I’m a retired female combat war veteran of the U.S. Army and I served in the First Gulf War. I’m a woman and combat veteran, and I have lived with horrendous chronic migraine pain for the past 30 years. Upon joining the U.S. Army Reserves, I always kept the possibility of going to war in my mind. In 1990, I was familiar with bad headaches, but I’d never felt as though my brain was trying to escape my skull.
I started experiencing excruciating migraine attacks during my deployment to Saudi Arabia.
The pain came out of nowhere; I didn’t bump my head, there was no accident, nor did my helmet hurt. Infield operations are limited, the medics were only able to perform manual testing and came to the diagnosis of tension headaches. I was given Fiorinal and Midrin, medications to relieve the pain and to get rest when possible. Needless to say during a conflict, there is never time for rest, and work is ongoing.
There are thousands of military/veterans who live with migraine disease that suffer greatly, and I am part of this group. Migraine creates such a lack of energy, concentration, and decreased workflow, setting up opportunities for written reprimands and poor performance reviews, even leading to civilian discharges. I’ve experienced them all and provided information, including doctor statements and disability records of my migraine attacks, which seemed to be no use at all. No one cared and accommodations weren’t adhered to.
After the war when I returned home, my migraine attacks persisted, varying in different degrees of pain – dull, throbbing, dizziness, blackouts, auras, and lasting for three to five days a week. The Department of Defense lists tension/migraines as a symptom of the Gulf War Syndrome, Afghanistan/ Iraq. Active-duty soldiers and veterans working full time miss an average of three to four days or more out of the month due to migraine, including me.
I signed up for Veterans Affairs health care and they began testing with MRI and CT scans, which showed no tumors, growths, or anything contributing to the pain I was experiencing. I was placed on Imitrex injections and pills, ibuprofen, Advil, Botox and acupuncture. Nothing was enough to rid me of the frequent pain in my head. I turned to the only medications I knew would give me some relief, Midrin and Fiorinal. Midrin is no longer formulated so I’m on to finding new medications.
People without migraine disease think a migraine attack is a headache and those who suffer from them are whiners, liars, lazy and fakes. When all we ask for is for someone to hear us out, try to understand, or at least become knowledgeable about what we go through. If people can’t see it, then it must not exist. We are supposed to continue to work like the superheroes we are. I’m blessed that my family understands and gives me the support I need when it comes to my migraine.
Today, after all that I’ve gone through and continue to experience, I still suffer from chronic migraine. I have found a group of women and men through Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc., who share my experiences and have taught me about this condition that I continue to endure. I’m learning every day about new medications, how to form my questions, and conversations to discuss with my neurologist about my treatment plans.
Everyone’s journey with migraine is different, but I’m determined to share my experiences with others so that their road to a pain-free life is less rocky.
by Eula Moore-Marshall
Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc