Migraine sufferers struggle with daily learning

Evelina Gaivoronskaia | Staff Writer

Loud noises and bright lights cause extreme pain for those suffering with migraines.

Students suffering from migraines have to face the head-spinning choice between school and avoiding pain. 

Migraines can come with headaches, disorientation, and light or sound sensitivity. Students who suffer from them can have a difficult time getting through the school day full of fluorescent lights and loud hallways. Senior Ishana Galgali started to experience all of those symptoms at the beginning of her freshman year and used to get them every day after school.

 “When the migraine comes on, the light starts bothering me and I start looking away from bright lights,” Galgali said. “I also will start to not hear as well, or when people are talking to me, their voices will sound grating. It sounds like everyone is talking very loudly when they probably aren’t. Everything becomes very disorienting. Walking in the hallways feels like I’m not in my own head.”

Another side effect of Galgali’s migraines is her hair becoming sensitive. She said it can hurt to have it in a ponytail or just to move it, and ended up cutting her hair to reduce the pain.

“My hair also gets bothered when I have a migraine,” Galgali said. “If it’s in a ponytail I’ll have to take it down and just touching it can cause me pain too. I got my hair cut shorter after I started to have migraines because having that extra weight was just more painful.”

Migraines can make it difficult for students to get through the school day and learn the material taught in their classes. Junior Shoshana Ploetz said migraines force her to fight through the pain to pay attention in class. 

“Whenever I have a really bad migraine I can’t focus on school, so I’ll pretend that I’m listening and try to take in all the information when really I’m just focusing on myself and trying to get better,” Ploetz said. “I’ll close my eyes, put my head down and rest. I try to get it to go away, but sometimes it doesn’t.”

For people with migraines, after school life is not much easier than the school day. Galgali said that her migraines made it difficult for her to attend cultural events and participate in sports. 

 “[With migraines] I wasn’t really socializing with my family,” Galgali said. “ We’re really involved in our cultural community, so there would be parties that they attended and I generally stayed at home. I couldn’t handle being around so many people. I had to move things to earlier times because I didn’t know how to make the migraines stop.”

Galgali said she couldn’t handle having migraines every single day so she tried the best she could to stop them. She eliminated most acidic foods from her diet to decrease the chance of getting a migraine. 

“You can’t stop them completely, but I try to prevent them as much as possible,” Galgali said. “For example, I don’t really eat tomatoes anymore and I basically cut out all the acidic food because when my acidity gets high I am more prone to migraines. I have to limit what I eat and when I eat it.”

In the search for something that would help her migraines, junior Kelly Bangs has tried many different things, from taking breaks to drinking lots of water. Similar to Galgali, eating different foods also helps her get through the day. 

“Pretzels and Gatorate help me a lot, so I usually have them in my lunch,” Bangs said. “Taking a nap helps. I also think that coffee helps me, which is kind of interesting because it doesn’t help most people.”

Some people are willing to try out more painful methods to stop their migraines. Ploetz got her ears pierced in a spot that is said to help with migraines. Her mom also took her to get botox in an attempt to reduce her migraines. 

“I got botox around my forehead, my temples, the sides of my neck and my shoulders,” Ploetz said. “It hurt. It helped me for about a week and then my migraines started coming back again. I started getting them every other day.”

Bangs said that migraines can make it hard for her to focus and to participate in sports, so she tries her best to prevent them. She says that finding things that help can be difficult because different things work for different people.   

“It is really a matter of what helps you cope with your migraines,” Bangs said. “Not everything I do will help other people. Some things that I do may even make it worse for other people.”

Ploetz was diagnosed with migraines when she was seven years old. She says after living with migraines for more than half of her life she learned how to base her life around them. 

“It’s become a part of my life, something I had to just deal with,” Ploetz said. “When people hear that I have chronic migraines they tell me that they couldn’t tell and that I don’t act like it. I tell them that it’s just a lifestyle for me. It’s something I deal with everyday and I just have to learn how to go about my life.”

Galgali said she wants people to understand that migraines aren’t just excuses to cancel plans or to skip school. 

 “People don’t always understand that it’s not just a headache,” Galgali said. “They say that everyone gets headaches and you can just power through it; if I could power through, I definitely would. It’s not just an excuse for not being able to do things. It really is something that people are dealing with and fighting for it to not affect their lives.”

Graphic by Riley Johansen.