As part of the Migraine Explained series, I wanted to share some stories of the people that struggle with Migraines. I tell my story on this blog but I want to give other perspectives of the disease as well. So, Occasionally, I will be having a guest writer that will share their Migraine Life.
Kriti’s Migraine Life
I had my first major episode at the age of 8. While the details are blurred, I remember coming home from a Karate class, extremely exhausted and with an intolerable headache. I had never experienced anything like that before and was very confused. After that, I started getting these attacks at least once a month and mostly after I had been out in the sun.
My family thought these headaches were due to heat strokes and I was told to sip water frequently when going in the sun. Occasionally my mother would hand me a Tylenol, but mostly I was advised to deal with them without depending on medicines.
Both the frequency and intensity of the attacks grew with time and nearly 12 yrs after the first episode I told my parents that I wanted to consult a doctor. I told them that I suspected these to be migraines as the symptoms seemed very similar. My parents, however, believed that there is no such thing as ‘migraines’, and it is all in my head.
I somehow convinced them to take me to a very reputed headache specialist in India. He diagnosed the condition as episodic migraines after a thorough examination. I was happy to finally have a diagnosis after suffering in confusion for so many years.
Experience with Physicians and Treatments
The specialist prescribed me antiepileptics and betablockers as daily prophylaxis. To deal with the episodes I was given naproxen and rizatriptan. He gave me a list of 10-15 food items to refrain from. All of those were my favorite food items and I continued eating all of it. After 2-3 months of taking prophylactics I could still see no improvement. I was very unhappy about taking daily prophylactic medicines and feared their long-term side effects.
The headache specialist I was consulting was quite rude and I soon lost confidence in him. I stopped all prophylactic medications but continued taking rizatriptan to deal with the episodes.
Making Life Work
Recognizing sunlight as a major trigger, I started wearing a cap every time I stepped outside. My migraine, however, kept growing worse in terms of both frequency and intensity. Now, I would get nearly 1-2 attacks a week, which were always accompanied by nausea and vomiting. I started spending my days in fear of the next episode. I would ensure that I always have my cap and rizatriptan with me and would go into a panic if I couldn’t find them.
Looking for other Treatment Options
Over the next few years I consulted two other neurologists, who put me on different prophylactic regimens. Both the times I could not remain on the treatments for long, either due to inefficacy or side effects. Topamax was the only drug that helped me for at least 5 months, before the side effects became intolerable (brain fog, extreme weight loss). I started relying heavily on Rizatriptan and my migraines now started lasting for 3 days. I was soon diagnosed with medication overuse headaches.
I tried acupuncture but gave it up as I found the procedure to be very painful. I tried various other tricks – pressing the thumb, cold bag on the neck, neti pot, etc., but nothing seemed to help.
At this point, I was very frustrated at the fact that there is no cure for migraine and felt very helpless about my condition. Apart from the usual symptoms of photophobia and nausea, the onslaught of negative and self-destructive thoughts with each migraine was something that I was finding very hard to deal with.
Impact of Social Media
Recently, my work at a healthcare firm led me to follow social media platforms to collect information on migraine patients. Inadvertently, I came across a wealth of information on patient forums, Facebook groups, etc. I learnt how cheese, chocolates and wine were huge triggers for many sufferers and this helped me identify them as my triggers too.
I finally decided to make a strong effort to avoid my triggers and stopped consuming cheese, chocolates and alcohol. I started keeping myself hydrated and made it a point to sleep on time. Wearing shades and cap in the sun became routine. I joined a Buddhism practice that helps me stay positive during the most painful times.
In the last one year I have had a month or so completely free of migraines and this is a first in many years. There was a time I could not believe that this was even possible. Of course, triggers such as humidity, barometric changes are beyond my control, so I just keep triptans handy for such times.
Currently, I’m not taking any prophylactics but trying hard to follow a healthier lifestyle. I feel I have a better hold on my life now and don’t panic if I’m ever out of meds. A lot of credit goes to the strong support system I have, in terms of my husband who takes care of everything when I’m unable to, and friends who help me stay positive during attacks.
I have confidence that the ongoing scientific research on migraine would help many of us achieve zero headaches one day!
Kriti’s Migraine Life story is encouraging because you can tell that she is trying her best to find a good life in spite of the impact MIgraine has.
I met Kriti through a Facebook Migraine Support group. If you are interested in joining this group by Achy Smile, click Here. It is very helpful to talk with other migraineurs and realize you are not alone but to also learn more about the disease.
Disclaimer: This blog post provides general information and first hand accounts about a serious medical condition. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice.