In Latin American soap operas when a woman says she has a migraine is a code way of avoiding sex. Which is ironic as some people argue that having sex is a good way to treat migraines, or rather more accurately, orgasms can release the tension associated to migraines. But what is really important here is the way in which migraines are normally portrayed in media while neglecting the neurological realities of such pain.
I am a relatively earlier sufferer of migraine. The first time I got such a pain was when I was 35, but they have become increasingly worst in my 40s and associated to the menopause. There are several theories about this, but menopause seems to be enveloped in mystery and shame, like migraines. In some of the stories in the Migraine Trust a common denominator is the social shame imposed internally and sometimes socially, about migraines. The fact that although it is not ¨visible¨, it does not mean it is not real. Migraine sufferers, and women specially, are doubly sanctioned for being weak, hysterical and unreliable. This is a serious problems for organisations and individuals, because migraine takes a lot of you life, literally chunks of your life, from a minimum of 2 to 3 hours, to almost days, as I have experienced sometimes. It is so crippling physically but also emotionally as I have felt that I waste my life: sunny afternoons are being replaced by closed curtains and naps, while the birds tweet away and children play.
The proposed cures or treatments are mainly pharmacological, as if the chemical unbalance is the only way to understand the complexity of migraines. I´ve been prescribed some tryptans, which I must admit works their magic (I take sumatriptan), but for a more preventative treatment, the road has been long and rather useless. Firstly I was prescribed amytryptoline, a sedative which left me like a zombie and unable to work or think properly, and after three days of roaming the earth I stopped. The doctor said that I should then take it at 5 pm every day, I tried and I was a zombie for longer… Then after I was prescribed beta-blockers, and gosh, were they really blocking me. I felt weird, as if my mind and soul were covered by a gigantic condom… my emotional ejaculations completely trapped, and hence my own identity and expression curbed. After that I have been prescribed something else, as the doctors need to follow a protocol of medicines, and to be honest, I have not even tried that new pill.. I am waiting for some time off, in which I do not have to deal with life/work/socials so I can be a free zombie as if this seems to be the price for an alleged effect.
As for the alternative therapies I have tried many: reiki, homeopathy, Bach flowers, yoga and asanas to release tension, meditation, pilates, wheat free days, sugar free days, dairy free regimes, you name it. I was recommended chraneo-osteopathy and the first session left me high as a kite…nice! and somehow it worked for a couple of weeks, but soon the old migraine came back, and the second and third session were not as beneficial as the first.
Just recently, and by pure chance, I discovered a herbal alternative in the plant called fever few. I am an illustrator and I was making drawings of the plants in my garden trying to find out about their uses, meanings and symbols. Then I got this plant, very similar to camomile, but with squarish petals, which turned to be an ancient remedy against headaches and migraines. I decided to take the herbal pill and Miracle! I was free of migraines for almost one entire month. One entire month! that was something incredible… Then I realised how much life migraines have taken off me… during that migraine free month I was happy, elated, sexier and my husband enjoyed the change! But after the month, the effect disappeared and migraines came back; albeit I must admit, they came less frequently and with less virulence. I am still taking the fever few daily and keeping my faith in it.
The truth, after many years of suffering of migraine, is that it is a complex situation. As the Migraine Trust website says, it is related with emotions, with neurological conditions, with changes and it is a very personal matter. As in my case, migraines are triggered by emotional stress, tiredness, changes, hormones and sugar. But what is important here is that I have become the “owner” of my migraines: let me explain, yes, they still are crippling, but instead of feeling guilty or angry, I am facing them on the eye. I take my triptan straight away, I sleep it, I cancel things if I have to. I also know that certain situations are triggers, so I try to make provisions. Reading the migraine trust posts have been a life-saviour, as I can find reliable information on this situation. Getting to know more about migraines is so important and somehow I have come to think of migraines as my emotional buffer, the way in which my body is asking me to rest, to sleep, and to stop worrying about things I cannot control. I am lucky, as my husband and friends are understanding, as well as my boss, but I know this is very exceptional and the voices outside and certainly inside keep on stigmatizing this condition. This is the main reason for me to share my story, we need more of these, sharing and learning from each other, and in that sense the Migraine Trust has been a great support for me.
Hope this helps for other migraine sufferers.