Selfcare for chronic or severe migraines

It’s been a crappy kind of week with this lingering migraine that’s been around since Sunday. I don’t know why but it could be the weather. My sister just asked the group chat how everyone was feeling and she complained of migraines this week too.

I’ve not been sleeping well for a couple of weeks and am waking up every two or three hours. That doesn’t really help when you have a migraine. I had to reschedule my therapy appointment this afternoon to next week. I hate doing that – but maybe for the best. I don’t have a lot to talk about right now. Things have been good with the family and quiet with the cold weather.

People who don’t get migraines often ask me what it feels like to have one – and that’s a tough question to answer. It seems like migraines hit people differently.

Migraines with auras

Some people get auras before a migraine strikes. This can mean that they see flashes of light or close their eyes and see squiggly lines. For others it’s a certain smell or just a feeling of being unwell. It’s like a warning signal like, “Hey, you’re about to get hit with a migraine, take your meds now.” And there are some medications that you can take to prevent migraines. But they are very expensive and never worked for me. I don’t get the auras.

Migraine without auras

For me, getting a migraine often feels like I’ve gone out drinking the night before. There are pre-migraine symptoms and post-drome symptoms that can make you feel very hung over or intoxicated.

The pain usually hits on the right side of the head. Sometimes I feel the blood vessels throbbing and this causes some pain. Then the dizzy spells start and the nausea creeps in. I think the nausea is the worst part. If I don’t take meds right away, and lay down, then the intensity increases and I feel like I’m going to pass out.

Sometimes I think people with auras are better off. At least they can try and prevent the migraine with meds like Maxalt.

And trust me when I say I’ve tried all the migraine meds out there. This is just part of life. Whether it’s hormones, the hypermobility or the weather or whatever, maybe I sneezed the wrong way. Migraines are just part of this illness and there’s nothing I can do to make them better or less frequent.

Causes of migraines

The cause of migraines will vary from person to person. For me, it could be something like a weather change or change in air pressure. It could be from not getting enough sleep. Or it could be from having one glass of wine.

For this reason, over the years, I’ve made many lifestyle changes. I stopped drinking wine except at the odd family dinner. I avoid beer, hard alcohol and red wine because those are definite triggers. Being around smoke, harsh chemicals and even gasoline are instant triggers. I feel the nausea almost immediately. It’s one of the reasons I had to leave my last job.

One of the worst migraines I had as a teenager in high school was during chemistry class when we were using an open gas flame for an experiment. It hit instantly. I had to excuse myself from class and ran to the bathroom. I puked. It was not pretty. I wound up sliding down to the floor and cried. Luckily, another kind student found me and helped me up. I wound up going home and that’s when I started learning about migraine care.

I had to stop going to food courts and carnivals because it would cause sensory overload and that would almost always result in a migraine.

Migraine treatments

Over the years, I’ve tried many medications and treatments for migraines. For a while there, I was doing pretty good with just one migraine a month. But then as time went on, the migraines started hitting more frequently. Since October 2020, I’ve have the most migraines in my entire life. I was getting them almost daily for about two or three months.

Things got a little better in the summer time this year after I moved. But they’ve started up again. Weather definitely has an impact and the weather is supposed to be really up and down for the next few weeks.

Here is a list of medications I’ve tried for migraines:

  • Maxalt (didn’t work – no aura)
  • Celebrex combined with Cymbalta
  • Toradol (not for long term use)
  • Zomig (too expensive – $75 per month!)
  • Cambia powder (for nausea)
  • Head massages (actually caused a migraine)

I have a new prescription for a new drug this week and am really hoping it works. I’m getting desperate. Unfortunately, treatments like acupuncture and Zomig are only partially covered with my benefit plan and I can’t afford to even go that route.

There are more drugs I’ve tried, but it’s been years. The problem with NSAIDS is that after a while, they can cause ulcers or other stomach issues. And that’s the last thing a person needs. So you have to switch things up every few years. I’m careful only to take one a day – lord knows what my stomach looks like right now.

Selfcare for migraines

This is a tough one for me especially when the migraines last for more than a couple of days. The longest migraine I had ever was about two months back in 2012. That migraine landed me in the ER by ambulance. Every time I opened my eyes, I puked. I legitimately thought I was having a stroke. I couldn’t even call the ambulance myself. I had to get my friend to call one for me. I managed to get my doctor on speaker phone and she was the one who said to go to the ER. I had puked non-stop for 12 hours clear fluids. They gave me an IV bag and sent me home. I never want to go through that torture again.

