Migraine Awareness Week: lets talk about headaches

By Aisling | September 6 2011 | 57 Comments

I remember the first time I ever got a migraine.  I was about fourteen I think, in school and I suddenly couldn’t see properly.  I was sick all over the place.

“Migraine” declared Sister Assumpta kindly and sent me home.  I was shocked.  There was no real headache at that stage.  How could it be migr-

Aaagh.  The pain was terrible.  And it wouldn’t stop.  And it went on and on.  And on and on. And on and on.  Nothing would get rid of it.

As I lay in my curtains closed room with the pain so intense it felt like my head would split in two I didn’t know that I was beginning a horrible life long relationship with migraine.  (Although my teenage bedroom was in a mess so bad it practically triggers migraine just thinking about it).

I was easy to diagnose – I had all the classic symptoms – the aura (that weird shimmer of colours that obstructs vision and normally comes at the beginning of an attack); the nausea; sensitivity to light and the feeling of a drill grinding into my right eye.  Stomach shut down meant that no tablets I swallowed had any real effect  But lots of people have some or none of these symptoms and it can take years to figure out that they’re actually suffering from migraine.

But if you’ve a migraine you’ll know all about it.  If you’ve ever experienced a headache so bad you’ve had to take a day off work ; had to shut yourself away in a darkened room because you couldn’t stand light and maybe experience the headache for two or three days – then you’ve got a migraine.  It could be hormone related, there could be a food (or in Kirstie’s case a WINE trigger), stress or none of these.  Or all of these

We’ve talked about it often on Beaut.ie – hence our despair when the simple purchase of Nurofen Plus became an endurance feat of  Gestapo style interrogation proportions.

Imigran works for me – sometimes.  When it works it’s brilliant, the pain is gone instantly. I often have to top it up with Nurofen Plus (I got a prescription from my doc to make that process a bit easier). They don’t always work though.  Kirstie’s on prescription meds and they seem to be bringing it under control at last.

What about you?  Do you suffer from migraine – tell us your story.

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57 Replies to "Migraine Awareness Week: lets talk about headaches"

  • Jenny says:

    I’ve never really gone to the doctor for migraines, but I definitely get them. And pain killers don’t work for me I find. They usually last several days for me. I think stress plus constant sinus problems are my triggers.

    The last time I had one, a few weeks ago, I asked the girl in the pharmacy for Migraleve. She asked me what it was for. A f*cking migraine you **!**?**. I said that in my head and silently vowed to puke all over her to prove I needed the strong painkillers.

  • Sharlene says:

    I am your twin. Except mine started around the age of ten. I used to get a lot of nosebleeds that just started out of no where, or I might wake up on a blood saturated pillow. I am convinced the nose bleeds are related in some way. Then I grew out of the nose bleeds and into the migraines. Unless you’ve had one yourself its difficult to describe the pain of them. They are awful. And such a nuisance. They always seem to arrive for me on days of special events or when I really dont need them. They can be brought on suddenly by stress or humidity, sunlight or time of the month and I am almost guaranteed to get one if I drink hot chocolate :-( And yes, the only solution for me is to go to bed in a pitch black room with no noise. Sometimes pressing a pillow hard across my eye relives it a bit but it takes hours to fully get rid of. The only tablets that work for me are the pink & yellow migralieves but even they take a few hours….

  • sexyspecs says:

    I’ve been getting really bad migraines (scratch that-aren’t they all really bad?) for the past few years. Especially when there’s low air pressure, or glare (and I forget to wear sunglasses), both of which theres been a lot of lately! I find Migraleve the best, but it only works if u take it at the very beginning of a migraine attack. Like you said Aisling, once one takes hold of my stomach theres no way I’m keeping down tablets :(

  • Gee Gee says:

    Migraines are a hellish curse in my family, a few of us get them thanks to stress, dramatic changes in the weather, and for me food intolerances, if I give in to dairy too often I suffer the price with migraines.

    Solpadeine, peppermint oil capsules, a gel eye mask and my bed were my answer for a long time, until buying solpadeine made me feel like a druggie with all the questions… At the moment I have a stash of prescription painkillers from after a surgery, which are being hidden away for bad migraines, apart from that I’m mainly trying to limit my dairy intake alot – so annoying cos its delicious, but worth it to save myself having to save in bed riddled with pain, not able to see out of one eye.

    I remember once last year going into work with the start of a migraine, having taken painkillers I thought I’d be sound in a bit, and went on deli to make food for some hungover students… The concoctions that some of them were asking for, they were lucky they didn’t get a bit of puke instead of mayo on their rolls, was home in my bed 30minutes later and didn’t surface for a few days.

