My Migraine Relief
The Emotional Toll of Migraines
Migraines impact the functioning of many people daily. Around 37 million people in the U.S suffer from migraines and I am one of those millions. I have wanted to write about the emotional toll of migraines for some time. However, I was concerned about writing it without sounding whiney. The last thing our world needs is more whiney. I also couldn't figure out how to write about the emotional toll of migraines without sounding like I wanted a pity party. I am not opposed to you bringing me gifts, but I am not trying to host a party. Instead, I want to share information and educate about migraines. I want to know that I am not alone. I want you, dear migraine sufferer, to know that you are not alone. And most of all, I wish that if enough of us speak up, that there will be more funding, more research, and hopefully more cures. Maybe someday I will write an in-depth piece about migraines. But for now, I am going to tell you what makes my migraines feel better.
Image Credit: This photograph is my personal photograph Dawn Rae - All Rights Reserved.
Give a Shout Out if You Suffer from Migraines
Do you get migraines?
Identifying Information: Dawn is a 49 year old, Caucasian female. She is a professional, employed, slightly overweight, but otherwise healthy (no known health problems) adult who has been suffering from migraines since the mid-1980s. She cannot recall migraines prior to that time. Dawn gave birth to her only two children in 1983 and 1985. Those pregnancies and childbirths were fairly unremarkable. Approximately two to three years later, she began experiencing severe, chronic migraines.— Dawn Rae
Current Complaint: Daily baseline headache. Re-occuring severe migraines at a frequency of no less than one per month. Often times 1-2 per week, with more mild migraines or auras interspersed.
Patient Statement: “I just want menopause to happen already so my migraines stop.”— Dawn Rae
Things that seem to make me feel better. - This video makes my migraines feel better.
I guess the combination of the belly-laughs and the knowledge that someone else has "been there, done that" just makes me happy. Thank you Jennette Fulda! I LOVE this video!!
Something Else That Made Me Feel Better - Knowing that I am not alone helps.
This book made me feel better. Jennette Fulda was the first person I knew of who talked openly about migraines. I read her book “Chocolate & Vicodin” and felt as though someone understood me for the first time ever. I remember the relief of knowing that someone else is going through something similar (not that I'd wish migraines on even my worst enemy. Seriously. Not even my worse enemy. I'd maybe wish they'd be hit by a truck, but not suffer from Migraines.).
Currently, rated at 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. So, I'm not the only one that thinks this book should be recommended.
My Triggers: - Listed in no certain order.
Triggers are the things that are thought to typically start a migraine. My triggers are NOT the ones listed in all of the literature. I do not seem to have problems with cheese, wine, or Chinese food. Caffeine seems to help me as opposed to trigger (except when a sick migraine has already started)
- Having a uterus, ovaries, and menstrual cycle.
- Some perfumes or heavily scented deodorant sprays.
- Some potpourris, candles, and room sprays.
- Some Chemicals (esp. oven cleaner, gun cleaner, floor strippers, some oil-based paints)
- Eating garlic on the first day of my menstrual cycle (I love garlic otherwise)
- Being too sedentary (when my job keeps me at my desk day after day, I have more problems)
- Weather (I haven’t figured out which barometric changes, but clearly there are some)
- Rebound migraines (following a day that I had to take 2 imitrex, or many ibuprofin)
- Cigarette smoke exposure
- Dry air in a home (due to forced heat, too much air conditioning). (notable: during visits to Arizona, I did not have migraines)
- Exposure to flashing light, certain movements in movie scenes, and other things similar to motion sickness.
I have a friend with a seizure disorder. When she is experiencing increased seizures I am experiencing increased migraines and/or auras. We were both triggered by weather and were often triggered at the same times.
Easing the Pain During the Migraine - Again, listed in no certain order.
The following things help ease a migraine enough to prevent me from running out into traffic.
- Pinch the bridge of my nose, digging into the corners of my eye sockets, and hope my head pops off.
- Get out of the moving vehicle as quickly as possible and hold very, very still.
- Turn off all the lights, close all the light blocking blinds, and threaten anyone who turns on a light.
- Lay on the floor, propping my neck up just right with a wadded up pillow.
- Take PRN medication: Ibuprofin or Imitrex. Depending on how severly the pain is setting in.
- Throw up. I don't try to throw up. I hate throwing up. But once I do during a migraine, the pain starts to subside.
- Hot bath or steaming shower
- Neti pot
- Sleep. Sleep for hours. Sleep for days.
- Wash my face with peppermint soap or rub my temples with peppermint oil.
- Deep, slow breathing and meditation. I meditate, imagining blowing the headache pain "cells" out of my body.
My Most Effective Preventative Behaviors:
It is virtually impossible to know that you've prevented something. If it doesn't happen, how do you know that it just didn't happen instead of having done something to prevent it. That's part of why medicine isn't such an exact science. But over the many years of nasty headaches, I notice that my headaches and migraines seem to be less when I am doing the following things. I feel as though many of the things mentioned in this list have something to do with keeping my bodily fluids/chemicals in balance. During a migraine, and when it first starts to release me, I can taste a change in my mouth/mucus. There is a "chemical" or a "metallic" change in taste that happens and helps me know where my migraine is in it's stage.
