Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Migraine Update

 Every once in a while I check the stats of who's reading what on this blog, and repeatedly people are clicking in to read a post I did in January about my migraine spells.

I thought it was about time I updated where I'm at with all of that.

I wish I could tell you that my migraines have miraculously disappeared; that I haven't written about them because they haven't happened or aren't affecting my life.
Unfortunately the opposite is true. I've been suffering random attacks of them for a few months now and they've been particularly debilitating in their symptoms.
I've tried a couple new Triptan medications with little success and in my last post on the subject I talked about how I was staring down the barrel of having to go on a preventative medication in order to feel like I had some control over my health and life.

I have wallowed in that pit for a while now, feeling both stymied and frustrated with any lack of progress with my condition and ricocheting between being guilty for not being more proactive and being scared to move forward.

I had been sourcing out a lot of conflicting information on the internet, talking to Doctors who really didn't seem to know how to help me, looking at going through the rigmarole of even more hospital tests, a lengthy wait for a specialist and trying to find room in our tight budget to perhaps see a Naturopath.

Our plans and prayers for building our family have been very much affected by the migraines I have been suffering as I am particularly afflicted with stroke symptoms and have been told by more than one Dr. now that taking a medication is not safe, but neither is it safe to go through those symptoms if one is pregnant and high blood pressure can be factor that could lead to a real stroke. Serious business.

Now, I am not wanting to get control of the migraines specifically so that I could become pregnant in the near future, in fact for many different reasons, we feel that door should remain closed on that right now, but it is a pretty big wake-up call to stop downplaying the seriousness of my condition and to get some real help.

Migraines have only been classified as a neurological disease for less than a decade and with that classification come important research, funding and closure for many sufferers like myself who have a hard time accepting the gravity of the condition, and then doing something about it.

A staggering number of sufferers will never receive treatment or even worse, be misdiagnosed altogether, all the while their quality of life is severely diminished. (In a survey I recently took about how much migraines affect my life, I was shocked when the result put me in the Severely Debilitated category). I wonder how many other people  like me just suffer through excruciating headaches like mine, and just soldier on waiting anxiously for the next attack.

Migraines have been taking up a lot of my emotional energy at a time when it has felt particularly drained from me and the fear of an attack has been keeping me bound pretty close to home. (I have learned recently that this is actually a very common symptom for migraine sufferers to feel a sense of almost agoraphobic fear after repeated migraine attacks).

It wasn't until recently that a tiny spark of light has broken through this black tunnel of mine, when I picked up a book at the library in the section on women's health where previously I had looked and found nothing on migraines.
The book is The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches and Better Health By Caroline Bernstien M.D.

You can read a great review of the book HERE which pretty much sums up what has been so great about reading it for me too. The book really is all about restoring that feeling of control back to the patient so that they can make informed and confident steps towards managing their disease. Understanding what's happening in their bodies, why it's happening and what treatments are available is very empowering for migraine sufferers.

I can honestly say I've learned a lot; the information in the book comes from cutting edge research as it was in 2009. Already much has changed since then, but to put it in perspective- the last time I saw a specialist in 2007, none of what was known in the book was known by the doctor I sat in front of.

Every day doctors and researchers are learning fascinating new things about migraines and the particularities of the brains that suffer them.

I've been given tools for deciphering symptoms leading up to an attack that I had previously been unaware of. I feel I've been given a much bigger tool box of ways to ward off attacks and new information to take to my doctor concerning options I have for medication. Preventatives are not my only hope (and thank goodness for that, because... they are a little intense).

I know my health is in God's hands, I know at any time He could take the migraines away for once and for all. I know this and I pray for this, and it's not about faith. For whatever reason, here is where I am and where I seem to be sitting put for a while. Circumstances what they are, I am in a place where my health has been pushed to the top of the priority list, and I really can't recall it ever having been there before. Learning to manage this condition has me making a ton of other life style decisions to put my health first and having to be proactive about dealing with my body is only ever a good thing.

Where we go from here, I don't know. But for the first time I'm feeling the kind of hope that comes with closure, acceptance and baby steps in the right direction.

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