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Perpetual cycle of Migraines, Depression, and Anxiety

Up until last year, I thought headaches were a normal part of life. I didn’t realize it until I was formally diagnosed, but I think I might have been dealing with migraines since I was a teenager. At first, they were just bad headaches and fatigue that would last a few hours up to a few days that occurred 4 -12 times a year. When I started college, I was getting them once or twice a month. This continued until I reached my 30s and I would get an occasional prescription for a mild narcotic or prescription strength Ibuprofen and that usually did the trick.

About 6 years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke. I wake my wife and she doesn’t smell anything. Suddenly, I feel this strange rush going through my head, then numbness and tingling all throughout the left side of my body, and then a headache sets in. I initially thought I had suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack) and my PCP referred me to a neurologist for evaluation. All the tests came back negative or normal and the neurologist had no explanation for what caused it and just told me to come back if the symptoms worsen or persist. 3 years pass and none of the symptoms I experienced that night had returned, but then I started getting headaches and fatigue 2 to 3 times a week. By this time, work and family life was hectic and stressful, so I just figured they were normal headaches that everyone experiences from stress. My chronic insomnia was also at an all time high. I tried sleep aids from the doc, but the side effects were too much for me to be able function properly the next day, so I started using medical cannabis and that did wonders for my insomnia and headaches. Life felt good for awhile and I thought I had a better grasp on things.

A couple of years pass and the headaches come back but they are now occurring daily with occasional numbness and tingling on the left side, transient aphasia, blurred vision, with light and noise sensitivity. I had not been formally diagnosed with migraines and start to think I might have a brain tumor or something. I immediately ask to be referred to a neurologist and that is when I am finally diagnosed with migraine with aura and complicated migraines. This is when everything starts to come crashing down on me. I was prescribed Maxalt and Topomax. When I picked up the prescriptions, Topomax wasn’t available, so I went home with Maxalt to be taken as needed at the onset of a migraine. I start to take it whenever a migraine starts and didn’t really notice much relief. Then one morning as I am getting ready for work, I experience the same symptoms I normally get with complicated migraines but I also experience tremors and paralysis. Now, I’m thinking this could be an actual stroke and I end up in the ER and go through a bunch of test that shows no evidence of a stroke and was told to follow up with the neurologist. Apparently, I had experienced another form of a migraine, possibly a hemiplegic migraine. After several similar visits to the ER, I end up getting admitted to the hospital for 5 days. It turns out that the type of migraines that I was experiencing was so painful and stressful for me that I developed a conversion disorder and was experiencing psychogenic seizures every hour sometime every 5 minutes. I ended up going on a medical leave of absence and made major lifestyle and diet changes. I was taking Topomax and Prozac. The side effects were horrible for me, especially on Topomax, but I continued to take them because I was told the side effects usually subside after a few weeks when the medication is supposed to be effective.

A few months pass, I’m still getting migraines, but they’re not as bad, so I attempted to go back to work. After a few days, the migraines worsen and the psychogenic seizures are back. I end up going back on a medical leave and was prescribed Verapamil to try and treat the migraines. The first night I took it, I experienced a near death experience. I felt dizzy, lightheaded, and collapsed. It’s hard to describe what I experienced next but in the end I felt like my soul was leaving my body and I floated into a bright light. Suddenly, I wake up and my wife is on the phone with 911 trying to get an ambulance to come, but I actually felt better and told her to cancel it. For the next few days, I start to experience weird moments of deja vu and mental visions of events. My senses seems heightened, colors were more vivid and my hearing was super sensitive. After a week of taking Verapamil, I went into a medically induced psychosis and was involuntarily hospitalized in a mental ward for over 2 weeks experiencing, paranoia, schizophrenia, delusions, hallucinations, and also hearing voices with suicidal thoughts. The episode lasted for about a month.

That whole experience was extremely traumatic for me and my family and as soon I was well enough, with the help of my doctors, I weaned off all meds. I am now doing what I can to try and treat this through alternative treatments and no meds, but it’s been difficult. Even though the psychosis happened 8 months ago, I’m still having a difficult time getting over it. I now have severe major depression and anxiety. The migraines are not under control and the psychogenic seizures still occur from time to time. I am now in this perpetual cycle of migraines, depression and anxiety. The doctors keep recommending more meds, but my family and I are so fearful of another episode of psychosis. We are just not willing to take a risk with any new meds yet. I’m thankful to have a strong supportive wife. She has been doing almost everything in our household, including all the driving since my licensed has been suspended. I also have a strong support system of close friends and family and they all have been a huge help. At this point, I just want to get better and be happy again, but I don’t know how and all my doctors are at a loss since I won’t take anymore meds.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Londonmum
    2 years ago

