A woman claims she has had a never-ending headache for eight years after being struck by a ball on the back of her head.
Ashley Rogers, 23, from Houston, was a keen volleyball player when in January 2011 she suffered a blow to the head by a softball.
She had experienced a headache for the previous four days, which had slowly been receding until that point.
But ever since being struck by the ball, Ms Rogers claims she has suffered a non-stop headache.
Her pain levels on a usual day are seven out of ten, but on her worst day it reaches a ten.
She claims it can be worsened by loud noises, bright light, lack of sleep, her period – or if she doesn’t wash her hair for 48 hours.
Specialists have worked hard to diagnose Ms Rogers, considering her symptoms have left her hospitalised on multiple occasions.
But with no clear and treatable condition, she must lock herself away in a dark room with no noise, and an ice pack resting on her head.
Ms Rogers, who has tried various methods for pain management, said: ‘In January 2011 I was headed to volleyball practice when I said the three words that seem to have changed my life since, “my head hurts”.
‘The headache lasted for about a week before fading away. It came back in March that same year and was almost gone four days later until I suffered a blow to the back of my head by an overthrown softball.
‘The head injury got reignited after I was hit in the head, but it also intensified exponentially, and it’s never left since.
‘Since that day, over eight years ago, I have had a headache every day.’
Ms Rogers said when the headache first started, it was nothing more than an annoyance and distraction during school.
She said: ‘Back then it was minor compared to what I experience now. I’ve gone to the hospital several times over the last eight years due to pain.
‘I ended up in the hospital in 2017 after being too stubborn and going to school, despite already having too much pain.
‘As a result, my migraine pain intensified greatly and I ended up in the hospital, weeping because my head hurt too much for me to handle on my own.
‘They have a medication protocol that they use for when migraine patients come into the hospital, and they used several of the medications on me to help my pain.’
Ms Rogers has been in and out of doctors’ offices, hospitals, and clinics with little to no answers for why she has excruciating pain.
She said: ‘We aren’t certain what my condition is, but we believe I have an intractable migraine, a migraine that lasts longer than 72 hours.
‘This is notorious to treat because it doesn’t respond to treatments like a migraine normally would.’
Around 12 per cent of the US population – including children – suffers from migraine, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
Research suggests that 3,000 migraine attacks occur every day for each million of the general population. This equates to over 190,000 migraine attacks every day in the UK, according to the Migraine Trust.
They state the estimated proportion of time spent with migraine during an average person’s life is 5.3 per cent.
Ms Rogers has been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses in the past eight years, including coeliac disease, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), dysmenorrhea, fibromyalgia and lupus. It is not clear if these are related.
There are certain triggers which will determine whether Ms Rogers will have a good or bad day.
She said: ‘Triggers which affect me include loud noises, strong light, smells – basically any sense – lack of sleep, tight neck muscles, stress and pressure change.
‘If I don’t wash my hair within 48 hours, my scalp starts to hurt and that is another trigger. There are also long days, sudden movements, weather shifts, such as rain, full moons and periods.
‘I’m pretty good at determining how the day will go in terms of my pain as I’ve become very in tune with my body.’
During a flare up, Ms Rogers will hibernate in her room with blackout curtains as she waits for her pain to soothe.
The headache has taken a toll on Ms Rogers’ life, stopping her from playing sports, exercising, reading, writing and going out with friends.
Despite the intense pain that Ms Rogers’ invisible illness puts her through, it can be difficult for some people to empathise as they can’t physically see anything wrong with her.
She said: ‘Living with chronic pain is something that I would never wish on my worst enemy.
‘People constantly ask me what’s it like, and I have trouble finding words to explain how there’s a war raging underneath my skin, knowing they’ll never fully understand without experiencing it themselves.’
Ms Rogers is thankful for her supportive family and boyfriend, Connor, whose surname and age are unknown, who continue to be understanding of her condition.
She refused to let her continuous headache stop her from achieving her goals, and in 2017 she graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education.
She said: ‘My closest friends and my boyfriend are extremely understanding, and my family is an amazing support system.
‘Not everyone is as helpful, but it’s hard for someone to understand being in constant pain or having multiple chronic illnesses when they haven’t personally experienced it.
‘Chronic conditions are rough and real. Those of us dealing with chronic illnesses exist and we deserve to be acknowledged and believed. Not all disabilities are visible.’
Ms Rogers has found comfort from the support of other people dealing with chronic illnesses on social media. You can follow her Instagram here.