Guest Post: Migraine - It’s a Matter of Survival!

We are pleased to share this guest post with you from our community member, Tom Picerno. Tom is a 50 year old migraine sufferer of 10 years. He currently resides in Florida and has worked as a retail manager for the last 35 years. He works to educate others about migraine and help remove stigmas associated with the disease.

Migraine disease is a neurological disorder of the brain. It is complex to say the least. You can say it’s like a snowflake in so much as no two seem to be alike, and they are by no means to be considered soft and fluffy. The World Health Organization has migraine listed in the top ten most disabling diseases.

Surviving the disruption of migraine

As I write this I am in a battle with an intractable migraine. There are days that I feel like I am being ground to dust by this disease and other days, with the help of medications, home remedies, family support, and my therapy dog, Sam, I am able to survive another day. I say survive because for me that is how I actually feel even though that is not the mask I wear. Migraine is a life disrupter and this is how I typically go through a migraine attack.

My pattern of migraine attacks

There are a couple of distinct attack patterns my body usually follows. The subtle or sneak attack is one and the other is the straight up frontal assault. Both have their individual characteristics and will produce nearly the same effect on my life. Many reading this may recognize some of the symptoms of the prodrome or start of an attack. I also suffer from New Daily Headache Syndrome in addition to chronic migraine. I always have some sort of an aura which is great cover for both types of my migraine attacks. I experience stars flashing and numbness on the left side of my face nearly every day.

The challenge of timing medications the pain

This leaves the door open for the subtle migraine attack. I do have abortive medications, but if they are taken too soon they are really ineffective for me. If I wait too long I have the same problem. Timing is a big stumbling block for me as I work in the managerial world of retail pharmacy. This does not provide the ideal circumstances to try and escape an attack. As the attack progresses I get a sharp pain in the lower left corner of my skull.

Vision changes, difficulty concentrating, and speaking gibberish

I will also begin to lose focus in my left eye causing half my field of vision to be blurred. Then come the twins, photophobia and phonophobia, which make the easily tolerated everyday symphony of life nearly unbearable. I also struggle to maintain mental focus on even one thing. I know what I want to say but can’t. The words are right there but I can’t spit them out. I get tongue tied and speak gibberish. It’s like trying to pull your words out of a blender on high speed. Try managing a team of workers like that a few times! Let’s not forget the rapid draining of all your energy reserves too.

Coping with each kind of migraine attack

The difference between my attacks helps me determine how much time I need to react and get to that safe shelter. For me, that’s a dark cool room with medication, ice packs and noise canceling headphones on with music to drown out the horrible tinnitus that also accompanies the evil attacks. Naturally, I have a bit more time to weigh out my escape options with the subtle attacks. Dare I say I can almost execute the escape! Subtle attacks come one a bit slower for me with one symptom building on the next until it is in full swing.

Migraine's complete destruction

The frontal assault will manifest itself with multiple symptoms occurring within minutes of each other. These attacks stop me in my tracks and almost create a fight or flight sense of urgency. I need to pull over if I’m driving and call for assistance from family or friends. If I’m at work everything stops abruptly for me and I call on my support network of friends, family, and a few co workers who take the time to understand the disease. The ultimate result of my chronic migraine attacks is that they cause total disruption and leave a wide variety of casualties.

Invisible migraine with a visible impact

Migraine is an invisible disease. There are no bandages or outward indications that there is anything wrong. I have, however, been told by people close to me that they can see the migraine on my face despite my efforts to hide a mild attack. There is a stigma that accompanies migraine, feelings of guilt and disappointment, frustration, and for me an overall feeling of loss. I have missed countless family events and celebrations due to migraine disease. I have lost friends, favor in the workplace, and feel as if I am the shell of the person I was just six short years ago.

The uniqueness of migraine

As I said before I am currently experiencing an intractable migraine attack. I was hospitalized this time for nearly a week before the migraine subsided enough for me to go home and continue the fight. I used the word disrupter to describe my migraine disease. We all have our pet names I suppose. Migraine is a disease that only takes with an insatiable appetite. It is no respecter of person or position. It is a unique and personal experience for each person who suffers with the disease.

Holding on to hope and leaning on support

Blame it on whatever you want to whether it be genetics, triggers, or any other combination migraine is a nasty and invasive disease with effects that last after the attack has left you spent. All in all, there is one thing migraine disease will not take from me and that is hope. I live each day with the hopes that a cure will arise. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day than today. Hope in the love and support I get from family, friends, and coworkers. If it were not for my faith, hope, the support I receive from my inner circle, and wonderful resources like Migraine.com this disabling disease would have won far more battles.

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