can have a big impact on what’s important to you.
Migraine and my mental health
I have found that there’s a close link between my migraine and my mental health. When my attacks get bad this will cause my mental health to decline. During the bad episodes, more often than not I’m in a lot of pain and this really gets me down as I can’t do anything I enjoy and miss out on lots of things. As I am struggling to get anywhere within the healthcare system, it does make me lose hope that I will find a treatment that works and it makes me worried that I will have to live the rest of my life with this pain, especially when I’m having a bad attack.
My healthcare experience
I first went to the doctor about my migraine when I was 10 and had some blood tests in hospital. They said that I had chronic headaches with occasional migraine and that was it. They didn’t give me a treatment plan or anything, I was just dismissed.
My migraine attacks have got a lot worse in the last two years, especially the eye pain. I’ve been to the doctor a lot to try and get a referral to a neurologist but there’s a specific pathway they want me to stick to and I’ve now tried four different kinds of medication. I finally got referred to a neurologist recently but the neurologist rejected my referral.
What needs to change
I think a lot needs to change for young people with migraine. I think healthcare needs to change and people need to be listened to more. People often don’t understand just how scary a migraine attack can be. Sometimes migraine symptoms can change and that can be really scary and worrying. Then that anxiety makes the migraine even worse.
I also think schools, colleges and workplaces need to be much more understanding about migraine. It’s so hard when you have to miss work because you’re really unwell and they just think you don’t want to come in.
At the moment I’m having four or more migraine attacks a month, which can last from two hours to two to three days. At my age especially, it can be really hard dealing with the countless days of missing university and work alongside the pressure of having to keep on top of everything.
Despite everything that migraine has thrown at me, I’m proud to say I am studying Pharmacy at university and I currently work as a Healthcare Assistant in a pharmacy. I also love to keep up with my sports, and I’m excited to be taking part in Miss England 2022 in October.
Learn more about living with migraine as a young person here.