January 07, 2005

Migraines

Piss taking amongst friends is quite normal. It's a sign of affection I guess, a sign of maturity that we take these little barbs aimed at us with grace, good humour and as many as we can think of ourselves in return. My friends' latest weapon against me came from the somewhat obvious observation that I eat a lot and am frequently hungry. I accept this. I am eating as I type. But there are consequences to this particular quirk. When I don't eat, or if I get stressed, I get migraines. And I had one today which why I am writing this.

If you aren't sure if you ahve had a migraine then you have not had one. There are no ifs and buts here. The first stage is the distorted vision. The aura as the medical claptrap goes. At first I thought I didn't get this but it turned out that most of my early migraines were occurring early in the morning and I would sleep through the aura and never realise it. As soon as I had a waking migraine I knew I got the aura.

It's hard to describe. In a way it's like looking at a light and looking away, the flashing outline of the light is left on your eye. But it doesn't go away, it starts in the centre of my vision and spreads. I notice when I'm reading and I can't see straight what is written in front of me. Today this was the Spanish I was trying to read in the dictionary at the start of my Spanish class. This then spreads across the both eyes, obliterating everything to the left of my field of vision.

At this stage I go into overdrive. The Pavlovian responses kick in, I feel sick, washed out and have 'ghost' head aches, not real pain but the memory of pain. This is what happens when you have been suffering with these things for over seven years. I know what I have to do so clearly it scares me. Drugs, bed, sleep. Fine if it happens at home but campus has proven tricky before. There was no way I could get back to Leamington without the drugs kicking in and a bus is no place to be in such a state anyway.

The drugs. Ah, I used to take over the counter Migraleve. It was shit. All it did was give me a Pavlovisn response to seeing packets of Migraleve. It didn't help the head aches, it couldn't help me sleep and it didn't stop the nausea. Now I'm on Naratriptan, the most powerful treatment. If it failed, I was warned, the only solution would be beta blockers and I have no intention of going onto those. Fortunately Naratriptan works but at a price.

Here's a dilemma. If I don't take Naratriptan I get head aches like you would not believe. I describe them as being like having a cricket stump shoved sharp end first into the centre of one eye whilst a cricket bat is used to pummel the temple on that side of my head. The other side of my head is always unaffected. For some reason the pain favours the right hand side of my head. This is unbearable, curl into a small ball, wrap yourself in warm blankets, nothing will stop it. The temporary relief of poking myself in the eye in a bid to create some distraction is a ridiculous solution. No way out, sleep is impossible. Then I get nausea. A crippling and real need to throw up, but one which is cruel. It toys with me, the nausea can last up to half an hour, eventually I figured out that the only solution was the make myself sick just to get it over with. Even an empty stomach is no guarantee. One of the worst migraines ever saw me trying to throw up the contents of my empty stomach. All I found was stomach acid which wrecked my throat and left me in pain for several days.

Naratriptan prevents the nausea. It eases the head pain. It basically knocks me out within about 40 minutes of taking it. But there are downsides. It messes up my brain. Even now I'm not thinking straight. This is coherent only because I am typing it slowly. Earlier, as my friends can testify, I was detached, hyperactive and making very little sense. This is the main side effect. I can deal with it easily. The other side effect is more worrying, Nrartriptan can cause recurrance. Before I took it I never had more than one migraine at a time. The first couple of times I took it, I got a migraine the next day, albeit a smaller one. This hasn't happened for a while but it makes for an interesting choice, one day of unbearable agony and nausea or potentially two days of wooziness, pain and talking crap? I always choose the latter. If you've not had a migraine then this would seem like a tricky choice. If you have had one then you know there is no choice. Drugs it is.

I hate being seen to have a migraine. I hate it because when I'm having one all I want is to lie down, curl up and hope I can sleep it off. I am therefore eternally grateful to those who help me out with this. This academic year I have been lucky. Migraine one, in Novermber, I was able to get home as I had been playing football and had been substituted due to another injury. If I hadn't been injured I would have played on and not been dressed and ready to go home anyway. Migraine two, December, I was at my parents' house, cosy and warm, wrapped in a duvet on the sofa until my brother decided to serenade me and the neighbours with his guitar playing. Migraine three was earlier today and I was stuck on campus.

