Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Migraine that Mattered

Migraine Awareness Month: Your First for the First

So... This is my first attempt at blogging and an attempt at remembering my first migraine. To be honest, it's impossible to remember my first migraine. I've had them since childhood. I remember crying with headaches at my babysitters before kindergarten. I cried in kindergarten. I cried at home. I just remember always having these unexplained "headaches" that made me cry and throw up sometimes. A doctor told us to cut my hair because it was too heavy, so I have pictures where I look like a boy at around age 6 or 7. I think I was taken to the ER for the first time with a "headache" in 2nd grade--you get the picture. What I can tell you about for certain is the day that my mother finally realized something was really wrong and I finally got diagnosed and got treatment.

It wasn't my parents fault that I went so long without treatment. I had headaches for so long I just thought everyone had them and I didn't realize there was anything specifically wrong or different about me. I slept a lot, to "sleep it off" and Mom and Dad just thought I was staying up too late at night. In high school, I began taking 4 or 5 Advil at a time and I didn't think to tell anyone I was doing that. Back then, you could carry Advil in your purse and schools didn't care. It was the only thing that kept my head pain manageable. I don't guess I ever mentioned how often the pain occurred or how severe it was to my parents. It wasn't until the year I graduated high school when I was leaving my summer job that my mother realized that something was really wrong with me. I don't remember a lot about it because the pain was so bad, but I remember being in my car and just thinking, "This pain is awful. I have GOT to get home." I guess passed my mother on the road on the way home, not realizing it, and evidently I was driving recklessly. When I stopped to turn into my road from the busy highway between the town where I worked and my small community, I remember having my head in my hands, then looking up and just turning, without noticing the line of cars headed my way. Luckily I swerved back into the turning lane without getting hit or hitting anyone, but my mother was right behind me waiting to turn in after me and witnessed this. By the time we got to my house, she was scared and upset after seeing me almost cause a major accident, and she could see on my face that something was bad wrong. I told her how my head always hurt and when she realized the severity, she made me an appointment with a headache specialist.

The headache specialist diagnosed me with migraine and recommended that I stop taking over the counter medications for pain completely. She told me to stop drinking caffeinated drinks, which I drank a lot of, and she prescribed a preventive medication regimen. Because of all the daily analgesic medications I had been taking, I was having Medication Overuse Headache (MOH), or rebound headaches. I went through a few weeks of hell from withdrawing from the Advil and caffeine. I was prescribed the abortive medication Imitrex, but I didn't like the way it made me feel, so I tried Zomig, and it worked well. I was also given Vicodin for pain, but told not to take these more than two days per week.

As a result of cutting out the OTC medications and caffeine, I stopped having daily headaches and was left with, on average, one true migraine per month and some other milder headaches in between. This was very acceptable to me after having daily pain. This was pretty much the state of my migraines throughout college. I worked, did well in school, got married, and wasn't hampered too badly by the migraines back then. A few years later though, boy, things got worse than I could have imagined. Oh, for the good ole days....

So, I don't remember the very first migraine, but I remember the migraine that finally got me on the path to treatment. That was the important migraine.

‘National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by ‘


  1. Wow! What a journey you've been on. I used to take ibuprofen pretty much daily, too (just before athletics). I haven't had the nerve to tell my parents... my mom just found out that I used to always have a bad headache and sometimes black out after I ran (I was in cross country and track, as well as softball). She was mad at me for "hiding" that, but I loved to run so much. And, like you, I believed that having at least a low-grade headache all the time was normal. I just don't think I can break that news to my parents, you know? Thanks for sharing your story, and I can't wait to learn more about you during this Migraine Awareness Month and beyond.

  2. Oh, Jamie, if there is anything I can tell you, it's let your parents know how bad things are and get the help you need to get better. I couldn't believe how much better life was once I got treatment! Sure, something happened in my mid-twenties to make things worse again, and I am sure I'll write about that eventually, but those years in college were wonderful when my migraines were mostly controlled and I could treat them with Zomig or pain meds. You deserve to have that life without daily pain too! You go girl. Get your help!