- Yoga and other stretching
- Aerobic activities daily. Exercising for long enough to start to sweat.
- Active sex life
- Outdoor activities
- Eating right (avoiding triggers, increasing healthy foods)
- Avoiding constipation by eating high fiber foods, green smoothies, etc.
- Drinking large amounts of water daily.
- Attempting to focus my mind on things I enjoy, goals, etc.
- Being gentle on myself. If I miss that event or activity, it’s okay.
Why Did I Mention Menopause?
After many years, many doctors, pills, treatments, and thousands of recommendations from friends, I finally found a neurologist who was helpful. We tried a medication that is usually helpful for seizures, in combination with a medication for blood pressure (now I do have a slight blood pressure problem). That combination helped quite a bit. However, no matter what, I have a raging migraine on the first day of my period. The neurologist said that many times, female migraine sufferers who have menstrual triggered migraines, end their migraines with menopause. Oh Thank God.
The thing I didn’t think about was that pre-menopause means false starts of cycles, weird timing of cycles, and etc. So currently, I appear to be pre-menopausal and my migraines are a mess. How long does pre-menopause last?!
The Dirt on My Medical Treatment:
Starting in the 80's, I think I've been on every "blood pressure" medication to control migraines. I did not have high blood pressure and those medications did nothing for me, for many years. I've also been given anti-depressants off and on over the years. They did not seem helpful for my migraines either.
The best preventative treatment I've ever had (in addition to continuing to avoid my triggers, remain aerobically active, etc) has been the combination of daily Topamax and a blood pressure medication. Unfortunately, Topamax has pretty uncomfortable side effects. I experienced the severe tingling in my extremities, word loss (it seems like Aphasia, I know that I know the word but can't get it out of my mouth correctly), sensitivity to heat (nearly had heat stroke on a hike in the summer and I've never experienced that before), foods tasted bad (but it didn't create weight loss darn it!), and dry mouth/yucky feeling in my mouth. I am currently off of Topamax but am thinking about returning to it, despite the side effects.
Unfortunately, the vocabulary problem has continued, so that side effect is probably a combination of the Topamax and the migraines themselves.
Imitrex has been my most successful PRN ("take as needed") for easing pain once it starts. However, I use it sparingly due the rebound headaches I mentioned earlier.
As the years have passed, I have developed mild high blood pressure. I am on a low dosage of blood pressure medicine. If i stop taking that medication and my lower number on my blood pressure goes up to mid-80's to mid-90's, I can guarantee an increase in headaches. My top number of my blood pressure always remains in the good range.
The Emotional Toll of Migraines on My Life:
I've stopped accepting invitations to events. I have always been a sort of commitment-phobe. However, my migraines have been so disruptive to my life that I hate when I’m invited to events. I hate to say yes, commit to bringing a dish, a game, have a friend ride along, etc, then have to back out because I’m having a sick migraine.
I miss work. I miss more days of work than other people. I feel as though, because I’m a strong person otherwise and force myself through daily life, and many times people can’t see how bad I really hurt, I feel as though some people think I’m faking.
I'm angry. I’m furious with some of the people I’ve met in my life who have alcohol problems, hangovers, and call those hangovers migraines. My headaches are not hangovers. In fact, I enjoy alcoholic beverages less than most of my friends do because I am afraid of triggering a migraine. I'm angry at doctors who give weird responses during appointments. I'm mad that there isn't a cure.
Stress?! I'll give you stress! Please don’t tell me that it’s probably just my stress level. I’ve had migraines during 4-day long relaxing camping trips. I’ve had fewer migraines during parts of my children’s deployments (and anyone who has had a loved one deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan knows there is not a stress-free moment until their return home). There has been no pattern between my stress level and my migraines. I can tell you for a fact, however, that you are negating my disease or disorder by saying it's stress, and that stresses me.
Migraines scare me. During the sick migraines, I have wondered if I’m dying of a stroke, and I’ve wondered who will find my body. The weird pounding and hot throbbing in my neck and head is frightening. The visual problems are scary and dangerous.
Migraines are embarrassing. I’m embarrassed that I’ve pulled into convenience store parking lots to sleep off a sudden migraine or to dip behind a dumpster to throw up. I’m embarrassed that I’ve been in important meetings or in the middle of things at work and can’t say the word I need. Or that I’m having sudden auras and have to tune out of what’s going on for a few moments.
I have not yet read the recommended books in my book list (except of course, for the Chocolate & Vicodin book). These items are items I do use to help my migraines. I depend on these things for relief.
This soap is highly recommended by folks who like organic things. I love it, and have driven many miles to buy it, to help alleviate my migraines. I'm so happy to find it on Amazon!
