A Persistent Pain: Living with Migraines

Over-the-Counter Pill Popper

I first started getting migraines in elementary school. They used to come at the end of the day during the bus rides home. My mom didn’t know what they were. We assumed they were regular headaches. There were many afternoons of Tylenol. Then, it was Advil. Followed by Motrin. After that, it was Motrin Sinus. Now, in my thirties, it disgusts me to wonder how many different kinds of pain killers I have ingested in my lifetime, all because of frequent migraines. I feel like my stomach could be compared to that of an amateur drug addict’s. Thankfully, I haven’t had negative blood results or stomach problems. Knock on wood!

Prescriptions: Take 1

In middle school, I went to a doctor who finally diagnosed me with migraines, rather than sinus headaches. I began taking Excedrin Migraine. It was the new drug on the market at the time. Today, it’s the pill that all sufferers have their own opinions on. Some use it like their life depends on it; others see it as a joke. Back then, I was put on a prescription that did wonders for about a month; unfortunately, the migraines returned. I was back to taking pain killers like before.

Alternative Medicine

My mom’s friend and colleague suffered from migraines. She tried everything. Eventually, she went to a nurse who specializes in homeopaths. She found that they worked; therefore, I gave it a try. From the time I was in high school until college, I changed my remedy twice, but found far fewer migraines than I have ever experienced on prescription pills.

Side note: I am not one to tell others how to feel about things; therefore, I won’t tell anyone how to feel about homeopaths. If they haven’t helped you or if you have preconceived notions about them because of something you read or heard, that is your opinion. It will not change mine.

That Hospital Visit

For years, people asked if I had to go to the hospital during an attack. I would tell them that I had not, always with great relief to be able to say so. That was until one day towards the end of my college education. I had a migraine for about two or three days which neither Excedrin nor any homeopath could take away. After a trip to my regular doctor, they prescribed something that day. A few hours after taking it, the migraine evolved into a monster. One minute, I was about to shower. The next, I was on the floor, cradling my head, sobbing.

My mom took me to the hospital where they hooked me up to an I.V. They gave me two types of drugs. One for anxiety and another was a pain killer. They didn’t tell me that the medication could cause extreme anxiety and some psychotic behavior. My migraine left, but they needed a urine sample. Meanwhile, they wouldn’t let me drink anything. I was completely reliant on the I.V. that worked slowly.

Out of nowhere, I was overcome with the need to go home and could not relax, but I didn’t have a logical reason for why. I couldn’t get myself to sit or lay on the bed; instead, I walked back and forth in a half-circle around it. When the nurse came back to check on me, my mom informed him that my pain was better, but that I wanted to go home. He simply smiled and said, “I’m sure.”

When the doctor returned, we told him how anxious I was feeling. He finally told us that it was the medication. He told us a story about giving it to a patient who ripped out the I.V. and ran around the room. To this day, I question why I was not warned, but I’m relieved that I only felt restless.

Changing My Diet

In 2015, when I began having migraines all of the time, I went back to my homeopath nurse. She not only adjusted my homeopath remedies, but inquired into to my diet. Knowing that I’m a vegetarian, she was concerned about fatty proteins and suggested more seeds and nuts. A lack of the right foods can certainly cause a migraine. It seemed to help for a while. Nonetheless, I continue to add the nuts in case; avoiding peanuts, since I learned in middle school that they’re a trigger.

Prescriptions: Take 2

In the summer of 2016, I began suffering from migraines almost every day, again. I went to my new GP who prescribed a new medication to try: Topiramate. On that, my migraines were no longer every day, but they were frequent. It could have stemmed from anything. All I knew was that homeopaths seemed to work for longer periods of time.

Back to the Emergency Room

After a week-long migraine grew worse, I was back in the ER. I thought that for sure the doctors would cure it; although, I feared being given the drug that had made me anxious: Toradol. Since I warned them of my previous reaction, they tried other drugs, first. Once those didn’t work, they gave me Toradol at a slower speed along with Benadryl, which made it less powerful, overall. They explained that “pushing it by itself,” as I had been given the last time, can cause the severe anxiety that I experienced. Adding Benadryl lessened the migraine, but it didn’t go away, entirely. That’s how I left the emergency room.

Physical Therapy

During the follow up appointment with my regular doctor, he suggested that I either increase the Topiramate or try physical therapy. After being on social groups for Migraine sufferers and reading varying serious negative side-effects from those who increased their Topiramate/Topamax, I was completely reluctant to do so; therefore, physical therapy it was. Surprisingly, it was helpful; unfortunately, I would have to keep it up in order for it to work continuously. The type of pain that I experienced was low-level and primarily in my upper neck. Over time, I would develop migraines from it.

