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Medication PTSD vs Guinea Pig Queen: It’s All a Matter of Attitude

Honestly, my attitude about migraine treatment is not always all that positive – I’m sure that I am not alone in that!

After decades of living with migraine (cycling back and forth between episodic and chronic), I have gone through more than my fair share of medications.

Medication PTSD fears

Sadly, that also means I have had a good healthy dose of side effects – or maybe that should be called an “unhealthy” dose! I like to refer to it as medication PTSD, and the consequences of that are only too real.

I have flashbacks from bad experiences with medications (both myself and my sons). My blood pressure and heart rate rise precipitously at the mere thought of trying yet another new option. I get resistant when my doctor suggests adding something to my current pharmacy and insist on researching everything first.

And…last but not least…I really do not want to be seen as a guinea pig by my doctors. Now that is an interesting thought!

Migraine guinea pig

It is all too easy to see myself as a guinea pig for migraine because the disease is so complex and so much remains unknown about it. We are living in a really exciting era where new medication treatment options are finally being FDA approved.

For a disease that has not seen any new abortive medications for decades and absolutely no migraine-specific preventive medication at all until 2018, it is definitely a new day. However, with that new day come a lot of unknowns.

With clinical trials that do not truly represent the migraine population, once a medication is FDA approved we really do not know for sure how it will “behave” in real-world application. Those with comorbid conditions, and even those with chronic migraine, are often excluded from trials which leaves only the healthiest minority eligible for testing.

So many unknowns

Added to that, migraine is complex and presents itself differently for each person. As a result, what works for you may not work for me, and what works for me may even make you worse! The only way of figuring it out is to go through your own personal “clinical trial” where you try, test, evaluate, take a deep breath, and then try some more.

So many of us work through countless medications with varying doses and complex cocktails. We go on a long journey to try and find something that works – or helps even a little bit. In addition, doctors often have woefully little time to spend figuring out the best options. Many are hesitant to look at a patient’s overall health history to determine the best course of action and limit themselves to just migraine as an isolated condition. In many ways, it does tend to feel like we are guinea pigs.

It’s all a matter of attitude

However, like many other things it is our attitude that can make all the difference in the world. So:

  • Am I a guinea pig with medication “PTSD” or…am I a guinea pig queen?
  • Do I feel resentful that no-one seems to know how these treatments will impact me or…am I excited to have options to try?
  • Does it bother me that I was excluded from clinical trials for a new medication or…am I willing and able to see trying a new medication as a second chance to get in at the ground floor?
  • Do I allow fear of the unknown to determine what I’m willing to try or…do I take inventory of the huge cost of migraine on my life and decide to dip my big toe back into the water again?

How do I change my attitude?

It is basically a decision to try and reframe my thoughts in a healthy way. It is a recognition that:

  • Negative thoughts create unpleasant feelings which cause stress and anxiety. That demotivates, impacts my behavior in an unhealthy way, and reinforces that there is NO hope, which in turn creates negative thoughts.

On the other hand:

  • Positive thoughts create pleasant feelings. That results in confidence and courage, motivates, impacts my behavior in a healthy way, and reinforces that there definitely IS hope, which in turn creates positive thoughts. All is not lost. That my life has purpose and a future.

Becoming a guinea pig queen

Of course, it is easier said than done! I still have my really negative days. That is especially true once a bad migraine attack has hit day three without sign of stopping. It takes determination to stop and take a breath when I feel the medication PTSD anxiety escalating. It is a deliberate choice to see myself as a guinea pig queen rather than someone who is out of control.

I am learning to reframe the fears that go through my head. To choose hope and courage. To see myself as someone who chooses to partner with my doctors with all the information that I can find. Most of all…it is a decision to never give up, even when that means stepping into the unknown.

Do you have medication PTSD? When it comes to migraine treatment, do you tend to see yourself as a guinea pig? If so, is that a negative thing for you or positive? Do you relate to the negative and positive thought cycles at all?

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.

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