Are you sitting comfortably....?!
Since 8 August 2011 I have been experiencing weekly (ish) migraine attacks. I wake with discomfort in the right hand side of the base of my neck which slowly grows throughout the day to the most almighty pain I have ever experienced. Crushing the entire right hand side of my head, getting worse with the slightest movement – either made by myself or anyone in the vicinity.
I have tried explaining the pain to many of my friends who have asked what it feels like, also to the doctors and neurologists I have seen; I always struggle to think of words that can fully describe the pain, let’s face it – there are none that can really express what it is like. But the best way I can ever think of is that the entire side of my head is imploding, the crushing feeling is unbearable and non-stop. Teamed with that is the burning pain, about the size of a golf ball, that moves around inside the crushing pain; sometimes this sits behind my right eye, sometimes down near the base of my neck. The pain is so intense I find is so hard to believe things as tiny as blood vessels are the cause, it just feels like on side of my brain is alive with pain!
I felt no pain relief with standard over-the-counter meds like aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen. The doctor eventually prescribed me sumatriptan tablets, however these rarely worked as I had such a small window of opportunity to take them – my migraines starting while I slept. Another doctor was sure rizatriptan meltlets would work – they didn't.
I was at my wits end, desperately trying not to take time off from work due to my migraines but all too often I had to give in and retreat to my bed. This did not go down well with my employers at the time; in the end I was on a final written warning for my level of absence, despite my best efforts.
In 2012 I moved from one side of the UK to the other – from Kent to Bristol. With it came the opportunities of a fresh start, a more positive outlook – I had a new job with a great company and a lovely new place to live with my fiancé. With this came a new doctor, who wasted no time in referring me to a neurologist.
After a 3 month wait for the appointment to come round off I went to the neurologist – fully expecting to be cured! He went through some basic questions, I had a field of vision test and he took some bloods. He was happy that it was ‘just migraine’ and told me to lose 10kg and go back in 4 months. He also prescribed me my attack saviour – injectable sumatriptan.
Luckily, 9 out of 10 times the sumatriptan injections work. I both love and hate the injections at the same time – I can feel totally normal with 45 minutes of using one, but I always fear I will have some kind of bad reaction using one… I rarely use one if I am home alone because of this!
I've tried two kinds of beta-blockers (propranolol & atenolol), amitriptyline, sodium valproate and gabapentin to try to prevent my migraines – each with no success at all.
It has taken me all this time to come to terms with the fact there is going to be no miracle pill that will rid me of these near weekly attacks. After a particularly horrendous attack in September this year – which saw me in the emergency room – I started to fall into a bout of anxiety; constantly worrying about my job and how I was going to cope if my migraines kept getting worse. It was the darkest I had ever felt, and I hated the fact that this condition was beginning to control my life.
That’s the depressing part of my story over….
Now I'm hoping that I am starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel… My doctor held off prescribing me the last on the list of the neurologist’s suggestions of preventative medications – Topiramate. I'm not sure why, I never asked. I think he was concerned about side effects – or it was the strongest of the suggestions? I don’t know – I'm not a doc! I've just tapered up to 100mg a day and so far things seem to be going well. It has been 18 days since I've had to use an injection; I've still been having weekly attacks but 600mg of ibuprofen with a strong cup of coffee seems to be enough to kill the beast before it takes hold. I try not to get too excited when I go any period of time between attacks, in case it is just a fluke.
But could it be? Could it be that topiramate is the help I've been hoping for? I really hope it is… Only time will tell; at the moment I will remain positive and keep at it with the topiramate – please keep everything crossed for me!
I understand that my weekly attacks are not what some of the other members of this website go through, and I can’t even begin to imagine dealing with chronic/daily migraine attacks – I take my hat off to all of you who suffer with this awful condition on a daily basis and still manage to keep a smile on your face. I hope that one day we will all find some relief from this truly awful condition – for now I wish you all well, thank you all for taking the time to read my ever-so long babble!!
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?