Worst Things To Say To A Migrainiac… EVER.

Woman and Woman Speech Bubbles

10. Did you take your meds?

Whenever I tell someone that I have a migraine 9 times out of 10 their first reaction is to ask if I took anything. To be honest, I have even caught myself asking someone the same thing when they told me they have a headache. The problem, though, is that headaches and migraines are different. Maybe its just an automatic reaction and people don’t know what else to say or how to respond. But as someone who suffers from chronic migraines I can attest that the second I feel a migraine coming on the first thing I do is reach for the drugs. So asking me if I took my meds is kind of like asking if the sky is blue. It’s insulting and annoying AF.

9. Drink Water. You’re Just Dehydrated.

I admit that water does have great health benefits and I’m a believer that its always important to stay hydrated whether you are a migraineur or not. Dehydration is definitely a trigger for some people, but once a migraine strikes chugging massive amounts of water isn’t going to make it magically disappear.  Trust me, if it could I’d most definitely be using that method instead of pumping my body with medication. If water could cure migraines I️ think doctors would have stopped searching for a cure decades ago.

8. You Need To Exercise More.

   All migraineurs are not created equally. Everyone has different triggers and symptoms, however, there are definitely things most migraine sufferers can agree on. For me, if exercise had a Facebook account our relationship would be listed as ‘Complicated’. I love to stay active for not only my body but for my mental health and I truly believe that when I am consistently working I feel better overall. However, my workouts are severely limited because anything that remotely resembles high-intensity tends to trigger a nuclear war in my head and sends me into a days-long head-pounding bender. I mainly stick to workouts like pilates, yoga, barre classes and long walks in the park but some days even that is too much for me. When I am going through a tough period, most days I’m happy to get out of bed let alone keep up my low-intensity workout schedule. Once I get thrown off my routine, it can take me weeks or even months for me to get back into it. It’s a complete catch-22 that I am constantly trying to balance. So next time you think exercise and meditation can fix any situation, think twice before you nama-say the wrong thing. 

7. Don’t stress over it. You’re just making it worse.

Of course stress is a good breeding ground for migraines but telling me not to stress over something just makes me more stressed out and angry and therefore negates the whole purpose of your sentiment. It’s like when you tell someone to calm down. It just gets them more angry. So don’t do it. Because now you’re the one making it worse.

6. C’mon. You can push through it.

Most migraineurs end up learning how to push through their pain and sugarcoat their chronic struggles to make others more comfortable. They learn to live with pain everyday because they have no other choice. They are forced to deal with discomfort on a scale that no one should have to learn how to function with. So when a migraineur gets to the point where they speak up and can’t take it anymore, what they need is someone to be understanding and to tell them it’s okay.

5. Have you tried this…?

The answer is probably always most definitely yes. As someone who has been suffering from this disease for over 16 years now, I can confidently say I have tried almost everything out there or looked into every option and if there is some new treatment or medication waiting on FDA approval I probably know about it and am waiting with baited breath for it to get approved so that I can try it.

4. It’s just a headache. It can’t hurt that bad.

No actually. It’s not just a headache. And it’s thinking like this that gives people like me a reason to not want to talk to anyone about my condition. This is why I think it’s not worth explaining to people what I deal with, because of the stigma that comes with the word migraine.

3. Are you feeling better yet?

A migraine can last anywhere from 3 hours up to 4 days or even longer. I want to be able to attend plans with my friends and spend time with my family as much as they want me there but the added pressure to feel better makes me feel worse than I already do that I am missing out.

2. You don’t look sick.

Migraine is an invisible disease. It’s one of the reasons it has such a bad stigma associated with it. So while I do enjoy a good compliment every now and then, just because I may look well on the outside doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like a team of masons are laying bricks on top of my head one by one until my eyes will inevitably pop out of their sockets.

1. It’s all in your head.

I really, really wish this were true. Unlike those who use “I have a migraine” as just an excuse when they call out sick from work, keeping the stigma alive, when I do it its the real deal. I’m not playing hooky. I’d actually rather be at work. Instead I’m laying in my bed in silence… with the blinds drawn, lights out, cold compress on my head, hoping for a miracle and wishing it really was all in my head.

 

Holistic Bliss

I don’t know about you, but until recently whenever I heard the word “holistic” before the word medicine. . . I thought it was a bunch of nonsense. It sounded like a big ploy to get people to pay money for some magical cure for rare ailments and illnesses… The organic cleaners of medicine if you will.

Last summer my Pilates teacher recommended me to a chiropractor to help with my migraines. She occasionally gets migraines as well, mostly when the weather shifts and the air pressure changes. She gave me the card to her doctor and while admittedly I was skeptical, the thought of trying something new intrigued me. Still, I put the card in my wallet and never got around to making an appointment.

Then about a month later I had an appointment with my neurologist. He rushed me in and out of his office like he usually does, barely listening to a word I said and completely disregarded the headache diary I had kept since the last time I saw him. He prescribed me more medicine, increased my doses and told me that if this doesn’t work the next option is Botox. I’ve heard of Botox being approved by the FDA for migraines but at 24 years old I never thought I’d be getting Botox injections. I was hoping I could at least wait until my late forties or fifties. I have tried so many different medications and seen just about every type of doctor you could find but I still believed in the bottom of my heart that there had to be another option besides Botox.

