Monday, 2 April 2018


Migraine attacks!

Lawrence Hope’s 1957 painting ‘Migraine’

So, I thought I would give my experience with migraines because if I can help at least one person, that would be amazing. Thus far, I've experienced them severely for exactly one year, before that, I experienced them, but not as frequent and nowhere near as severe.

Firstly migraines are more than a headache, they're disabling.

One year ago I ended up in hospital, very ill indeed and that's when I began to experience extreme migraines that didn't go away, they lasted each day for way over a month. At the time, I put this down to how poorly I was, and I thought when I got better, the migraines would naturally go away, but, they didn't, they kept getting worse. I was given painkillers every day and night to help the pain, a mixture of paracetamol and dihydrocodeine, which did help, but it only masked the pain underneath which soon returned when it wore off. The pain was unbearable, I couldn't cope, but that's all I could do. I couldn't speak during these attacks, it was a blur, almost like a nightmare, they were at their peak during the night.

I don't drink caffeinated tea or coffee, i cut that out years ago because i went through a spell of not being allowed caffeine and the withdrawal affects where something I wouldn't like to experience ever again, that and the fact when I was able to have caffeine again after a hospital stay, I did, I went to my local coffee shop and had a black coffee, not knowing or thinking how it make affect me, five minutes into this drink I began to shake heavily, I was hot, sweating, I felt unbelievably nauseous and very dizzy too. It was from this day I cut caffeine out of my diet completely. However, I still drank soda containing caffeine, which at the time I thought nothing of as I didn't believe it contained that much, and quite frankly I didn't get the migraines or headaches and so continued to drink them; but this time last year, I went cold on those fizzy drinks while in hospital and looking back, part of these migraines will have been a caffeine withdrawal from not being able to have them.

A month in, even though I was getting better, my migraines weren't. I was reading up about them online all the time trying to figure out what kind i had, was it a tension headache, a cluster headache, a migraine, chronic daily headache?! the list could go on. I hadn't realised there were so many types and in constantly researching, i was probably making them worse with stress. At this time i was participating in daily relaxation at the start of every morning, as much as i enjoyed the sessions, for me personally it had no effect.

Still only taking painkillers I was asking for other things that would help, but I wasn't taken seriously and was told it's probably because I was so unwell, some of my migraines was behind the eye, so I questioned whether I needed my eyes retesting and the doctors agreed, (but that was their excuse so they didn't have to look into matters further) as later on, when I did have my eyes retested, I had a thorough check, looking at the pressure behind my eyes etc, nothing was found, my eyesight was fine.

Looking more at medications (OTC) I also have experience with the medication Migraleve, they come as pink and yellow tablets which contain paracetamol and codeine and the pink contains buclizine which helps with sickness in migraines. The idea is to take the pink at the first sign of an attack and if the migraine is still present after 4 hours, you then follow up with the yellow. I used these for years, swore by them and my handbag had a constant supply, up until last year when I attempted taking them, they actually made my headaches/migraine worse, so now what? 

I'd realised that I'd had far too many painkillers and was now having the opposite effect (rebound headaches) the painkillers then became the cause of my migraines, but seriously when in so much pain, you'll do anything at all to get rid of it. I lessened the amount of these tablets and instead had to grin and bear the pain, however bad it was. Led in a dark, silent room, with my head buried in a pillow, pressing my head, tossing and turning violently, feeling like I needed to throw up, it's honestly the worst pain I've ever experienced. 

For the first time on one of my attacks I was sick several times, out of the blue, I couldn't pinpoint what on earth was bringing them on or causing them. I was eating right, I wasn't having caffeine, I think I was getting enough sleep and I was certainly hydrated, so what on earth?

Leaving hospital I was hopeful, I put some of my migraines down to stress, I thought with leaving, back in my home environment, not working they would lessen, but again, they didn't. At this point, I was drinking caffeinated fizzy drinks again and I didn't feel it made a difference at first but later recognised it probably did. I'd had an appointment at the Dr's and was prescribed sumatriptan, which you take when you feel a migraine coming on, and amitriptyline which is an ancient drug used for many different kinds of pain or illnesses, such as depression. I decided to give the sumatriptan a go first and my experience with those is that they simply didn't work, but I didn't want to try the others because, with those you have to take them every single night whether you have a migraine or not, the idea is to prevent them. Because one of its main causes is to treat depression I was really skeptical and actually quite scared of taking them, as I didn't want to become reliant upon them (with having a mental illness as it is) and I'd also heard they can make you very sleepy and upon awakening you find it difficult to get up and have no motivation. To this day, I still haven't tried those because I'd sooner try and get to the bottom of them before becoming so reliant on a drugs I'd have to take every day.

