Growing up with a headache is not something I’d like to remember about my childhood, but unfortunately, I started experiencing headaches when I was only nine years old. I never knew that I was already suffering from migraine attacks then, but looking back and knowing what I know now about migraine, I can safely say that I was. As I became a teenager, my headaches came frequently and fainting would also accompany the pain. By the time I was in my childbearing years, the headache pain was unpredictable. When other symptoms developed, I was diagnosed with Migraine. At first, it was all blamed on my fluctuating hormones, but after going through all the symptoms even after my pregnancy, I knew it was more than just hormones.
When symptoms become chronic
Though it was not hard to diagnose me with Migraine, it did become more challenging for the doctors when my migraine shifted & I started to get them more often. On top of the regular migraine aura, such as visual disturbance, sensitivity to light, smell, and sound, more debilitating symptoms surfaced. My face tingled, my left eye drooped, left side weakness and heaviness followed, and brain fog was a constant struggle. After years of struggling, the proper diagnosis came & I was finally diagnosed with a complex/hemiplegic migraine. I wasn’t familiar with this condition. In fact, I thought Migraine was simply a severe headache; little did I know.
My neurologist and I worked together in finding the right therapy for relief, and we still do; finding the right combination can be a little tricky. What works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me. My neurologist prescribed a preventive medicine called Depakote, but after taking it for several years, we’d decided it wasn’t working for me any longer; Migraine medications seem to have this effect on me. They work for a while and then just stop.
We tried Botox injection on top of abortive medicines. Because my Migraine had turned chronic, I found myself taking abortive medication more frequently and developed rebound headaches. So, I’ve decided to limit myself from taking them. We also tried antihistamine as a preventive measure as well as CGRP therapies. Today, I am on CGRP, Botox injection, and calcium blocker.
My alternative therapies
I decided to try alternative methods to alleviate some of my migraine discomforts. I started using Cefaly drug-free treatment and had found it to be helpful most of the time. I get body massages once a month to boost circulation. I’m not sure if it made a significant difference on others with migraine, but I found it helpful, especially when the
back of my neck is the source of pain. Massage does not alleviate the symptoms, but it helps my body relax and aids me in getting a good night’s sleep which helps prevents migraine attacks. Because I have seen the correlation between neck tension and migraine attacks, sometimes, I visit a chiropractor to get my neck adjusted.
I also try to hydrate as much as possible and use an earplug that warns me of a sudden change in barometric pressure, which is a migraine trigger. I believe knowing what helps you relax and what treatments and alternative remedies work with your body is vital in having more migraine-free days or, at the very least, alleviate some of the symptoms. Based on Migraine Strong treatment pie, I would say a combination of good night’s sleep, hydration, therapy, plus medication is what works for me.
In addition to my migraine diagnosis
I’ve learned that Migraine has many comorbidities. On top of hemiplegic Migraine, I also suffer from another debilitating condition called dystonia and Hashimoto’s disease, which I believe at times overlap each other. It was pretty frustrating to figure out what symptoms were coming from what condition in the first few years. I could differentiate them from each other as time went by; however, the sporadic symptoms still made it very
challenging for me.
How migraine has changed my life
Chronic illness has taken away a considerable chunk of my life; Migraine, in particular, has made it very difficult for me to navigate life. Because Migraine symptoms hit whenever they want to, my days became very unpredictable. I couldn’t keep my schedule open. I couldn’t make plans, whether for family outings, hang out with friends, or meet with clients. Brain fog made it impossible for me to conduct business, and so I’ve stopped pursuing new clients and only work when I know I have had several “good days.”
Migraine had also taken my independence away. Because of the unpredictability of how the condition would affect me each day and seeing how severe it could get, things I could do so freely in life before Migraine is very difficult today. Driving by myself has been limited. Going to public places alone is rare. Spontaneous trips to the mall with my daughters are gone. Doing household chores is even limited, and I now depend on my family, especially on my
husband, to do some of my motherly duties.
What migraine has taught me
As with anything in life, I try to learn something from my struggles and experiences. Migraine had taught me a lot about myself. It has taught me strength and that giving up should never be in my vocabulary. It has taught me compassion and understanding not only for myself but also for others. I’ve learned to take care of myself more, pay attention to how I feel, and empathize with other people’s pain. It taught me humility. It’s okay to rest and to ask for
help when I need it. I also learned to appreciate the simple and little things in life and acknowledge the blessings around me. My chronic illness has taught me to live life in a different light and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Most of all, Migraine taught me to be open about my journey and share it in the hopes of bringing inspiration to others through my writing and social media.
Social media had been my source of information and encouragement. Knowing that I am not alone in my journey and knowing that advocates out there are diligent in finding a cure every day is very encouraging. This had helped me push through during tough times. Social media allowed me to learn more about migraine research and its progress. It also connects me with Migraine advocates. Advocates give people like me the emotional and mental support we
need; they also provide information about new treatments and other alternative methods worth exploring, providing hope to patients like me. Social media also gave me the avenue to share my story, sharing my ups and downs, my victories and defeats in the hopes of empowering others. However, there are times when a break from social media is needed. I believe decluttering and quieting our brains once in a while also helps alleviate some of the symptoms or avoid migraine triggers at the very least.
Where I find strength and support
There is no doubt, having chronic illnesses can dim a person’s life. During these times, I look up and pray for strength and patience. My faith, along with my family’s love and support, gives me hope every day. Despite the dark days, I try my very best to look for something positive. Migraine and other chronic conditions I suffer from put a halt in some aspects of my life, but it has also opened new possibilities and has given me a new purpose.
When my brain and body allow me, I use my newfound time to polish my writing. My migraine struggles have inspired me to write my latest book, Wonder Mommy – a children’s book that pays tribute to mommies with chronic health conditions such as Migraine. As a mother of four grown children, I know how challenging it is to be a mother and be a chronic illness warrior at the same time. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional, and mental challenges that come with a chronic health condition. Guilt was the number one limiting belief I’d develop as a mother with chronic illness. It was difficult for me to justify saying no to some of my children’s demands. However, I’d also learned that my children were more understanding and empathetic than I gave them credit. I wrote Wonder Mommy to remind mommies that they are “wonder mommies” in their children’s eyes, even during tough times, and hopefully spread awareness about the challenges mommies with chronic illness faces every day.
Final words of advice
Battling Migraine had been a very long journey for my family and me. Knowing the triggers, knowing what treatment works, and finding other helpful solutions has been very challenging. It is a journey full of obstacles that I still travel on today. However, I try to face Migraine with optimism and purpose in mind. I used to often asked, “Why am I going through so much pain?” Now, I ask, “who can I empower and uplift today?”
Hemiplegic Migraine had been a source of my pain and frustrations for a very long time. However, along with other chronic conditions I suffer from, Migraine has also been the source of my strength and purpose. I was never a writer, but I now write blogs about my journey particularly, about migraine wins and losses and the things I’ve learned along the way. Through my book, posts, and articles, I hope that I can somehow spread awareness, bring hope and
inspiration to those who suffer from the same conditions.
Until Migraine decides to go away completely, I will continue to find ways to alleviate symptoms by staying physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. I will try my best to navigate life positively, continue to learn more about the condition, and advocate for myself and others as much as possible. I will also continue to gain more knowledge and stay informed about new treatments, and hopefully, one day, we will find a cure.
Check out Jennifer’s enjoyable book, Wonder Mommy
You can find her on Instagram @author_jennifersenne