“Your head ALWAYS hurts.”
The conversation occurs all to often between me and my loved ones. When my head pain becomes particularly bad, I tell those around me in hopes that they will take that into consideration when they see how I’m acting.
“My head really hurts.” I’ll tell them. And without fail, and least one will say:
“We know. Your head ALWAYS hurts.”
I understand how frustrating it must be. I understand that I sound like a broken record. The only thing I wish they would understand is that with such a debilitating illness that is invisible, it’s hard not to remind people that, yes, I look fine, but please remember every day is a war against the pain for me.
I’m nineteen years old, and unlike many of the contributers here, I’ve only suffered with chronic migraine for three years. Of course, those three years have basically been a migraine day every single day.
At the beginning of my junior year in high school, my family had insisted I go to the doctor to try medication for my anxiety disorder, hoping it would aid my anxiety, as well as maybe my chronic insomnia which I’d suffered from my entire life. However, as all medications are, anti-anxiety meds are not a one-size-fits-all miracle cure. I tried seven medications over the course of a year, one of which was prozac.
Prozac, as it happened, triggered terrible migraines for me. I’d suffered from the occassional hormone related migraine my whole life (they run in my family), but what the prozac triggered was like nothing I’d felt before. All of the sudden the migraines had worsened ten-fold, and were happening five days a week. By the time I’d started my senior year of high school, they had become daily. Or rather, it seemed, I had one constant migraine that lasted weeks at a time, one hangover day, and then it started all again.
At 17, it was extremely hard to get treated. As I was still a minor, no doctor would prescribe me meds strong enough for my needs. The best I could get my hands on was apo-naproxen, which did nothing for me. And what was worse was they the only specialists they would send me to were pediatric.
When I turned 18, things only went further downhill. All of my pediatric specialists discharged me, as I was no longer a minor, and the waitlists for adult specialists in Canada are maybe five months if you’re lucky. To top things off, in the midst of this, my family doctor passed away, spelling the end of his practice and leaving my medical records floating around the system and only being retrievable if we paid a decent sum for them. Even with migraines ever day, I managed to graduate high school having attended about 45 out of the 180 school days. I even managed to get accepted to a very small, difficult program at a university.
Last fall, still with no changes to my migraines, I began university. My school luckily has a very good accomodation program and I could get attendance rules altered for me, but on top of daily migraines, unsettling new symptoms arose.
It started with losing hearing in one ear one day in my residence common room. Then, I couldn’t go a day holding down all of my meals. But the worst reared its head at the end of first semester.
It was my first final exam of my university carreer: Elementary German Language. I had studied for hours, and even took my preventitive medication before heading out for it. I sat down, easily completed the listening portion, and began the reading comprehension. Tunnel vision had always been a symptom of my migraines, so I wasn’t unsettled when my peripherals went dark. It was when my vision went completely black that I panicked. I stumbled down the lecture hall’s stairs blindly and explained to the prof that I couldn’t see, and felt I should go to the hospital. Luckily, she understood, and campus security was called to escort me to the clinic, where I was shot up with morphine sent back to residence.
This seemed like the beginning of the end. Second semester, I only made it to 3 of the 12 weeks of classes, and had to drop a course with a prof who refused to accomodate my needs. I still passed, but it left my father insisting that I wouldn’t be allowed back for second year if my migraines weren’t wrangled.
So, this past summer, we moved on to more aggressive treatments than the cocktail of medications I’d tried prior. As a patient, it was very hard to get doctors to treat my migraines as the main priority, as I am an overweight insomniac who suffers from anxiety as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome. But eventually, I was referred to an adult neurologist and he referred me for botox.
While waiting for the botox, I tried accupuncture which helped my sleep, though not my head, and I was also fitted with a sleepguard by a dentist specialising in migraine.
Two weeks into my second year at university, I’m still suffering daily. It has been three weeks since my first round of botox, and while I haven’t seen much difference yet, I’m trying really hard to optimistic. I have another round scheduled for my reading week, and am on a waiting list for a pain clinic specialising in migraine.
It’s hard to keep your chin up when opening your eyes in the morning is like daggers in your eyes, but I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m lucky enough to have a good support system. I may not remember what it feels like to not be in pain anymore, and this isn’t how I pictured my young adult life to be…
But I know I’m not alone in my suffering, and together, we’ll find a cure for this illness.