And before you say, “it was just a flu” – it wasn’t. It was definitely the migraine. I think I may have had a TIA stroke that day which are often difficult to detect. But that’s what it felt like. I thought I was dying. And the worst of it was, I was on a three hour bus ride back from Calgary. I locked myself in the bathroom for the entire trip.

So, what can you do for selfcare when it comes to migraines? There are a few things.

Sleep, eat, rest

The first one is obvious. The number one cure for a migraine is sleep. With migraines hitting my right side of my brain, I often have to lie down on that side of my head. Sometimes I get too dizzy or sick to get out of bed to take meds. But this morning I forced myself to get up and take a pill. They’re horse pills. But I already feel a little better.

  • Sleep. Find a cold and dark room. Get comfortable – this is important. Sleep as long as you need to until you start feeling well enough to eat or have a shower.
  • A healthy meal often helps with migraines. I try and add a little protein like tuna, egg or meat to my meal. I try to avoid greasy or fatty foods when I have a migraine. Sometimes a cup of coffee can help too.
  • Get some fresh air even just for a few minutes. I think this part of the problem for me because it’s been so cold here. I might have to sit outside on my balcony for a few minutes this afternoon.
  • Have a hot shower or bath with some Epsom salts. There are lots of home remedies you can do for a relaxing bath. It feels great on the muscles and is soothing for your brain.
  • Meditate – meditation does often help me to relieve anxiety and stress which can be triggers. I like using brain wave music for this.


Make sure you are taking your supplements

I am really bad for not taking my daily supplements. I just ordered in a batch of Vitamin D3 gummies, some collagen gummies and magnesium. I should be taking calcium and vitamin B too but that’s just too many pills. I’m researching a good multivitamin that might work. I need to make a note of this for my doctor next time I see him.

I suggest chatting with your doctor and getting a full lab report done. Low levels of magnesium and iron can cause frequent migraines or headaches. As can a shift in hormones. Make sure to chat with your primary care about what supplements might be beneficial for you.

I know what treatments work for me – but I’m curious, what do you do for your migraines?

This is a dangerous question to ask. People are always offering advice on what I should do for my migraines. But trust me when I say, I have the best people looking out for me. I’m waiting for an appointment with neurology to see if we can do anything else to reduce the amount of migraine activity. I’m just curious to know what you do for your migraines. Let me know in the comments.


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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Hilary Tan says:

    I get auras before a migraine. They’re squiggly lines similar to looking into a bonfire and focussing on the smoke. The person sitting across from you looks wavy. My eyes involuntarily move like REM sleep while I’m awake. That’s how I know when I’m about to be hit by a migraine. I take Tylenol before a migraine hits. It doesn’t prevent them from happening but Tylenol is better than nothing. I now take Tylenol at bedtime, before work, and whenever I feel the slightest headache.

    A coworker suggested that I try Maxeran which is a an off-the-label medication for migraines. People usually take it for nausea/upset stomach. He says it’s supposed to good for migraines. I haven’t tried it yet but will try it next time a migraine hits. Another thing that might be worth trying is a magnesium supplement. I take magnesium powder daily for tinnitus, which is also neurological.

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  2. Do you get any physical sensations with the auras? Like smells or dizzy spells? I’ve tried magnesium and mentioned that in the post. Unfortunately it was really hard on my stomach so I’m looking for a good multivitamin. The new meds seem to be good at killing the pain from the migraine but the post drome symptoms literally feels like I went out binge drinking last night. It’s interesting that 2 of my sisters are struggling this week too. Must be something to do with the weather.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hilary Tan says:

    Oops, I must have missed the magnesium part – my bad. I’m sorry the magnesium didn’t help with your migraines. I take a powered magnesium citrate that gets mixed with water.

    I get dizzy spells sometimes. They seem to be a lot more frequent now than they used to be. Sometimes they are paired with migraines, and sometimes it’s just the dizzy spell. I can relate to the hangover feeling from post-drome symptoms… I get this too and I don’t drink alcohol either. Once or twice a year I’ll have a drink, if anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes about the booze and dizzy spells. Those are the worst. I used to love having white wine with dinner on the weekends but can’t do it anymore. Makes me sleepy. The only alcohol I can really stomach is rum and that’s very rare. Sucks sometimes when you want a drink at a party or with friends.

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