Baby’s First Migraine Attacks: Three-Year-Old Me Gets a Life Sentence

A flash of nostalgia came over me as I picked up the yellow towel on the couch and hung it up. I remembered my nephew flinging it aside last night the moment he got out of the bath, his long hair dripping on his small, cold shoulders. I saw the same image two nights ago when we planted in his garden after his bath. He seems impervious to the cold and intent on getting dirty, too excited to put on a shirt before grabbing his small yellow hoe. We had meant to plant during the afternoon of course, but my sister, his mom, is a self proclaimed hater of the wind and the palm trees in Southern California have been extra vocal this week.

The author and her sister as wee children

My head throbs now when I hold the yellow towel just as it did when I watched his dear shoulders guide the yellow hoe through a path in his garden. I don’t notice too much. It isn’t too bright or loud, and every day I am learning to be calmer and gentler with myself.

I am trying to be patient with my body, giving it the time and space it needs to heal, and making an effort to enjoy every moment spent with my family.

My shoulders were even smaller than my six-year-old-nephew’s are now when I experienced my first migraine attack. I was three years old and just recovering from a nasty bout with the chicken pox when I experienced excruciating nausea and head pain. To this day I remember not wanting to watch Beauty and the Beast because the television hurt my eyes and how that fact scared me. At that period in my life, like so many budding bookworms in the early 90s, it was a serious emergency if I was too sick to watch Belle tell off Gaston.

I Now Pronounce You Diagnosed

Once I vomited (my greatest fear at that young time) the pain subsided a bit and I was able to sleep, but the attacks were not over. I experienced two more in the following weeks which meant a trip to Dr. Dias, my favorite pediatrician, a gentle Indian man with soft hands and incredibly blue eyes.

The author with her sister at age three and a half - the age migraines began
The author with her sister at age three and a half – the age migraines began

I have heard my mother tell the story of my toddler migraine attacks to several neurologists and doctors over the years, and she always includes this exchange:

Mom: Please don’t tell me she has migraines.

Dr. Dias: I can tell you these aren’t migraines, but they are migraines.

I now pronounce you diagnosed.

I don’t remember much about being three but most of it revolved around the back yard and my little sister and playing in the sprinklers. It’s easy as an adult to conjure up feelings of goodwill, love, and empathy alongside an image your toddler self. When you picture your young self ill or frightened  the desire to comfort is strong and natural. But as we get older, thanks to society or nature or both, that desire fades and sacrificing our health for success, money, convenience, the happiness of others, fill-in-the-blank, is the norm. Whether you’re stuck inside with a chronic illness 23 hours a day or just doing what you need to do to make your day a little easier, each of us could benefit from looking in on that young self every once in a while.

Migraines are Genetic

Beauty and the Beast doesn’t hold the same charm over me at 26 as it did at 3, but dozens of tools have since taken its place. Living with a chronic illness is a such a tedious career of medications, specials diets, and symptoms. Thinking back to simpler sick days is a helpful reminder to take care of myself with love and empathy.

Remembering the migraine attacks of my youth helps me remember that migraine disease is genetic and that the true cause of the attacks lies deep in my cells and not in my food, thought processes, emotions, water intake, etc.

The image of my three year old self  also reminds me to practice gratitude for the family and friends who have taken such wonderful care of me throughout the years and have made my life so rich.  Even with migraines.

7 thoughts on “Baby’s First Migraine Attacks: Three-Year-Old Me Gets a Life Sentence

  1. Great article , and picture. Hard to believe that picture was taken 23 years ago. Keep you head up and keep on a fighting. You will WIN the battle the battle with migraines

  2. Beautiful as always, scares me to death every time Colt has a migraine attack as I know all to well the feeling. Genetics are the true culprit , it is in our families blood for whatever reason. I talked a lot about you at his appointments when they asked of family history. Colt or I do not have migraines even close to your level but I have learned a lot from you. I refused to let my 8 year old son be on maintenance pills , also I try to help him find his triggers which seems to relate to sports and not enough water. When he doesn’t remember that he goes through a day of migraine and a day of migraine hangover, terrible for him and terrible for his mother who wants nothing more to make him better. Thankfully (I say thankfully)because I have migraines I can know what he’s going through and how to help even if it’s just blacking out windows . I know being as im a parent your parents must go through that agony with you all the time all any parent wants to do is fix!!!! It’s a horrible helpless feeling when we can’t. I’m really proud of you Angie and all you have done in this world. You still find the beauty in the simplest things when most people would probably give up you still do what you can. I love you and think of you all the time. Love you so much.

    1. You are a blessing to every single person who meets you. Your passion, determination, endurance and true passion for family/friends/life are seen by those who love you. You are beautiful, you are strong and sooooooo loved by so many. I love watching you loving and caring for yourself. You deserve nothing but the absolute best. 🙂 love you tons !!!

  3. One never really thinks of toddlers having migraines. I have cluster headaches but they began in my early 20s, and I feel lucky! Stopping by from Spoonie Bloggers and Vloggers, welcome!

  4. My chronic daily migraines started at 23. On so sorry yours started at 3 years old. Your so right we have to be so gentle with ourselves. Thank you for sharing💗

    1. Thank you for reading! My chronic migraines didn’t start until I was 23 as well. I have had migraines since I was 3 but they were episodic, about 4-15 days a year, for years. I’m sorry that you suffer daily. It is a very difficult disease to live with and those that do are unbelievably strong.

  5. My headaches began as a childhood, however, my mother wasn’t so loving and kind so she would say “they’re not that bad, get over it”. In my teens, they progressed to migraines and I’m 60 years old and they are chronic migraines now. I have a narcissistic mother who could care less about my pain, that is difficult when you know the pain is real.

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