Migraine Journey Wednesdays (Vol.7 - Christine Bergene)

I am a 24 year old female born in Minneapolis, MN.

My Family’s History with Migraines

I was diagnosed with migraines when I was 8 years old. Since then they have progressively developed into daily chronic migraines. A concussion in 2016 left me with a migraine ever since. Migraines run in almost my entire family. My sister, mom, maternal grandmother, and all of my female cousins have migraines. The majority of them are controlled with a preventative and respond well to Imitrex. I have tried almost every first/second/third/ off-label treatment available, and I've been to countless providers, including Mayo Clinic, and have found no relief.

My Triggers & Symptoms 

Mine aren't as controlled. My daily headaches are triggered by what seems like anything and everything is rather difficult to deal with. Bright lights, smells, sounds, sensory overload, stress, weather, talking too loudly, excitement, and everything else seems to trigger it. Even if none of these things happen, the migraines still come. They come in varying degrees. Some migraines I am able to continue working but there is a sensitivity to EVERYTHING. At other times, I am laying on the floor trying not to cry because that only makes things worse.

The People Around Me

My family and friends are incredible. I call on them frequently to pick me up from work or take me to the doctor's office. They drop whatever they are doing to help me. For someone who has NEVER been able to easily ask for favours, migraines have definitely taught me that family and friends enjoy helping when they can. There is little relief that anyone can provide for me, so being able to help in these ways is good for my parents especially. Additionally, they have ALWAYS been understanding when I cancel plans at the last minute, respond with short answers because talking is too painful, and so many more things. Having support is crucial for being able to continue with life as normally as possible.

Working in a healthcare setting, I found co-workers and bosses to be much more understanding and supportive once I explain to them my daily life. Initially, I felt that they were not understanding and didn't care, but then I realized that they just didn't know. Educating them and opening up to them is key to my success at work. (For someone who has trouble talking about themselves, this was also one of my most difficult realizations).

The Effects of Migraines on My Life

I have managed to finish a Master's Degree while I was working full time in an infusion pharmacy. Many see this as though migraines have not really disabled me much. This 'success' did not come without loads of support, sacrifices, and struggles. I have sacrificed almost my entire social life because I just don't have the time or energy to spend time with people. I have a limited amount of energy and most of it goes to work and simple tasks to take care of myself (laundry, dishes, cooking healthy food, exercise). I have missed countless classes, assignments, exams, and meetings because of my severe chronic migraines. Some professors are extremely understanding, but others lowered my grades by full letters because I was absent from class.

What I've Tried

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I have tried nearly every medication possible. The list that doctors have at a first appointment that asks what patients have tried all get checked off. Beta blockers have been my best options, but as a healthy 24-year-old, they drop my blood pressure too low when I'm at an effective dose. Some of them also come with weird side effects like night-time hallucinations.

As for non-medicated methods, I have tried an elimination diet and found no triggers. I've eliminated caffeine, and subsequently re-added it. A small cup everyday at the same time seems to help a little bit.

Exercise/Yoga help with my neck pain and make me feel better even if the nausea and pain are still present. This has been one of my most recent successes. DAILY exercise, even if it is a walk to the stop sign with a bucket to throw up in if I need it, has been SO helpful. (Besides, there are countless other health benefits to exercise that we could all use, right?)

Additionally, I have become a stickler for sleep habits. I find the earliest time that I need to be up and set my alarm to that (+/- 10 minutes every day). I go to bed at the same time, and have all my electronics set to that weird yellow tint (Because let's be honest, I can't cut them a full 2 hours before bed).

Sometimes very HOT showers help my migraine pains. (I'm unsure why, but at the very least it feels good.)

On Days Things get Unbearable

I often look through quotes and remember them for these times. I'm not alone. There are so many others going through so much more. This too will pass eventually.

Some Advice for My Fellow Migraineurs

My advice is to share with others the pain you are going through. Explain how hard it is to get up every day and do it again, explain the different treatments you've tried, explain the hopelessness and fear we all feel, explain the dreams you have.

Everyone is going through something that nobody knows anything about. The more we share with each other the more we feel like people understand.

Thank you, Christine, for stepping forward to share your migraine journey with everyone. If you would like to share your story and let your voice be heard like Christine, you may do so here: bit.ly/2rJcpMR  

With love, 

the Migraine Buddy team 💜 

Healint Singapore