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Design by Medical News Today; photography courtesy Erica Diebold.

I was a happy child with a constant smile on my face.

But I wasn’t smiling on this day.

I held back my whimpers while I tearfully clutched my blanket. I didn’t know what was going on. An unrelenting rush of pain removed my ability to speak as a monster scratched deep behind my eyes.

I could only see through tiny holes in my vision, which a dark gray aura was clouding. My mom and dad carried me to the car, but I couldn’t sit up in the seat.

I was tightly curled in a ball as my dad placed me in the passenger seat and drove me to the hospital. I will never forget the sensations of my first migraine attack, when I was unaware that this would become a regular occurrence.

That scene replayed throughout my childhood, as Migraine became a recurring character in my life. She stops in regularly to carry on the plotline. Full of surprises and twists, there is never a dull episode. She is a titan of strength with a powerful disposition, but she is not welcome.

My migraine attacks are easily triggered and usually begin with an aura. My vision clouds with shadowy spheres, and these sensations slowly transition into full body pain.

A powerful black hole grows inside my head, quickly removing my ability to function. Nausea comes like a tidal wave as Migraine overtakes my nervous system. She is a powerful foe with a dedication to her job.

I have tried many different treatments to combat my friend, Migraine. I’ve armed myself with nasal spray, pills, injections, and even Botox. Many of these treatments have their own side effects, which require preparation.

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Photography courtesy Erica Diebold.

If I don’t take medication soon enough, it doesn’t work as effectively. To help with this, I now have a trained service dog able to alert me to upcoming migraine episodes. Using scent training, he can smell the hormonal changes before a migraine headache, which allows me to take proactive action.

I have lived an active life with my friend, Migraine.

I have tried special diets to remove certain foods, invested in essential oils, and dedicated my life to peaceful living. I have been desperate to try anything, and other people are not short on recommendations.

A cab driver once insisted that a special kind of music would cure all my ailments.

A customer in Walmart told me to eat a miracle fruit every morning, and a second told me to go on a fully liquid diet.

A friend told me about the benefits of yoga and meditation, and another showed me how to breathe mindfully. I tried them all with different levels of success.

I want more.

My friend Migraine can be difficult and bothersome, but she is like a sitcom neighbor who’s here to stay. She demands constant attention and expensive gifts. She requires me to eat well and drink lots of water.

Migraine also requires me to look after my body and practice self-care. I once despised her, resented her, and stressed over her presence. However, because she isn’t content with poor self-care, she’s also become an unexpected friend.

I must admit that Migraine is a thorn in my side, but she has forced a positive lifestyle change. I’ve known her for so long that I can’t imagine life without her.

Erica Diebold is a YouTube content creator who advocates for disability and service dog communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and underwent open heart surgery soon after graduation. Erica is passionate about improving the quality of life for people with chronic migraine, rheumatic heart disease, dysautonomia, and mental health conditions.