How a Headache Clinic Validated My Migraine Struggles
I've been a migraine patient for several decades. However, it was only last year that I learned that not all neurologists are migraine specialists. And that seeing a migraine specialist is not just a benefit for my care but critical in getting the correct support in living with migraines.
My neurologist did the bare minimum
The neurologist I'd been with for several years did little more than check in with me and refill my abortive medication.
I have felt dismissed more often than not
When my migraines became more disruptive to my daily life, she was unable or unwilling to help more. Unfortunately, being dismissed by doctors isn't anything new to me. As someone living with several chronic conditions, which each took a lengthy and persistent period of time to diagnose and even longer to find appropriate treatments, I've seen more healthcare professionals than I care to count. I've also heard every single justification on how my health issues were not serious enough to continue pursuing. It's been infuriating and damaging to my physical and mental health.
Switching to a migraine specialist
Last year, when I made the switch to see a migraine specialist, I felt better about my care. He asked so many questions and reviewed many choices for medications, migraine tactics, and strategies. While I was told there weren't many choices for preventative migraine medication in a woman trying to conceive, I felt like I was given several options for abortive medication and sent on my way with an easy way to connect with my doctor in times of crisis.
And to be honest, this worked for about a year.
It worked until it didn't
This past season, it stopped working. After a traumatic miscarriage at 11 weeks pregnant, I experienced several weeks of migraines as my hormones tried to level out. I utilized every strategy and tool I had in my arsenal, including the infusion clinic at my specialist's office. Then I felt like I was being dismissed, hearing that it'd been too much time, there'd been too many medications tried, I had to wait it out, etc.
Reaching out to a local headache clinic
Discouraged and frustrated, I reached out to our local headache clinic.
As a doctor's office that only treats headache and migraine patients, each specialist on staff was very well trained in the art of migraines - from triggers to management, prevention to abortion, and every detail in between.
A long and thorough first visit
My intake appointment was 2.5 hours. The nurse, resident, and doctor I worked with were incredibly thorough. I learned that there are, in fact, preventative medications that can stave off migraines and are safe to use for pregnancy (more on that in another article). I found that although my previous specialist had given me several abortive medication options, he was underdosing me on all of them. That meant that the medications might not have worked because I wasn't taking enough of them.
I was just looking for help
The headache clinic gave my previous specialist the benefit of the doubt, citing caution or "old school" thought practices, but in my heart, I felt so ignored and angry. How many times had I reached out asking for more help? More direction. Would I have been more appropriately dosed or had my migraines prevented if I were a male or a female not of childbearing age/desire? (That's an entire topic for another day.)
I finally felt validated and supported
This first appointment was all I needed to feel validated in my migraine struggles.
I walked out with three pages of notes from the doctor, including new preventative medications, different dosing and a different order to utilize my abortive medications, some non-medication recommendations, instructions on everything, and a follow-up appointment in 4 weeks.
So far, so good
I've now had a few follow-ups with the doctor at the headache clinic, and I'm also grateful to report that the few migraines I've had in the interim have been less severe than previously, less frequent, and managed appropriately by the resources I've been given.
What does your experience look like?
Have you been treated by a headache clinic? How has that experience differed from a neurologist or a migraine specialist? If you haven't, do you feel like your migraine care is as comprehensive and successful as you'd like it to be? I'd love to hear your thoughts below.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?