Migraines. Living with chronic pain
Migraines. We've all heard of them, and just like with other invisible illnesses, none of us really understands them until we experience them ourselves. Well I didn't, anyway. Prior to my first migraine I'd barely ever gotten a headache, yes *even* when I was hungover. I was one of those lucky buggers. I didn't know that there's pretty much fuck all you can do to stop migraines. That they zap all our your energy. That they take away your ability to be spontaneous, bubbly and fun. And even, I guess, how much they hurt.
Flash back to my first migraine. It was 2013, I was in my second year at university and I lived in a house with 6 other girls, who were all away. My boyfriend was at work, so I was home alone. It was about 1am (he worked in a bar) and fuck me, it hit me sideways. The pain and the nausea are two things I won't ever forget. Luckily my landlord was a piece of shit, so none of the lights worked in the hallways, which made things slightly more scary, being alone in the dark and all that. Anyway, I though I had the flu or something, because I'd certainly not felt this way before. I'll happily admit I'm a terrible hypochondriac, and so ironically, I put it down to that. I thought I better go to the doctors anyway, I was a student after all, I had lots of free time (I MISS YOU). I assumed the doctor would send me away with some paracetamol and side eye for wasting NHS time. What struck me, was that she seemed quite worried. "What contraception are you on?" she asked. "Jasmine" I replied. "Right, you need to come off that straight away, you're at a high risk of having a stroke". GREAT. We'll talk about my drama's with contraception another time, but I do actually know a girl who had a stroke at 18, so it freaked me the fuck out. The solution at that point was to try a different type of contraception, to see if that would make them dissipate.
Obviously, they didn't. In the years between then and now, I went back to the doctors a number of times to see what they could offer me. I refused medication (up until about a year ago) for two reasons: I'd bought into the whole medicine is bad bullshit, this was something I should deal with NatTturaLLy and secondly, the side effects from most of the medication offered are really really shit. The funny thing about migraines, is that doctors or scientists (?) don't really know what causes them. Thus, doctors don't have a sure fire way of treating them. The medication you are offered, isn't really for migraines, it's medication for other stuff that sometimes makes migraines better. YAY. Anyway, I was at university for another three or four years and during that time I was able to manage my migraines by not going to lectures that much, while I was doing my undergrad anyway. Things got easier when I started my master's because I did it part time, so I didn't actually need to be in class that much. I treated the migraines with pain meds, cold or hot flannels, yoga, meditation and by being in the dark a lot.
Unfortunately, I couldn't be a student forever. Once I started working full time, I hoped even more than before, that the migraines would just go away, because fuck me it's draining going to work with the pain. We think my migraines are something to do with my hormones, because I get them twice a month and they usually last about a week. Yeah I know, it's bad enough having a period once a month anyway, let alone period + migraine. Anyway, my point here is that I have a migraine, for the most part, 50% of the time. Can a fresh graduate afford to work 50% of the time? Does any employer want to employ someone who's functional 50% of the time? Hell no, so I really really had to get it under wraps. I begrudgingly went back to the doctor, who was actually really sympathetic about my plight and reminded me that humans haven't evolved to survive without medication yet. "Just give it a go" he said. "Alright then" I muttered, "but not beta blockers". Beta blockers can make you feel a bit dizzy, especially when working out, and I'm already super paranoid about feeling dizzy and I love weightlifting. So, he prescribed me amitriptyline. Side effects include feeling sleepy and having really bad dry mouth, which I can deal with. For the first 6 month they really did help, and my migraines when they did happen were much duller. They've started to creep up again now, but I'm getting regular head massages and my employers are cool with me working from home when needs be.
Still, it's exhausting. And constant. Even when the pain isn't *that* bad I have to work double time to come across as happy and friendly. Two things I never had to consciously try to be before. I have quite bad anxiety, work two jobs and do a fair amount of side hustle, so my brain is full a lot of the time. I'm not complaining about the latter by the way, I love what I do. It just means when I'm in pain I feel this - close to breaking point because I've got so much other shit going on and thus I can go from happy to angry/ sad pretty quick. I honestly feel robbed of the good parts of my personality and guilty for having to cancel plans and work from home so often. I've tried pretty much every treatment out there, beta blockers aside, and nothing makes the migraines stop completely. I wrote this post because I just needed to dump my thoughts somewhere, so it might not be that good or make much sense or offer much advice, but if you too suffer from migraines or any other type of chronic pain I'm here for you. And please if you have any tips, let me know!