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My Favorite City, Another Migraine Loss

I’m house sitting in Seattle, my favorite city in the world, and where I lived for six years. It is the place that feels like my home, despite not having grown up here or lived here in four years, despite having no family here and only a smattering a friends. My love is not about the abundant natural beauty or my history here, but because this city speaks to me in a way no other place ever has. It sounds so corny, but I just feel like I belong here. That was as apparent on my first visit as it is today.

I no longer live in this city I adore because cloudy weather is a major migraine trigger for me. With severe chronic — and constant — migraine that was unresponsive to the dozens of medications I tried over more than a decade, I’ve had to take every possible chance to reduce triggers. Returning to Phoenix, my hometown that’s full of family and friends and stable weather most of the year, was the logical choice. Logical, but heartbreaking.

My first week house sitting, at a place on the edge of town with an incredible view of Lake Washington, I admired the beauty, but didn’t feel that tug of “home.” I congratulated myself for accepting that I’m unlikely to live here again and for making Phoenix home. Then I ventured into my old neighborhood and knew I’d heaped on the praise too soon. The tears flowed, not out of nostalgia for the times I had here, but grief for how much I love this place I do not live and that migraine is the reason I do not live here.

I’m also angry that migraine has made this choice, and so many others, for me. I didn’t invite migraine into my life, and yet it weighs in on every single decision I make. Technically I could choose to move back here, but the tradeoff would be a major reduction in my quality of life, which makes it little choice at all.

Living in my favorite city is just one of the many things I’ve lost to migraine. I’ve missed being present and available to my nieces and nephews as they grew up, spent years with my marriage taking second place to migraine, abandoned hopes of more education, let go of career dreams, lost friends, and given up countless hobbies, to name the most prominent losses. Some of these I’ll never get back, others can be repaired, still others will be possible in a different incarnation than I originally expected.

To spew some relevant platitudes, life throws curveballs and rarely goes according to plan; there’s good in every place; I will make the best of the situation I have. But I can’t deny the grief over losses from this poorly understood illness for which research is woefully underfunded. I also have to wonder, if migraine weren’t so stigmatized, if the general public had sympathy for our plight, would there be more effective treatment — treatment that would allow me to pursue the full, productive life I’m aching to live?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Hennie Duits
    6 years ago

    It is, reading such sad stories, truly hearthbreaking that most migraineurs do not consult practitioners that *do* have very effective migraine treatments. That is, because any treatment that sets the treatment of migraine apart from the person having it, will not work/will not hold. Only treating the whole person, including all that there is to him/her, will work/hold. It may take you years, or a lifetime, or longer, to realise this, but sooner or later, you, or another you, will find there’s *no* way around this. ‘You’ is never seperate from anything you ‘have’, or ‘are’.
    You might want to think this over and hopefully wisen up (and if you wish, drop me a line, I’ll be glad to reply).

  • Ashley
    6 years ago

    I really hope that someday, hopefully in our lifetime, there will be more research and a cure, or better treatments for this ugly disease. As I read these blogs, I see the same thing over and over. We try so many meds and most of the time they barely help or sometimes don’t help at all. It is extremely frustrating we have to live our lives waiting for the next migraine to hit us. Most of us can’t enjoy our lives to the fullest because of the thought of a migraine coming on, or hoping we don’t do something that will trigger one. I am 28 and have had migraines for as long as I can remember, but only in the last couple years have they become chronic. I now also have chronic neck pain from what I believe to be too many chiropractic adjustments last year (for treatment of migraines). Triptans barely touch my migraines if at all. I was on preventative topomax for 7 months and still had almost daily migraines. Muscle relaxers daily for neck pain doesn’t help I’m sure. I have thought of Botox and my neurologist even recommended, however, I am concerned with the side effects, specifically neck pain which I already have a difficult time controlling. Recently it seemed my migraines were more menstrual and I just got over a 12 day fight. Only to have 4 decent days before another annoying headache-turning into a migraine- has started. All I can do is keep pressing on. I thank you and the other bloggers for sharing your stories. They help people like me stay positive when it can seem like the hardest thing to do.

