It’s My Life – Chapter 5

Migraine – The Beginning

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities.
For some people, a warning symptom known as an aura occurs before or with the headache. An aura can include visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances, such as tingling on one side of the face or in an arm or leg and difficulty speaking.

mayoclinic.org

My migraines started when I was in high school. The realization that I was experiencing more than just bad headaches was the day my grandmother found me in my mother’s bedroom unable to find our bathroom. I needed to throw up. We lived in a trailer. It’s impossible to get lost. I was disoriented and in extreme amounts of pain. My mother took me to the ER as she had no idea what was wrong. The doctor’s first suspicion was that I was coming down off of drugs. They began intravenous injections of some kind of pain killer. My mother vehemently argued that I was not on drugs nor had I ever done them. While I’m sure the doctors have heard this before, it was a true statement. I really was a good kid! Please just make my head stop hurting!

One of the symptoms of migraine is sensitivity to light and sound. I was in the ER where it’s bright and noisy. It’s hard to describe just what those stimuli do to you, but it’s unbearable. I just wanted to be knocked out so I wasn’t suffering. The doctors continued to check in about every 30 minutes to see if my pain had subsided. Each time they returned, the pain was still there. So I received more pain killers which barely took the edge off. Eventually they resorted to some concoction that would have to be followed by saline as it would burn my veins. Fabulous. But I could still feel the pain in my head. I was released from the ER as there was nothing more that they could do for me. This was the late 90s and migraine was not something the doctors in my area new much about.

I went to a neurologist to make sure I didn’t have a tumor growing on my brain. Good news: I didn’t have a tumor, just polyps on my sinuses. I wasn’t dying. But when those headaches hit, I wanted to. There were many possible causes for my migraines. My father got them as he got older, so they could be hereditary. They could also be caused by hormones, stress, tension, a symptom of a sinus headache, or my environment. Well that’s just great. When someone would ask me what caused my headaches, I would jokingly tell them oxygen. I had no idea what caused them and neither did anyone else. The doctor prescribed a drug called Relpax. I don’t remember them ever really doing much and I had to use them sparingly because they were so expensive.

My migraines plagued me no matter where I went. Work, school, the barn. Oddly enough, I would rarely get a migraine if I were at a beach. I attributed the salt air and relaxation as my cure. Problem solved! Just move to the beach and do nothing but relax all day under an umbrella.

Migraine was like a demon that would lie dormant just waiting to take over my body. I began to live in fear of when the demon would come out to play. I had no idea when or where it would strike. I would experience auras, strange tastes in my mouth, excessive fatigue, nausea, and muscle aches. Then there was the horrendous head pain. Many times, my symptoms resembled the flu. The smallest noises would sound like a freight train. The sound of my dogs breathing would make me want to vomit. My attacks become more frequent so I resorted to Excedrin Migraine as it was cheap and easy to get. They seemed to dull the pain and combat the fatigue enough to keep me from being useless. However, the worse my migraines got the more Excedrin I needed to take.

Stomach issues began from the amounts of Excedrin I was taking. Little did I know that the more Excedrin I was taking, the worse I was making my migraines. Your body becomes used to the pain medication and the caffeine. As the drug tapers off, your body begins a withdrawal process. Generally, a headache will follow and to make that headache go away, you pop another Excedrin. Eventually, the small amount you had been taking is no longer enough. Your body is demanding more. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s hard to break. This is referred to as medication overuse headache. No one had explained this to me until many years into my migraine battle. I urge any migraine sufferer to see a headache specialist or a neurologist that specializes in migraines. The information you can learn from a good headache doctor is life-changing. Click here to read more about medication overuse headaches.

Had someone not known I suffered from migraine, it would be easy to assume I had an eating disorder. I threw up with just about every headache. I couldn’t figure out what triggered them or how to get rid of them. My only relief was to get sick, go to bed and wait it out with tears streaming down my face.

Although I was seeing a neurologist, he was not a headache specialist. When I look back on the medications I have been prescribed over my lifetime, it’s quite the list! This doctor eventually prescribed me a type of medication that thinned my blood in hopes of helping the migraines. Again, I will remind you, this was the late 90s. Migraines were not at the forefront of the medical industry. Employers were not understanding and considered them to just be bad headaches. Even family and friends didn’t understand what their loved ones were going through.

My job as a lifeguard exasperated my migraines because of the heat and humidity that are constant at an indoor pool. I would swim underwater on every break I had to relieve the pressure in my head, counting the minutes until my shift was over so I could go to bed. When I changed jobs to work at a credit union in between college breaks, I realized staring at a screen all day would trigger them too. I can remember trying to call off one Saturday as I woke up with a migraine. This was during a time when banks were actually busy on Saturdays. Drive-thru lines were wrapped around the building and the lobby lines could reach the door. All hands on deck were needed on Fridays and Saturdays. My manager was unimpressed with my headache excuse and really needed me to come in. I showed up with ginger ale and crackers and prayed for the best. My co-workers took one look at me and knew I didn’t just have a headache.

I had been nauseous all morning but luckily I had been able to keep my line moving and muddle through. I remember being in the middle of a transaction and I felt a wave come over me. I was going to be sick. I yelled at the teller next to me that I had to go and took off for the bathroom. I was literally in the middle of counting out a client’s money. I don’t recall what I did with the money, but I can guarantee you I didn’t follow protocol and secure my station.

I woke up with our team leader hovering over me. I never made it to the bathroom. I passed out behind the teller’s station. I didn’t remember what happened. I think at that point my manager realized she may have made the wrong call. My doctor took me off that medication shortly after that incident.

One of my favorite sites to learn about migraine! https://migraine.com/

If you or someone you know suffers from migraine, please know you are not alone! Migraine awareness is huge now. There is treatment available so do not continue suffering. You are your best advocate. Keep fighting for a plan that works for you! I did and now I am living a life that migraine does not control! It was not easy but I never gave up. Stay tuned for more on how I did it!


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