The day I went for this appointment I spoke about my history with painkillers and we decided that they had made things worse so I decided to go cold on them completely, that and the caffeinated fizzy drinks. As well as cutting both of these out, I decided the best thing to do was create a migraine diary, that way I could see not only how frequently I was having them, but try and find links in there, like perhaps it was a certain day, a certain time, something I ate and so on. As much as it showed me having them quite often, I couldn't find anything that stood out to tell me why. One of the only things was, I was experiencing them after a busy or stressful day at work and they kept happening, with painkillers out the window, I had to try and bare them, but they were so bad, at times I actually wanted to die and that's no exaggeration. If you've experienced a 10 in a migraine attack, you know what I'm talking about. 

I went back to the doctors as the other meds hadn't worked, this time it was somebody different and my experience was horrible, she didn't listen and instead patronised and belittled me, she asked whether I'd tried ibuprofen. Erm? I'm not going to go to the doctors having not tried the most obvious painkiller, she didn't prescribe me anything, I left feeling like a complete idiot, but one thing she did suggest and put me forward for, was acupuncture. I'd never really thought of that before, but I was willing to give absolutely anything a go. I even got my tragus pierced which I've heard has helped a lot of others, sadly not for me.

Since that doctor's appointment and before my first session of acupuncture, I had another Dr's appointment, this time with a different Dr, who took me far more seriously and prescribed rizatriptan, a drug that melts in the mouth also known as Maxalt.

Acupuncture - So my first session was a questionnaire, to find out the location of the pain and general medical background. On my first actual session, the needles were put into my head, my neck, and my hands. It's a very weird feeling, I'm good with injections, needles etc, but this felt so different to that and so wrong. I didn't like it at all, it wasn't pain, it just didn't feel right, the ones in the hand especially. After this session I didn't feel any different; however, she did tell me that things may get worse before they got better, but usually, that's not the case. The day after though, i did feel different, i didn't feel better, in fact, i woke up feeling like i had a cold and the sides of my head were hurting? I went to work anyway and did feel better as the day went on. The day after i had another session, again it went okay, didn't feel any different at the time, but worked the next day and felt slightly off coming towards the end of my shift, by the time i got home, i had a migraine, so i took one maxalt, i was so surprised, it worked, it sent me off to sleep for a good hour and i felt okay, if a bit numb (which was good) but it did ware off after a few hours, the drug allows you to take 2 within 24hrs and you can take a second dose at least after two hours of the first. So i took a second, but this time, it didn't work, the migraine stayed and there was nothing else i could do, apart from squeeze my head and toss and turn violently all night. It took 3 days then for it to disappear, which took me right up to my next session with acupuncture. The same thing happened, the day after i felt awful again! I'd worked and got another migraine in the evening. I definitely put it down to the acupuncture, that's when it led me to do some research myself and interestingly found some article which made so much sense!

"Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body, followed by gentle manual or electrical stimulation of the needles. Blood flow in the tissues increases when small vessels around the area of the needle dilate. While actions designed to increase circulation are generally an excellent treatment for pain, such a treatment is not beneficial in the treatment of migraines. Because the pain of a migraine may be associated with the dilation of blood vessels in the head, increasing circulation in this area can worsen the patient's symptoms. At New York AcuHealth, we utilize a unique approach to the treatment of migraine attacks. By avoiding points in the head, neck and upper body, and instead using points exclusively in the lower body, we avoid dilating the blood vessels of the head. The entire treatment is often performed with the patient in a recumbent position rather than in a prone position. This also minimizes dilation of the blood vessels during acupuncture."

From reading this and having bad migraines from the sessions, I only had one more left, so I decided to call it quits.

I'm still not taking painkillers, nor am I drinking caffeine. I have had a few migraines, which I've treated with the maxalt melts, they are great when they work, though they haven't worked every time. But they are better in some respects, I also feel I've learned to deal with them.

Other tips would be to take a hot shower (it sometimes helps when you feel one coming on) obviously not during an attack. Getting fresh air, I also had someone tell me to have my feet in hot water whilst having an ice pack or cold flannel on the back of your neck. Peppermint oil on your temples, though use sparingly as it does sting. Rest, drink plenty, talk about things to people to vent stress, don't let things build up. Get enough sleep.

Keep a diary of when you're getting a headache, and where the pain is located, doing this will help your Dr prescribe the right thing for you. If it's a frontal headache, it's probably a tension headache which is related to stress. Do a little research, find your triggers, it could be something you're eating.

They are life ruining, I've had to cancel so many plans, call into work sick and let my team down, I feel I'm unable to work full time as I can't dedicate that much time without a severe attack, I have to avoid alcohol as this brings one on - which ruined my Christmas day this year. They are awful, and definitely more than a headache, they're a full body experience. One side of my face will tingle or go numb, which can sometimes move down my arm, similar to stroke symptoms which can be frightening. I can often feel like I'm underwater or have the sensation that I have water stuck up my nose, the nausea is unbearable, sometimes I'm sick and it makes eating or knowing what and when to eat hard, which makes it even harder living with an eating disorder as if the migraine alone wasn't hard enough to live with.


I hope someday to grow out of them, but for now, I'll do my best to try and cope.

If you're living with migraines and have any tips or need any more advice, please leave a comment below. Don't let them ruin your life! <3

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