Tuesday 7 September 2021

More than just a bad headache! - Migraine Awareness Week 2021

This week is Migraine Awareness Week. Alongside all the other symptoms that I have from my different illnesses living with Chronic Migraines (which affect around 2 in 100 people*) is something that I've just had to learn to live with as challenging as it can be.

"Migraine is a severe and painful long-term health condition that 1 in 7 people live with" - The Migraine Trust

I have roughly 17-20 migraines a month but they vary so much. One day I may have a bad migraine where I curled up in bed in the dark feeling so nauseous and unable to move and that may only last a few hours or I might get a more mild/moderate migraine that lasts for several days, or it could be the other way around. The unpredictability is hard as I know when I've got a migraine coming on but how bad it will be and how long it will last for is totally unknown.

There are different types of migraine; I experience Migraine with an Aura (which affect 1 in 3 people who experience migraines*) so I experience a visual aura or hallucination (nothing like a psychotic hallucination). This visual aura may be something like feeling like a light is being shone in my eyes or I will see little white and black dots like fireflies flying around. For me my migraine aura carries on into main migraine stage so I will have the aura alongside the headache pain stage which can be horrendous sometimes when the two symptoms are there side-by-side.

As well as experiencing Migraine with an Aura I also have experienced a rarer type of migraine which are Hemiplegic Migraines - thankfully I don't experience these very often and they where quite terrifying when I first had one. Down the right side of my body it goes numb and tingly and my speech slows down and slurs alongside the headache pain; to some it may look like a stroke but the symptoms dissipate after a few hours.

The 5 stages of a migraine

I take a medication called Sumatriptan at the start of a migraine. There is preventative medication but my GP wasn't sure what was okay to be prescribed to me due to the complexity of my different illnesses and the medication I'm on. I did get referred to a migraine clinic but due to the pandemic I got a letter to say that they're not seeing any new patients - that was around 18 months ago ad I'm still waiting and I have no idea where I am on the waiting list so I'm unsure how much longer I'm going to have to wait to be seen. I'm so grateful to have access to free healthcare but when you have a migraine most days you just want the problem to be sorted.

Difficulty is access care and medication is the campaign by The Migraine Trust for this year's Migraine Awareness Week.

With my milder migraines I have learnt to function in a limited way and I do plenty of things to help when I have a migraine. Medication obviously - my migraine medication and also pain relief. I also find laying down in a dark and quite room helps. I've also bought a koldtec™Halo headband which I find really helpful. Inside it has pockets for reusable icepacks and it helps a lot and it is something that I would recommend.

I do have triggers for my migraines such as certain foods for example garlic, wheat and gluten. I also find that I get migraines when I've visually overstretched myself such as reading lots of small print (so reading I now find difficult) or if I've been looking at a screen for too long. I also get migraines when I'm tired or when I'm unwell (like normal people unwell or when my chronic illness have flared up). Another trigger is when it's my time around of the month though this is a little erratic so I don't have a clockwork monthly week-long migraine. Tiredness or feeling exhausted is also a trigger (so having M.E doesn't help!).

Having Chronic Migraines means that I'm sensitive to light so I wear tinted lenses to dull the light I'm seeing though my glasses. I also find that I can be sensitive to sounds and smells. My migraines also leave me feeling nauseous and I have a lot of headaches alongside the headache pain part of a migraine. All these symptoms overlap with my other illnesses so it can be hard to know what is causing what symptom or sometimes my symptoms will be like dominos trigging off one symptom after another resulting in things like migraines.

Organisation & Helplines

➜ The Migraine Trust - *statitics from this organisation
        ☏ Helpline

➜ National Migraine Centre - About migraines