‘Scandal’ actress reveals battle with debilitating condition

Actress and recording artist Bellamy Young, who plays first lady Melody “Mellie” Grant on the hit TV show “Scandal,” logs upwards of 17 hours a day on set, so maintaining her energy levels is crucial. To do so, Young makes sure she gets quality sleep even if it’s only five or six hours’ worth, hikes, does yoga, opts for small but frequent meals, and snacks on healthy fare like almonds and apples.

But for Young, 45, remaining cognizant of her physical wellbeing is all the more imperative, as not doing so means she may miss the warning signs of a migraine— a condition she’s suffered with  for as long as she can remember.

“You lose days,” Young, who is aiming to raise awareness about migraines for National Migraine Awareness Month, told FoxNews.com. “Until you know how to deal with [migraines], you lose time and opportunities, and it’s completely debilitating— so it’s highly motivating to find a methodology that works.”

About 18 percent of American women and 6 percent of American men suffer from migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. The Mayo Clinic includes blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, pulsating and throbbing pain in one or both sides of the head, and lightheadedness sometimes followed by fainting as migraine symptoms.

When Young, who grew up in Asheville, N.C., began having migraines around the time she was in high school, she thought they were simply bad headaches and not a serious health problem. When she would seek medical advice, doctors dismissed her discomfort as a “’lady’ thing or an ‘around-your-period’ sort of thing.”

“I now find that pretty disrespectful because it’s extreme pain, and it’s unpredictable, and it’s something you deal with every minute— and it’s not just women,” she said. “I certainly have male friends who have migraines, and it should not just be undervalued.”

Young’s migraines typically start with sensitivity to light and scent, and the feeling of an ice pick poking her left eye. She turns to meditation, rest and hydration if she feels one coming on, but if she has already lost her peripheral vision, she takes the medication Treximet, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008, to reduce the pain. Young is a spokeswoman for Treximet.

In between seasons of “Scandal,” which resumes filming July 15, Young has been busy promoting her first studio album, “Far Away So Close,” which was released in May. Young, who began her acting career in theater, starred on Broadway as Mary in Cy Coleman's "The Life" and as Meg in Stephen Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along.”

In May, she was a contestant on Celebrity Jeopardy and won $50,000, which Jeopardy donated to Blankets of Love, a nonprofit that takes used comfort items, like blankets and towels, and donates them to abused animals in shelters and rescue centers.

Young, a self-described animal lover, said she’s always had “compassion for all things.”

She’s also on the heels of finishing a new film, “Day Out of Days,” with Melanie Griffith, which recently showcased at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. Young is in the midst of filming the upcoming feature films “Offer and Compromise” with Tom Cavanaugh and “The Night Stalker” with Lou Diamond Phillips.

Young isn’t sure what’s in store for Mellie Grant on season 5 of “Scandal,” but she hinted she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am grateful to go to work every week and get to play a different part in the narrative,” she said. “If you’re lucky enough to have a job sometimes, you go in every week and you’re the person who says ‘that thing’— but I never know what I’m going to do.”

“It’s the gift of a lifetime,” she added, “but also I work with the nicest people in the world. So I can have the blessing of a job like this and be around horrible, petty, ungrateful people, and it would not be as much fun, but I’m around the biggest hearts.”

Young typically gets to set at 5:15 a.m., and crew call is at 7 a.m. Workdays typically last until anytime between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Making sure she’s well rested— and has medication on hand to stave off a potential migraine— has enabled Young to maintain the stamina that she has in spite of the risk.

For any acting gig she has taken on, Young has had to list migraines as a health concern on her insurance because the condition can impact the workday.

“Now,” she said, “I’ve finally found a system that works for me, so it’s not so bad.”

She advised other people suffering from migraines to talk to their doctors about a remedy that may work for them.

“It’s a simple conversation to have, and different things work for different people,” she said. “But the important thing is to know what you’re dealing with, and what you’re dealing with is serious— and that you should go see your doctor and start talking about what regimen is right for you. People can be free of this.”