    Live for the good days,
    Ashley

  • Ashley
    6 years ago

    Janet,
    You hit the nail on the head. There are times during a migraine attack when I can’t even shower because I am in so much pain. All we can do it live life to the fullest on those days when we’re feeling good, or even just “ok”, which is what most of my days are like.
    I have never heard of DHE but it sounds like I dont want anything to do with it! I recently tapered off of Topomax after 7 mos due to my neurologist instructions. He switched my preventative to the anti-depressant Effexor (generic version). I took my last Topomax Monday night and started Effexor last night. Took one 25mg and almost instantly started feeling the side effects. It started with nausea and uncontrollable crazy random thoughts that I just could not block out. I woke up a couple of hours later to use the bathroom and as I got in there, I started having vision problems sort of like tunnel vision, and my heart started beating rapidly. It’s almost like I could hear it with my ears. I laid back down and the heart pounding didn’t stop for a while. I started having alot more uncontrollable fearful thoughts which made me toss and turn, and stay awake for hours in fear. I almost went to the ER. I finally dosed off after a while and woke up to the exact same symptoms. Here I am almost 12 hours later and I feel “off”. Shakey. Chills. There is no way I will be taking that medicine ever again. I am even contemplating not taking a preventative for a while to see what happens. I don’t see how it could be any worse than it has been. Thanks for your kind words and yes, reading posts from migraine.com are very helpful. If anyone has had similar experiences I’d like to hear. I have never reacted to a medicine like this.

    Ashley

  • Janet
    6 years ago

    My heart goes out to you Ashley. Our daughter is also 28 and has suffered migraines since she was 14 (menstrual at that age)…now, like me, she has them several times a week. I’ve had them since I was ten yrs. old.

    You are right…what you read is the same thing over and over, for me the encouraging thing about migraine.com is the sharing. Maybe you might read something you haven’t tried yet.

    Sadly the medications you mention…I was on…..topamax, however worked for me for about 2 yrs. until the side effects far far far outweighed the help. That was 2007….I’ve been chronic with daily migraines since with several other treatment failures and one additional inpatient try with DHE… Please write me if you are ever going to consider that so I can talk you out of it.

    For now we have each other to tell our stories to.

    It is depressing to live around migraines, wondering what plan you might ruin or the plans you don’t make because you doubt you can.

    We have recently moved to the Atlanta area and I can’t ride on many of the roadways because they’re so loud and noisy that they trigger a migraine instantly.

    The nearest Costco is 40 minutes away vs. 6 miles in Las Vegas where we moved from…things most take for granted crush my spirit….a simple task…I don’t consider any simple..I say thank you Lord when I can brush my teeth.

    Blessings
    Janet

  • Janet
    6 years ago

    Kerrie
    I’m reading back to some of your old posts….did or do Botox injections help you????? I tried once in 2005 and after nothing positive came from them and a nurse friend of mine scolded me for ever putting toxins in my body..I decided never again. But my dad says “never say never”….so..Botox…yay or nay?

    Blessings
    Janet

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Wow, you’ve really been through a lot. Glad you found the cause of the itching and seem to be sorting things out. Best of luck!

  • Janet
    6 years ago

    Kerrie,
    Thanks so much…..after DHE failed miserably in march 2012 and I was taken off all preventatives and rescue meds at the time….I only have abortives now…..i was left with tons of side effects from the ill effects of the DHE still today…the nerve endings on my skin over much of my body causes my skin to itch sometimes to the point of tears….i went to sooo manu specialists becuase it was thought i had lupus…i dont…but was told that the DHE and the avrudpt stopping of so many meds freaked lut my nervous system…but last summer i spent indoors, often times not wearing any clothes because everything felt like sandpaper…its so hard to describe….but i itch and burn crom the inside out…got crustrated running to so many docs…then we left las Vegas for atlanta …and the past week has brought back awful itching…i doscovered it is a side effect to magnesium…and ive been taking anywhere from 400-1600 mg of magnesium oxide for years…since stopping there has been improvement…..i haven’t had to take a frova since Friday morning….I’ve managed with the right amount of caffeine..phenergan suppositories..liquid gel Advil…and klonopin…this is the first time in 12 years I’ve made it this many days!!!!!! I praise God.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    No, it didn’t work for me. I’ve had a total of four rounds, none of which were effective. I’m hearing more and more of people who follow a first unsuccessful round with another round as the medication sometimes needs to build. If you try it again, make sure you have a headache specialist do the injections and that they follow the established protocol for injection sites — having the medication in the right spot can make all the difference!

