Kelsey Talks Managing Migraine as a Single Mom
In this interview, I speak with my friend, Kelsey, a single mother of a beautiful little girl, and how she has managed a life living with migraine - especially from an early age.
The beginning of migraine
At what age did you start experiencing migraine symptoms?
I was about 13 years old.
How long did it take & when were you officially diagnosed?
I was 14 when my doctor referred me to a neurologist because the medication I was trying was not working, and it was now out of her comfort zone.
Do you have any auras or signs/signals that give you time to prepare abortive medications, nausea meds?
I can always tell I'm going to be getting one because I start to get a dull pain behind one eye or the other, never both when it's a migraine - then it escalates from there.
My medication journey
Have you tried medications, injections, nerve blocks, or anything natural for your symptoms?
I have been on numerous medications - even have looped back to some after being off of them for a few years to give them another go. I tried Botox injections with no success. I tried cryotherapy (local facial therapy, not full body), which helped if I would go 3x a week, but unfortunately, insurance doesn't cover the cost of that.
How many medications did you go through before you found (some) relief?
I couldn't count or name all of them even if I tried. The one medication that has been consistent for relief is Gabapentin. I have been on that since I was 14 or 15. I can tell the difference if I miss a dose of it. I also have had great success with Sumatriptan. It's been about 5-6 years that I have been using this medicine as my "as-needed" at the onset - although if I don't take it with two Aleve, it's useless. Currently, I take four medications in the morning and four at night for my daily preventative meds.
Migraine isn't taken seriously
Being a female, do you feel pressure at all to silence/shield your pain or have you ever left the hospital in the same condition, or even worse?
Yes and no. I feel I don't always get taken seriously about my migraine, like I'm exaggerating how bad it truly is, just because I'm still pushing through. A couple of years ago, I had to basically lash out at my neurologist because I felt she was not listening to me and how much they were affecting me at that point in my life. I had been having a migraine for 3-4 days straight and without saying the exact words she basically told me I had to wait it out. I "politely" reminded her I was a single mother with a 2-year-old at home, and this was unacceptable. Is any of this because I'm a woman? Maybe, but I guess I can't ever say for sure.
A trip to the ER
Speaking of pain, have you ever had to go to the ER or be hospitalized to get your pain and nausea under control? Did they willingly try to give you pain meds, or did you ask for them?
Yes - in high school, I tried seeking treatment from a chiropractor, and after going to one, I landed in the ER that night and the following night due to how bad my migraines were. Because I was a minor, I had my parents there to advocate for me still, which very well could have made a difference, I guess I can't say.
Relationships and communication
How do you and your partner communicate how you're feeling to one another?
I don't currently have a significant other. However, in a past relationship, I was often looked down upon for having migraine and told I was using it as an excuse to be lazy and lay around. They went as far as to tell me I was making them up. I was not able to communicate with this person when I was having one. I would still have to get up, take care of our baby, and act like nothing was wrong. And now, being a single mom dealing with migraines can be really hard. Everything still has to get done, but it's just me here to do it. Thankfully, my daughter is a little more self-sufficient these days.
How do you still manage to knock everything out with a very full-time job, too?
Work is also understanding of my migraines. I was open with them from the start that I would try my best to work as long as I could with dealing with one in the hopes that if my meds caught it soon enough, it would go away. Since I have been dealing with them for almost 20 years, I can force myself to do this sometimes, but there are times I just can't physically and mentally work through it. I'll only call in sick or go home sick from one if it's absolutely necessary.
Symptoms and triggers
When you're experiencing migraine symptoms, do you also experience auras or vomiting/nausea? Do you know what triggers them or certain foods or substances that will set one in motion?
Thankfully I don't deal with many side effects. I was only ever nauseous once from a migraine. I have kept several food diaries in the past to see if we could narrow it down, but nothing ever linked together. The pressure system in the weather is one thing that does affect them. My parents used to say I should be a meteorologist because I knew ahead of time if a storm was coming.
Finding support in my daughter
In what unexpected ways does your partner find to support you and help out when you’re having a bad migraine day?
These days, my daughter, who is 5, is such a rockstar when I have a migraine! She understands I need to "do my thing" for a few hours to get back on my feet, and she quietly entertains herself during that time, checking on me and coming up to rub my back at times. But it can definitely put a damper on our days. We could have a whole planned out day, and all of that could change if a migraine comes on. She understands, but she's still a kid and gets upset, and that's when it's really hard for me because I'm trying to deal with a migraine, but also an upset child.
I'd like to thank Kelsey for her time and honest answers. Hopefully, some of our community members will have that "me too" moment as she so candidly spoke about frustrations of not being heard, being thought of as lazy, but still doing it all, despite.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?