Saturday, July 21, 2012

How does it feel?

I got asked what a migraine feels like recently. It was an interesting question because it's kind of difficult to explain. I feel them so often, you'd think I'd have a clear and succinct answer for a question like that, but really, there are no words. But, I am going to try to put it into words anyway.

My migraines don't all feel the same. They are almost always in the front of my head, and it feels like there is a vise tightening around my forehead. They typically involve pain in, behind, and around my eyes. Occasionally, my eyes feel too large for my eye sockets, and my eyelids hurt them. It's as if my eyeballs are too large for my eyelids. Also on occasion, my eyeballs feel like sandpaper, so when they move from side to side or up and down to focus on different things, it feels like sandpaper scratching across the nerves behind my eyes. Then sometimes, there is just a general burning sensation behind my eyes.

I often get a pain under my left eyebrow, up in the eye socket, right where the brow bone and the nose meet. Pinching that area provides some relief from that particular pain.

This makes it sound like all the pain focuses around my eyes. Oh no, there is plenty of other pain. This is just the part that involves my eyes. Some of the most intense pain happens with movement. When I move, I feel like my brain is loose inside my head, sloshing around, slapping against my skull. Sometimes there is a burning sensation deep inside my brain. Occasionally it's a pounding feeling, but that is rare.

It's a pain that always makes me wonder how a person can't just die simply from feeling such intense pain. If pain alone could kill you, this kind of pain would.

Prior to the pain, and often during the migraine I feel nauseated and tired. Sometimes my hands and face tingle or feel numb. After the migraine, I am just exhausted, and feel "hungover." My head is often sore, and I just want to rest. I typically yawn a lot prior to the pain too, which always alerts me that migraine pain is coming.

While I just feel nauseated before a migraine, I often actually vomit during some of the worst migraines. This is just an effect of the migraine. I am not sure why this happens, but it affects many migraine sufferers.

Aside from the obvious pain, the difficulty with chronic migraines is that I am usually in one phase or another of a migraine, so there is either one coming on or I am just getting over one. It's exhausting. I have learned to just deal with much of the pre-migraine and post-migraine symptoms so that I can have a life in between the painful parts. I don't have a lot of energy, but I yet I want to do as much as I can in between the pain, so I force myself to "act" like I have energy and just go and do anyway.

I've not even begun to describe how sounds, lights, and smells feel like an attack on my senses. I won't go into that, because that's so hard to describe, but let's just say, I have the nose of a bloodhound during a migraine, and you might as well be beating me over the head if you shine a light on me or make noise during a migraine.

I don't know how migraine feels to other people, and I may not have described it well at all, because it's something really difficult to describe to someone who has never felt it. It's the most intense pain I have felt and I can't even imagine pain much worse. I don't have children, but I know women who say they'd rather go through childbirth again than have another migraine. I've had surgeries, dental work, and that kind of thing, and nothing so far is even in the same ballpark as the pain of a migraine. If you've never felt it before, it's my sincere hope that you never have to.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Off to see the Wizard....

I made my quarterly trek to Philadelphia last week to see the Grand Wizard, Dr. Y. Though I hate the travel because flying often triggers migraines, I am always reminded when I see him that he is worth the trip. He always has a plan, and never seems too thrown by whatever I throw at him!

For this visit, I didn't have good news to report. I have had two months or so of crazy intense and frequent migraines. This has triggered increased depression, and I have not been able to explain why there has been an increase. I usually feel somewhat better when I can pinpoint the trigger. I live in one of those states that has been having insanely hot and dry weather--I mean drought conditions, so maybe that's it? Who knows. At any rate, the doc was great but he couldn't explain the worsened migraines either. It just happens sometimes.

I waited in the waiting room less than 10 minutes to see the nurse. At this clinic, protocol is to visit with a nurse to check your BP, weight and those kinds of things, and get basic information about medication needs and changes... Just an overall check in sort of thing. Then, you return to the waiting room to wait for the doctor to come and get you. After my check in with the nurse, which took probably 15 minutes because she was very thorough about wanting my medication list to be very updated and accurate, I returned to the waiting room, where I waited probably less than 10 minutes to see Dr. Y. It amazes me that I don't wait long there, because I never feel rushed during my visits with him. They must do a very good job of scheduling and not trying to cram hundreds of patients into a single day.

Once in the exam room, I explained my predicaments to the doc. How things had gotten worse, how Depressed (capital D) I had been, what my doctors here have done about it, etc. He thought a bit, and then began asking me questions and thinking out loud some. I asked him some questions about some meds I had heard of, he asked me some more questions, and before too long we had a plan. We are taking away a few meds and increasing a med I already take, as well as adding a brand new med. In addition, he wants to me to try to get some exercise, even if I can only start with 10 minutes a week. Surely, I can do 10 minutes a week.

All in all, I spent about 20 to 25 minutes with the doctor. In an age where the average time a doctor spends with a patient is 6 minutes, I feel very lucky to get real time with my doctor and his nurse and not feel rushed. If I had had more questions or more to talk about, we'd have taken longer. That's a good feeling to have when you leave a doctor's office.

