M is for Migraine
I know this may seem like a strange subject for a website dedicated to creative writing, public relations and social media, but the more I embrace that facing my fear, and accept that what has been a huge challenge can also be a great strength, the more interesting and rewarding my life becomes. And the easier it is for me to talk to my client's about their fears, the easier it is for me to help them see new paths, new creativity and new opportunities for them to share their products and services to the public in more engaging ways.
And so I am going public with the fact that I have frequent migraines, headaches of the intensity and caliber that have overshadowed much of my past decade. If even one person who suffers from terrible headaches can take heart from my journey, or learn something that is helpful from reading this, I feel it's worth it.
Sadly my case isn't rare. It took fifteen years before I was correctly diagnosed with even having migraines. For years I was told I had sinus headaches (one of the most frequent ways migraines are incorrectly diagnosed). I did not find out until I was 36 that migraines run in my birth mother's family.
Unfortunately, by the time I was properly diagnosed in spring of 2000 I was already taking Excedrin and ibuprofen every day to deal with the pain of either migraines or tension headaches. I had no idea that both cause "rebound headaches" themselves if taken too frequently (as I was doing).
Once I was put on "official" migraine medication in 2000 (drugs like Maxalt and Amerge) most of the migraines would stop if I took it within 15 minutes - but what I didn't know is that these drugs were also adding to the rebound problem. Suddenly the migraines that the medication wouldn't stop went from 24 to 48 and finally 72 hours long. During the worst times I not only had a migraine but was so nauseated I would have to throw up about every 1/2 hour.
When I moved to Long Beach in 2004 I found a very kind neurologist who was willing to work with me at my speed to try and quell the pain. This was a such an amazing blessing. Before that, from spring 2000 forward I had been to all kinds of specialists in L.A. who pushed me to move too fast to try new drugs at too high of doses that often left me sicker than before with really unpleasant side effects. None of them seemed to understand I still had to hold down a job (though I was only able to handle one part time).
We found a "drug cocktail" that helped me sleep and raise my tolerance to pain (low doses of Pamelor and a muscle relaxant). That was the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel - but still I was taking one very expensive special migraine drug a day (Amerge). One month I spent over $500.00 out of pocket on migraine medication - the least expensive migraine drug was $25.00 a pill.
Then towards the end of 2006 I read in MORE magazine that Co-Enzyme Q10 was helping to diminish migraines. They weren't sure why, but none of the research had come up with any negative side effects. I began taking the supplement and within a month I was able to go back down to just excedrin and ibuprofen again - I no longer needed to take a migraine drug every day.
Today in 2011 I am still taking too much over the counter pain medication, but things continue to improve. I have been to a very helpful chiropractor who has determined that my headaches are about 70% tension. I am very careful to get enough sleep (up to ten hours a night). I take a plethora of vitamins including a combo of calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D that has been recommended for headache sufferers. When the kind neurologist was no longer available (and my insurance stopped paying for the visits) I found a wonderful MD (Dr. Shen in Naples) to help track my progress and come up with new ideas.
The taking of so much medication causes quite a bit of fatigue but even that is improving. I walk almost every day and now I'm riding a bike regularly. I am confident that I can get out of this medication rebound loop. I make sure not to get too hungry, thirsty, tired etc. I have also learned not to overbook - which is something that is a tremendous asset in our modern fast paced age. I show up prepared and focused and ready to work.
As I learn of new approaches and new things that help in healing headaches here I'll add them. One of the most challenging things about migraines is that they are now considered a neurological disorder, and even though most migraine sufferers have only rare headaches that send them home to bed, the insurance industry marks us with a scarlet "M" as if we are in constant need of the most expensive and state of the art treatment. For those of you who read this who suffer from migraines I wish you every success in finding what works for you.