Since I was 8 years old, I have suffered migraines. Before puberty, they were occasional and would resolve within a few hours. My mom took me to an eye doctor and neurologist and they gave me migraine medication (they don’t offer it anymore I am told) to take when one started. It helped and we just went on with life.
During puberty, they intensified. I started getting one or two around my period and would not be able to attend school on migraine days. The cramps on top of the migraines were brutal. We attributed it t0 hormones and my period and I just dealt with them.
It continued this way for about 10 years. During college, they became a bit more frequent, and I would have 3-4 a month. At this point I saw a new neurologist and we tried several different preventative medications. All of them failed to do anything and nothing changed.
A sudden change
Fast forward to after Emma was born and after my hysterectomy. I am not sure if it had something to do with the sudden hormonal shift or something else, but ever since that surgery in 2019, the migraines have been coming at a rate of minimum 1 a week, and often 2 a week. Or I will get them for multiple days (which I count as one long migraine).
Again, I found a neurologist and tried a couple different preventatives that failed. Luckily, my regular doctor suggested Aimovig and it helped!! Aimovig is a once a month injection that is supposed to help reduce the number of migraines a person gets each month. It is an auto-injector like an epipen, and in theory you can do it yourself. I have to have my husband, John, do it because it is pretty painful for those 5-7 seconds. I’ve been on the Aimovig for about a year now and although I believe it still helps, the efficacy seems to be on the decline (maybe my body is used to is now) and I have started having migraines more frequently again. At the time of this article in Jan 2021, I have on average one migraine a week.
What they are like
I have an informal rating system that I use for them – certain “lower level” migraines are more easily treated as long as I catch them at the start. If they are not treated they escalate very fast. Other, “full blown” ones are impenetrable, and I just need to survive till they break.
Treatment for me consists of ibuprofen, anti nausea meds, an as needed migraine medication, and a new one on the market called Nurtec which I have had some success with. The normal things like darkness, and trying to lay down help as well – especially when I am light and sound sensitive. If I can make myself do it, a hot shower tends to help. Oh and coffee – I will force down a coffee since the caffeine generally helps it improve.
My migraines come in many forms. They have varying levels of intensity – not like a normal headache though, which I also get. They are distinct. It’s as if it is a different type of head pain. It can be behind my eyes, temples, back of my head or just one side of my head. It can be sharp like an ice pick or a deep throbbing with the flow of my blood. Sometimes I have auras of color and light flashes or extreme fatigue before they start. And on rare occasions I will get what are called atypical migraines. These ones landed me in the hospital because we thought I was having a stroke – basically, it is a migraine, even though you have little to no pain, but are still having neurological issues. My first ones were causing me to “lose time” where I would black out for a second or two but my body would just keep doing what it was already doing. And it was accompanied by bouts of inability to speak and find words. Those are not common, but I have had them on occasion.
If you have ever suffered migraines, you know about triggers. For a lot of people, they can identify cause and effect relationships for when they get migraines and avoid the triggers. I’m 34 at the time of writing this, so I have had migraines for 26 years and still have yet to find a single trigger, except…the weather.
I am a human barometer. If these were ancient times, I would be the member of the tribe to predict what was coming. I usually know if a storm is coming before looking at my weather app because I start to get auras and that weird tingle that seems to precede it. And I always know it is raining when I wake up – even before opening my eyes, because nothing hurts my brain like the rain. We live in St Louis, Missouri and as far as weather goes, I would say we are in the middle of the spectrum for weather types – we get a full range from snow to intensely hot. I could never live in the Pacific Northwest – not if I wanted to be able to get out of bed – because it rains there so much. I grew up in California and the lack of any weather other than 70 and sunny REALLY helped me feel better.
You are strong enough!
All of this in anecdotal, but hopefully sharing can help other migraine sufferers feel less alone. When I read or hear someone describe their pain and it sounds just like mine, it gives me a sense of relief. The people in your life who don’t get them can have empathy, but will never truly understand. So we need others and although I am not with you – I feel you, and want you to know you are strong and they will pass and you are not alone.