    My son’s migraines, depression, anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, fatigue and light sensitivity were cured with a gluten free diet. My husband and I are both gluten intolerant, recently diagnosed.
    I have never suffered from migraines but my mother suffered from hemiplegic migraines and hypothyroidism. Both sides of our family have many people with autoimmune conditions. I am sure there is a strong link with autoimmunity and all of the symptoms you have.
    Try a gluten free diet (don’t use gluten free supermarket products just plenty of meat, veg, fruit, etc). It is much easier than it sounds.
    I have told this to many people with migraines but everyone seems to find it an unlikely story. I urge you to try it. It took more than three months for my son’s issues to go but it less than a month for my asthma, hay fever and eczema to go.We also take a gluten free multivitamin everyday.

    2 years ago

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. I have had migraines since I was about 13 (started out as menstrual migraines). They increased in college and at the age of 28 with a move out of state, a new marriage and a stressful job, they began taking over my life.

    I am in my late 40’s and have chronic daily migraines. I tried every medicine offered, Botox, blood pressure medication, acupressure, acupuncture, voluntarily weeklong admittance to migraine hospital to learn biofeedback, nutrition and weather, food, smell, sound triggers, etc.

    I was afraid to have children knowing it would be unfair to not be able to fully function and play with my child. Often I wake up with them, will have a migraine for days, end up vomiting and in the ER. I also have a brain tumor now that supposedly is coincidence, and not a factor in all of this.

    Anyway, I am writing to syypathize and tell you how sorry I am for what you are going through. I read about a Cefaly device for migraines. I asked my neurologist about it, and he said it had been successful for SOME of his patients. I stress this because it is expensive ( about 350$) but worth every penny.

    It is like a tens (tins)? Unit for your forehead. I got one and am finding great relief in my migraines. I use it every day for 20 minutes in the morning, and if I have a headache I will use it for 2 cycles. (20minx2=40min). It is a time commitment but if you feel like dirt you will try anything.

    Best of luck. If you have any questions about them I am happy to answer. Take care.

  • migraneurJE author
    2 years ago

    Hi KABMUL,

    I appreciate your response. I was able to manage all these years and live life happily up until last year. This past year has been a true test of strength, hope, and courage. I have done a lot of soul searching and feel that I’m going through some type of spiritual transformation after this whole experience. Experiencing psychosis changed me as a person. I almost feel like I have to learn how to life again.

    I deeply sympathize with you as well and hope everything goes well with treatment for your migraines and brain tumor. My neurologist actually wrote a prescription for Cefaly. I will keep you posted and let you know if it works. Have you heard of TMS for migraines? I have been curious about that device as well. It’s expensive though. I think $250 per month to rent.

    All the best,

  • Tamara
    2 years ago

    You didn’t say in there (or I missed it) but I’m assuming you have had a MRI done? Just to rule anything sinister out.

    You also should be talking to a psychologist – someone who can help guide you through the depression and anxiety. It has made the world of diffference for me (although has taken a year or so to see most of the benefits).

    I totally understand the scariest of meds – topomax caused me to black out while I was on the highway on cruise. I ended up crossing the median and hit someone going to other direction at full highway speeds – out I ended up only getting a concussion and whiplash I’m not sure.

    I also had to try 3 different triptans before I found one that works. I needed something since I have 3-4 migraines a week a each lasted 12-96 hours. Your story followed my path to a T until the psychosis and seizures started. Mental exercises and relaxation might help you greatly.

    Look up into vitamin treatment too, a good diet, improper levels of magnesium, B2, CoQ10 and vitamin D are know to upset the brain and cause migraines. All the best to you!

  • migraneurJE author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Tamara-

    Sorry to hear you’re having a hard time today. I wish you all the best as well.

  • Tamara
    2 years ago

    🙁 darn I was hoping it would be something easy for you. I feel for you and hope something will help soon – my little honeymoon phase of feeling great crash and burned today so I guess I’m not past it yet either. Oh well long weekend is coming up, maybe migraines will only ruin half of it? Just give us all a weekend of 4/10!

  • migraneurJE author
    2 years ago

    Hi Tamara,

    Thank you. I have had several MRIs, CT scans, EEG, EKG, and an echocardiogram. All normal. Whenever I don’t have a migraine I do the best I can to meditate, do yoga, and exercise. I’m on a plant based diet. I take 20 different vitamins and supplements including the ones you recommended. I also see a therapist and psychiatrist. It just hasn’t been easy. My migraines pretty much confines me to bed for several days. Perfect situation for thoughts to fester, which sends me into depression and I end up spending more time in bed. It’s a cycle I’m trying so hard to break out of.

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