Queen of Migraine Town
I have had migraines for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I remember spending many afternoons laying still across the couch, feeling sick with searing head pain. This happened a few days a month typically. When I was around 11 or 12 I was diagnosed with migraines by a neurologist.
When I was 20 and in college I began to experience terrible jaw pain on the left side, the same side that my migraines attack. The migraine frequency increased to 2-3x per week. This was the first time that pain began to interfere in my daily life. Classes were missed, shifts were missed. I had to explain to teachers and supervisors that I was having a lot of serious migraines that left me unable to function. I saw neurologists, physical therapists and chiropractors again and again.
After I graduated from UCSC I moved to New Orleans and soon began work at Tulane University in the library. One month into my new position I had to take a sick day for a severe migraine. I felt very guilty for it. I spoke to my bosses honestly about the migraines and they were understanding. I did my best to always be there but I definitely used up all of my sick days.
In August 2005 I began a a new position at another library in New Orleans. Two days later, Hurricane Katrina blew through the city. Stressful doesn’t even come close to explain the feeling. Evacuation and a cross country trek back to California followed. I reluctantly returned to New Orleans after about 5 weeks, back to my job at UNO. The commute took me through the Lakefront area of the city, which was one of the hardest hit places. Houses were tilted sideways, abandoned, with the number of dead bodies found in the building spray painted on the front. Boats and cars were overturned in the middle of the street. The city was sad, beaten down. We all did our best carrying on.
This was the time period when I remember starting to have migraines on a daily basis. It was harder and harder to function. I saw more neurologists, got more prescriptions, preventative and abortive. I missed more work. After about a year, the powers that be had to let me go. I understood why but still felt heartbroken. I felt weak and useless. When I told one doctor that I had headaches every single day he told me to deal with it. Most were perfectly nice and wanted to help but just didn’t know how. My scans revealed nothing abnormal.
I went home to Los Angeles for a while and stayed with my parents, visiting headache specialists in the area. I had also been going to therapy, in both cities. Nothing was helping.
I went back to New Orleans and back to work at a coffee shop, trying my best to ignore the headaches that never really seemed to go away. I got through many shifts with caffeine and vicodin or caffeine and imitrex. I could only do that for so long. I realized that I could be getting medication overuse headaches as well as migraines and I stopped working and quit everything. I went to yoga, I tried meditation. I quit caffeine and alcohol. None of this made a difference. I applied for disability and got it.
When my long term relationship ended I left New Orleans the next day. I came back to LA, back to my family. I made one last attempt at working a normal job but it didn’t work. They needed someone who could be there full time and I was too sick too much of the time to handle it.
Back on disability is where I am. It isn’t enough to live on, so I stay with my parents who have been very supportive in more ways than one. I have no intention of remaining on disability for the rest of my life. I have realized that I may never be able to work in an office and I am trying to work around that. I have been taking online classes in graphic and web design. I even did a part time internship at a web design company for a few months til the economy got the better of them. I can get things done on my own time frame and I really do enjoy what I am learning.
It depresses me to say that I still have headaches every day, usually migraines. I take either vicodin or imitrex no more then 2-3x per week. The rest of the time I smoke medical marijuana which offers some relief. I drink one cup of coffee a day and drink alcohol socially. I go to physical therapy, get regular exercise and am on a gluten free diet (which has helped my stomach). I have branched out in the past couple of years and looked beyond Western Medicine, seeing an acupuncturist, nutritionist, hypnotherapist, a TMJ dentist and a cranial sacral therapist. I don’t know what else to try that I haven’t already. I try to stay sane by setting goals for myself as far as gaining my independence back and not taking things terribly seriously. I try to not complain or take my frustration out on other people. I have to tell myself that it won’t always be like this, a constant unwavering headache that only goes from tolerable to absolutely miserable. I can’t possibly have a headache for the rest of my life, can I? Six years now. I’m ready to leave Migraine town.