I'm currently in the throes of my second migraine in two days. Right now I'm getting about two a week. For the past few weeks I've maxed out on the number of Imitrex pills I'm allowed to take in a certain number of hours. Actually, now that I think about it, I should probably say that I've had the same migraine for two days, with a few hours' respite in there somewhere.
Usually, my migraines come on in the afternoons, which is what happened yesterday. We had a house full of friends - including lots of kids - for an impromptu party for Campbell's birthday. We had a big one a week ago while my folks were here, but the girls insisted that we have another party ON Campbell's birthday, so we did. Anyway, the migraine hit me like a mac truck, no warning signs, no visual distortions. I took an Imitrex and felt marginally better in the evening, but I was in bed and asleep by 9:30 or so.
When I woke up I felt like it would be a bad day, but I went for a run anyway, hoping that doing so would help. Sometimes exercise gets rid of minor migraines. It seemed to work this morning, but as the day wore on, and the rains rolled through, the migraine returned.
I've had migraines since I was a child. I vividly remember having them when we lived in Massachusetts. I remember lying curled up on the family room sofa feeling like my head was going to explode. I remember having lots of them after we moved to Florida, having to go to the nurse's office because I was in so much pain. And then there were the headaches in high school - maybe that's why I did so poorly in calculus. Hmmm.
I've had people ask if I'm upset that my parents never did anything about my headaches when I was little, but I'm not at all. I don't think migraines were well known then, and who would think a little kid would have them. Mom would give me aspirin and send me off to my room to rest, which is about all anyone could have done. Sometimes she gave me some flat Coke to drink, and since caffeine can sometimes help, that was actually a good thing for her to do.
In college I read an article on migraines and realized that the description in the article exactly matched what I had - intense pain behind one eye; sensitivity to light, sound, and smell; and nausea. I went to the doctor at the student health clinic and told him about my symptoms. His response? "That's not what a migraine feels like." He told me I had a sinus infection and sent me on my way with antibiotics. So for the next 8 years, every time I had a migraine that lasted three days, I'd assume I had a sinus infection and either take decongestants or go to the doctor for antibiotics.
Finally, when I was 26, after two rounds of antibiotics and no relief of the pain, my doctor ordered a sinus x-ray, which revealed clean sinuses. I should note that it was summer, and the migraines are always worse in the heat and humidity. I can go day after day with blinding headaches. The doctor, after getting the x-rays back said, "I think these might be migraines. I'm sending you to a specialist." I broke down in tears in his office out of sheer relief.
It took some tinkering with medications - there was the stuff that made me pass out every time I stood up and the stuff that made me throw up endlessly - before we settled on Imitrex. This neurologist also sent me for biofeedback sessions to help me learn to control the pain. I still do some of the breathing exercises when the pain is intense. The exercises keep me from getting so tensed up, and I can usually relax enough to fall asleep.
The doctor also gave me a prescription for pain pills to take when the Imitrex didn't work. Unfortunately, there are times when not even the hydrocodone works, and all I can do is retreat to a cold, dark room with an ice pack on my head. My sister has gone to the ER a few times when her migraines have gotten to be too much and the pain pills don't work. I can think of a few headaches where I probably should have done the same thing.
The migraines get worse when I'm pregnant because I can't take the Imitrex. I've tried chiropracty and accupuncture as ways of relieving the misery, but they never offered real results. Unfortunately, when I'm pregnant and I get a migraine, I throw up, a lot. With Lily I suspected I was pregnant before I took the test because I had had a migraine and had thrown up.
My friends probably get tired of hearing that I have headaches, but in all honesty, there are many, many times when I don't admit to anyone, not even B, that I have one. There are days when I just don't have the luxury of going to bed. So I take the Imitrex, grit my teeth and hope for the best. I keep myself going with the memory of what life was life before I knew what the headaches were. I soldiered on then without the help of any medications because I had no choice.
My neurologists have tried some preventive medications, including depacote, which has the potential for horrible birth defects if taken when pregnant, but I've gone off all of them voluntarily. Everything I've tried has made life worse, not better. One medication gave me regular headaches. And while I can function if necessary with a migraine, a regular headache absolutely knocks me out - I don't know how to cope. Another medication made me gain weight. Still another made me overheat when running, to the point that I nearly collapsed on a run. So now I just say no when the doctor suggest another possible prevention. Sometimes the cure is really worse than the disease.
My greatest worry is that my kids will get migraines. Last summer Ella complained of migraines every day after school, and I panicked. It turns out she was just dehydrated - I'd pump her full of water in the car on the way home, and she'd bounce back without a problem. But I still worry. I wouldn't wish these on my worst enemy.
And now I'm off to bed with an ice pack on my head.