Migraines are not a one-size-fits-all illness. Some may only have one or two migraines in their life; others suffer from migraines on a regular basis. The statistics for migraines show that nearly 13% of Americans suffer from migraines and nearly 3% suffer from regular migraines. Migraines in this pattern are commonly known as chronic migraines and are what approximately 1,110,000 people suffer from in America. I am one of the 37 million total migraineurs in the United States and I'm here to tell you what it's like to suffer from chronic migraine pain.
So, let's talk about the statistics first.
According to NIH.gov: more women get migraines than men; they're most common between the ages of 35-55 years old, and more than 70% of migraineurs have a family history of migraines. They are more prevalent in Caucasian people, and happen more among lower-income groups.
Now, I fit the bill on most of those statistics, but not all of them. I am 20 years old, I am a Caucasian woman and I have a family history of migraines. As I said before, migraines are not a one-size-fits-all illness.
During my first migraine I honestly thought I was dying. I'm going to attempt to keep this short as I possibly can. I remember that I had some serious brain fog! I couldn't even figure out how to operate my phone to call for help. I couldn't figure out how to lock my door on the way to the hospital. I was also in a lot of pain. I was suffering from aphasia and couldn't cough out a comprehensible sentence. My body was going numb on the left side from my head to my toes. The paramedics thought I was suffering from a stroke at the ripe age of 19 but, alas, it was a severe migraine. After leaving the hospital, the migraine continued to wreak havoc on my mind and soul for three days. At this time, I thought it was a one-time thing, but I learned I was mistaken afterwards.
Now, I am not the typical chronic sufferer. I go through periods of chronic migraines. My body goes through flare-ups and we're still unsure of what causes them. That is the case with many migraine sufferers; doctors just don't understand what's causing them and in many cases migraineurs will never know.
It was several months after that when it began again. I had done my research and knew exactly what I was dealing with. I tried to fight it off with my feeble aspirin and three-hour-long cold showers. It only worked so far and eventually the migraine won. I was back in the hospital and this time I was put into intensive care overnight because they thought I had a stroke. It was during this period I was given a CT-Scan and a contrast MRI. They both came back normal. This is not abnormal in itself as most migraineurs have normal results to both of these. The migraine flare-up subsided 48 hours after being discharged from the hospital.
This finally made me realize that I was dealing with a beast that would return again. I had no sign that the monster of a migraine I suffer from was returning until I was already in an aura. It was time to seek professional help as the pain was unbearable on its own. This is when I sought out a primary care physician. Yes, I was 20 without a primary doctor. I suck at being an adult sometimes, I know.
I was prescribed Topamirate at first and this did work for me. However, it caused pain in my eyes and I stopped taking it less than a week after starting it. I was put on Sumatripitan afterwards to take during the aura phase of a migraine as an abortive medication and thusfar it's working when they show up.
However, for many suffers, Tripitans and migraine preventatives do not always work. They have to try cocktails of medication in hopes that one will work and will continue to work for them. They have to see several doctors just to get adequate pain treatment and are often looked at as drug addicts seeking out opioids. Opioids are not a good medication for migraines and that's not what we're looking for, snobby doctors.
Migraines oftentimes have an aura and triggers. An aura is a sign that a migraine is headed your way and not everyone has them. I am lucky that I get mine so that I can adequately prepare for it. A migraine trigger is something that commonly causes your migraines. Sometimes you have one, both, and sometimes you have neither.
When I'm in a migraine aura I yawn constantly and I cannot stop, I begin to feel drowsy, and my brain begins to feel brain-fog. It's also not uncommon for my body to go numb on one side.
Migraines have changed my life more than I ever thought possible. I've had to cancel dates and plans with friends. I have had to call-out of work on several occasions due to the pain being unbearable. I have had to watch out for my triggers and I'm constantly documenting what causes my migraines to show my neurologist. It can be something as simple as snacking on a few walnuts to something as big as severe stress. I cannot wear my hair on top of my head anymore. I can't be in the sunlight for more than 20 minutes and heat causes the absolute worst migraines. I now have a sunglasses collection due to it. It interferes with my life nearly every day and I live in constant fear of another migraine.
Some have it easier and some have it worse than me. This is what my life with chronic migraine (flare-ups) is like.