Migraine: "My doctor used to treat them like a headache"
Published 24 Mar 2021 • By Andrea Barcia
Marlenebarcia, member of Carenity Spain, agreed to tell us about her experience with migraine: from diagnosis, to managing her episodes and treatments.
Discover her story below!
Hello Marlenebarcia, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us here on Carenity!
First of all, could you tell us more about yourself?
Hi, my name is Marlene, and I'm 54 years old. I'm from Galicia and I live in a beautiful coastal town called Burela (in Spain) and I have been suffering from migraines for years.Photo courtesy of Marlenebarcia
How did the migraines first manifest themselves? What led you to consult a specialist?
I don't remember exactly how it happened the first time, I just remember that I had fairly recurrent headaches. At the time, I associated them with various causes: exposure to the sun, lack of sleep, stress, my period (I was told that with the years and the first signs of the menopause, I would find relief), strong odours, etc.
How long did it take to officially diagnose your migraines and find a treatment for your needs?
Well... it actually took quite a while to diagnose me, as my GP used to treat my migraines as a simple headache (prescribing Tonopan at the time). Until the episodes started to appear more and more regularly and painfully (without making me vomit at the time). But it still took me a while to get an appointment with the neurologist.
Although this treatment worked very quickly at first, my episodes became more and more painful, making me vomit and keeping me from working or doing anything else the same day or even the next day. Yet I was told that as I approached the menopause they would get better! What a joke! In my case it was getting worse and worse! Eventually I noticed that the medicine was taking much longer to work. So I went back to my GP, who referred me to the neurologist.
Do you have frequent migraine attacks? What triggers them?
Thank God, my migraines are now more spaced out over a longer period of time.
In my case, I think it's lack of rest, stress, and even moments when I feel scared that cause the attacks.
How do your migraines occur and how can they be controlled?
My body has learned to identify if it is a migraine, or if it is caused by neck pain... or for some other reason.
When it's a migraine, I first notice a throbbing in my left temple (as if I've been hit). Then there are the auras, like a flashing light that degrades my vision with a (very slight) moving point of light. It usually appears just as I take the first dose of my medication. If after 15-20 minutes I don't see any effect, I take the second dose (I can only take two maximum)... and if my condition doesn't improve: I go straight to hospital because I know I'm in for an ordeal. In the latter case, I even need help getting dressed, I can't even open my eyes.
Once in A&E, they usually give me Nolotil (a painkiller not authorised for use in the UK) via IV (so far, it works).
Then... once at home, straight into the dark, without noise (I'm very sensitive to penetrating noises, like vending machines, fridges, etc.). I even tie a scarf around my temples, because the feeling of having your head about to explode is uncontrollable, you want to die so that it stops.
My migraines are unavoidable at least twice a year, and I NEVER leave the house without my medication.
You told me briefly about the days following an attack, how do you usually feel?
The day after a migraine I'm a wreck: unable to go to work. The best place to be is in bed. After 3-4 days I am back to normal, but I feel tired, and my sinuses are very congested, I don't know exactly why this happens.
Are you taking any medications to help control your migraines? Which one are you taking? Feel free to tell us more!
As I said before, the medication I'm on today is Maxalt, which I have to say is very convenient, as they are freeze-dried pills (they dissolve on the tongue). I used to carry a bottle of water with me all the time, and that was more cumbersome.
Do you think your migraines have a specific cause?
I'm not really sure, but my mother suffered from headaches for a while.
Do you think your migraines have an impact on your daily life?
Of course they have an impact, because as well as keeping me from doing anything on those days, it conditions me to the simple fact of always checking my bag before going out. My obsession is such that if for some reason I don't take my medication, it stresses me out so much that I get a headache.
Is there anything you'd like to say or advice to share with others living with migraines?
Lots of peace and quiet! Even though I admit that it is very difficult when you have an attack.
Any last words?
Thank you for sharing with us and giving us a voice, best regards!
Many thanks to Marlenebarcia for her testimonial!
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