A Few Too Many Years...

I distinctly remember my first migraine attack. It was approx 1992, or 1993? A Saturday night. I’m from the UK and there was a hospital-based drama on TV, the scene changes had a lot of white background.

How it felt

The pain in my head started and felt like my eyes were being pushed out of my head. I laid down for some time, turned out the lights, and descended into tears. I seem to remember sleeping it off. I was 20 years old.

How it progressed

From there it seemed to happen usually in the week before my period. Over time you find a way of coping and then we come to 2021. Older but maybe no wiser. My migraines, with hindsight, have changed/fluctuated a fair amount.

So I’m female (now) 49, hypothyroid, raised blood pressure (both treated daily), have triptans when needed, perimenopausal, 2 children (no change in my pattern during pregnancy?), and work in healthcare which has a number of stresses.

My hubby is a snorer! I have always been a light sleeper. At its worst, a migraine 4 times a week…I had a stretch of 9 months pain-free (but having a ‘regular’ type HA) after stopping the amitriptyline.

My pain explained

My list of symptoms also varies with the type of pain:

  • First, my ‘Mad Axeman’: A splitting central, through the top of my head migrating down the back to my neck (over the course of an hour-ish) pain causing me to want to hold my head at an angle/tilt. A feeling in one ear, almost like warm wax being poured in. Sometimes I get a tingling at the tip of my nose or on my cheek. Have to concentrate on any conversation and sometimes struggle to process words. If I’m out or at work, I now know I have approx 20 mins to get home and shut myself in a quiet room. Sore as hell! Usually lasts 2-3 days.
  • Second, 'Bitch of a Headache’: Starts behind both eyes, sometimes can be slowed/stopped in the early stages by otc meds.
    If not caught early progresses to ⅓ of the front of my head/eyes/sinus feel pressured. Hearing is a little muffled. Sometimes comes with one eyelid drooping and slurred speech. Tips the balance into a migraine.
  • Third, some of the above but no pain!?: I struggle to comprehend conversations. Very sound sensitive and sometimes to light, if I’m in a store with a lot of fluorescent tubes I have a window of maybe 10 mins before I have to leave.
  • Fourth, 'Bananas': Both eyes, usually from left moving in an arch to the right, have a Banana shaped, black and
    white zig-zag pattern. Right smack bang in my peripheral vision but usually only 20 minutes or so.
  • Fifth 'Cluster?': This is still being looked into… Top of my head, my hair right down to my follicles feel sore, sometimes minutes, sometimes for days, then PAIN…constant, soul-destroying pain. Leave me alone, don’t talk to me, don’t touch me!! 1-2 times a year.
  • Sixth, 'Premenstrual': Sadly I still suffer a general migraine, usually 3 days before, what should be, my period.
  • Seventh, 'Left Ear': Feels as if a nerve on top of my ear is firing. Travels to the side, not quite to my jaw… sometimes pulsing.

My symptoms and signs

In all of this, I have a list of ‘stuff’ that I can know pin-down to be associated with a migraine. Cold sweats are usually my first sign...

  • Tinnitus
  • Sound sensitive-cotton wool in ears feeling
  • Change in taste-perception and loss
  • Sinus pressure or stuffy feeling
  • Feeling of warmth in one ear
  • Vision change-clear ‘patches’ floating around
  • Notice more dark floaters, I work in ophthalmology, so has been checked
  • Slight rise in intraocular pressure
  • Light sensitive
  • Colors dull
  • Can’t wear my glasses as I can’t stand the slight pressure from them
  • Heavy pressure feeling at the base of the skull through to the back of my eyes!?
  • A ‘crick’ in the neck-like I slept in an awkward position
  • Occasional ultra-sensitive touch
  • Increase in pain sensitivity, whole body itchy, nearly always the right side of my left hand (so itchy I have to try to resist the urge to use the stiff green side of the washing up sponge!) but no mark or rash… nothing!! Fire ants… maybe. I’m being eaten alive by fire ants!?
  • Huge increase in clumsiness (can’t be trusted with sharp objects!!)
  • Short-tempered
  • Moody
  • Yawning
  • Talking crap (but just about coherent) I’m told I go off on tangents
  • Repeating myself twice
  • Sometimes hyperactive
  • Can’t eat a full meal, just a toddler size portion.
  • Constipation
  • Acid reflux
  • Smell, seem to lose my sense of smell (except for dish soap and really cheap perfume!) Or the opposite, walking into a pharmacy with a perfume section is like being hit with a sledgehammer.
  • I rarely get nausea… I tend to jump straight to pain
  • I don’t seem to have any food triggers, but artificial light and sound are my thing

Related to other issues?

But some of these symptoms cross over with other issues… female-thyroid-getting old! Sleep 2-4 hours a night. My stress levels have increased due to my job so the frequency is climbing. I have been battling through with my family doctor to separate some of it but have just been told I have the start of osteoarthritis and am being checked for temporal arteritis. No TMJ. No other inflammation was found…

I live in remote northern Canada but the cold doesn’t seem to have an impact. Heat does! I get overheated very quickly, so exercise is a no-no, if I say run, within a few minutes my head pulses and the pain starts. And sadly it looks like both daughters are also sufferers.

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