I don't know if we have the right combination of meds this time. I have a feeling I won't know for a few weeks. To tell you the truth, I have stopped getting too worked up about new treatments. When we finally find that silver bullet, I'll let it surprise me, because I am passed the point of expecting it to happen. But I do feel like I have the treatment team that will find my silver bullet (or more precisely, perfect medication cocktail) and that's a good feeling. This waiting stuff though, waiting for them to find that perfect cocktail, it's killing me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Migraines AND Depression--Yuck

A few months ago, I had the honor of being interviewed for Headwise the National Headache Foundation's Magazine. The edition with my interview just came out this month. I was interviewed about my experience with Migraines and Depression together. The article, "Down but Not Out: Depression and Migraine," discusses the relationship between Migraine and Depression, treatments for both Migraine and Depression, and my story.

Suffering from migraines sucks. Suffering from depression sucks. Suffering from both, at the same time, can be almost unbearable at times. Migraines are obviously very painful, and recovering from one saps your energy. What little energy I might have left after a migraine will be sapped by Depression. It ends up being immobilizing. The simplest of tasks become too large to tackle, because you just don't have the energy, desire, or motivation to do them. There is a huge weight on you, and you feel like you weigh a thousand pounds. Depression is ultimately a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. But it's more than that when you have migraines too. When migraines don't have you down, Depression does.

Just as migraines can rob you of your life, friends, social activities, a career etc, Depression can too. As I become more depressed, I become withdrawn, and have less and less contact with the outside world. I see and talk to my friends less, I take part in fewer social activities, I do those things that usually bring me joy less often. It's important to me to make good use of the days in between migraines. I want to see friends, to be out of my house, to see my family and volunteer for a cause or do something for someone on those days. With Depression though, that's impossible. On the good migraine days, I am still suffering from Depression, so I still have to deal with that. I still have to deal with that lack of energy, lack of motivation, that feeling of hopelessness and heaviness. It literally becomes impossible to enjoy life. I'm either in physical pain, or emotional pain, or both. I can just be thankful that with my doctor's help, it doesn't last long.

For me, I have serious bouts of Depression but luckily, I come out of them quickly. I have learned to recognize them when they come on, and my doctors are very responsive. We change my medication and do the things that need to be done to try to lift me out of the Depression as quickly as we can. I see a psychologist regularly, and he is very helpful in this process, teaching me to recognize when the Depression is coming on and helping through those periods, as well as knowing what needs to be done to break the Depression.

I have found my Depression typically has triggers just like my migraines do. When I have to give up something I really want to do as a result of my migraines, that can often trigger depression. When my migraines become worse, that will usually trigger depression too. Especially if there isn't a clear reason for why the migraines have worsened.

There is a lot of good information about both illnesses in the article I linked to above. I had never been interviewed for a magazine before, so it was interesting and exciting to be asked. I hope I did those of us who suffer from both diseases proud. I hope you'll read the article, not just because I am in it, but because there is much to learn about both diseases and I hope you'll help break the stigma and dispel the myths surrounding both Depression and Migraine.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What to do, What to do....

So, now that the National Migraine Awareness Month Blogging Challenge is over, what should I do with this blog? I may go back and pick up some of the writing prompts that I missed because of migraines last month, and I may write some random posts about whatever has fired me up or inspired me in the meantime. I won't, however, have the daily prompts that the blogging challenge provided, so who knows for sure where this blog will end up. We may cover all sorts of topics!

I appreciate you for reading and sticking with me through Migraine Awareness Month. I hope you've learned something or gained a deeper understanding for what those of us who suffer with migraine have to live with. The creators of the blogging challenge are going to write monthly challenge prompts so I'll be writing about migraines on at least a monthly basis. Follow my blog or check back often to see what's new.

Thanks for reading!

My Favorite

Migraine Awareness Month: #30 "Blogger’s Pick"

I’m a few days late, but the blogging challenge prompt for June 30th was to choose your favorite blog post from any of this month's prompts from someone else's blog to share with us, and tell us why it's your favorite.

This one was almost too difficult to choose. There have been some amazing posts this past month, but the standout to me was Steph’s “Shaking in my Boots” post about her fears of feeling “pointless, useless, and wasting (her) life” This is a fear that I share, and that I could have blogged about myself for this prompt. The fear of feeling purposeless is a strong one for a chronic migraineur. Steph writes that she fears she’ll die “unfulfilled, alone, and desperate.” I am fortunate to be surrounded by my wonderful family, good friends, and a great husband, and I don’t worry about being alone so much, but I worry about being unfulfilled in a lot of ways, and the desperation of dealing with migraines and all the anxieties, depression and fears they provoke can’t be avoided.

She writes that she tries not to dwell on her fears and has been working on overcoming them, and feels a great feeling of success every time she does. I can relate to everything she writes. While I don’t deal with the immediate sense of anxiety that she writes about, I do deal with a lingering depression. Every time I come out of a bout of serious depression, I feel like I have a conquered another mountain. It takes a great deal out of me, but yet, I feel a sense of accomplishment to have made it to the other side. I imagine this is similar to the feeling she feels when she writes, “Every time I do something that scares me, I grow a little bigger inside.”

Steph’s post touched me, and I am glad she participated in the blogging challenge.

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