Orchard Girls

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Living With Migraines

Hey everyone! If you follow our blog relatively closely, you may have noticed that I missed posting on Tuesday. We like to post Tuesday through Friday, alternating days. I had planned on coming home from work and writing up a post, but a migraine had been building all day and by that point I was pretty debilitated. That's where the idea came to write a post about my experience with migraines and what I've found that helps. Hopefully someone out there finds this helpful in dealing with their own disease.

You will notice that I called this a disease. That's because it is a legitimate neurological disease. Many people who have never had a migraine think that it's just a headache. Those of us who have experienced migraines know that's just not true. I would feel so blessed to live my life having headaches and not migraines. If you are not quite sure what a migraine is, but are curious, here is a helpful link from the Migraine Research Foundation.

I started getting migraines when I was about 12, if not younger. My parents knew what they were because they run in my Dad's side of the family. I don't believe they were bad enough to take me to the doctor, because my first experience with migraine medication was in high school. My migraines were becoming more frequent and I was getting sick while in school. I remember laying my head down on my desk, and running to the bathroom to throw up. Not something a teenage girl wants to deal with. By the time I'd get home, I'd be throwing up constantly. So, my Mom took me to the doctor and he prescribed propranolol. After messing with the dosage, we decided it just wasn't working. So, I went off of it and didn't go back to the doctor for them until I was in college. All the while, I was depending on Excedrin Migraine to help me out.

In college, the doctor prescribed me an anti-anxiety medication, as well as a medication to take at the onset of a migraine. To be quite honest, the migraine medication didn't work, but the anti-anxiety medication helped during that time. I believe that's because I was under quite a bit of stress, and it was making my migraines worse. I did not stay on it long, though, because I didn't like the way it made me feel and I was forgetting things I used to be able to remember without a problem. I went back to using Excedrin Migraine. 

I became dependent on Excedrin Migraine. I was taking it every morning to try to ward off whatever might come that day. I had things to do, and places to be. I couldn't risk not being able to go to work or classes. I was getting marked down because I was missing days. I believe this is when I developed chronic/daily migraines. Often times, this comes from overuse of medication. But, really, what else are we to do? I couldn't be tied to my bed all the time. I also tried supplements, like St. John's Wort (for anxiety). They helped a little. 

It wasn't until there was an Excedrin recall, I believe in 2011, that I stopped taking it. I took it as a sign. Also, Adam and I were trying to get pregnant. I knew once I was pregnant that I couldn't take aspirin. So, I slowly stopped taking Excedrin and switched to tylenol. It was horrible. I had super bad migraines for weeks. But, you know what? They started to become less frequent. I had them pretty constantly still, but they weren't nearly as bad. And life was livable.

Something they always say to do is to try to find your triggers. It could be chocolate, wine, cheese... any mix of things. The weather changing. It could also be stress/anxiety. I discovered my biggest trigger is stress/anxiety. So, I try to do things that help me calm down, like go for walks, read a book, play music, snuggle with my puppies. I also try to avoid situations that give me anxiety, like large social gatherings. You can help figure out your triggers by making a migraine log. Write down how long your migraine was for, how much it hurt on a scale of 1-10, what symptoms you had (aura? nausea? sensitivity to light or sound?), and what you ate or if you were particularly stressed. You can keep this for yourself, or you can take it to your doctor and they can help you find treatment. My doctor prescribed me massage therapy, and it has been amazing.

Also, it helps having people around you who understand migraines. My immediate family has always been very supportive, and understood that when I wasn't feeling well, I needed to get home and get to bed. Kayla (who you all know!), lived with me for 4 years and became my own little "caretaker" when I wasn't feeling well. She would remind me to take medicine when I mentioned my head hurting, or would bring me the things I needed while I was working. Adam does the same things for me now. 

There are little things that can help, too. I like to keep a damp rag in the freezer. I will pull it out and put it on my head when things are starting to get bad. I will close myself in a dark room and lay down. I've changed my pillow a few times to help with neck tension in the morning. Keeping relatively active helps, but don't exercise when you have a developing migraine- it will only make things worse. Try to figure out if you have any symptoms before a migraine. Sometimes I get an aura. Mine comes in the form of blind spots in my vision, and I know I will be having a migraine later in the day. Then you can better prepare. 

Obviously I still get migraines, and I probably will continue to for quite a while. It breaks my heart that there will be times when I will not be able to tend to my baby because I will be incapacitated. That's why I've been trying so hard to figure it all out and make things more manageable. With the help of the massage, I feel like I am moving forward. I would like to try acupuncture next, as medications are off the table because I am pregnant and will be breastfeeding. 

I encourage you to try to get a handle on your migraines to increase the overall quality of your life. If you're in a rut right now, start logging again and make an appointment with your doctor. You can only get better if you try.

I'm sorry I wrote a whole novel today. I just know there are so many people out there who suffer from this same thing, I hope that I can help someone. 

Have a great day! And I will talk to you all soon.

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  1. This sounds like me to a T, a medication that worked for me was maxalt, i haven't had it for a while i ran out after we moved away so i never got a refill. Stress is my trigger and i thought for Sure I'd have one every day my kids were babies, but strangly enough they lessened.. i still get one every now and then but taking Tylenol right when i feel a headache works.. also flying always triggers one for me, haven't figured out a way to avoid that nothing seems to work... anyways good luck

    1. Thanks, Juliet. Maxalt was the medication I was given to take at the onset of a migraine. The kind that melts in your mouth. For some reason it was pretty hit or miss for me, and my excedrin seemed to be more reliable. I'm hoping mine lessen once baby comes, it would make life so much easier :) I also get them when I travel. Flying or traveling in general can be pretty stressful, even if it doesn't feel like it. I haven't figured that one out yet, either!

  2. I have had headaches forever, but honestly I'm not sure if they're migraines or not. There are definitely times when I need to go to bed early, but I just imagine a migraine being so much worse. My fiancé thinks I'm just used to feeling that amount of pain and actually am having migraines. I'll have them 4 or 5 times a week for a couple months, then nothing for a while. I went to the doctor in college and he just gave me muscle relaxers...which also doesn't work when you have stuff to do! I think mine are stress related also, because I've noticed if I get frustrated at work all at once, I'll have a headache by the time I calm down. Makes me feel a little overdramatic. Ha!

    1. You definitely might have migraines. Did you check out that link I put in the post? Read all the symptoms they talk about and see if any match up. I think one of the main distinguishing factors is that migraines are usually on one side of the head, and they pulse. Usually they are accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound, or even smell. They also tend to make people nauseous and throw up. Good luck, and go see another doctor :) Make a log of your headaches, and they should be able to help.

  3. I feel your pain; I get migraines also. The weird thing that always helped me was the smell of rubbing alcohol.
    I've heard things like essential oils help, but I haven't tried it.

  4. I am very sorry to hear this has such a negative impact on your life. It is such a difficult disease to identify correctly. My husband has a serious history of migraines problems as it was impacting his work. He would often leave the office early because he said he could not function properly anymore. Hope you get better soon.

    Jacqueline Hodges @ Dr Koziol



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