  • lyonsie says:

    While I dont suffer from traditional migraines I suffer from what my neurologist calls “chronic neuropathic pain” (in other words they dont really know whats going on) I’v had these for about 4 and a half years now and have pretty must tried every treatment available with no long lasting results and I have been scanned till I glow and seen doctors all over the country with no cause found. These headaches often bring my life to a standstill and can last anythin from minutes to months I have often been forced to take months at a time off work ( i have great employers)I’m no longer allowed to take codiene due to the risk of rebound headaches so I have to get by on ibuprofen and difene and whatever bizzare combination of durgs my neurologist has prescribed. One of the worst things about the whole thing is the lack of belief, people (doctors included) often dont believe that I can be in pain 100% of the time so I’m accused of either making it up or over-exaggerating it. Its very frustrating that migraines aren’t always taken seriously. I’m sorry for the long post butI guess I just needed a bit of a rant I feel bad constantly my husband and my family how crap i feel all the time

  • Daily Polish says:

    I got my first migraine when I was 6 years old. All the women on my mum’s side get them (except for my big sis, lucky woman!!!!) and I was so young and confused (and in pain!), I couldn’t figure out what was happening to me or why. I remember laying on my parents bed with the lights off with a cold compress over my head and eyes. They’ve varied in frequency over the last 21 years but sadly never gone away completely.

    They come with a lot more strength and frequency in times of stress and turmoil (or hormones!). I get the sensitivity to sound and light but no auras, my migraines are spread across my whole head and I cry from the pain. Imigran sometimes works (when topped up with 800mg nurfoen and 800mg anadin plus at the same time), I actually swear by acupuncture. It’s really been a cure-all. It reduces the frequency and intensity. I see a guy called Paul Robin and he practices all over London. It’s not cheap, £50 or £75 a session (I can’t remember which) but when they start to happen 2 or 3 times a week (and last days at a time so they really feel neverending) I just fork the money over to Paul and he makes them stop.

    I also like acupuncture because the problem with pills is that you build up an immunity to them. Acupuncture is natural and works within the body. Somehow it just helps me in a way the pills never do. I’m a big fan of combining eastern and western medicine. I love my western medicine, I have lifelong chronic illnesses and I will be on medication until I die. I would be housebound/bedbound without western medication…but sometimes it just feels like I’m treating the symptoms instead of the root causes. Eastern medicine feels like I’m treating the disease and not just what it does to me.

    A bit of a ramble…but as a lifelong migraine sufferer (and pain sufferer) it’s a subject I feel passionate about!

    Also if you are in London there is the City of London Migraine Clinic and they are funded by DONATION ONLY and their entire purpose is understanding and treating migraines. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend them!


  • Annie says:

    I’ve had one migraine in my life- never before, never since. At first I thought I was dying, and then I actually wanted to die – the pain! the nausea! Spent the whole day lying in a dark room and cried a good bit too feeling sorry for myself heh.

    However, I always wonder can you only get migraines the once? Maybe it was just a really really REALLY bad headache?! Frikking hurt anyways.

    I genuinely do feel sorry for regular migraine sufferers, I don’t know how you would go through that more than once. Lyonsie, your situation sounds horrific, I’m sorry, I really hope things improve for you.

  • Annie_H says:

    Another migraine sufferer here and before I discovered acupuncture my migraines used to progress to cluster headaches….just migraine after migraine after migraine…sometimes lasting 4 or 5 weeks! I still suffer but the frequency and severity is so much less since doing acupuncture. Definitely worth a try for any sufferers!

  • Lisa says:

    I’ve had a few aura-only migraines, which are very strange – the first time it happened I thought I was going blind in one eye.

    That said, I am very glad to be spared the horrible headaches and sickness that most people get along with the weirdy vision.

  • Kitty In The City says:

    Girls, you have my sympathies. I have sinus problems, but they cannot be compared to a migrane(which I thought I had recently but it was a sinus infection). I read an article in one of the Sunday magazines last year. The journalist discovered that keeping her sleeping patterns regular helped, ie, a lie-in was sure to trigger one.

  • Ninaluna says:

    How ironic, my annual migraine clinic visit is this week! I’ve had them since the age of 4, just after I started primary school. My mum thought I was faking because I hadn’t settled in, it was only after I collapsed in the yard from pain that they started taking it seriously.

    Every possible cause/treatment was investigated, I was a frequent visitor to Harcourt street children’s hospital for many years. The length (one attack every 2-3 months lasting 7+ days) meant that doctors assumed I had some underlying condition, they advised taking my adenoids out at first but my mum and dad wanted to hold off.

    I’ve tried the GP recommended treatments (Inderal, feverfew, paramax) and the neurologist’s (sanomigran, imigran, imitrex, amytriptiline) and acupuncture and mouth guards to realign my jaw. Since I started going to the migraine clinic 7 years ago things have improved dramatically but my attacks still feature in my life. I have a lot more control over them and with the right medication (anti emetics followed by nurofen plus) I can usually keep going.

    I can seriously empathise with any other sufferers!

