Migraines: Much More than Just a Headache

If you suffer from migraines, you already know how debilitating they can be. And I’m not just talking about the stabbing, throbbing, death-might-just-feel-better pain you experience. Did you know that migraines actually consist of four different stages? See the graphic below to learn a little more about the stages.

Photo from The American Migraine Foundation

Now, I will stop here to say that not everyone experiences all stages of a migraine. Everyone’s migraine experience is different, but I’ve been wanting to make a post about migraines for a while now. Several people I know, including myself, experience migraines. They are terrible and can make you feel very isolated. I thought perhaps in sharing this post, someone out there might feel a little less alone.

I grew up watching my mom deal with migraines, and I started getting them when I was in college. My approach to dealing with my migraines has evolved over the past 14 years. At first, I went to my doctor and was put on Imitrex, the same medicine I’d watched my mom use over the years of my youth. But I felt that it wasn’t working for me.

In reality, I wasn’t familiar enough with my migraines to know when one was coming. I was taking the medication after it was too late. But I was young and stubborn and thought I knew it all. So I stopped taking the Imitrex and tried to manage with OTCs. Of course, that rarely worked, so the majority of the time I just suffered through. I didn’t realize it then, but I was letting my migraines run my life.

Over the course of 12 years, I began noticing the things that triggered my migraines (dehydration, weather, certain alcohols), and I began to pick up on the little signs telling me a migraine was coming (yawning frequently, sensitivity to sounds). I learned that if I took an OTC the second I noticed a symptom, I could manage the pain and nausea 50% of the time. But I still refused to acknowledge that migraines were running my life.

2 years ago, my migraine symptoms began to change. New triggers developed, new aura symptoms started happening. I experienced a month where I had a headache 15 out of 31 days. I finally made an appointment with my family doctor to talk solely about my migraines. He was happy to start me on a new medication. Now that I could recognize my symptoms, taking the medication made a world of difference. But this medication came with some nasty side effects and a less-than-ideal copay.

That’s when a coworker suggest I contact the WVU Headache Center. I knew some of my students were seen there, but didn’t know a lot about it. I reached out, filled out a very long questionnaire about my migraines, and set up an appointment. I was switched to a different medication to try. I also downloaded an app called Migraine Buddy. So far it has been a useful little tool to help me track my migraine attacks.

I’m definitely not saying that my migraines no longer run my life. I am stubborn to a fault. This past week I maxed out on my medication for the week and, while I didn’t have to call off work, was completely unproductive for almost a full day. I only messaged my doctor to let him know this after my loving husband badgered me about it. But I am also trying to work on being a good role model in health so that I can say the following and have people listen:

Don’t let a migraine (or any other chronic illness) run your life! Take charge, talk to your doctor, and take control of your life!

Thanks for joining me on this week’s seemingly pointless ramble. Congratulations on making it this far.

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