As crazy as it sounds, I sometimes forget I’m a migraine sufferer until I’m hit with another migraine. I go about my daily life and then, BAM!, the dragon returns, unannounced and unwanted. Sometimes I can keep it at bay by being extra careful (i.e., steering clear of the red wine, drinking lots of water), but most of the time I simply have no control over its reappearance.
Full moons. Hormone cycles. Falling barometric pressure. Dehydration. Some red wines. I’ve tied my migraines to all of them, and the really bad migraines to a combination of a few of them: three triggers together have often given me the Perfect Storm of migraines. Stress doesn’t cause my migraines, although people assume they do. I’ve had extremely stressful times where I never developed even one migraine. Lack of sleep? Yeah, maybe. It surely doesn’t help the cause. Heat doesn’t help either, but I think it’s more that heat leads to dehydration if I’m not careful, and the dehydration leads to migraines. When I was in Costa Rica, for example, I didn’t adequately keep up with my water intake and ended up with a migraine the first day. After that I kept myself hydrated, but then had to pee all the time. So, the devil you choose…
I didn’t think of myself as suffering from a chronic pain until I tore my Deltoid ligament. My foot hurts almost every day. To me, that’s chronic. But because I live with the daily pain, I’m adapting to it. The migraines still catch me unaware and mostly unexpectedly. I’ve never quite learned to adapt to them, maybe because the pain is far too intense. If sumatriptan didn’t exist, I might have likely killed myself long before now. It can be that bad.
My older sister is affected by the barometer and gets migraines too, though not as frequently as I do. Interestingly, neither of our parents suffer from migraines, nor do they remember their parents having them. My bet is on my paternal grandmother–she was just the type to not tell anybody if she was suffering. I can’t even imagine what people did in the time before miracle migraine medicine. In my early migraine days, there would be times that I’d try to go without pills and just assume the migraine would have to break eventually. I’d give up after a day because it just wasn’t worth the suffering. I finally came to the decision that a shorter, more enjoyable life was preferable to a longer life full of pain. So if there are long-term effects from sumatriptan, I’ll pay the price later but not now.
I’ve undergone several MRIs throughout the years, go to a neurologist 3-4 times a year, go to the eye doctor diligently on an annual basis, have tried beta blockers, calcium channel whatevers, meditation and more. I’ve tried to envision a red light bulb going white, tried to focus on the pain to clear it, tried to focus on everywhere except my head. Do you know what it’s like to try to think about something else when it’s the thing that controls your thinking that hurts? Yeah, exactly.
Even after all of these years, I sometimes still wait to do something about it when I feel a migraine coming on. Because I inherently hate medicine and pills and I remember a time I rarely took anything stronger than a vitamin. Laughably, sometimes I’ll even take 3 Excedrin Migraine tabs first, thinking “maybe this time they’ll work.” They never do. NEVER. It’s like throwing candy at a fire-breathing dragon, thinking they’ll put out the flames. NEVER. But I still try it, because I never lose hope that it’s just a plain old regular headache, like the plain old regular headaches that other mere mortals get. It never is.
I know I’m not the only migraine sufferer out there. Far from it, actually. According to the Migraine Research Foundation (and you know if there are enough of us to warrant a foundation, it’s got to be bad), 38 million people in the U.S. get migraines. That includes kids. My biggest fear is that either of my kids will inherit this from me; something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I panic a little inside when either of them complains about a headache.
In the meantime, I go on with my life, and mostly forget about them until a new one strikes. And then the dragon rears its ugly head, proving once again that it might hide for a while, but it will never be tamed.