  • katy says:

    i feel sympathy for so many of you – likewise i’ve been suffering from migraines since i was 8 years old where i just remember having a dull ache behind my eye that got worse and worse until i told my mum i was going to be sick and she had to pull the car over. Often I find mine are triggered by not eating properly (i’m a divil for skipping breakfast) and not sleeping properly…i find the other thing that works for them (and excuse me in advance for TMI!) is to vomit, take solphadine straight after and go to bed and try and get to sleep before i bring up said solphadine. I can’t take anything before i get to the stage of vomiting because the pressure in my head and nausea is so horrendous it’s easier just to wait until i get sick. there was a stage last year where i was having 2 migraines a week and was basically living on painkillers but this year they’ve calmed right down with acupuncture and proper sleep…i dread days that i’m going to be really tired because i know that if i get a migraine that day there’s no chance for me – weddings are a minefield of making sure i have a load of sleep and don’t go too long without food.

    also, despite having visited the doctor numerous times regarding my migraines they’ve never done anything for me? because they always start behind my right eye they seem to think i’m going blind…however my optician tells me otherwise!

  • Trinity says:

    I got severe migraines in my teens, but they disappeared in my early 20’s. I used to get the auras and then severe pain. I couldn’t see out of one eye and when looking face on at someone, I could only see half a person. It was very weird indeed. It was mainly when I was in secondary school. Don’t get them any more,thank gawd, but I do get headaches when it rains or during severe thunder conditions and pressure in the air. I can always tell when it’s gona rain :)

  • Rosa Green says:

    I was diagnosed with migraines when I was 22. I refused to believe my doctor though – I though I had food allergies and that was why I was throwing up all the time. Stress and fatigue are my main triggers as are strong scents. A lot of perfumes start me off and once I get a whiff of them it’s over!! I’ve tried everything and very little seems to work. My doctor recommended keral tablets but you have to take them at the early stage or they won’t work. If I feel one coming on I rub biofreeze into my forehead and neck and sometimes that’s enough to get me home into the dark room.

    It’s unfortunate how little support people get for migraines. If I try to explain to people that I MUST have 8 hours sleep a night or I will get a migraine they look at me as if I’m a hypocondriac!!

  • lyonsie says:

    Rosa Green,
    I know exactly what you mean about your 8 hours sleep. I was on hols with my some of my family recently and when I tried to explain to my brother that i need to take my tablets at a certain time then promptly go to bed and get a full 8 hours he looked at me like i was a crazy person then told me I was turning into my grandmother ( major insult as she is a total hypocondriac)

  • Aoife says:

    I used to suffer in my teens as well (my mother suffered from them for years) & the first time it happened, when I was fourteen, I thought I was having a brain haemorrhage. I really thought I was going to die until a teacher brought me home & Mam was able to diagnose me! Thankfully they seemed to disappear in my twenties. I really feel for anyone who suffers with them regularly.

  • I got my first this year and omg i thought i was dien a slow painfull death i feel for anyone who gets them on a regular basis x x x

  • Princess Boo says:

    I have been suffering from migraines for as far back as I can remember, some stages of my life are worse than others but the last two years have been really bad, sometimes I have one every week.

    It’s good to know that i’m not the only one suffering – it sometimes feels like that when people think you just have a headache and you should get on with it.

    I’ve tried lots of different drugs and therapies over the years but they just seem to be getting worse.

    Have never found a trigger, it seems to be everything and nothing that causes them if you know what I mean.

    Ninaluna, do you mind me asking where the migraine clinic is? I find a lot of doctors (including ‘specialists’ i’ve been to) don’t know much about migraine so it would be good to talk to an expert.

  • Nims says:

    Had my first proper migraine on the luas… Between harcourt and museum, one stop, about one minute apart but i thought i was dying… REally didnt know what it was… I remember my phone ringing cause i was going to meet my brother and i couldnt hear or speak back to him… He thought something bad was happening and rand down to meet me at the luas stop… All i could do was ring the mammy when i got off… Migraleve helps a good bit but only if taken straight away and also only if the pharmacist will give you them… Being told by a 12 year old (well he looked 12) trainee pharmacist that nurofen liquid tabs are much better did not go down well…

  • ceci says:

    I only get them when I am dehydrated, so I sometimes get them with a hangover or on the first few days of sun if I don’t drink a load of water. It took me a long while to figure out that was what they were. I always get the severe pain in my eye – I literally feel like scraping out by eyeball with a spoon to try help, it really is horrible. I have never gone to the doc about my migraines, as I know exactly what causes them. I usually find Syndol pretty good and a lie down. Reading these stories I feel lucky that I know what triggers mine.

    I have to say one of the most annoying thing about migraines is that people who don’t get them just think you are whinging about a headache. Especially as I get them with a hangover, people just think I complain about the usual hangover headache as a migraine.

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