I think everyone remembers their first migraine. I certainly do. I was 10 years old and I was at Disney World of all places. I had eaten a hot dog for lunch. I remember the hot Florida sun beating down, blinding me shortly after lunch. I remember just sitting on a curb holding my head crying in pain. My parents got me back to our hotel and I rested and recovered. I am pretty sure I haven’t had a hot dog since. How upsetting to be at one of the best places on Earth for a kid, and I had to waste a day in a hotel room dying in pain. That was the beginning of my migraines screwing up my life.
Fast forward to middle school. I was constantly taking Tylenol Sinus and my friends and family told me I had a barometric head. Every time it rained I would get a headache. Not always a migraine, but definitely a headache. In high school, I missed more days than I care to remember to the blinding pain mostly due to stress in retrospect. College was a bit better, though I’m not sure why. However, I had some really bad alcohol induced migraines, and I never recovered from a night of drinking as quickly as my friends did. After college my working life started, and so did my chronic migraine.
Luckily my boss’s wife had migraines and he was very understanding. If I got my work done, I could leave work if I needed to. I began taking triptans 3-4 times a week, later finding out you’re not supposed to do that. Every time I flew anywhere for work or vacation I would get a migraine. I started seeing a headache specialist. I cut out Diet Coke, added magnesium to my routine. It helped a little. I ended up in the ER after a particularly bad migraine left me dehydrated and so weak I couldn’t stand. My heart was racing from the dehydration and I felt so awful and scared. That was another migraine that I still can’t forget.
My next option was to drop caffeine. I still miss coffee. At this point I can’t even drink decaf. I am not sure how much caffeine elimination helped reduce my headaches, but now anytime I have caffeine I get a migraine instantly, so I guess it did something.
I think about my migraines as water getting leaking into your basement. They always seem to find a way to break through no matter what cracks you seal. So my next option was to try the preventative medications. I tried Inderal first, a high blood pressure medication. Inderal worked really well preventing my migraines for about 9 months. Then, it stopped working for no apparent reason. The doctor tried to up my dose, but then it caused me to have heart palpitations. That sent me straight to a cardiologist who told me after wearing a halter monitor for a week, nothing was wrong with my heart, but that I could not take Inderal anymore. Then there was topomax. That worked for a while at a fairly low dose. However, then it stopped working and the migraines broke through the cracks again. Next my doctor tried adding nortriptyline to the topomax. That drug turned me into a psycho b*tch, and I obviously had to stop taking it after less than a month. I don’t remember whether my headaches were better or not on it, but I certainly remember being crazy. My poor husband. Finally, Botox was FDA approved! So I went through the whole process of getting my insurance to cover it which took months and the botox became my new go to at saving me from a lot of migraines. Having Botox in my 20s, I used to tell my friends it worked so well I would do it if it GAVE me wrinkles. Now that I’m 40 I am not so sure! 😊
But of course life changes. I decided I wanted to have a baby and had to wean myself off all the drugs and botox.
I became pregnant with my first son and miraculously my migraines disappeared. Sure I had all the other regular pregnancy discomforts, but without migraine I was on cloud 9 even while pulling over to throw up on my way to work. And my luck still held because while I was breastfeeding for the first year of my son’s life, no migraine! I told my husband only a little bit joking that I wanted to be pregnant or nursing for the next 10 years. So that’s what I started to do! Four months after finishing breastfeeding I got pregnant again! However, this pregnancy was not headache free like my first one. In retrospect I got pregnant too soon for my body. For the entire fifth month of my pregnancy I had a headache/migraine at 2pm every day. It was so strange that it was the same time every day. And with only Tylenol to get me through that was a rough month. After my second son was born, I had what they call a headache storm. It lasted for three months. I was in pain almost the entire first 8 months of Kieran’s life. A well-meaning doctor gave me a birth control pill called Seasonique, which is one of the ones where you only have four periods a year. Not only did it kill my milk supply, it made my migraines worse. I still regret I could only breast feed Kieran for 6 months and I couldn’t enjoy his first year of life like I wish I could have.
Then we made our big international move here to Bermuda. Unfortunately, I felt worse. I went back on topomax, but I soon started to lose my memory. I would often leave the house with out diapers or wipes, a pretty basic thing when you have two small children. I would often go into the kitchen and then forget why I was there. So that had to go. Then I found Natural Calm. It is a powdered magnesium supplement drink. That worked really well for a while to get rid of most of my migraines. I would just have a few on very stressful days or if I ate or drank something I shouldn’t have. I started to play around with my diet. Giving up gluten, dairy and sugar off an on. Nothing really stuck for long.
Finally, in 2016 I had had enough. I was going to figure these migraines out. Why did I get them? There must be something more I can do. So I went straight one of the top functional medicine clinics in the country, the UltraWellness Center. Dr. Mark Hyman’s clinic, but I saw one of his associates. They put me on a VERY strict elimination low histamine diet where I ate 10-15 cups of vegetables a day (no joke I really did that). The office prescribed me TONS of supplements. The doctor helped me fix my gut by killing off the candida and rebalancing my gut flora. The die off from that made me feel worse than the migraines. I was exhausted all the time. I think my migraines were better but I was too tired to remember. So this went on for a while and to complicate things I had contracted mono in 2015 and I kept relapsing despite my new ultra-healthy lifestyle. So then I tried vitamin IVs which eventually worked to cure the fatigue. However now the migraines were back and I had no idea why still. See why I consider them the water getting through the cracks in my basement? Eventually by 2017 I had to accept that the natural route just wasn’t cutting it alone anymore. I needed help the migraines were getting worse again.
So I went back to the original headache specialist in NY, but seeing a different doctor. Dr. Crystal was the first doctor I had in a long time who really understood what it was like for me and she was really committed to try to help me. So after three different medicines we found Effexor. I had resisted taking antidepressant medication, because I didn’t want to mess with that part of my brain. But amazingly it really helped. That combined with Namenda, an alzheimers drug , and Botox really seems to have my migraines mostly under control where I recently went 45 days without a migraine. Life stress still gets me down sometimes and I will go down with a migraine for a day or two but I am much better than I was and for that I am so grateful. Not only did the drugs help me but I really believe a big part of what got me here is really focusing on my stress management, my diet, and other lifestyle factors. The drugs will not always work by themselves and this is where I can help. It can be really hard to change habits around food and lifestyle. Did you ever have that experience where you know something will help your migraines but you just can’t seem to make it happen? That’s where I come in as your coach! Studies show having an accountability partner greatly improve your chances of changing your lifestyle and sticking to it. So let me help you and schedule a consultation today!