The Terrorist In My Head

Hi, I’m Ada and I was nineteen when I first had a migraine. There was something about the way they made us say that; like migraine was a person; an important terrorist we all had to fight off every now and then. I was at a gathering of migraine sufferers, some recovering like me. It…


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Hi, I’m Ada and I was nineteen when I first had a migraine. There was something about the way they made us say that; like migraine was a person; an important terrorist we all had to fight off every now and then. I was at a gathering of migraine sufferers, some recovering like me. It was something like an Alcoholics Anonymous or a Cancer Support group and it made it seem normal to suffer from migraine just like when I had my first blinding flash of severe headaches and my mom said, with a hint of admiration in her voice, that it only happened to brilliant people. I was meant to take this excruciatingly painful experience as a sign of my high IQ. I didn’t know then if that made me feel better or made me hate the fact that this was the fate and burden of intelligent people. It was hard to believe that it was.

Other people in the group stated what triggered their migraine. It was caffeinated beverages, chocolate, alcohol, sunlight, sex. In my mind, I pictured an angry beast whom you have to suppress with pain relievers, herbs and supplements or sometimes, Marijuana as I preferred.

I can hardly tell what exactly causes migraine for me. It could be psychologically related to memories of a rough childhood and absurd teenage years that came with many repressed emotions which made me weirdly depressed. It could also be hereditary. Studies have shown that if one parent has migraine, the child has a 50 percent chance of developing migraines. My mom said she had suffered from it when she was just my age, her sister and her mother too. Again, they all confirmed it as a normal thing; like it was my passing rite from adolescence into adulthood. I didn’t think it was.

It could also be spiritual. My mom always did not want me to live up north, that was where my dad’s mistress lived and she was evil according to my mom. It didn’t matter that we did not live in the same town or that I have never seen her, it still had to be her inflicting this unbearable pain on me.

The most plausible cause, was of course, medically related, incessant untreated headache for three days, insomnia, unhygienic drinking water and poor diet and I hit my head badly when I was a kid, suffered concussions, but of course, that was just one of the numerous reasons.

I didn’t care about the cause, all I knew was the pain was blinding and each wave more unbearable than the previous one. There was an intense throbbing, pulsating pain behind one eye, at first I could not even open them. I was extremely numb on one side of my face. Tears would flow seamlessly when I could no longer bear the pain and the effort I made to cry only made it worse. I felt a numbness in my limbs and my feet was very cold. I was seeing visions of my dead uncle. I loved him so much, but Typhoid fever and Jaundice took him away from me. I felt like dying too.

The doctors said it was a Typhoid related migraine, giving a medical term to it was a sign to me, that it was curable. I had stayed in the hospital for days, enjoying the relief that each drip of…. (Whatever it was they gave me) brought, and I was almost becoming addicted to them. My family trooped in one after the other, and at night, they would sleep on the hospital grounds. I wished they would all stay home, all of them, except my mom. Her presence was assuring, she had gone through this before, but my dad was fidgety and irritated the angry beast the more. I had my final exams in two weeks and the doctors were vague on when the important terrorist in my head would be leaving.

I had spent almost a month in the hospital and I had lost a lot of weight. I was a ghost of my former self. After a month of hospital admission, and with little or no improvement, my parents decided to try the orthodox doctor my grandma suggested. Of course, I objected to it, I was a Christian, my faith disallowed me from seeking other ways for solution apart from God and science. However, my mom reassured me that he was just an herbal medicine man. He was just good with herbs and he knew just the one that would cure me. I had little choice in the matter, I was helpless, unsteady and almost handicapped. I had bouts of memory loss, I hated lights, and any form of noise.

The herbal doctor, dressed in a funny costume was grinding some herbs and making a potion. I was standing in a circle he had drawn earlier with a chalk, he then took a new razor blade and made many tiny incisions on my forehead, they were painful but surprisingly, they brought immense relief. Most researchers believe that migraine headaches are caused by blood vessels constricting and then dilating. This constriction and dilation is what causes these headaches to throb, pulse and pound. Constricted blood oozed down my face as the man began to chant nonsensically, I imagined he was commanding the terrorist to surrender, he rubbed the potion of herbs he was mixing earlier on the cuts on my forehead and said that was all. I was healed!

My mom had been standing there all along, pensive, watching as the orthodox man tried to cure what the doctors could not with their modern medicine. She held me and assured me it was all over now, she said that was the last I would hear of a migraine and I believed her, she had gone through this before, she would know better.

I felt lightheaded, but I had a good night’s rest for the first time in weeks. However, two weeks later, It came back, this time less intense than the first one. I would take pain relievers and it would be gone and then it would reoccur many times after that – when I walked in the sunlight too much without sunshades, when I had hangovers, When I traveled long distances by car or when I smelled cheap perfumes which my sister loved using.

Every incidence of migraine taught me how to manage it better. I had to drink lots of water, get enough sleep, have a regular exercise routine and wear sunshades or contacts. Talking openly about my experience with migraine with these people made it bearable, we had meetings on weekends, we were taught to laugh often, (it releases serotonin, which is helpful), we were taught to meditate on God’s word and most importantly, to love. We rounded up with prayers for God to take away our migraines and to help us conscientiously use the pills the doctors recommended.

Hmm… I seriously hope Ashley did not forget to bring my stash of weed today. God bless, Amen!


  1. Viv
    Wow. That was mind opening because I also experience some of those symptomms you cited but my mum keeps saying that its malaria……. Even in the hospital the doctor said its malaria.
    1. Iseyemi Ayotunde Post author
      thanks for reading, yea malaria could also trigger a migraine as a migraine is a form of headache which is a symptom of malaria. I trust your doctor has a qualified diagnosis, but if in doubt, feel free to ask him/her questions.
  2. Cheekayy
    I learnt that what I have been having which I thought to be migraine is actually far from it. Just headache.

    *well I am still not too sure*

    1. Iseyemi Ayotunde
      well, most headaches fall under two primary categories: migraine headaches and tension headaches. Migraine can be trigerred by tension headaches. Tension headaches are the most common headaches experienced. It is a steady dull, aching pain that usually starts in the back of the head and neck or in the forehead and radiates around the entire head. There is also organic headaches that could arise due to allergies , dental conditions, withdrawal symptoms, toxins,brain tumor, high blood pressure. The most important thing is to understand your headaches and the symptoms so you’d be better at preventing them.

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