Like Mother, Like Daughter

Growing up I was aware that my Mum suffered dreadfully with migraines. She struggled enormously and without much sympathy or assistance from our doctor. Many times we would have to be quiet as Mum would be lying on her bed in complete darkness unable to bear any light or noise. Mum would always be able to tell when her migraines were starting as she would see sparkles first and knew that within about ten minutes she would be in the midst of a full blown migraine. I watched as over the years she cut out so many different foods in case they caused her migraines, but nothing seemed to make any difference to her.

When I was 18 I went with Mum and Dad to visit my aunt who lived about three hours drive away. Whilst we were there I was totally fine but as soon as we started driving home I began to feel really ill and my head felt as if it would explode. I had never experienced pain like it before. I couldn’t bear any light at all and the movement of the car was both agony for my head and made me feel very sick too. Mum recognised that I was having a migraine and told me to lay down in the back of the car and she placed a jacket over my head to try and block out the street lights. That was one hell of a journey. When we arrived home I couldn’t even walk from the car and literally crawled on the ground to our front door. Mum put me on the sofa and gave me some tablets, and there I stayed till the following morning.

For several years in my twenties I would wake up with migraines on a Sunday! I would work hard all week, relax on Saturday and then spend the whole of Sunday in bed feeling dreadful. I have noticed that stress doesn’t seem to cause them, but they often occur when I have relaxed after a stressful situation.

I am now 57 years old, and my migraines have developed over the years. I have what I call the pain migraines, which cause horrendous pains in my head and especially behind my eyes and normally start first thing in the morning. I take wafer medication to try and ease them, and find that a cold compress on the back of my neck and on my forehead gives me a little relief, but normally have to spend the rest of the day in bed in the dark and totally still. I have been paralysed completely on my left side whilst having one of these migraines and often find that I cannot speak at all, so have had to thump my husband to wake him up to help me as I can’t even manage to get my own medication. I do find that sipping a cup of tea seems to stop me feeling quite so sick with them.

I now also have vestibular and ocular migraines. Vestibular migraines are sometimes called silent migraines as they don’t cause any pain, but they are so disabling for me as they affect my eyesight and balance. The first thing I notice is a tingling in my legs and then everything around me starts to look wonky. I feel very weak, dizzy and sick and also very confused. I have to sit completely still for several hours until it passes. Unfortunately I now suffer with these on a regular basis. I have noticed that any kind of pattern in my field of vision can trigger one of these migraines and have to be careful when being driven not to look out of the side window of the car as the movement can trigger one too. Strangely I also found that walking past shelves in shops can cause one as can the movement of shopping on a conveyor belt.

I only started to have ocular migraines about a year ago. To begin with I just see sparkly zig zags, then as the migraine progresses I have patches in my vision where all I can see is darkness. Rarely did I suffer any pain with these migraines until a few months ago and now they seem to trigger the pain migraines too.

My life has increasingly become curtailed by migraines. Every day I take beta-blockers which are supposed to help limit how many migraines I have, and I dread to think how I might be without them. I saw a migraine specialist who said I was unlucky as many people notice a reduction in their migraines as they pass the menopause. In my case there has been a massive increase in the number I have.

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