the headache post (part one)

headache approved sandwich

Get ready. This is a long one. I'm breaking it down into two posts, and then I'll shut up about it. I promise! Feel free to move along if you're not a sufferer or don't really give a flying fig. You certainly won't hurt my feelings. : )

So. About the headaches. Please understand that I am NO expert, but I have found something that seems to help me. Whenever I mention here that I get migraines, I get lots of commiseration and suggestions, which tells me there are lots of us who suffer. That is why I post this today.

My history: My mom and my sister both get migraines. My dad used to get them, and his sister did too- hers were strongly connected to anxiety attacks. I started getting problematic headaches as a teen. My family doctor labeled them tension headaches and gave me some muscle relaxers to try. They didn't particularly help- I remember them making me sleepy.

Mine manifest in this way: one sided pain- but not always the same side- in my sinuses, behind an eye, across my face into my temple, and in the muscle behind my ear and down my neck and shoulder. Sensitivity to light. Nausea. All classic migraine pain. I yawn a lot when they're coming on. 

Just after I graduated from college, I tried one of my mom's Maxalt. It was like a miracle. That drug changed my life, until well, it just didn't anymore. They have always been hormonal, alcohol will trigger one but not always, and the only food trigger I have successfully pinpointed is Brie cheese. My headaches are always worse in the winter (connected with seasonal depression, too little exercise and fresh air) and improve in the summer (lots of sun and free time, plenty of physical activity outdoors.) Excedrin and I became good friends. Coffee too. Caffeine always helped, until well, it just didn't anymore. (Seeing a pattern?)

Until recently I have had a low grade headache at some point in every day. I got used to them. If I didn't find something to nip it early, any headache would progress into what I call a Bad One which might lead to a headache pill (Maxalt or Imitrex.) Most days I could stop them no problem. Occasionally I couldn't. I've been to urgent care three times in the last couple of years with a Bad One that even the headache pills wouldn't knock. This is called a break-through migraine. Let me tell you, those SUCK.

I've done loads of research and have come to discover that migraines are tricky territory. Doctors admit they don't fully understand them, although there is proof migraine brains are physiologically different than the "normal" brain. Many things can trigger them including food, stress, hormones, odors, weather changes, even such minimal things as wearing a tight ponytail or bright sunlight. There are just so many triggers and ways the headaches manifest themselves, and as many approaches and treatments as there are doctors in the phone book.

The months of January and February were particularly bad for me. I took NINE headache pills in a 4 week period. They cost me about $20 each! One particular headache spell lasted 6 days. I nearly lost my marbles. I was at my wits' end. The rest of my family's too. I called around for a good neurologist to visit. I couldn't get an appointment until May or June. I worriedly emailed friends. Dearest Emily recommended a book by a neurologist from Johns Hopkins that had really helped her friend. I checked it out from the library and started reading.


It just clicked. I don't know this doctor. But so much of his approach makes sense to me. I relate perfectly to many of his case study examples. I made an appointment with my regular doctor to discuss it, and he was very supportive of my plan. And already, six weeks later, it is helping me immensely. I only have hope that it will continue to improve.


Sheesh! Enough for today. I'll be back with how his approach works and where I am in the process. Thank you so much for reading. I'll see you tomorrow.