(First in a Three Part Series)
Contributed by Eileen Zollinger
I’ve had episodic migraine since I was a teenager, unfortunately we didn’t know what they were called. At about age 26 my situation came to a head and I had what turned out to be status migrainous for six months straight. I thought maybe I was dying or I had a brain tumor. The pain was continuous and awful. I was seeing my primary doctor and he kept treating me for sinus infections and I was not responding to any of his treatment attempts.
In July, my sister took me to the doctor because I couldn’t drive myself. I asked her to turn off the lights in the exam room because they were blindingly bright, and I curled up on the table. When the doctor walked in, something must have finally clicked for him and he offered me an Imitrex. He told me to take half of the 50mg tablet, and if it worked, to take the other half. It did work and I felt like I had been given a magic pill! I went and filled the prescription for 30 pills and followed his instructions to take at the first sign of a migraine. While I felt I had been given a ‘magic pill’, it was also the beginning of my eventual downward spiral into chronic migraine and medication overuse headache (MOH). This lasted for approximately 18 years with daily headache and 15-20 full blown migraines a month. While I didn’t continue to overuse Imitrex for the 18 years that I was chronic and mostly intractable, some sort of switch had been flipped inside my head, and getting back to episodic seemed to be a task that was out of my reach.
Fast forward several years, many visits to neurologists, the Cleveland Clinic and hundreds of migraines…and one year of absolutely no meds, preventives or rescue. Why, you ask? Pretty sure you could call that a year long adult tantrum after being told I was having rebound headaches due to MOH…this, after following my doctor’s orders, to the letter. It happens. That was a year of a lot of ice packs, heating pads and probably swearing. I have to say, I don’t remember a lot of it, nor do I recommend this type of tantrum. It didn’t get me anywhere, except to prove my point that it wasn’t just MOH if I wasn’t taking any medications, yet I was still having chronic migraines. Pretty sure I didn’t have to go a full year to prove that. That’s why I call it a tantrum.
I finally found my current Headache Specialist (HAS) several years ago and we have been steadily working through the options available to reduce my migraines. This is where I could list all of the meds I have tried, but I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty details. But yes, to answer the number one question, I have tried Botox which unfortunately doubled my migraines while getting rid of my wrinkles (I did like that!). It seems to be very effective for many people, so if your headache specialist recommends giving it a try, it is probably worth it, it just wasn’t right for me. I gave the Cefaly device a whirl before realizing that it targeted the trigeminal nerve, like Botox, and also managed to increase my migraines. After a stroke caused by migraine in 2014, we decided that we needed to make a more concentrated effort to make a reduction in migraine frequency. The topamax was not reducing my migraines like we had hoped, but neither had anything else. This was when we realized that when I talked about diet, I was not speaking the same language that my HAS was. He thought I was following a migraine diet, while I was just doing an avoidance diet of things I knew bothered me (i.e. aspartame, msg, caffeine, etc). We had a serious talk about what a migraine diet was and how it could really help (previous neurologists had told me they didn’t work) and I decided to go ‘all in’ on a specialized migraine elimination diet. Of everything I have tried to help my migraines, this is the single thing that has had the greatest impact and has truly given me my life back. Don’t miss part two, where I explain how the diet worked and how quickly I saw results.
How long have you had chronic migraines? What do they hold you back from accomplishing in your life? If you are interested in getting your migraines into remission and getting on with your life, please contact us.