The disability that chronic migraines cause is significantly underestimated by the medical professionals, our governments and by society. As we slowly raise awareness around migraine disease - large numbers of us do still not receive effective treatment or care for this disabling neurological disease.
Why? Why is it all so slow to change, even with all the new research and the impact of information freely available on the internet?
Because migraine is still stigmatized and too often dismissed as just a headache to be pushed through and ignored. "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" kind of thing.
The whole idea of it being an actual, real neurological disorder is still misunderstood but we are lucky that so many migraine warriors (and new medications) are around fighting for us.
Why do people still mix up migraine and tension headaches? I certainly feel and think we migraineurs are misunderstood. For example, most women (close friends, neighbor's, teachers) forget to not wear perfume around me, even when I ask them (more than just once).
The effects of long term migraine attacks: physically, emotionally, and financially can not often be comprehended unless you are a sufferer yourself.
Have you been forced to leave the work you love and need to juggle higher medical costs with lower income?
The International Headache Society's definition of chronic migraine is:
Episodic migraine is another migraine sub-type that is defined as less than 15 headache days per month.
I always thought I was a late bloomer in chronic migraine headache terms. I was 32 when I had my first migraine but according to the World Health Organization (WHO) website it commonly affects people between the ages of 35 and 45 years old. (Sadly, migraines can start at any age).
Most recently research has discovered that they certainly have a genetic component. Many actions of the process surrounding the "release of pain producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels" remain uncertain.
I can still remember my first surprise attack way back in 1992. I was having a Kit Kat bar at work and then half an hour later whamo! Vomiting and excruciating head pain, just on the right side. Then my face started to swell up. That took me by surprise. By the time I got home I could not see out of my right eye. I nearly passed out on the ferry on the way home. Or maybe I did!
Another time, I remember vomiting in a trash can on the street,
in downtown Sydney, on the way to the ferry! One of the most embarrassing
days for me as I, once again, tried to get home. I clearly recall
hanging over the side of the ferry in a VERY short business skirt. A
very kind gentleman (hopefully!) offered to hold me so as not to fall
over board. Now I can laugh, but then I was ashamed. So ashamed.
World Health Organization (WHO) rates chronic migraine headache as a leading cause of disability worldwide.
15-18% of women, 6-8% of men, and 2% of children suffer from migraine headaches.
WHO also states the chronic migraine “headache has been and continues to be underestimated in scope and scale, and headache disorders remain under-recognized and under-treated throughout the world.”
Chronic Migraines are an isolating condition for which there is no cure. Science has been studying the causes of migraine headaches for many years and the theories have evolved from drilling holes in skulls (yes – we did that barbaric procedure to help stop the pain!), to vascular, to an over reactive nervous system disorder, and now to a brain disorder.
Finding genetic components like the TRESK gene mutation, means more targeted migraine treatment... effective migraine treatment.
You might like to read what causes migraines for more details on the Tresk gene.
My migraines have gotten less intense, and I no longer am convinced I am going to die with each attack.
After over 25 years, I finally know I will make it through yet another episode.
The patterns have changed unpredictably over the years which I hope have gifted me with more patience!
Some are left sided, and some are right sided. Some come up my neck and some start in my eyes. Some make me angry and some make me cry. Some still make my face swell up just on one side. It's never exactly the same either with my emotional state. Sometimes I managed and sometimes I fell apart.
And then... there was a 7 year period of cluster headaches. That was unbearable. And they shifted.
So hang in there, and persevere. Choices, small choices, you make now may have a huge impact on your health and well-being and your nasty migraines.
Dumb question... of course you do! Besides finding a triptan or new CGRP that works for you as a migraine abortive, biofeedback training is now widely recommended to aid in the prevention of migraine attacks. There are also some excellent electric devices and treatments now to help prevent attacks:
It's good to cover all your bases - body, mind and spirit.
Educating yourself is essential. Here's a link to my course... the first module is FREE!
So many years, so many doctors! I would hate to add up how much money I have had to spend on my health just to maintain average. So take advantage of my personal experience and professional counselling skills and check out my course for free. Module one is packed with essential information.
As a qualified counselor, I can't help but include ways to deal with the emotional impact and the toll chronic migraines can take on us.
Starting a gratitude journal and or practice is proven to lift your mood. It helps to remember to feel gratitude. I am grateful that migraines have slowed down my life enough to see what is really important. To see what friends have been able to stand by my side so to speak, and who and what I now choose to surround myself with.
It can give you a chance to think about what work you are now able to do within the limits of this condition and still feel fulfilled, happy and loving. I feel I have actually become a much more compassionate human being because of this challenge in my life. More considerate of others, more patient... and more kind and gentle to myself.
It brings to mind this wonderful quote:
“People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”
~ Mother Teresa
Depression and anxiety are commonly comorbid conditions with migraine... and there's a higher prevalence of suicide with migraine disease.
Another way to lift your spirits is to talk to someone about it. A professional is best for anxiety and all your deep, dark fears that can come with this condition. If you are really struggling right now... if you feel like this is life threatening, please get some extra support. Here are some ways to get support right now:
Your doctor will be a good resource too, in fact, s/he should be your number one resource! So book in asap to get an appointment. Don't suffer one more minute longer than you have to. Get help... don't wait until they get worse. Untreated attacks can turn chronic, and then it's even harder to tame them.
Until next time, take care,