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A Real Migraine Story: My History and My Options

I’ll never forget my first night. I was in my college dorm cramming for a science final—like one does—with my best friend, Sylvia. We knew we had hours ahead of us and we planned to put in the work. I wasn’t someone who stayed on top of her studies, typically choosing instead to hustle last minute and finish every task by the skin of my teeth. Cramming was my slow jam.

   (1994 – high school)

               (1996 – college)

But this night was different. This night didn’t feel right. In fact, the further and further we got into our studies, the less I could focus on what was happening. Suddenly, the only thing I could concentrate on was the light and how bright the fluorescent bulbs were in our dorm room. Without any other options, I grabbed a handful of ibuprofen and attempted to muscle through… but it was as if I was trying to run in muddy water. My mind remained unfocused and unsteady. Eventually, I crawled under my comforter, placed my closed textbook on top of my head and wrapped my pillow around the front of my skull. I pressed down. No light. All pressure. I begged my friend to just read to me. It was the only way I was going to get through our study session. My eyes were no longer of use to me. And so, like the best friend she was, she took a deep breath and read dozens of pages out loud to us both. As she recited each word, I clenched my textbook to my forehead and tried to retain as much as I could, all while my first migraine exploded inside my mind. It only got worse from there. I’ve learned over the years that crying doesn’t help. Reacting to a migraine is not like reacting to a wound. If I were to trip, fall, and hurt myself, I’d allow myself to cry because crying acts as a form of release to me. It in some way soothes me. However, when I first started getting migraines, I would cry from the pain and that would just exacerbate it. It would be as if I had added fuel to the fire. All the fuel to the fire. After crying, you would actually be able to see my temples pulse and my veins lift out through my skin. The pain would turn into both a sinus pressure headache and a migraine—all in one. I had sheer terror just thinking about it because, once you get to that point, there is no instant relief a pill can provide. To live through 90 minutes of that pulsation is horrific. No matter how much I want to, I cannot react to a migraine. I must remember to remain calm. So, what are my triggers? Unfortunately, I have all of them. Not all migraine sufferers will check off each and every one of these, but I’m an overachiever:  
  • Weather-Related (think rain / snow / extreme climate shifts) – I live in NY where we have all seasons. So, YEAH…
  • Barometric Pressure Changes – Traveling on planes (the day I arrive and the day I return)
  • Certain Food and Drink – Sulfites (soy sauce, wine) / Preservatives (have to stick with natural) / Aspartame (I can’t drink anything that is diet)
  • The First Day Of My Period – and I’m like clockwork!
  • Dehydration – tend to get a migraine whenever I am at the pool or the beach
  • A Good Cry – I seriously think this is why I only watch horror movies
  • Too Much Bright Light –  think of all the photo shoots I do with lights in my face. After every single one – I get a migraine
  • Stress – need I say more?
  For some period, my neurologist only prescribed medicine to eliminate a migraine after it was triggered. However, I began clocking in 13-15 migraines a month and he felt it was time to switch to daily medication to try to minimize their occurrences. Now, I have a medicine cabinet filled with preventative and response pills. We tried different brands and different combinations. We upped dosages after every visit for a few years. If I am being honest with you, I could probably double what I am taking nowadays because I still suffer quite frequently despite my maintenance regime. However, my doctor believes that, by watching what I eat and with the right amount of exercise on a weekly basis, I can manage. But I am not completely satisfied because I still spend too much time suffering. The problem is that every migraine is A DIFFERENT MONSTER. Migraine attacks can come in more than one kind. Here is a look at 4 of the most common migraines. If you are a migraine sufferer, I am sure most (if not all) are familiar to you.   1. Rise ’n Whine: Morning Migraine Starting your day with a powerful migraine is THE WORST, and some treatments may not work fast enough to help you get out the door. Research has shown that half of migraine patients say they experience symptoms upon waking. Did you know that 20% of sudden onset migraines occur in the morning? Personally, I know that if I go to sleep with a mild headache and don’t properly treat it, due to either exhaustion or hope that it might not grow into something bigger, I always end up waking with a massive headache—a migraine like no other! In a survey of 500 patients, 41% said that their medication did not provide relief fast enough when they wake up with a migraine. 2. Abruptasaur: Sudden Onset Migraine If your attacks come on fast with increasing pain over 1-2 hours, you may be suffering from rapid or sudden onset migraines. You are not alone. In fact, 44% of adult migraine sufferers say they have experienced a “sudden migraine.” I can always feel the moment a migraine starts “brewing.” That’s how we talk about it in my house. Even though I don’t quite have a full-blown migraine, everything begins to slow down for me. It’s like my body is getting ready for battle. These migraines are known to peak in intensity within 30 minutes. When I am in the middle of a sudden onset migraine, the last thing I want to do is wait for relief… especially as a full-time worker and mom of 3 kids. We all know that some migraine treatments can take up to 90 minutes to kick in and sometimes that’s just not an option. 3. Lil’ Queazy: Migraine with Nausea or Vomiting Most people who suffer from migraines (more than 70%) experience nausea during their attacks. Needless to say, I am one of those people. Researchers have found that nausea during a migraine can have a strong impact on the sufferer’s ability to perform daily activities. Also, think about it: some migraine treatments may be hard to stomach when you have nausea or vomiting with your migraine. The good news is that there are treatment options that may be more suitable so you can get back to your routine.   4.Uh-Ogre: Severe Migraine Are your migraines so severe that they keep you from things you love? Only migraine sufferers know the extent their attacks can range in severity. It’s important to communicate to your doctor if and when your migraines are so severe that they become unbearable and force you to miss life’s activities. I empathize with all people who suffer from severe migraines. They are truly crippling. Sometimes, it takes me several days worth of medication to clear one out of my system. Imagine, a 3-day-long migraine. Yes, I’ve lived this more than 100 times. There just has to be a better way.   Do you suffer from migraines? Are you looking for other treatment options? Be sure to click here to read up on alternative options currently available on the market. As a busy mom of 3, I’m happy to know there are options to choose from that are right for me. How else will I be able to keep up with this bunch? I’m sharing my personal migraine story in partnership with Promius Pharma as a paid spokesperson. The story, thoughts, and opinions aboveare expressly my own.

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