Monday, January 21, 2019

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines: Part 1 IN THE BEGINNING

Over time, I have gotten a lot of  inquiries about my headaches- how they started, how long I've had them, what causes them, what I do for them now, etc. Sometimes from people who are curious, sometimes from people who are concerned, and sometimes from people who have been battling the same struggles.  The story takes forever, because I've had them for a decade and there has been a lot of trial and error for what has worked as preventatives, what the triggers have been, how they've changed, and how they have impacted my life. No easier way to share than to write about about it!

So, for those that have asked, and those that are interested, here is my story, part 1 of 5...


I remember my first real headache. I was in 8th grade, and it was after an away hockey game. I remember having to ask one of the high school girls for ibuprofen, because I never carried any of my own. It was awful. (The ibuprofen, not the headache.) I HATED swallowing pills; at 13 years old, I was still asking the doctor for chewable tablets when I came down with strep throat or an ear infection. It was after this traumatic event that I had my mom pick me up some easy swallow Tylenol. (Which, by the way, were not that easy to swallow!)

I had mild headaches throughout high school.  They were irritating more than anything, but for the most part, were entirely manageable. Occasionally I missed out on doing things because my head hurt too much, but I didn't realize it was an abnormal issue.  My parents both had headaches/migraines, and later, my brother began to get them too.  Even into college, I didn't think much of them; they were merely part of life. I just made sure I always had a bottle of ibuprofen in my dorm room and in my book bag.

In 2012, at the end of my sophomore year of college, was when I noticed them beginning to pick up in intensity. I was also having growing concern for my liver.  I know I was just being a drama queen, but I couldn't help but worry that the ibuprofen I was constantly consuming was quickly adding up, and I knew that couldn't be good for my internal organs.

That summer, I met with a doctor that specialized in headaches, who diagnosed me with tension headaches and tension migraines.  She gave me two prescriptions- 50 mg of amitriptyline to take each night, and 10 mg of rizatriptin to take when I had a headache. 

The first time I took the rizatriptin was awful. It made me feel like my head was as heavy as a bowling ball, about to roll off my neck at any second. I felt dizzy and drained in a way I had never felt before. I couldn't keep my eyelids open, and I was certain if I tried to stay on my feet I would collapse without warning.

The first time I took it, I was at work.  Note to self: Never take medication for the first time when you're somewhere you need to function.  It was summer, and I was working with kids.  Not an ideal time to feel like you were dying.  Luckily, it was a Friday morning, which meant we were putting in a movie before heading to the pool.  By the time the movie was over, I was a-ok, but it was a rough couple hours, not knowing what exactly the side effects were going to entail and how long they would last.

After a couple more attempts at utilizing the riz to combat my headaches, I said forget it, I would take a headache over that experience any day of the week. 

The amitriptyline didn't last all year either.  Amitriptyline is technically an anti-depressant, and was chosen for me because my headaches were due to tension and stress.  At the time, I was also being prescribed an anti-depressant to help with my anxiety/depression. I still didn't like swallowing pills and taking four tablets each night (two of each prescription) was an uphill battle every time.

Since I was away at school, and my doctor was back home, I didn't go back to try out another strategy, I just continued to stick it out, making sure I kept ibuprofen in my backpack, purse, and car. 

I wish I would have kept track of my headaches back then; it would be nice to have a recorded history. I remember when I was student teaching in Costa Rica at the end of 2014 they were very rare.  I know they'd gotten progressively worse through college, but I don't have any actual data like I've been keeping the last few years.

(To be continued...)

Stay tuned next week for part 2!

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