So I decided to give Dr. Margolin a call. I had only been to a chiropractor one other time in my life. I was told that I had scoliosis in high school and since back then I was trying to figure out anything that could have possibly contributed to my migraines, I went but like usual found no answers.

The only thing I knew about chiropractors was that they cracked backs. Since cracking knuckles has always given me the heebie jeebies and is on my list of Top Ten Pet Peeves, I was nervous for what was in store for me.

After meeting with Dr. Margolin I felt optimistic for the first time in a very long time. I felt that he was listening to me and genuinely cared about my history and wanted to help me manage my pain. He offered a fresh perspective on how to go about treatment and deciphering my migraines in a way that no neurologist has ever done before.

In addition to being a chiropractor Dr. Margolin is a certified nutritionist. A strange combination I know, but this allows him to better understand the body and how you can affect a lot of how you feel with what you put into your body. He runs a practice that includes but is not limited to acupuncturists, massage therapists, personal trainers, hypnotists and psychologists. Talk about your well-rounded doctors’ office! After leaving Dr. Margolin’s office and doing my own research at home, I realized much of what he said made more sense than any neurologist ever has.

After going to Dr. Margolin for a little less than a year now, I have been able to better manage my migraines. I went from seeing him once a week to once every two weeks now. Over time I have also tried to couple acupuncture and massage therapy with my chiropractic appointments. I stopped seeing the acupuncturist because I didn’t see any real change.  Now after taking a blood test and finding lots of imbalances, I’m dabbling with my diet and keeping a food and headache diary.

I am happy to say that I feel better today than I’ve felt in a long time. I am not 100% better, but I don’t know that I ever will be. I have come to appreciate any small changes, victories and breaks that I can get. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for Dr. Margolin and of course, my Pilates instructor. Though I may have doubted her at first I am now a believer. Magic really does exist. And I am proof.

Trial and Error

I went to school in Pittsburgh, one of the greatest cities to live in. . . really, though it was actually voted the number one best place to live in 2011. I had the greatest 4 years there and thanks to my mom’s research and their top-notch Headache Center, I became the patient of the one and only Dr. Soso. After much trial and error, we found a regimen that worked for me and I went  from having migraines daily to only getting 2-3 per month.

. . . But then I graduated.

Everything pretty much went downhill from there. Not only did I have to deal with the debbie downer of facing the real world and finding a job. . . but I also had to find a new doctor.

It took me a little longer than expected. Having a stomach ulcer that ruptured set me back a bit. It ended up really messing with my head (no pun intended), and my migraines that I worked so hard to get under control suddenly became all out of whack.

I finally began seeing a new doctor in New York City recently and after explaining my situation to him, we decided to switch out one of my preventative medicines (taken daily to prevent a migraine) for a new one. Anytime I try a new medication I always immediately look up the side effects. I have been taking some powerful medications from a young age, and I think it’s important to educate myself with the product and how it will affect my body. There are pros and cons to each pill, and while some may reduce the effects of migraines, they could in turn end up causing other problems such as dizziness, fatigue, weight gain, dry mouth, numbness or tingling, brain zaps, mental or physical slowness, kidney stones, and the list goes on. You have to weigh the pros against the cons and decide if the juice if worth the squeeze, so to speak.

Most of the medications out there that are used to treat migraines are actually used for something else, such as depression or epilepsy. I was on Cymbalta for a long time and I constantly see their commercials, where the drug is advertised as an anti-depressant. I know you’ve all seen it too, “Depression Hurts. Cymbalta Helps.” This always made me wary of being on the drug, worrying how it effected my mood. However, it’s very commonly used to treat migraines.

Under the supervision of my new doctor, I am also trying a new triptan (medication you take immediately when you feel a migraine coming on). I have been taking Zomig nasal spray for a while and it works so well for me, but my insurance only lets me have 6 per month and lately I have been getting 10-15 migraines per month. I’m no mathematician but I know that isn’t good!

I found out I can get 12 Maxalt per month so I am trying those but so far they don’t seem to be working as fast. My doctor thinks I am a victim of Zomig’s marketing campaign, because I told him I think the nasal spray must work faster since you sniff it, and then it should go straight to the brain. Maxalt  is a pill and doesn’t look like it would work as fast, but my doctor said it really all goes into the bloodstream at the same rate. I guess I should trust him since he’s the doctor . . . but I’m not so sure. I really like my Zomig.

So you see it’s all a game of trial and error and it’s frustrating at times, especially when you have side effects also coming into play. But it is important to stay informed on the latest news in migraines and their treatments, so you know the right questions to ask your doctor and the right way to treat yourself. Remember to take it one day at a time and hopefully you will have more good days then bad.

I am going to leave you with a song that I love to listen to when I am feeling a little down. It reminds me to shake it off and keep going.