This week is Migraine Awareness Week here in the UK. So I’m taking some time from my usual schedule of book blogging to make a more personal post.
Over 8 Million people in the UK suffer from migraines. That means that there are more sufferers of migraine than there are of epilepsy, asthma, and diabetes combined. However migraine if still not understood fully by doctors and awareness of the real effects of migraine is low in the general population.
Migraine is characterised by severe or cluster headaches but can also include nausea, visual disturbances, sensitivity to light, vomiting, lethargy, speech disturbances, auditory disturbances, pins and needles, weakness, dizziness, and vertigo. In rare cases sufferers can become disorientated, suffer memory loss, fainting and paralysis.
When you look at that list of possible symptoms my migraines actually seem pretty mild, but they still effect me enough to not be able to do anything but lie in a dark room when I am in the middle of an attack.
My migraines started when I was about 10. Initially I used to call them fuzzy feelings as the main thing I noticed at the time was the pins and needles around my mouth and in my hands. I get these less rarely now but still find them rather upsetting. Gradually my migraine have got worse. Now a ‘standard’ migraine starts with me feeling kind of spaced out, or detached. Followed by spreading zig-zag lights starting in one corner of my right eye and spreading until it is close to impossible to see- especially as by this point I have such high sensitivity to light that it’s painful to keep my eyes open.
During this time I will occasionally get problems with my speech- usually getting stuck on one word, sometimes I will be nauseous too, and I usually feel a little faint. Actually it usually feels like it would be a relief to faint.
I went from a few a year, to one a month, up to 1 or 2 a week. Once I got to one a month I started taking preventative drugs (sanomigran) which helped for a bit, but then the frequency would start increasing again so I upped my dose, and again. Then the doctor decided to switch from sanomigran to amitryptaline. Which lets face it is an anti-depresent, not something I really wanted to take, but I felt I had little choice. I was lucky if I was managing to get a couple of weeks at work uninterrupted by migraines, and that was with migraines over the weekend. So I accepted the amitryptaline, then upped the dose, and again. I’m dreading amitryptaline stopping working, I’m not allowed up up my dose again.
There are other things too. I gave up tuna, that seemed to help. If I get enough sleep that seems to help, or if I’m not stressed. (However if I don’t get enough sleep, or am stressed it’s usually when I relax that I get the migraines).
Work wise I’ve been quite lucky. I had a lot of trouble with migraines my first year but my manager was (and is) very understanding. Obviously when I had lots it was frustrating for her, but she understood that I was trying to sort things out- and eventually *fingers crossed* I did. In fact the only trouble I’ve had with work other than having to take time off was when one member of staff suggested I just had a headache, and I must have known it was coming. I was on a bus to work when my migraine struck. I literally couldn’t have called a moment sooner. There is no warning with my migraines, they just appear. I understood I’d put her in a difficult position because I was meant to be in work in the next half hour; and when you work with kids staff numbers really matter. If I’d gone to work though I would have been unsafe. I was literally on the phone in tears, apologising.
When the same member of staff actually saw me with a migraine however I think she understood. So maybe it came good in the end?
If you would like to find out more about migraine visit The Migraine Trust. Where you can also donate money to help fund research into migraine and raise awareness.