My Long Road with Migraines
It was 1997, and I was a medic in the military. I had a pounding headache, which at the time, I did not realize was linked to my severe vertigo, nausea and fatigue. I wanted something for the pain, so they gave me a Toradol shot. Well, it was downhill from there! The Toradol ulcerated my colon, and I became sensitive or allergic to most NSAID’s after that. I was finally sent to a neurologist and was diagnosed with migraines, which was a relief in a way, because the vertigo was terrifying; I thought I might have MS! I was given Indoral, and the normal dose tanked out my already low BP, so I had to have a low dose.
I was a civie again in 1999, and pregnant with my first child. I was put on bedrest for some of the first trimester. One day, I woke up to a migraine so severe, that I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow! This went on until the third trimester, with ER doctors, and my OB telling me that I could’t take anything. I learned that a dark room, ice on my forehead, and alternating ice and heat on the back of my neck helped some, and luckily, my baby was just fine.
Two children, a full time job, and a marriage held together with duct tape, later; my migraines plagued me again, ramping up before and after my periods. I would, (carefully), take the one NSAID I wasn’t allergic to, and then, at night, a Soma. I saw a few neurologists during these years, and tried a variety of beta blockers. One day, a PCP I was working with, told me, “Hey, we’ve got Imitrex samples, try that!” I took the medication, then started to drive home. On the way, my head started to hurt differently, like the worst ice cream headache you’ve ever had. My pulse was so low by the time I got home, I had to lie down. I never took Imitrex again. It was during these years, that I noticed doctors would shrug and become annoyed with me when I wouldn’t take the meds that gave me side effects. I was on my own. I learned to cope quietly, and withdraw from life during an episode, often keeping to my bedroom. I lost many a weekend to migraines, and it was during these years that I began to feel completely unsupported and alone in my struggle. My ex husband even said to me, “Your’e always having a migraine!”, sarcastically in response to having to care for our small children on another migraine weekend. That cut deep.
The doctor I was working with at the time, tried Botox, and that helped some, even though it didn’t change the pre and postdrome symptoms. I struggled along, having developed other health issues along the way.
By the time I was divorced, and had moved, I was getting even more migraines, often vomiting without much warning during an episode. Other troubling, and frightning symptoms emerged, I mixed up, or forgot words, before and after a migraine, I would type or write a word wrong, reversing some letters, and I would nearly pass out. I noticed my heart rate was very slow after a migraine, and that I would feel short of breath and winded for no reason. I sought help, and underwent multiple MRI’s, an MRA, and a few cat scans. It was then, they noticed the scarring on my brain, (gliosis/white matter). I was given antidepressants, Phenagren, and Metoprolol. I also tried Zomig, and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, so no more abortive meds for me. I eventually lost my job, and had to seek care from the VA.
I sought help through the VA, and saw a different neurologist each time, with conflicting treatments. Most of the time, they would just tell me to stay on the beta blockers, and go to the ER for severe episodes. I was told at this time, that the Botox clinic was full. I did go to the ER a few times, it was awful. I was given Depakote, Benadryl, and a lecture about rebound headaches. I was met with hostility , with one on call neurolgist, having “Your’e wasting my time!”, written all over her face. She would threaten to admit me, then release me, just as my headache would start to ramp up again. I was often placed under flourecent lights, as well. I eventually quit going. It was so hard to drive there with my blurred vision, and who wants to be yelled at when your’e in pain?
During these last few years, my migraines have continued to become more and more disabling, even affecting my short term memory during an attack, and I began to experience aura. No longer willing to feel guilty, I sought outside care again. I wish I could give this story a happy ending, but my story isn’t done, and migraines aren’t done with me. I will continue to seek help, both traditional, and holistic. I will continue fighting and advocating for myself, and I will hold out hope.