I cannot exactly pin point the first time that I ever had a migraine headache, but I do know that I have been a victim of these terrible attacks for years. I have probably had hundreds of headaches, the most occurring over the last ten years of my life. I have never written about my migraine attacks before, namely because I don’t know how to put into words how debilitating and unsettling they are. I have different forms and variations of attacks, but the outcome is always the same, long-term suffering over the course of 48 to 72 hours or longer.
Sometimes I get what is referred to as a “classic migraine attack” which begins with an aura. I feel perfectly normal, and then without warning, for no apparent reason, I get these weird white zigzag lines that appear in front of my eyes. If I try to read something, I can only see half of the word. As time goes on, the zigzagging gets worse and a strange feeling comes over my body. This bizarre sensation lasts for about 30-40 minutes before I can finally see normally again. Not long after, I begin to feel the pain and pressure in my head start to pulsate. Sometimes, I can actually feel the pressure of the blood vessels in my head start to swell. Usually the pain is localized to one side of my head, either my left or right temple, and I begin to feel nauseated and very, very tired. Sometimes this beginning phase is highlighted by chronic yawning. I read in an article one time that the yawning has to do with the decrease of serotonin in my brain. I will yawn and yawn uncontrollably until the headache is in full swing.
Other times, I do not have the aura. I just begin to feel the pressure and the headache starts out small. At times I am able to ward it off by taking a couple of Advil and drinking some caffeine, but more often than not, if I don’t catch it immediately, in less than a few hours, I am headed for a full-blown migraine attack, accompanied with the nausea and severe pain.
During a migraine attack, I almost feel as though I am having a seizure, even though I don’t know what having a seizure feels like. My brain feels like there are electric shocks running through it and I just don’t feel like myself. Then my anxiety kicks in because the pain is so awful that I feel like I will pass out or have a seizure.
Over the years, I have had many tests done and scans. I have seen a neurologist, my family physician, and even my OBGYN to help with various causes, treatments, and cures. I have tried many homeopathic remedies and cures, changed my diet, paid big bucks for a personal trainer to teach me how to exercise, and even had a minor surgery all in the name of curing my migraine headaches. To no avail, I am still stuck with them. My great-grandmother suffered with headaches and I truly believe migraines are a part of my genetic make up. It doesn’t matter what I do. I will never get rid of them.
When I was a teenager, before there were many options for migraine medications, my Dad, who is also my family physician, resorted to pain medications to help “kill” these violent episodes. Unfortunately, although the pain went away, these medications had awful side effects and sometimes I would sleep for days. I think part of my medical anxiety and fear of taking medications comes from my early years of being treated with such heavy drugs. As time went on, I simply stopped taking pain medications and eventually resorted to Advil, which really does not help very much.
Now, I realize there are many more available options for migraine treatment, including both preventative medications and eletriptans which literally block the pain and kill migraines in their path. My Dad has been begging me for years to try these new medications. I know it sounds crazy, but after my very scary experiences with the previous migraine medications, I elected for many years not to try these new drugs. My life as a professional and my life raising children does not allow me to be non-functional. Even with the headaches, I muster on and do my best even under the worst of circumstances. I have to live my life. Everyone in my family could not understand my resistance to taking the medications and my Dad even became angry with me. He was so frustrated because his life as a doctor is all about curing and helping people. Why wouldn’t I allow my own father to treat me and make me better?
My sister-in-law also suffers with migraine headaches and mentioned to me that she takes a drug called Relpax. Lisa told me that Relpax was literally a life changer and that she does not go anywhere without it. As the years have gone on, and my headaches have gotten progressively more frequent and violent, especially over the last 6 years, I finally considered taking it. During one 72 hour attack, I left my house to stay with my mother. My mother sat with me on her couch as I took the Relpax for the first time. Within a few hours, my headache went away and I realized how silly and foolish I had been for so, so long. I am so thankful my mom’s persistence and support helped me overcome this fear.
I still have medical anxiety and I don’t like to take medication unless I absolutely have to, but I am taking the Relpax when my migraines are unbearable. Most of the time, the medication helps me and I feel better. There are some minimal side effects. I feel tired and groggy, but not to the point than I am non-functional. I am still able to get through my day.
I absolutely despise having migraines. Throughout the years, these headaches have taken so many hours and days from my life; however, I know that there are far more serious illnesses that exist. I know that I am able to live with migraines unlike other people who are diagnosed with life threatening illnesses. I try to keep this in perspective. I pray about my attitude and ask God to give me strength to fight the headaches, but also to be thankful that my condition is treatable. I try not to feel sorry for myself and just deal with the circumstance. I have also been a bit easier on myself when I get an attack. When I don’t feel well, I am more comfortable taking a day off of work to rest. I am much better about taking my medication and I have learned to trust God. God created doctors, like my Dad, and medications to help people get better.
Simply put, sometimes our fears prevent us from seeking help. We must be brave to overcome the obstacles of our lives. Pray about your fears and let God help you. He is always with us.