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Living With Migraines

(I wrote this a few years back and thought I would share) 
October 28, 2004

There are at least 28 million Americans who suffer migraines (According to data released by the National Headache Foundation, this is equal to one migraine sufferer in every four U.S. households). And, nearly 14 million Americans suffer migraines and don’t even know. People who suffer migraines live and deal with the pain. It is, without a doubt, frustrating, painful, tiring and depressing. But migraines do not affect only those afflicted with the curse. Migraines also take their toll on the sufferer’s loved ones. They see the physiological and emotional changes and are helpless to comfort them. Living with migraines is a combined struggle that can leave a family in desperation.

My husband has suffered migraines for the last 12 years; but due to the lack of proper medical guidance, he has progressively gotten worse. It all seemed to start when he had 3 rear-enders in an 18 month time span. The last of the accidents was the worst, with his head turned to the side and whip lashed his neck. And the headaches didn’t start right away. They came sporadically at first—a headache once every couple of months. But as time progressed, they happened more frequently and lasted longer until there isn’t a day that goes by when Anthony is not in pain.

The military doctors Anthony saw would treat the symptoms instead of finding the root of the problem and correct that. He went from doctor to doctor, medication to medication. You name it, I’m sure he tried it. He’s been on a number of different daily regimes of medications to help “prevent” the migraines. He’s had a variety of medications to choose from when the migraines come. I even paid for chiropractic treatment, in hopes that would help. Nothing has completely alleviated the pain. Very few treatments have subsided the pain enough so he can semi-function in his daily routine. He’s tired. He’s run down. He’s depressed. And he’s come to the conclusion that this is going to be his way of life for the rest of his life.

Anthony is a stubborn sort, yet proud. He dreaded going to the clinic when he had a headache. He dreaded the constant battle he had to go through to convince his superiors and doctors he wasn’t faking. He dreaded the same old medicine the doctors prescribed that didn’t even put a dent in his suffering. He dreaded the loss of time and the physical state the medicine always left him with. After years of doing all this, he nearly gave up. And when his last doctor told him that if he re-enlisted he would undoubtedly be forced out of the military, he saved face, completed his obligation and got out with an Honorable Discharge. So, now he lost his job, his career, his dream. And now he’s left feeling inadequate. He’s left with the fact that no one will hire him when they find out that he may have to go home early from the pain, or not even be able to come in at all.

One year went by and Anthony was still so traumatized by all doctors in the military he saw, he only went to see the civilian doctors to renew his prescriptions. Again, he would have to tell his history over to new doctors. It wasn’t until we moved to Jacksonville last year that we were presented with a wider, and possibly better, choice of doctors. And it wasn’t until he realized one day that he couldn’t even get out of bed to take care of our son that he needed to really do something about the pain. And so, he began his quest for a better life.

Our new family doctor listened to his history and set him on another daily medication routine. But, this one was different. It was not the typical low dose, anti-depressants he was used to; but, rather, a beta blocker. He was also given a migraine nasal inhaler that worked almost instantly when a migraine attacked. He was also referred to a neurologist who gave him an MRI and determined nothing neurologically was wrong. But, there is a misalignment of one of his vertebrae in his neck. We believe this to be the underlying problem. The Neurologist also prescribed Physical Therapy, three times a week for four weeks. And over the course of 3 months, Anthony noticed the migraines coming less often, the desire to do things again—even get out of the house, and he had hope that he may be getting better.

Unfortunately, circumstances brought about a change in medical treatment. With the threat of a possible lay off for me, no health insurance, no income, we had to stop most of Anthony’s treatments. We had to pick and choose what medications we could afford and get them while we still could. Anthony’s reprieve was short lived. He started going back to the way he was before we moved here—except, the migraines were not as often. He still had them, though. But the chronic pain was always there. Some days were worse than others. But everyday was a day of pain.

I’ve seen the face of pain. I’ve seen him balled up on the floor whimpering. I’ve seen him sleep for 36 hours because of the medication he took. I’ve seen him through bouts of insomnia. There isn’t anything he enjoys to do anymore. He cannot enjoy life. But most of all, he cannot enjoy his son. I hate seeing how depressed he has become. I hate not being able to do anything for him. I hate what our lives have become…a daily routine of fighting the pain. But most of all, I hate the pain.

I don’t think he will ever be 100% better and we struggle with the costs of the treatments. But we are doing our best with what we have. Our family is strong. Our will is strong. We will survive. Every migraine sufferer—the one with the migraine or the supporting one—has a different story, but the root is the same. You are not alone. I commend the sufferer for their perseverance through the pain. And I commend the families for their strength and support. It isn’t easy living with migraines. They affect everyone around.

*Note: If you suffer headaches and experience any of these symptoms:
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Stuffy or runny nose and watery eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Mood changes
  • Tunnel vision or seeing ”spots”
Or have any of these types of pains:
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain in the back of the neck
  • Pain or pressure in the face, eye area, or sinuses
  • Pain that disrupts normal activity
  • Pain that is aggravated by routine activity

Please visit and take the headache quiz. You may be suffering a migraine and not know it. There is help for you!
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