So thanks to Jen for letting me sleep in your bed.

And what now? I'm worried. I'm worried that they are getting more regular. I'm worried because the triggers are becoming less clear. This time last year I would need some concerted stress or to miss two meals in two days to provoke one of these. But I'm not stressed at the moment. And I've not missed a meal in weeks. I feel hungry a lot. Maybe I'm not eating enough or maybe there's something missing from my diet.

Whatever I hate this feeling and I hate the fact that it's my own body, *my own blood,* turning me inside out. The truly awful thing is I'm trapped with them. My parents both had migraines or similar, mum's stopped at 19, dad still gets them occasionally. Mine will not stop. Clearly I was someone really horrible in a previous life or something.

At least it's not triggered by chocolate…


- 8 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Gosh i feel for you. I've got a deadline for tomorrow for assessed report on migraines. Its a nasty thing, especially when you experience the extreme symptoms like you are (only 15% get the aura).

    As a chemist my report covers the drugs So i suggest you try medicine that contains a drug called sumatriptan. Its licenced under name Imigran in the UK. It was the first proper anti migraine drug before then people only had painkillers and ergotamine which was a nasty bitch. Anyways studies sumatriptan show its very works a treat for migraine sufferers and the symptoms experienced.

    Women get migraines more often then men as its linked to the hormones hence after menopause it decreases or stops and likewise for pregancy. So if you want a natural remedy become and stay constantly pregant and you'll be fine (being pregant will also stop you getting breast cancer).

    Try this link for some triggers

    Other triggers include nights out as being in loud harsh environment and dancing (physical activity) upset the thing. :(

    Anyway back to finishing the bloody report thing- hope u get well soon.

    07 Jan 2005, 02:21

  2. me

    By accident I discovered that the herb valerian cured my migraine. You can buy it in tablet form or as a herbal tea. It relaxes you completely and sends you to sleep.

    07 Jan 2005, 10:59

  3. Leighton Joskey

    You have my sympathies. When I was at uni I used to get migraines. They got worse and more frequent up till I was 20 and then I had the mother of all migraines – doctors thought it was a brain haemorrhage. I had the aura, my arm started moving of it own volition (funny in retrospect, though not at the time!), black out, lost consciousness.

    I woke up with a BAD headache, in hospital, to find I had had a brain scan and that was fine but they didn't really know what was going on. After various tests – viral, lumber puncture, epilepsy, they finally homed in on the migraine thing. Ever since then the migraines have been less frequent and less severe. Now they happen maybe once or twice a year and can be very mild (still not that nice though!)

    So don't give up hope things will get better, and the drugs are getting better, even though they still know very little about why migraines occur and the mechanisms that drive them.

    07 Jan 2005, 11:05

  4. I get them bad too.

    I get hyper sensitive to smells – basically things that I ususally can't smell become really intense, make me nauseous, and I am often physically sick.
    Plus I lose the ability to properly regulate my body temperature and swing from too hot to too cold.
    Plus I get pins and needles in my extremities.

    I remember once being physically sick in the corridoor outside the school infirmary; I was too ill to care and just wanted to lie down and die.

    08 Jan 2005, 14:50

  5. i know i am never going to have a migraine again since meeting niamh… she is such a legend, and a beautiful one at that

    08 Jan 2005, 18:05

  6. Shut up Donohoe, stop posting as Jen. I know for a fact it's you cos she had a bloody headache the day I had my migraine which was definitely after she had met you. In fact I think my mgraines only started getting worse after a met you, you big culchie twat!?!

    Ooo, I love a good abuse session.

    08 Jan 2005, 19:17

  7. who's a?

    09 Jan 2005, 12:51

  8. Christopher Rossdale

    Never seen this post before. I get them too. Scourge of my life :( hope yours have cleared up some

    15 Nov 2005, 12:37


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