By Paula Sicord
I had my first migraine attack when I was 11 and sleeping at my grandmother’s house. I thought I had a brain tumor. I was misdiagnosed with a mono-like virus, which began a long pattern of mistaken diagnoses. I was mainly diagnosed with sinus infections, many every year, until I was in my 30s. At that time, I diagnosed myself with migraine and sought help.
My most common symptoms for years were pain behind my right eye, pain in my sinuses, sore throat, dizziness, neck pain, and exhaustion. I handled them well, with Advil and Sudafed, thinking they were sinus related, until my mid 30s. At that point, they became much worse and more frequent. I suggested to my primary care physician that I had migraine, and he told me to take Excedrin Migraine, which helped for a while. I also noticed that they were especially worse around my period. I mentioned this to my OBGYN, and she prescribed Sumatriptan. This was a game changer for years!
Episodic to Chronic
My attacks continued to pick up in frequency and intensity in my forties. I began to stockpile Sumatriptan. You are only allowed 9 a month, so I always wanted to have plenty on hand. I began to take Aleve, Sumatriptan, and Sudafed daily to get through work. I began to see a Headache Specialist, who prescribed many preventatives. She did not explain rebound to me. Possibly this was because I was already taking Sumatriptan, and she thought I knew. We tried Propranolol, Topamax, and so many other things. I FINALLY got approved for Botox, and although this was not a miracle drug for me, it has definitely lessened the severity of my attacks. I am now on Gabapentin, Botox, Spironolactone, Ubrelvy and quite a few supplements.
I definitely was in rebound for the latter half of my forties. The Facebook page, Migraine Strong—Migraine Diets, Healthy Living, and More taught me about rebound. I had already researched for years what to do for chronic migraine, so I was exercising, eating healthy, hydrating, practicing mindfulness etc. But I learned so much about eating for migraine. I started the Heal Your Headache diet, and learned that protein powder, MSG, nitrates and a few other things were triggers for me. Weather is my biggest trigger. I also learned about the bucket theory.
Last, I learned that just because you have tried one medication, you have not tried every combination of medications. It opened up my eyes to be willing to keep trying new medication combinations.
The Toll Migraine Takes
Migraine has taken a lot from me. I have missed out on many outings and celebrations with friends and family. There are so many things that I can not drive to, because I feel too sick and dizzy to drive. I also had to leave my career, teaching English to middle school students from foreign countries, because I could not keep up the schedule. That was a huge loss. I had a really bad attack during my daughter’s rehearsal dinner, a very important day in my life that was overshadowed with migraine. I don’t know how I got through that night. The next day I was 50% better for the wedding, but would have loved to be my carefree self without the migraine cloud. That said, I did have a wonderful time at the wedding.
It’s almost impossible to narrow down one tool that has been effective. If I take movement, hydration, mindfulness, medications, supplements, ice hats, migrastil, and breathing out of the picture, I notice. I believe in throwing everything you can at migraine, another thing I learned from Migraine Strong.
Stronger Empathy For Others
Migraine has taught me a lot about chronic conditions. In addition, it has given me more empathy for my son. He has ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder. It was hard for me to understand how he could not learn certain things. Now I get it. When I have migraine, I can not process spoken or written words well. I can not handle bright lights, certain sounds, etc. My son also can not focus on things easily, no matter how hard he tries. Growing up, he had issues with fluorescent lights, tight clothing and many more due to sensory issues. I have such a strong connection to those things now. I always cared, but I did not understand fully.
What Migraine Has Bestowed
Migraine has given me many great friends in the Migraine Strong community. It has given me an understanding of what many of my life coaching clients struggle with (many of the adult males I work with have ADHD). I can make a correlation between their brains and mine. For example, trouble focusing, trouble planning, trouble multi-tasking, experiencing more stress, difficulty listening, and mood swings are a few things that they share with me. I feel that this has helped me greatly in my ability to coach these clients in my new career as a coach, and also to have compassion for others. You never know what someone is struggling with that you can not see.
What I Wish…
I wish I was more assertive with my doctors to push a different diagnosis than sinus infection. I took so many antibiotics unnecessarily. That possibly could have affected my gut, and since your gut and brain are connected, maybe that made migraine worse? I also wish that SOMEONE had explained rebound. It was hell getting out of rebound. I often wonder if my brain would be less sensitive now if I had never gone through rebound. I also wish that I knew earlier that migraine was so much more than a headache. I am so grateful for the support and education that I have received from Migraine Strong.
Paula is a Health and Life Coach who loves to help people become a healthier, happier and more peaceful version of themselves. She is a mom to two, and stepmom to 3 grown kids ages 20-26. She loves working out, attending live music, and being outdoors. Follow her on Instagram @midlifeandmerriment.