By: Brandy Garcia
My son was 4-years old the first time he said, “Mom I have a headache.” At the time I did not think much of it, maybe he was tired or getting a cold. In the back of my mind, I knew my migraine started at a young age but not that young. I couldn’t imagine a four-year-old could have migraines or headaches. As time went on he continued to regularly complain of having a headache.
He was 5-years old the first time we brought it up to the pediatrician. Given my family history of migraines, I expected the doctor to take it seriously and look into it. Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t feel it was necessary and believed he was imitating my pain and my words. At the time, this was a gut punch for me because I realized my migraine was affecting my kids in a way I didn’t see.
By the time my son turned 6, he was showing signs of depression and anxiety. He had sleepless nights and was irritable during the day. Making friends and going to school became difficult. Again, I brought up his complaints of pain and anxiety to the doctor, once again it was ignored. They suggested it was the lack of sleep and he needed medication to help him relax at night. At this point I didn’t see it necessary to question the doctor; I was still unaware the pediatric migraine was an issue.
Between eight and nine years old he started asking to take days off from school. This is a child who loves school and wanted to do schoolwork all the time. When this started happening more and more, I began to realize, he is struggling with something other than anxiety. I pressed the issue with his pediatrician who recommended seeing a neurologist.
About a year and a half ago, he started complaining often about head pain and needing to rest in a dark room. Once I saw him lay in bed in the dark for hours at a time, I knew he was having a migraine. It saddened me to see him like that and to know that it was going to be a while before he saw a doctor. So, I focused on what I know about migraine, light sensitivity, and mood changes. Mostly because I experience those also.
Answers at last
At his first appointment with the neurologist, he went over his headache log and I was surprised by all the things he was feeling. The most surprising was a hot ear, since he was a baby, he would randomly have one ear bright red. It never even crossed my mind that it would be a symptom of migraine. His symptoms also included neck pain and an upset stomach. Every time he complained, I would say maybe you need to eat or you must have slept funny. Even though I have lived with migraines for over 15 years I now fully understand that migraine is a full-body experience.
When my son was asked how long he had been in pain, he replied, “I have always been in pain.” This shocked my system and I felt horrible for dismissing him for so long. Once we talked and began making a treatment plan, I realized even if I knew everything about migraine and its symptoms, it would not have changed his outcome. All I can do now is continue to educate him and myself on migraines and their triggers and symptoms.
About Brandy Garcia
Brandy Garcia has lived with chronic migraines for over 10 years, but she doesn’t let that stop her. While raising three children, Brandy is pursuing a degree in psychology and writing poetry. She became a U.S. Pain ambassador to help others who have lived in pain, like her. She believes that people in pain can live a fulfilled and joyful life.