    As far as putting toxins in your body goes, having a migraine all the time isn’t good for your body either, not to mention that you probably take medication for your attacks. Botox is a well-studied treatment and a calculated risk. Injections of a toxin four times a year is the best choice for some people, but you’re the only one who can decide what’s right for your body.

  • Michael Riley
    6 years ago

    I never knew about weather triggers, but every time I visit San Francisco I get about one or two migraines per week. However once it wasn’t cloudy at all and I had one of the strongest attacks of my life. So I am not sure what caused that one. And I love that city! I would someday like to live there if only for a short time.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Weather changing is a trigger for many migraineurs, so that could be why you had a severe migraine on that day. Maybe the sun (or accompanying heat, if it was hot) or eating something unusual for you was a trigger, or maybe there’s no identifiable trigger at all! It’s worth noting the patterns at home and seeing if weather is a trigger for you.

  • lara
    6 years ago

    I have weather triggers too but my triggers are weather “change” and hot weather. Seattle is a challenge for me not because of the cloudy weather but because the weather changes frequently and because we have had some very warm weather the last few summers. Still, it’s better than where I used to live (Boise) where I used to suffer all year. The extreme hot in the summer and the extreme cold in the winter.

    I am sorry you had to leave Seattle. It’s horrible the things migraine steals away.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad Seattle’s better for you than Boise! It’s a fabulous place to live.

  • Kathy Tschudy
    6 years ago

    I feel for you. Some of my triggers are HOT & HUMID weather and tropical storms do numbers to my head~ I grew up and started my migraines in Charleston, S.C. and still got them when I moved to Hawaii. After getting to the point of dealing with about 10-17 per month I did find relief in getting Botox injections, but like most of my migraine meds, after many months it wasn’t as effective and I had to move to Myobloc, which they don’t offer in Guam. My husband of 21 years recently transferred to GUAM of all places and we decided it would be best for me that I did NOT move with him because of my migraines and the lack of medical to help me if I did get some pretty bad cycles. I did visit once and had 3 migraines out of 10 days. Guam was also having really nice weather and I was keeping myself in the AC most of the time. I do make sure I have a few of my “comfort” things to help me try to prevent or lessen a migraine. I’m glad that I have great friends in my life do realize how bad they can be and help keep an eye on me since hubby is over seas. But I smile, because even if I’m having a migraine, I’m still living in Hawaii, the place I LOVE….

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    How great that you have supportive friends and get to live in such a beautiful place. I hope you don’t have to be so far from your sweetie for too long!

  • Janet
    6 years ago

    Kerrie,

    You articles ALWAYS reach me on a very personal level.

    I, like you, have suffered with migraines all my life…since I was 10 years old.

    Living in Las Vegas for 20 years proved a great improvement in the number of migraines I experienced living in Chicago. However, 13 years ago they became chronic. I have been fighting chronic (daily) migraines for 12 years now…with maybe a 2 day break. I totally empathize and agree about the lack of understanding of this DISEASE that the population considers a headache.

    Moving to Atlanta 6 months ago to be near our first grand-baby has done nothing for my head…..but I pray so very hard at this life choice we’ve made. Today the migraine pain is a level 7 and I’m struggling not to get back in that bed 🙁

    Blessings
    Janet

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thank you, Janet. I’m glad my posts are helpful for you. It must be so hard to have moved to be near your grandchild, but sick so much of the time. Best wishes in getting your migraine triggers sorted out in Atlanta.

  • Michael
    6 years ago

    Thank your for sharing so openly. I love Seattle as well but I live in Phoenix Arizona. Even though it gets really hot in the summer I have learned to love the friends I have made and even the weather. I met my wife there and we have learned to be thankful for every day no matter what pain we may suffer.

    I love nature and outdoor sports (skiing, hiking, hunting, bicycling, fishing). Migraine disease has significantly reduced by ability to enjoy these activities and many other things I love to do. Your posts have encouraged me to keep fighting.

    Thank You,
    Michael Joseph Smith

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s great to know that you’re fighting for better health. Phoenix has some fantastic migraine specialists.

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