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Same migraine different triggers

I am 62 and have had migraines since I was 9 however it took a long time to realise that that was what I was experiencing. I would be out on school trips in the bus or train and remember smelling diesel fumes, in the heat of summer, immediately triggering an aura, severe headache, vomiting and photophobia. I was every teacher’s nightmare! Lol. As I started puberty, at 10, I’d get regular recurrences as my period approached and then ended over several days. No ‘normal’ childhood activities, just laying around feeling like life was painful and unfair. This continued through high school and my early working life. When I married, and was pregnant with both of my children, I had zero migraines, proving to me that they were definitely hormone related. Different doctors tried every conceivable meds as preventative for this type of headache and nothing worked, except ergotamine as pain relief. During all this time I learned that wines, mushrooms, oranges, chocolates and MSG foods, cigarette smoke, perfumes and petrol fumes, all triggered headaches. Around the time of menopause, at age 52, I needed a hysterectomy and thought this would solve the problem once and for all, but no. And ergotamine went off the market! I was switched to Imigran tablets and injections and Maxalt wafers for pain relief, and Topiramate as a preventative. The latter left me feeling brain fogged and feeling like a complete idiot, hardly able to function as a school teacher, unable to perform even the simplest mental maths or cognitive tasks for a few months. I stuck with it and now find only minimal impairment to short term memory, but do think it helps with controlling the frequency of my migraines. And now, well post-menopause, I’ve found a whole different trigger, based on my deteriorating C1, 2 and 3 in my neck and the trigeminal nerves that run through them. I am waking every morning with excruciating migraines for which no meds are helping. A great physiotherapist is helping me, and I rigorously do the exercises at home, but nothing much has changed in three weeks. The bottom line is that it’s the same migraines but always just a different trigger. I have at different times thought of self harm, and seen counsellors for help with this. One of the saddest aspects is that it’s so hard to describe the impact of migraine, or the difference between headache and migraine, to many people without being judged as overly dramatic or attention seeking. One of the most positive things is being a member of a community of fellow sufferers, who do understand and offer excellent advice.

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.


  • Jenn Lebowitz
    4 years ago

    Hi Jan Me,

    Thank you so much for submitting your story here. It sounds like you have been and are doing as much as possible to deal with living with migraine. It’s helpful to hear about your wide range of experiences.

    Sorry to hear about the new trigger related to the trigeminal nerves. Thought you might appreciate this article on trigeminal neuralgia:

    Lastly, I want to commend you for seeking assistance with the self harm issue. It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to reach out for help, as well as to share about it with others. We appreciate your honesty, bravery, and incredible strength.

    Thank you again for sharing with us. We are so grateful to have you as part of this community.

    Warm Regards,

    Jenn (Community Manager,

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