General Health: Migraine Care

I woke up this morning with a blinding migraine. So forgive me if this post is less than perfect. This is the first sick day I’ve taken in about five weeks. And trust me when I say this is a relief. I’ve missed so much work this past year because of the migraines. They have become debilitating.

My doctor and I have been working on treatment over the years for migraines. I’ve been getting them since I was a teenager. At first, we were convinced that the migraines were caused by hormonal triggers. Now, we’re just scrambling to try and find what causes them.

Over the last thirty some years of my life, I have learned a lot about recognizing migraines, the different types of migraines there are – and how to effectively manage them. We’ve tried many different treatments for them. I think today though, I will stick to talking about triggers and treatments. I could write a book on migraine management.

That’s the thing with chronic conditions, you learn a lot about yourself and the health industry over time.

First migraine

My first migraine that I can remember struck me during shop class in junior high school. I think it was the eighth grade. The sounds of the drills, the smell of the saw dust and the lighting in the room nearly caused me to pass out right then and there.

There are days when certain sounds make my head flinch. I’m not even joking here. But nails on a chalkboard, construction noises – instant migraine triggers. Even some music can cause my brain feel like it is bleeding. Death metal – that’s a no for me.

Everyone experiences migraines a little differently. Most people get an aura – a warning sign like a flash of light when a migraine is about to strike. But not me. The migraines strike dead on with full force. If I wake up with one in the morning – the whole day is shot. The only thing that helps is my Zomig (nasal spray) and lots of sleep.

Thinking back to my first migraine, I remember that day in junior high like it was yesterday. I ran to the bathroom and was instantly sick. I wound up cutting classes the rest of the day and went home to sleep. I thought I was dying. Literally, I’m not even exaggerating.

Over the years, my migraines became more severe. It seemed like everything triggered them. Lack of sleep. Allergies – mainly smoke. Foods that contained whole wheat. Cats. And changes in weather and hormones.

Chemistry class in high school was a killer on my brain too. The smells from the chemicals that we worked with made me violently ill. Other smells like gasoline, and hospital cleaners can cause this reaction too.

Dental appointments were the worst and still are. My monthly orthodontist appointments where my braces were tightened almost always ended with a migraine.

Certain foods cause wicked migraines too. I can no longer enjoy red wine or beer. This makes me sad. There’s nothing more satisfying than cracking open a cold beer on a hot and sunny day. But not for me. No.

I miss beer. The only alcohol I can drink now is rum and coke once in a blue moon. Sometimes though on special occasions I will have a small glass of white wine.

Treatments

Ginger Gravol has become my best friend in the whole world.

So has Zomig which is a nasal spray that you shoot up your nose.

Now, I’ve never actually done drugs like cocaine. But I imagine that shooting this spray up your nose feels a lot like cocaine would. There’s a bit of a rush after you inhale it. And then there’s that terrible after taste. Oh my God. The aftertaste. I’m tasting it right now and no amount of tea or peanut butter is making it go away.

But the relief I feel with Zomig is almost instant. My head feels better. I’m still feeling that “hung over” and fuzzy feeling. Like I’m living out a dream. But the pain is gone.

I’m also trying a new drug this week. It’s a powder called Cambia that you put in your water. This drug is crazy expensive but it’s used for pain management that comes with migraines.

Over the years I have tried various drugs from Cymbalta, Celebrex, Maxalt, Motrin, Tylonel – you name it. We tried Toradol recently and all that did was give me a stomach ache. We even tried pain killers like Percocet, but that just made me sick too. Some would work for a few months. But most didn’t. Maxalt, for example, is a preventative drug that you take after getting an aura.

But since I don’t get those auras, Maxalt just didn’t work.

I need to take my meds as soon as the migraine comes on – or I’m toast. That’s when the sickness comes in and my whole day is shot. You can read more about migraine auras here. If I wake up with one in the morning, the whole day is  guaranteed to be a sick day. I’m just grateful that I work for an organization that supports employees with chronic illnesses.

For those employers that don’t support chronic illnesses – shame on you. It’s been proven that employees will have a lower absentee rate when supported. Offering reduced hours, flex scheduling or working from home – gives the employee hope.

This is why I’m working on this blog. I hope one day I can retire early and make writing a full time career. I do way better when I can work from home and do things in my own time.

Going Forward

My doctor wants me to work part time. She thinks the office and being on the computer all day is a big part of the problem. My dentist seems to think my jaw and teeth are the problem. My friends seem to think that it’s the weather. My mother had been convinced it’s genetics or hormonal. She used to get wicked migraines too. So do all my siblings.

In a nutshell – we can’t figure out why the migraines have become so severe or violent. And so frequent. Maybe it’s an age thing. Maybe it is a hormonal thing. Or maybe it’s just my brain telling me that it’s time for an upgrade.

Did you know that there are instructions on how to perform a self-lobotomy? I looked one day and was not disappointed. After a three week long migraine – I had to find humour in it.

But this is why I’m so determined to lose weight and get into shape. We may never really know what causes the migraines. Now it’s about effectively managing them and learning to cope with the symptoms so I can still live a somewhat normal life.

For fellow migraine sufferers out there – I get it. I really do. I literally feel your pain. Just know that there is hope. There are treatments out there. From things like Botox injections, to acupuncture and massage therapy for the head – you have a lot of options to choose from.

Unsolicited Advice

If I can leave you with one piece of advice today, it’s this.

Create a migraine diary. Keep track of the dates that you get your migraines. List all the things you ate, the places you went to and how you felt. How much sleep you had – all those things that might affect your brain health.

Have you tried any of the drugs I mentioned in this post? If not – then let me know what has worked for you.

Jen

 

 

 

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