Chiropractors:

At this time, I went back to see the nurse who prescribed me the homeopaths. She suggested new things, such as MigraDefense by KaleMigraDefense by KALE. In addition, she gave me the card of her chiropractor friend. Seeing her friend turned out to help. Again, it wasn’t a complete cure because I’d have to go for the rest of my life, which gets more complicated than taking pain killers. Her friend wasn’t on my insurance; therefore, I was paying out of pocket. Eventually, I did find a chiropractor in my network who was wonderful, but that meant scheduling appointments every week and getting a new referral every six visits or so. At the least, it usually lessened the pain.

Prescriptions: Take 3

After moving to another state and getting a new GP, I agreed to try a new medication: Amitryptaline. At first, I took half a pill, which did nothing. Then, I worked up to a full pill. The 25mg were preventing my migraines, but I was exhausted to the point that it was a chore to get out of bed and stay awake at my temp job. Returning to half a pill meant that I had migraines, again. I can’t win.

Where am I Now?

These days, the stretches and exercises that I was taught in physical therapy will sometimes relieve the pain to some extent, but overall I continue to have migraines on a daily basis, most weeks. There are different factors: stress, weather, sleep changes, food changes, and so on. Now and then, I’ll get a day or random few days without them. I haven’t figured out what I’m doing differently to get this result, but I’m grateful for any of those days.

Migraines are Not just Headaches

This article is not about how to cure migraines. It’s about how difficult they are to live with them. A migraine is not a basic headache. They affect your body, your mind, and ultimately your life. Personally, I don’t call out of work often because of a migraine, like many; however, at least once a year, I will end up having it bad enough that I have to. I’ll have at least one migraine a year that not only won’t go away from Excedrin or anything else, but renders me unable to do anything other than lay in bed in pain. Likewise, there’s the other side to the migraine: after the pain ends, I’ll be too dizzy to move. All I can do is lay down, when I want to be productive.

Is There a Cure?

No. The question should be “is there a cure for you?” Perhaps, there is. I hope that if you’re struggling, you will find relief. I hope that you have attempted or will attempt everything you need to. I understand the frustration and hopelessness, but remember that you have made the effort. It is far better than giving up, and allowing the migraines to run your life without a fight.

We Walk Among You

A few years ago, while buying a new phone, I learned that the employee helping me was also the manager, and she suffers from debilitating migraines on a regular basis. She said, “When they were hiring me, I told them that if I had a migraine, I would need to go home. I can’t work during them. It’s part of who I am.” Luckily for her, they were accommodating. Too many of us are dismissed.

One of my favorite YouTubers turns out to be a Migraine sufferer. Taylor Wynn is an intelligent, compassionate, and dedicated creator who takes work seriously; unfortunately, like many of us, society and doctors do not always believe her when she discusses her pain. I will not claim to have it as bad as she does because I don’t. I’ve had migraines for longer, but I am usually able to work through them. She’s an example of another survivor of this invisible illness.

Side Note: Please, do not leave advice on this post. If you would like to share your own success, I welcome the stories; however, everyone’s body is different. So, do not preach. Thank you!

Editor’s Note: This was originally posted by this author in 2017 on HubPages. It has since been revised and republished here.

3 thoughts on “A Persistent Pain: Living with Migraines

  1. I had my first migraine when I was 9 years old, so I feel for you. During college, my situation got so bad that I had to leave school for a term to deal with it. I called myself “bubble girl” because smells killed me: cigarette smoke, perfumes, paint, cleaning products. I lived like the “boy in the bubble.” (There’s an old John Travolta movie that I think I’m referencing.)

    For me, dietary change was a vital component of getting back to a normal life. (Normal: a life whose terms aren’t dictated by constant migraine, which, as you say, IS NOT JUST A HEADACHE.) I recommend everyone with chronic issues try an elimination diet to learn exactly what triggers THEIR symptoms; it is so NOT universal!

    Like you, my headaches would develop beginning from a painful spot in my neck. I use a knobby massage ball at the first sign of any tension there. This has helped me head off many migraines. I keep one at my desk, one in my car, and one always travels with me. (Feel free to edit out the brand if you want, but mine is made by Rumble Roller.)

    I laugh at Excedrin Migraine, but my parents both used it for years. Homeopathy didn’t cure me, but massage, physical therapy, and chiropractic care all helped. I was lucky; having my kids eased my migraines instead of making them worse. (Pregnancy is a crapshoot for migraine.)

    I only ended up in the hospital with a migraine once, but I did faint onto the feet of the doctor there, so at least I got a funny story out of it…

    As a middle aged lady, now I “only” get about four migraines a year. (Since they were every other day in my 20’s, I think this is an awesome win.) If I didn’t control my daily work environment, I know this would be worse. Temperature, light, sound: all of these affect my chances of getting a migraine. Medication eases off the worse edge of it, but is nothing like a cure.

    Sending you healthy, headache free wishes… 🙂

    Like

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