Tuesday, July 2, 2013
About (My) Migraines
I had my first migraine twenty years ago. I blame it on marriage. No, no, no, I'm only kidding!! It was the reality of being uninformed and knowing that we weren't ready to start a family immediately. Like many young women of the time who didn't question her physician or get second opinions, I went on birth control. (I personally think that going on the birth control messed up my hormones and that was the start of my migraine journey.) We were on our honeymoon when I had my first migraine. At the time I just thought it was just a doozy of a headache. As the months went by, they started becoming more severe. I can't remember how often I got them, but I do remember attempting to sleep them off in a dark and quiet bedroom. Eventually I went on an injectable triptan called Imitrex. It worked quite well. At least if I awoke with a migraine I could give myself a shot in the thigh and actually function at work. Once we were ready to start a family, I couldn't/wouldn't take anything. However, by second trimester and through the rest of each pregnancy, I didn't get a single migraine. During these years, I would go in for intravenous medications as they were the safest for first trimester pregnancy, or nursing infants.
Eventually, I went back on triptans again. Sometimes they would work and sometimes they didn't. On the occasions that they didn't, I would end up in the emergency room for what the nurses often call a migraine cocktail. They are usually a combination of anti-nausea meds, pain killers, and anti-inflammatory meds. I typically came home mostly pain free, but feeling rotten from the medication cocktail.
The biggest difficulty for me in controlling my migraines is that there really is no predictability to them.They are not cyclical, nor do I get an aura or any other obvious symptoms that would indicate I'm going to be knocked out for at least 48 hours. Most often in the morning. with a lovely (sarcasm) sharp pinging on the right side of my head inside my skull above my eye. (I used to get them alternating sides, but I no longer get them on the left side. I have no idea why.) By then it is usually too late for any medications to have a good effect -- especially in the last three years.
Ironically, when we were going through the adoption process, I didn't have a migraine for fourteen months. I really can't say that I had done anything different -- except that I had started taking Aerius for allergies after a really bad bout of migraines, sinus issues, and allergies. I'm pretty sure that the Aerius (desloratadine) was the reason for the dry spell. Eventually, my body became used to the Aerius to the point that I started getting migraines again. It still helps with the allergies though.
In the past three years, the migraines have been especially bad. I have tried different triptans, sticking to a very strict routine, and changing my diet -- among other things -- but nothing has really worked. I get them approximately every six weeks and am then virtually useless for at least three days. Several times I have had to make multiple trips to the emergency room to receive pain medication that still does not work. I am either getting wimpy or they have become worse.
After a really bad bout again this past April, I started doing some more research. It appears that my migraines are definitely stress related, even though I was migraine free through the adoption process. However, they are also allergy related. More specifically if I develop a case of sinusitis. This is pretty much a guarantee every time I get a cold. Although I rarely get colds, I am allergic to dust mites, many types of molds, and a host of outdoor pollinating plants -- especially springtime trees. I tried going off the Aerius once and it was a disaster. In saying that, I need to add that I cannot take other anti-allergy meds because I react horribly to them. They either make me a walking zombie, or a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Neither reaction is pretty, so I avoid them.
In this post, I stated that I had been migraine free for 10 weeks, which is great. Within days, of that post I did get the beginnings of a migraine in the daytime. I was able to have a nap and take triptans and ibuprofen as soon as I suspected it and was able to function normally. In less than a week, I woke up one morning at 4:30 am to the dreaded pinging in my brain. Again I took triptans, ibuprofen, and some Benadryl. If you've ever taken Benadryl, you know that a very common side effect is sleepiness, so I am careful to take it only if I know I am not driving that day because it makes me if not sleepy, then definitely relaxed.
On extra busy or stress filled weeks, I will take Benadryl once or twice through the week at night. It is rare that I have an issue sleeping, so this is not why I take it, but rather I take it in the hope that it relaxes my brain muscles and I will not wake up with the dreaded pinging.
It's not a cure nor is it foolproof, but it is what is currently working for me right now. I have had an MRI and seen a neurologist and she couldn't offer me any cures or real hope -- except that menopause might cure them. On top of that, my family physician has warned me that they might get worse yet before they get better. I'm choosing not to dwell on that and celebrating thirteen weeks of not having to go into the emergency room for a migraine cocktail.
***image source: Your Health Newsletters