Migraine Journey Wednesdays (Vol. 6 - Sandra May Warner)

I am from South Australia, 36. Divorced. I have one son, and currently reside with my parents and my son, who is 8. 

My Triggers & Symptoms

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I started getting migraines when I was about 27/28. I gave birth to my son in 2009. That was my major trigger as I began getting headaches quite regularly then. I always complained about them, according to my husband then. Although we had separated, he was around a lot for our son, rightly so, we separated and then I found out I was pregnant *surprise*. When my son was about 12-18 months old, I got the worst headache I had ever had in my life. 

We were home alone, he was asleep, I was crying on the phone to my ex-husband to come help me. He called my sister, who sent my brother-in-law with some codeine, (when it was still available over the counter in Australia) and I slept that off. That would've been in about 2010 or so. 

Ever since that night I noticed a pattern emerge with my menstrual cycle. I would get severe headaches/migraines whenever I had my menstruation. I would've been 28 by then, it took me at least 2 more years before my doctor would accept that they were menstrual related. I religiously tracked my pain levels in my period tracking app on my phone. 

A couple more years passed and more patterns emerged, I started to get more headaches between. My migraines would last for up to 2 weeks, sometimes I would get them around the time of ovulation... 

I am now 36, and I now get 2-4 migraines a month. I will always get a migraine with my period and with ovulation, sometimes without, there are just surprise ones for fun. I still don't know the exact trigger, although I believe my hormones play a VERY large part in it. 

Before giving birth to my son, I would only get sporadic and infrequent headaches that I had never noticed a pattern to. They weren't really that painful to really bother tracking, although now it has made me curious to know if they too were menstrual related. 

My Family’s History with Migraines 

With regards to my family’s history, both my paternal and maternal grandmothers suffered with menstrual migraines. My maternal grandmother passed away 6 years ago (age 81) and my paternal grandmother (now age 82) had damage from pregnancy that left scarring and caused bleeding issues. She had a hysterectomy at 28 years of age. She did suffer menstrual migraines prior to her hysterectomy and was left with one ovary after her hysterectomy. 

My mother had a major car accident in 1977 age 23 that left her with amnesia and migraines for several years after. However, now at age 64 she no longer suffers from them as her brain has healed the pathways that were affected. As a child in the early 1980's I vaguely remember her wearing glasses to drive at night, etc. which she no longer requires as a consequence of the accident. 

The People Around Me

I currently live with my parents, who are very understanding of my migraines. My friends around me are still in disbelief on how I function day in and day out with ongoing headaches between my migraines. 

We also have 4 cats. 1 is the mother, she is very stand offish, although has her cute moments and doesn't mind a cuddle, and the remaining 3 are her babies. The eldest brother is very demanding and cuddly and loves to snuggle under the covers and loves to be spooned to sleep at night. The middle brother, he has his own pillow next to mine where he will curl up and sleep, or he will sneak below the covers and snuggle in, and their youngest sister will curl up at your feet and purr all night quite happily. 

The Effects of Migraines on My Life

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I am unable to work, as I am fully trained in administration and reception work. Bright lights and loud sounds, even smells can make things quite hard to concentrate. When my brain starts to hurt, it can get very hard to concentrate and confusing to stay on track. Day to day activities can become difficult. Bending over and moving my head when I have my worst pain - even a bowel movement can sometimes cause the pain to become too much. Some days driving the car is too difficult and I have to rely on my 64 year old mother to drive to help pick my son up or take him to school. 

What I’ve Tried

With regards to preventatives... 

  • Topirimate - Useless. 

  • Idomethacin - Allergic

  • Celebrex - Helped my arthritis better than anything else

  • Mobic - Useless

  • Atenolol - Useless

  • Propanolol - Made my blood pressure too low, I would almost faint, didn't help the migraines at all.  

I have tried four types of triptans. Maxalt, Zomig, Relpax, Imigran. 

They seemingly used to work for about 24 hours, and then I would need to take another. The time they were effective shortened to about 16 hours, then I would take another. Gradually the time would lessen - 14 hours, down to 10, etc. I could use it to divert the pain to the weekend, but each time I took a triptan, the pain of the migraine would increase... Come the weekends, I would be going from a level 8 to 9, to 10, to then going to the emergency room because no amount of pain killers I had at home would help me.

My neurologist office let me go on a trial for the Cefaly device for about a month or two. I found the device would only help for about 10-20 minutes, then I would need to sit down for 20 minutes again. Over and over and over. 

I also did 3 rounds of Botox, with no effect whatsoever. 

On Days Things get Unbearable

I sit with an ice pack on my head maybe in front of the TV with my eyes closed and the volume down low or I lay in bed with the ice pack on my head. 

Some Advice for My Fellow Migraineurs

Just stay strong. Don't overdo it. Do what you can do. But don't put your life on hold. Manage the best you can. Also, try to keep smiling. I know it hurts. I know it's hard. But we can't let it get us down. 

Thank you, Sandra, 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 Sandra, you may do so here: bit.ly/2rJcpMR  

With love, 

the Migraine Buddy team 💜 

Healint Singapore