Hi! My name is Jaime, and I am a migraineur. I also write about life with Migraine and how it affects myself and my family on my blog, The Migraine Diva. Living with a chronic pain illness, disorder, or disease is not easy by any means. Pain is not meant to be pleasant. It is also something that no one wants to endure for very long extended periods of time. What happens when you are stricken with a disease that causes debilitating pain as a child that has no cure? What happens after 29 years of failed medications, unsuccessful treatment plans, and numerous attempts at non-traditional approaches? You keep moving forward and you stay hopeful.
My journey has taken me to some very interesting and sometimes scary places. It all began with a diagnosis of Migraine when I was only eight years old. I remember having terrible headaches and having severe nausea with vomiting. It was agonizing and I cried a lot. Many school days were missed and my absences were scrutinized by classmates and teachers. I was put on propranolol as a preventative and only had Tylenol to take as an abortive. Neither worked so I pretty much suffered through the attacks. Thankfully at the time the migraines were episodic and I would get one really severe migraine about once a month. Through the years of adolescence and young adulthood, I was reassured by my pediatrician and neurologist that once I hit eighteen the migraines will start to go away and be a once in a while occurrence. Fast forward to today and obviously that is not the case.
Throughout my twenties, the migraines became more frequent and severe and harder to treat. I have tried beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, antidepressants, Botox injections, migraine and fibromyalgia medications as preventatives with no success. Either the side effects were intolerable or they stopped working after about 3-5 months. The roller coaster ride of migraine prevention through medication is a never-ending ride of hope and disappointment. Sure, there are moments where it plateaus and things are manageable for a time. Unfortunately, they never lasted very long. The migraines became chronic, I developed daily persistent headaches, which were extremely resistant to management through medication and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
I tried everything I could think of to bring my pain under control. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, pain management classes, meditation, guided imagery, and nerve blocks. None of it really helped or worked. I was at my wits end and felt like I had run out of options, until I became aware of neuro-stimulation for treating chronic pain. In 2011, I was seeing a pain management doctor who offered this option to me. I was approved to do a trial and spent about a week with the device. It was amazing. For the first time in ages I had manageable pain levels and could enjoy some of the things I hadn’t done in a long time. I was sold. After months of red tape and appeals with the insurance company I finally had the surgery in April of 2012. Having this system has given me greater control over the pain, but I was still having daily headaches and 15+ migraines a month.
Later that year, after struggling with constant migraines, multiple trips to the ER or urgent care, and increasing depression, I attempted suicide. Obviously, I was not successful, however I almost did not make it. At the time I was on seven or eight different medications. The hospital discontinued my use of them all and I decided to try a different path. The way I was going about treating my pain was not working and my therapist at the time suggested that I see her friend who is a naturopath. So I reached out to her and soon thereafter, started my new journey to healing. Instead of just putting a band-aid on the problem like I’ve been doing for so long, I wanted to heal my body from the inside out. This meant an overhaul in how I approached everything in life.
I made different lifestyle choices and began the difficult task of going the “natural” route. Building up the healthy bacteria in my gut, taking probiotics, increasing water intake, taking supplements, and changing my diet were part of what I had to do. I already knew and avoided food and drink triggers. Now that included removing gluten, soy, sugar, and dairy from my diet. Not so easy to do since they are in so many food products. Reading labels was something that I already did, but now more so than ever. It makes grocery shopping take longer, and I spent a lot of time in the aisles.
When I discovered the MigraineChecked app, boy was I happy! I love having the convenience of Migraine apps on my phone and MigraineChecked makes going to the store much easier! In the three years I have been on this journey, the frequency of migraine has decreased and I was able to get my fibromyalgia symptoms under control. I am more conscious of what I put in my body and how food or medications can affect me. I still struggle, but I feel less like a slave to medication and more in control about my health. I no longer use migraine preventatives and only occasionally need pain medication as a rescue or abortive. Listening to your body, expanding your knowledge base, arming yourself with a great toolkit, and keeping an open mind about treatment options really is the key to moving through this disease for me. I still have progress to make as I am not yet where I would like to be, but the future looks very promising.
Jaime Sanders, The Migraine Diva