What Does a Migraine Feel Like? College Students Share Their Story.

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What Does a Migraine Feel Like? College Students Share Their Story.

People that don’t have migraines or people trying to understand if they have a migraine may ask, “What does a migraine feel like?”  We asked students with migraine to answer this question and also got a perspective from a neurologist.

The Migraineurs Perspective on What a Migraine Feels Like

In 2016, Axon Optics created a scholarship.  We asked college students to write a short essay or record a video to tell us about their migraine story and describe what a migraine feels like.

Stories came in from across the country that demonstrated the difficulty of living with migraine while attending college.  It also showed the resiliency of these young adults battling through the condition in order to gain an education.

2020 Results

Here is the 2020 scholarship winner’s depiction of his migraine story:

“There’s a zoom migraine pandemic. Get yo glasses on 👓🤓. “
B Burns, UC Santa Barbara, 2024 Computer Science Major

This short film from runner up N Diaz shares her story:

N Diaz, Academy of Art University 

2019 Results

2019: G Anderson, University of Arizona, 2024 Pre-Business

The flashing lights’ Migraine

As a child, I had vague memories of my mother having to lie down after taking some form of medication in a dark room, because of a migraine. I didn’t at the time understand what a migraine was or felt like, and thought it was just another basic form of a headache. I went throughout middle school with at least two headaches a week that would last all day but I never thought much of it until my freshman year of high school. I was on my way to school one day and started to see yellow flashing dots appear in the corners of my vision. I didn’t experience any head pain in that moment so I was confused as to what was happening. Not too soon after my whole vision was consumed with these constant flashing yellow dots,no matter what I did, they wouldn’t go away.Not too soon after that symptom I began experiencing extreme neck stiffness and pain that traveled up to the base of my head. My eyes began to become very sensitive to light, my eyes ached and I felt pounding pain on both sides of my temples. All I could think of was, “I needed to lay down, shut off all the lights and clothes my eyes”. This was my first migraine of many to come and I remember it like it was yesterday. This ‘flashing lights’ migraine (as I like to call it) became a usual migraine occurrence for me.

I’ve been battling with migraines throughout my highschool years and I even went to see a neurologist to understand where these migraines were coming from. I never did get a permanent solution on how to solve this problem.

My number of migraines have lessened over these past two years but I still dread the moments when I start to see those ‘yellow flashing dots’ takeover my vision, knowing what I’m about to endure. Even though my migraines have lessened, there still isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t experience a headache.

I have hope that one day there will be a world wide cure to migraines, I believe no one should have to experience a life with that kind of pain. Even though migraines will always be a part of my life, I know I will not be a victim to them and allow it to rob me of my joy and passion in all things I do in life. www.axonoptics.com #mymigrainestory

2018 Results

2018: R Wood, Winthrop University, 2019 Fine Arts Major

It’s finished and I’ve been waiting for a grade for the past week and so I keep anxiously checking my app and nothing shows up and I’m waiting for my grade to plummet and I’ve got three more projects to do in a month and it’s hard to handle but at least TRENCH was released okay bye

art #portrait #shatteredglass #floral #flowers #pain #chronicillness #chronicpain #green #artist #prismacolor #coloredpencil #graphite #apart #slowlydying #trench #21pilots #mymigrainestory

2016 Results

Ice Pick Migraine
2016: K Havlicek, Judson University, Architect 2017 Major

What does a migraine feel like? “I had four types of headaches: migraine with light and sound sensitivity, tension headache, ice pick headache, and a constant brain freeze.”

By K Havlicek, Judson University

I have a family history of migraines. Growing up I knew I too would have them someday. Thus began my migraine journey in middle school. I took medication and it worked, until one day in 9th grade it didn’t. This is the story of that migraine that never left. I had countless doctor visits trying medications and suggesting therapists. Over Christmas break in 11th grade it became worse. I had four types of headaches: migraine with light and sound sensitivity, tension headache, ice pick headache, and a constant brain freeze.

Doctors see horses, patients that are typical, and sometimes they might look for zebras, but never unicorns. I was a unicorn. I got an MRI and there it was; a brain tumor. I couldn’t stop smiling; finally a reason behind the pain and it was literally in my head. At 17 years old I had brain surgery that successfully removed the entire tumor. Now at 25 years old, I still have a chronic migraine every day, but the pain is manageable. My Cefaly unit, Axon Optics tinted glasses, Botox injections along with diet and exercise help me manage.

My migraine is my friend. I joke but it’s true. It’s been with me for almost 10 years. It has helped me in ways I could never imagine. It has guided me through architecture school, knowing my limits and balancing my life. Sure I have bad days where I want to curl up and sleep all day. God has given me the strength and a wonderful family that supports and gives me the perseverance to keep going. Currently I’m finishing my Master in Architecture. Who knows what the future holds, but I’ll have my friend by my side always there to remind me of the good even in bad situations.

The Doctor’s Perspective on What a Migraine Feels Like

Just about everybody has experienced a headache at some point in their life, but a migraine is different because of the additional symptoms. So, what does a migraine feel like? Here is how a doctor explains it.

“I’ve seen countless migraine patients in my clinic,” said Dr. Bradley Katz, a neuro-ophthalmologist and researcher at the University of Utah. “A migraine attack is already a very bad headache and the associated neurologic symptoms that accompany an attack really make it so much worse than just a tension type headache.”

Symptoms may include light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, feeling ill or physically sick, irritable, and it makes it hard to focus and hard to think.

“It’s these other associated neurologic symptoms that go along with the headache that make it such an awful disease with which to contend.”

So, what does a migraine feel like? These representations certainly help us understand.  Thank you to all those who submitted.


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