I talk about Ankylosing Spondylitis and anxiety on a regular basis; they are two things that make my life quite difficult sometimes and affect me most days but this last week I’ve struggled with something else I’ve suffered from since I was a child – and that is migraines.The first migraine
I can remember my first migraine, it was around age 11 and not long after I’d started my periods and I can remember feeling quite sick and certain smells making me feel worse – this particular day my dad announced he was taking me and my sister out for the day as a special treat. For a tour of Dungeness Power Station.
We stopped for lunch in a cafe and I ate a cheese and onion sandwich, which wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. And within half an hour I thought I was dying. I can remember the sickness that ran from the pit of my stomach right up to my throat and the severe throbbing excruciating pain that went through my head and face.
Age 16 a doctor suggested I go on the pill due to my crazy irregular periods(all due to PCOS) and things seemed to settle down. Throughout my late teens and twenties I tried various methods of contraception that generally seemed to ease the periods and migraines and all was well.
After a spell of fertility treatment I fell pregnant in 2014 with the little dude and I suffered from headaches and migraines most of the way through my pregnancy – and they’ve been pretty up and down ever since.
Take a couple of paracetamol and other jokes
Medication wise I’d tried Migraleve, codeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin and many other generic painkillers to no effect. The only concoction that made a little difference was Syndol(paracetamol, caffeine and codeine) but it would only take the edge off until around ten years ago a pharmacist suggested Imigran Recovery(Sumatriptan).
It’s been a wonder drug for my migraines – I could take a tablet, go to bed for an hour and wake up with no pain. Of course migraines run through several stages such as the initial symptoms, the attack and after pains but to be able to get rid of the ‘attack’ was amazing.
But all of a sudden last year they started to not work as well and my attacks changed – they started to trigger for no apparent reason and the Sumatriptan tablets would take 2-3 hours to work, if they worked at all.
My GP sent me for an MRI scan, all was okay and my migraines were confirmed and officially diagnosed, but they have still increased in frequency and have started to really cause me problems.
Last week, for example, I had a migraine attack that lasted eight days. Eight. Days.
Eight days of pain so bad at times I told my husband I wanted him to kill me. The migraine started as a tingle in my left cheek, which became a shooting excruciating pain through my ears, neck face and even my eyes and teeth. I was sick multiple times, unable to eat anything that wasn’t bland and a whiff of my husband’s aftershave would cause it to come back.
“Take a couple of paracetamol and lay in a dark room for an hour” said one person once. Unfortunately migraines don’t appear at convenient times and it’s impossible to do that in the middle of an eight hour shift at work or on the school run.
I know my migraine pattern – I start to crave chocolate, cheese and cola. Like I could eat it until the cows come home. I then see black spots in my eyes when open, flashing lights and swirling colours when my eyes are shut. A tingle starts in my left cheek and my chest and neck feels hot. It creeps up to my face. And then the pain starts. The attack kicks off – it can be anywhere, left or right of my head and it’s the worst pain ever. Now I hated childbirth so much I still suffer from trauma four years on but I’d put my migraine pain way above any of the labour and c-section recovery pain I experienced.
I can’t bear air on my face, I can’t touch my head or brush my hair, and I can’t even rest it on a pillow because that hurts. The only comfortable position is sitting propped upright. Most of the time I only suffer from nausea but the super bad migraines make me physically vomit. Once the medication kicks in a normal attack will last a few days as a dull headache and muzzy head. I’m usually exhausted too. An extra awful attack means the migraine will come back multiple times. The one last week came back 12 times in 8 days, the worst I’ve ever had.
I’ve recently been switched to a slightly different drug called Zolmitriptan – fingers crossed it works a little better.
Food and smells
Food wise I have to avoid onions, tomato, fizzy drinks and anything spicy when I’m having a migraine. The rest of the time I try to avoid caffeine and artificial sweeteners as they strangely make my head feel hot and can trigger a migraine. Smells do it too – certain perfumes and aftershaves, strong food and weirdly the smell of a carpet shop…
If I get too hungry it can trigger a migraine – same as if I don’t drink enough, which has long been an issue for me.
I want to go into the murky depths of what causes migraines, treatments and much more in more detail but I’ll save it for another post. Do you suffer from migraines? Have you found any natural remedies? Get in touch – I’d love to hear from you!