My massage therapist friend (and others) informed me of the helpful benefits of rubbing a small bit of peppermint oil on my temples to help with my migraines.
I have a years old version of this Homedics Percussion Massager. It is very helpful for giving myself a shoulder massage and relieving headaches. So helpful that I've planned on writing a product review on it.
I started making green smoothies trying to fix a craving after having smoothie's at an out-of-state smoothie place. Then I began to make my own smoothies. Rather than putting my own recipe here, I'm including this recommended kindle book. I have not read it.
Some Helpful Places on the Internet for More Information and Support - This list will continue to grow and change as I find helpful sites. Remember to check ba
Over the years, I've found more helpful and supportive information from what I've read, and less from the doctor's appointments, pills, and medical community. I think it is very important to go to medical appointments to rule out other problems (tumors, etc) and to find out some of the hidden problems (i.e. high blood pressure). But overall, the most of my knowledge how to take care of myself came from others who have a similar problem. No migraine is the same, not even mine, but hearing from others helps.
- Migraines for Dummies
A really nice, succinct, cheat sheet of information about Migraines.
- That "M" word: A Migraine Blog
A migraine blog with a uplifting, positive approach.
- My Chronic Migraine
Facts, Information, and personal stories.
- Jennette Fulda's Blog
Jennette Fulda has a facebook, blog, pages about her two books.... I posted this link to the blog since it is probably the most central way to find her.
Updates and New Information - This section will remain under construction.
I have decided to update this lens with a section reserved for updates. Once upon a time, I spent much time researching migraines, their causes, and their cures. Now I only occasionally spend time researching. And occasionally I will find information or studies that are new or are new to me. I've decided to share that with you here.
This morning I have found a study that states the triggers of migraines are "variations in arterial anatomy". Where this information will lead, as far as treatment, who knows. But this study makes sense to me since I've had two young adult relatives who have had "brain artery problems" - as I call it as a non-medical person.
If interested, please check back on occasionally, to see if i've found something new.
- RE: the research conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
This is an article about a study, by lead author, Brett Cucchiara , MD, Associate Professor of Neurology , finding that a large percentage of migraines are caused by "variations in arterial anatomy".
- FDA Approves use of the Cefaly Device
The Cefaly is a TENS unit type of device. It works with nerve stimulation. After following information about botox treatments, the Reed migraine center treatment, and similar research, I think there may be something helpful with the nerve stimulati
- Reed Migraine Center
This surgical approach is too invasive for me to be comfortable trying. However, I have begun to think that the nerve stimulation is the way to go.
Special Thanks to a Doctor in My Past.
In the late 80s, when my migraines were just beginning and my general practitioner was beginning to treat me for them, I had an experience that in hindsight I am very thankful for. It was an evening or weekend, and I suddenly had the worst migraine I had experienced up until that time. Stabbing pain and sudden vomiting. Back then it was new to me. I went to one of those walk-in urgent care places. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not faulting them for this. But they gave me a narcotic prescription. And boy-howdy, it worked. I felt great. The pain was gone, the attitude was good, and I was ready to do my housework. Woohooo, life was good. I had my follow-up appointment with my physician. He refused to fill the prescription for the narcotic. At first, I was a little miffed. After all, did he want me to live in pain or what?
Now, as the years have passed, and I've worked in my profession of social work, I have seen the devastation that narcotic addictions wreak on lives. I completely think there is a time and place to use narcotic pain medication. But I don't think it is a good treatment for chronic migraine pain. With my daily pain and throwing narcotics on top of that, it is very likely I would have eventually had an addiction problem So ... thank you Dr. X (whose name I can't get out currently because of the vocabulary problem) for looking out for my best interest.
Update: I remember his name now. Thank you so much Dr. Waggy. I still appreciate your bedside manner, your ethical treatment of me, and your reluctance to start me on the path of narcotics. You treated me so many years ago. We didn't find the answers, but you were very helpful. I wish there were more doctors in the world who take the time to try to figure things out.
If you are a migraine victim, know that you aren’t alone. There are people who understand. Join support groups, read the forums, tell your loved ones what you need. Read about migraines and be aware. Then get out there and live your life the best you can. Don’t rip off someone’s head when they give you their opinion of your diagnosis. As annoying (and sometimes hurtful) as it is, generally, they are trying to be helpful and don’t know any better.
If you are a migraine victim, keep a daily record of your activities, what you’ve eaten and done, so that you can better identify YOUR triggers. Then you can avoid those triggers as much as possible.
If you love someone who has migraines, love them up. Don’t try to tell them what is helpful. Instead, give love and support with things like the housework, errands, etc. During my migraines, I want to mostly be left alone. But I like for someone to check on my regularly, just peeking in to make sure I’m still alive and asking if I need something. I will almost always say I don’t need anything, but I’m glad to know you are there
Books on Migraines
This is a list of books about migraines that have received good reviews. I have not read these books yet.
Due to the favorable reviews, and the fact that the author/doctor also has migraines, I plan to read this soon.