How to Manage College Life with Chronic Migraine

2019-04-02 21:01 #0 by: Evelina

I thought I would share some tips for other students who suffer from migraines. College life is extremely stressful. And unfortunately for us migrainuers stress is a major trigger for migraines. Migraines can prevent us from meeting deadlines. They can be triggered by anxiousness and get in the way of important class work, such as oral presentations. Or prevent a student from being able to finish their exam. But despite all, you can not only get through college with migraines, but you can thrive in college too! 

My story

I started my Bachelor's education at Stockholm university in 2015. Prior to starting my education, I had never ever experienced a migraine. A month in to my education I noticed I had a burning sensation behind my eyes for several days, like I had been staring at a screen for too long or something. My forehead felt tight all the time. And almost every evening I would have an incredible pain on one side of my head and eye socket. It was coupled with nausea and light sensitivity. The pain would get progressively worse throughout the day. After a couple of months of this, I realised something was not right. 

I went to the doctor and he said it was migraine and tension headaches. He prescribed an anti depressant and a blood pressure medication. 1.5 years later I was finally able to get an appointment with a neurologist who diagnosed me with chronic migraine and provided me with proper information and treatment. I continue to have frequent migraines, about 7-10 a month, but I feel like it is much more manageable. 

Tips for Success 

1 - Have a support network

  • Make sure to tell your friends and classmates that you experience frequent migraines. You might find that more people than you think experience them as well. If someone doesn't take your condition seriously then don't waste any time on them. 
  • Talk to your university about getting support. Some universities offer psychologist services, which can be really helpful in times of need. I definitely used this. Talk to the program administration at your university. It is different for every university but there should be someone that can provide information about your rights as a student with a pain condition. It is better to talk to them in advance, before you get in a situation where you might miss a deadline because you have a migraine. It can be better for the professor to hear that you have legitimate reason for turning something in late rather than the excuse only coming from you. Be proactive about this. At the start of courses you can send a quick email or meet them in their office to let them know about your condition. But don't use it as an excuse to get out of work. 
  • Talk to your roommates or flatmates about the fact that you have get migraines and tell them about whatever things they might need to be aware of. 

2 - Know your triggers and manage them 

  • Knowing your triggers and actually avoiding them is key to your well-being. Reduce your stress as much as possible. Uni is hard so don't take on more than you can handle by going to every party and signing up for every uni group or club. Your education and mental health come before everything else. 
  • Major triggers for me include, perfumes, lack of sleep, energy drinks, alcohol, cigarette smoke, stress and not eating enough. Bring snacks and water like your life depends on it, because it does. I just limited my alcohol intake and rarely went out to parties or just didn't drink at them. Managing the perfume trigger is tricky because it is other people who wear it, which is something I obviously cannot control  and it is super awkward to talk about. I always ask my flatmates to abstain from using any chemical perfume products, even chemical cleaning products, in the apartment. But at uni, my best option is to just avoid sitting next to people who I know wear perfume. I once had to tell a study buddy of mine to not wear perfume when we had study sessions - an awkward conversation but she thankfully understood.  
2019-04-02 21:18 #1 by: Evelina

Oops just noticed a spelling error in the title, I’ll correct it in the morning.

2019-04-03 11:38 #2 by: Niklas

Having to wait for over a year to see a specialist is unacceptable. Was the wait because of the medical system or weren’t you trying hard enough?

Very good post! 🙂

2019-04-03 11:46 #3 by: Evelina

It was a result of the medical system and I think, in part, as a result of my general doctor (not sure how they are called). I honestly didn’t feel that he took me as seriously as he should have - or he didn’t have enough knowledge about migraine in general. He waited way to long to get external help and then, finally as a result of the outside help, that doctor said he needed to refer me to a specialist. And because neurologists with a speciality in treating migraine patients are too few, I was on a waitlist for several months. Thankfully, I was told by my physical therapist that I should write an email to the neurologist office and say that I could come in at any time if they have a cancellation, which worked out because I got an appointment within two weeks after than email.

2019-04-03 11:50 #4 by: Evelina

Plus it is apparently standard for general practitioners here in Sweden to make migraine patients try out at least three different preventative medicines (which takes several months for each medicine) before they refer to a specialist. However, the gp did not prescribe medicines that were effective which I think was a result of his lack of knowledge on the condition- even my neuro said the medicines he prescribed are outdated, and they have better treatments to offer at this point in time.

2019-04-03 11:54 #5 by: Niklas

I see. Many don’t know that you can write an “egenremiss” (basically refer yourself to a specialist without going through a general practitioner) in Sweden. It’s a pity so many have to wait for so long before getting the right help. Perhaps it is a downside of having “free” medicare. It often takes very long to get help unless you are sick enough to go to the hospital emergency.

2019-04-03 12:12 #6 by: Evelina

#5 Actually, in my case that was not true. I tried and was denied.

Edit: Certain regions in Sweden have different rules regarding this. In Stockholm, a new law passed in the year prior due to the amount of waiting times, which now requires a remiss from your general doctor for certain specialists and certain things such as MRI, etc.

2019-04-03 12:22 #7 by: Niklas

Okay, it sounds like you have more current information than I. I can understand that MRI and x-ray requires a doctors referral.


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